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Creating mobile apps is a big focus across most modern business sectors, but developing a mobile app yourself requires technical skill, research, and creative thought!
Usage of the best mobile app design tools has soared–perhaps unsurprisingly, as there are now more than 6.6 billion global smartphone users (more than 83% of the world population!) and each of those users could be a part of your mobile app’s audience.
Today, we'll look at the mobile app design process and what goes into building a fully functional app.
What is mobile app development?
Mobile app development involves designing a piece of software specifically intended for use on a handheld device, such as a tablet or smartphone. The two major types of app development are:
- Native app development, in which you base the programming language and app functionality on the operating system (Android or iOS).
- Cross-platform app development, in which you build an app that works across several operating systems.
Whichever you choose will impact the appropriate programming language and framework you use to build your app. For example, an Android developer might specialize in Java, an iOS developer in Objective-C and a cross-platform app developer in React Native and Cordova.
How is a mobile app created?
There are six steps to building an app once you have decided on the appropriate programming language:
- UX and UI
Below, we'll run through each step so you can get a better idea of the process and how it evolves through each phase.
Mobile app research
It's impossible to create a market-leading app without intensive research. You need to analyze the market, competitors, and opportunities for monetization and understand all the factors that matter to your target audience, such as pain points and desirable features.
Commonly used tools at this stage of the process include SWOT analysis, business plan development, and user surveys.
Once you have some background information, you can think about your app development timeline, the platforms you will use, and how you will differentiate your app from any other.
UX and UI design
The next step is to look at user interface design (UI) and the user experience (UX). This step evaluates how your app will look and how your customers will use it. Most app development projects require an interactive prototype to experiment with. Your UX and UI phase includes:
- Creating a style guide that dictates how functions within the app work and ensures the designs are consistent and on-brand
- Wireframes showing how the app will look and how each element will be laid out
- Information architecture–in which you get into the specifics of the app interface, functionality, and data
Brands typically commission an experienced UX and UI app developer at this stage, if not before, because the development life cycle can take considerably longer if mistakes are incorporated into the coding.
Mobile app coding
Step three is technical, during which the developer writes the code, and is divided into the following:
- Backend (server-side factors)
- API (how the app connects with your systems and servers)
- Frontend (the UX your customer sees)
Although that is a simplified explanation, the app development process usually involves considerable finessing and revisions before the finished app is ready for testing.
When you are satisfied with the look and performance of your app, it's time to move on to quality control. The point is to test every individual app element to identify errors and ensure you have all the features right.
A mobile app is normally launched when all project managers, developers, and testers are happy the app is market-ready–and you can introduce it to your user base!
It's worth recognizing that mobile app creation doesn't finish with the launch. Bugs may become apparent in real-world scenarios and it's not unusual to have plenty of development opportunities in the first few months.
From there, you might decide to start a new development cycle for the next app release or version update, or focus on app maintenance to keep hitting all your user demands.
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