A Primer on What is Mobile App Development and How it’s Done

Kevin Bryan Silva

Author & Editor

Senior Software Engineer

Published on: Dec 28, 2021 Updated on: May 28, 2024

With mobile at the forefront of online experiences, the need to understand what is mobile app development and how it can be harnessed for business growth has become more urgent.

You and mobile app development companies can happily note that mobile apps are expecting accelerated growth in the present, years to come. In terms of revenue, global revenue from mobile apps is projected to balloon to around $935 billion in 2023.

Not really a surprising – if not an expected trend – occurence especially since as mobile app downloads in 2020 amounted to about 218 billion.

Beginning to sound like an interesting venture for your brand, already? Then perhaps you’d like to explore more about it before you jump into mobile app development.

First, let’s define what is mobile app development.

What is mobile app development?

Mobile app development is simply a process or the act of developing an application specifically for mobile devices.

These mobile devices include smartphones, tablets, and computers. They are pre-installed in devices, or delivered as a web application.

Though it may sound simple, there are many considerations that your mobile app developers take into account when building. Things like user interface, layout, and the device interactions are planned out in order to provide a smooth user experience within the app environment.

READ ALSO: 5-step Guide on How to Write User Stories for Mobile Apps

Types of mobile applications

You may be surprised, especially if it’s your first time developing a mobile app, that there are different kinds of apps that one can build.

Studying them will help you identify and communicate your exact needs to your partner developers: 

  • Native Mobile Apps – These are the traditional apps specifically made for the phone’s operating system (OS), like Android or iOS apps. These apps are built for a single platform, providing an optimized customer experience by being one of the faster and more reliable ones when it comes to performance. 
  • HTML5 Mobile Apps – These apps work almost the same as native mobile apps, but these need to be accessed through a web browser on one’s mobile phone or tablet. These are websites that can easily adapt to the interface of the user’s device. This type of mobile app is cost-efficient in terms of development because of its adaptability. 
  • Hybrid Mobile Apps – These apps complete the traditional look and feel of native apps, but they’re actually web apps. With this app, there is less coding in place, and it’s still a viable choice, even for those with slow internet connections. 
  • Progressive Web Apps – This kind of apps are a combination of web and mobile app. These are made from multiple technologies that provide multiple features like being available offline, being installable, can sending mobile notifications, among others. These apps are considered to be the new standard when it comes to mobile app developments. 

Mobile app development platforms

Now that you know the types of mobile apps you can create, it’s time to decide which app development platforms to use. Here are some of the most common and popular ones being used by many brands and businesses. 

  1. iOS development platform – Apple devices follow a certain set of regulations on programming language and device distribution, making it a closed platform. If you’re looking to develop an app for Apple products, you must be prepared to adhere to these rules, and continuously develop your app development the operating system updates from time to time. This means you would need to work closely with your developers for these needed updates.
  2. Android development platform – Considering that android phones and tablets are widely used on a global scale, it is one of the best development platforms out there. With an Android app, you have access to more potential customers and a variety of phones, tablets, and other devices. 
  3. Cross-platform apps – If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to develop mobile apps, then this is the platform for you. This platform is used by HTML5 mobile apps combined with native plug-ins. While you’ll be able to save time with the coding, some frameworks have their constraints, so it’s best to evaluate the pros and cons before choosing your preferred platform. 

Overview of the mobile app development process

Launching a successful mobile app is a very rigorous process. One misstep may cause your team to repeat the steps from the beginning.

In developing a mobile app for your brand or business, you will want to create your own flow, scaled to your overall business capabilities and requirements. But if you don’t know how to get started on going about that, here are some steps you can take at the beginning.

1. Develop your BIG idea

As cliche as it sounds, everything begins with a lightbulb moment, even if it’s just a vague one.

This idea should be inspired by how you imagine your mobile app solving problems for and around your end-users (be it internal stakeholders, or external ones) lives.

Here, you need to have a deeper understanding of your brand and customers; what makes them tick? And what aspects of their way of life can you help make easier with your app? A solid background on data and insight development will help tremendously in this area.

Take a look at the possibilities and limitations of having an app for the business before investing a good amount of time and money into the development of this project. 

2. Building the wireframe and establishing your workflow

Once the idea is set, it’s time to list down the functionalities and data that you would like your customers to see on the app. Wireframing and workflowing are also common best practices for mobile app development that help your team go about the build efficiently.

Wireframing is making sure all functional elements have a place in the app. These can be found multiple times within the frame or just once, depending on their importance or relevance. The wireframe is one of the most important steps in mobile app development, as the entire coding process depends on it.

