Most people don’t even think of building a mobile app on their own. For others it could be an overwhelming experience due to the complexities involved. Whether your aim is to support your customers, create an ecommerce app, or perhaps a game, don’t let your fears or lack of knowledge prevent you from fulfilling your dreams. I am going to give you 10 easy steps to build your own mobile app from grounds up.
Define your Goals
The first and most vital point of building your first app is to write down your goals. Ask yourself or your colleagues why you are building this app. Is it going to fulfill a business need? What is the target audience? What is the required functionality? Once you have answered some basic questions, you can refine and finalise your goal for building the app. Defining a goal will give you direction and will make the rest of the development process much easier. You are now ready for step 2.
Do your Research
Mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular and are available for all possible solutions. You need to find out whether there are other apps offering a similar solution. If you are building a bespoke app for your business, talk to people who will use it. Get them involved in this process and find how what problems the app will solve. Find out how people work so you can map the app’s logic to how your actual business process works within the company. If you are looking for some creative ideas for your mobile app, check out Dribbble, which is one of the leading marketplaces for displaying your ideas and get your creative juices flowing.
Create a Wire Frame
Once you have defined your goals and outlined the technical aspects, your next step is wire framing. Creating a wire frame is all about putting your goals and key features in one picture. You can designs individual screens leading to a full storyboard that describes the story in an illustrated form. Before you even begin coding, you will know what your app could look like, how you enter and exit from one screen to the other. Most importantly, its your white board so you can rub it and make as many changes as you wish. The cost of doing that is negligible at this stage compared to doing the same level of changes during the development process. Once you have defined the storyboard or wire frames for your app, the rest of the development process becomes much easier. If you are new to creating wire frames, storyboards or prototypes, I would recommend using tried and tested online tools such as Balsamiq, HotGloo, and Moqups. These online wire framing tools make it easy to drag and drop the components to make your app design and make changes on the go.
Decide on Technology
The next step in the process is to decide on the platform for your mobile app. Start by looking at your target audience, are they iPhone, Android or Windows phone users. You also need to decide whether to develop the app in native platform or in cross platform. A native app is developed using the technology provided by the vendor and requires hardware and human resources trained in that technology. For example, for a iPhone native app, you will need the iOS machine, development environment and trained developers. On the other hand, you can choose a cross platform such as Appcelerator, PhoneGap or Tigger.io to build your mobile app which will allow you to use one development environment and team to create mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Windows and other platforms. Which is better native or cross platform? That is a debate for another blog.
Develop an Interactive Prototype
After creating the wire frames and deciding on the technology, its time to put life into the wire frames. A storyboard shows you different screens on a piece of paper but using a prototyping application can make the very same wire frames and mockups interactive. With a prototyping application, you can do the testing with different segments of your audience and also test the prototype on different devices. This will provide you with excellent feedback on your app design and process. Based on your feedback, you can make rapid changes in your wire frames and test the interactive prototype until you are satisfied. Two great apps for creating interactive prototypes are Solidify and Framer.
If you have completed all the steps up to this point, you will have absolute clarity of the app you are building, what need is it going to fulfill and what it will look like. This phase should be a routine task to pass the specifications, wire frames and prototypes to your development team and ask them to deliver the finished article. Your development team should follow the requirements strictly and perform unit testing regularly to ensure bugs are minimised.
Design the UX
No matter how good your app is, bad UX will ruin all of your efforts. Good user experience for mobile apps is the leading factor behind the success of any mobile app. Your app will have more compelling effect on the users because of its good UX. You need to keep your UX simple and user friendly. The functionality of your app must not be complex and invisible. There are some solid platforms, rules and best practices available for designing an attractive and user friendly UX that can make your app a success with your audience.
Create App Store Account
After you have designed and tested your app, first thing to do is to open the app store and create your account. You will need this account for alpha testing, beta testing and finally publishing the app on your selected app store. Note that account setup and publishing rules vary from one platform to the other. Google Play Store has different rules from Apple App Store. Apple may require more time to check and validate your app when you submit it and you should factor this time in your project plan.
Test the App
The best advice anyone can give here is to test, test and test the app. Come up with a test plan by creating test cases, selecting a sample of the target audience and a short list of devices to test on. The test cases must incorporate what you have designed in the earlier stages, which is the functionality, graphics, images and user experience of the app. At this stage, you want to test the app as a end user and not as a developer. Hence it is important to involve non-technical users whose aim must be to push the boundaries and try and break the app. The more testing you will do, the more confidence you will have that your app will be a success in the hands of your users. A great online testing app that you can use is TestFlight.
Publish the App
After the successful testing of your app and updates, it’s time to launch your app officially. You will have to write a description about your app solutions and features. This description must cover the related keywords and marketing trends of your app. Taking the snapshots of your app and putting them on app store will raise the bar of your app. The best way to market your app is to create a website and social pages.
Good luck with your first app!