Mobile App Development 101

Want to grow your business and reach out to new customers? Build an app. More than 80 percent of customers now prefer mobile apps over traditional mobile websites. In 2014, apps accounted for 86 percent of mobile usage, dominating the mobile web. That number will grow in 2015 and beyond.

The rich and interactive experiences we have come to expect on mobile apps have created new standards and expectations for all digital media including the web. The result is websites are evolving to become more app-like in their rich functionality” says Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics

Thus, creating a mobile app for your business is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.  With that being said, here’s some advice to help you with your mobile app development.

Research The Needs Of Your Customers

Before you start designing your app identify and assess the needs of your customers. This means doing thorough research to determine what kind of app your customers want. Most customers want apps that increase their daily efficiency and provide a solution to a problem they have.

Consider this: there are millions of apps in the market. In order to stand out from the crown your app needs to provide value to consumers. If your app fails to do so, you waste time and money.

For market research you can use Google’s Keywords Tools and Google Trends. There’s also App Annie which provides app raking, analytics and market intelligence and Distimo for download estimations and insights.

Saul Gurdus, the VP of Insights & Enablement at Citrix, says ““In 2015 and beyond, you will see an increase in the number of vendors that decide to take responsibility for more and more of the users’ end-to-end experience rather than simply focusing on what has traditionally been “in their control”

The industry agrees with him. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator according to the Customers 2020 Report.

Pick Your Platform

Two platform giants dominate the app world – Android and iOS. Combined, they make up over 90 percent of the mobile market. You must choose either one or the other. The rest of the app world is fragmented and any cross-platform apps require extra work to ensure flawless transition between platforms.

There are a number of factors to consider before choosing the appropriate platform for your app. If you did your homework on your audience, you should already know their needs. Next, find out the platform your audience uses because if your app works with that platform, they’ll most likely use it. Also, design your app with features they want and put user experience first. If your app is difficult to use or full of clutter, you’ll drive users away.

Remember ease increases use. The more your customers use and rely on your app to solve their problems, the more loyal they’ll be to your brand.

Work Closely With an App Developer

Once you have a general understanding of what you want your app to do and the audience it will serve, the next step is to reach out to a mobile app developer. Working closely with a professional a mobile app developer will help you create the best looking and working app possible, while ensuring your app is technically sound.

However, there are places to create prototypes or “mock-ups” of your app to give you a better idea of its functionality and design.

Fluid UI offers mobile prototypes for iOS, Android and Windows Apps, and SketchMirror lets you preview your mobile app directly on your devices. There’s also Framer to make prototypes for animation and app interaction.

Depending on the complexity of the app, it’s generally recommended to seek out a professional.

Market and Test Your App

By now your app should be completed, so it’s time to start marketing it to users and let them test your app. Try focusing on smaller markets to gain traction before launching your app to a larger audience.

For pre-launch platforms, there is PreApps  for pre-release buzz and exposure, and Prefundia – a “coming soon” platform. Having a test market also helps you find any kinks to work out before your app’s big launch day. Here are 4 more places to test your mobile app:

  1. TestFlight – quick iOS Beta Testing on the fly
  2. HockeyApp –gather crash reports, get feedback and distribute your betas
  3. StartUpLift – Get feedback from mobile app users
  4. AppThwack – Test your app on hundreds of devices

You also want to track the entire journey of building and marketing an app to identify what’s working, what isn’t, and what’s lacking. For instance, tracking tools measure who is downloading their app and how they are using it.

Yozio is a great place for campaign tracking for mobile apps. There’s also Tapstream, which provides marketing analytics, and Distimo’s AppLink – a cross-platform app distribution and conversion tracking channel.

Understanding not only the tracking sources will help you identify the best places to market the app, but also knowing how your app is or isn’t being used will help you improve its functionality and design.

App development isn’t easy, but it’s easier than marketing your app.  However, marketing is crucial to your app’s success. Ask yourself if the best app in the world is one nobody has ever heard of, is it really the best app in the world?

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