Once the wireframe is done, it’s time to create the workflow of your app. The workflow is the pathways or the funnels that users travel through within the app environment. In this phase, it’s important to mind how many clicks your user needs to do to complete a single action. The lesser clicks to complete a task, the better the workflow.

3. Assessing technical feasibility

Now that the wireframes and workflow are done, it’s now time to take a look at the technical feasibility of your mobile app.

As mentioned, developing a mobile app has a lot of requirements. So it’s important to assess and evaluate if the elements and functions implemented are correct, legal, and compatible to your target end-user’s platforms and devices.

If there is even one loose string here, it shouldn’t be given approval to launch.

Have your app undergo a technical feasibility study to check if the hardware, software, and other components meet app development standards.

4. Prototyping your mobile app

With the go-signal given, it’s time to create a prototype of the mobile app.

Developing a prototype is where you can map out the overall look, feel, and functionality of your finished product without having to go through the entire coding process.

In creating the prototype, your business and the app developers can analyze these three important points of a mobile app: 

  • Concept efficiency 
  • User-friendliness or user experience 
  • The overall outcome of the app 

5. Incorporating UX and UI design

Here comes the fun part. It’s now time to take your wireframes and workflow and replace the grayscale elements with the actual app design.

You can incorporate your brand’s style guide. However, it’s important to not let yourselves be limited to the style guide alone. Take a look at trendy apps and incorporate some design and elements you think will be helpful in making your mobile app the talk of the town. 

In designing the app, it’s important to be consistent with the elements used in all frames and landing pages. This will provide your users with a frictionless experience with your app.

FURTHER READING: A User Experience Design Guide For Beginners

6. Developing your mobile app

In this step, your developers will begin analyzing the design, overall framework, and workflow to come up with the coding needed to deploy the finished app.

Before taking this step, make sure that everything – from the workflow, overall design, and prototype, is approved. Otherwise, if you decide to make changes during the development, you will go back to square one – and nobody wants that. 

It’s important to think back to your considerations established early on like compatibility with various platforms, since this also dictates which tools you’ll need. This is because iOS and Android are fundamentally different platforms which you’ll need varying tools for.

FURTHER READING: The Best Mobile App Development Software for Jump-starting Your 2022 Projects

7. Testing your mobile app

After the coding is done, you and your team should test out the app before deploying it.

For a thorough and unbiased testing and evaluation process, enlist third-party evaluators to test your app and have them check for the following:

  • Functionality. Check if the behavior works as to how it was described in the requirements. Best to work with a quality check team with this factor. 
  • User experience. An app will be often used if it’s user-friendly. Give the app a run with “first-time-users” and see how it is experienced during testing. 
  • Performance. Check the loading speed of the app when navigating different pages. Is it responsive? Does it take too long to load? How many clicks does it take to buy a product? These are the questions that need answering. 
  • Device testing. If you’re looking to launch the mobile app on multiple devices, make sure to check if your app’s features and overall look are compatible with different devices and platforms. 

8. Launching your mobile app

Once everything is done, polished, and approved you can now proceed to launching your app and deploying it to various app stores. But it doesn’t just end there.

After launching, you’ll also want to optimize it for maximum visibility which you can achieve in two ways:

  • App store optimization, and;
  • App promotions on your various digital channels.

For the former, this guide to app store optimization should be able to help you get a grasp on the basic requirements.

Meanwhile, determining your strategies for promotions should rely on a clear goal which, at first, could be getting as much downloads as you can. As you get to a desired amount of downloads and userbase, what can you focus on next?

Answer those questions, then strategize how you can achieve those goals, accordingly.

Key takeaways 

Developing a mobile app for your business is an exciting venture to take on. However, much like anything in digital marketing, you can’t do it without a plan – much less if you don’t know even the basics of what you plan on tackling.

Apart from what we’ve established above, note these things when developing your own brand applications:

  • Work systematically. Mobile app development can be a costly endeavor that could lead to more risks than gains. Working systematically helps you reduce these risks while maximizing your returns in the long-run.
  • Thing two – even three steps ahead. As we mentioned just a while ago, mobile app development doesn’t just end at the launch of your product. Once it’s deployed, you’ll then have to think about how you market your mobile app effectively so that you can win back your investments.
  • It’s all about user experience. Throughout the development process – from wireframing to launching the brand – always keep in mind that you’re making this app for your customers. Create an app based on their wants and needs to assure the success of this project. 

Looking to launch your own app soon? What business or consumer needs compelled you to venture into it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, or drop us a line over on Facebook, X, or LinkedIn. We’d love to share ideas with you.

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