What’s Inside Effective Mobile App Development Lifecycle?
Out of almost 7 billion people living on the planet right now, over 5 billion (about 78%) of them own smartphones. Obviously, mobile phones are very handy and not just for making phone calls. According to recent research studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, smartphones are utilized for getting access to the Internet and downloading different mobile apps. Yes, new mobile apps pop up every day and users love them for scalability, robustness, as well as reliability.
Of course, we’ve got plenty of those people who use mobile phones for emailing or making phone calls. But since mobile computing is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, we’re witnessing an explosive growth of popularity of mobile apps.
Today, let’s talk about the important phases of the mobile app development lifecycle. We’ll go over most essential steps involved in the workflow.
Stage 1. Discovery Phase: Requirements Gathering & Analysis
Where does the mobile app development lifecycle start? Practical experience shows that if you’ve got an idea and you believe it can be shaped into a great mobile app which will obtain a good value on the market, odds are you’re on the right track.
To start off any new mobile development process, you’ll need to jump into the so-called “discovery phase” first. The discovery phase is the preliminary step (most essential one) that will let you move on further with app development without stumbling along the way. Why does it have such an importance? Let’s find out!
The discovery phase is an iterative & interactive cycle between the client and a team of consultants/experts. Product managers on that team are expected to make or add frequent improvements throughout the phase as they collect more well-researched information about the product specs and requirements. As they constantly gain additional insights from key performance indicators/analytics. But if someone is entering the mobile app market for the first time ever, this phase can vary in length starting from the time you launch a prototype to release of a final “launchable” product.
The discovery team of experts (Business Analyst, Product Manager, Tech consultant/Architect, Designer) looks into an idea to analyze it and suggests essential items to be added or integrated into this product to make it successful on the market. But after all, the main goal is to arrange the workflow in the most effective and productive way. This minimizes potential risks, budget overruns, and unmet deadlines.
What’s in it for the client? The client gets a winning & well thought through product vision on hand. Plus, he gets all the potential risks identified by experts prior to a product launch. This will save a LOT of time/money later on during an actual project workflow.
Quick outline of the important processes included in the discovery phase:
Market research/analysis. Before launching a project in any niche, the process starts off by collecting particular data. Since detailed analytical work equals success, the discovery phase includes the meticulous market research and analysis in order to know end users’ main motivation.
Competitors research. Yes, there are always going to be enough competitors even in very specific market niches. Competitors are continually evolving and it’s important to keep an eye on them. So, this step involves studying and analyzing competitors for getting a clear idea what practical marketing tools will work best in one particular case or another.
Analysis of industry trends vs. problems. This step is essential for building a unique and relevant app. It involves evaluating trends both in the long and short term. However, it’s very important not only to focus on the market trends and client’s expectations but to be fully aware of the current industry problems. That way a particular app gets much better chances of becoming successful.
Creating proper documentation. This is a scope of documents created in accordance with all essential requirements involved in the upcoming project. At this point, an expert creates the Product Requirements document (or PRD) which lists all tech specifications and functionality.
Roadmapping. This is a strategic document with a step-by-step development plan with the estimation time/money for the future workflow. This document is strategic and focused on describing the particular problems that this product is going to solve. And this is not necessarily about the product’s features but rather about its value for end users.
After completing the steps above, the project itself gets to its initiation line and MVP lifecycle with the most clear product vision. As an outcome of the discovery phase, the client gets the project roadmap: deadlines, resources, and deliverables. Also, the discovery team develops a written proposal with estimated financial and time investments to proceed further.
Stage 2. Product Design Phase: UX/UI Design & 1st Prototype
This phase follows and goes on in accordance with the plan initiated during the research & discovery phase and client demands/expectations. For developers, it’s a bingo to have a step-by-step plan that they can hold on to along with a nice set of documentation like:
- Interview with the client (resume for the team of developers);
- Brief (info about the brand, why is it that way, meaning of colors, competition, etc.);
- Market Research;
- Design goals/expectations.
An actual workflow that’s involved in the design phase:
- Expansion of performance & specs
- Development of more detailed product design
- Predict technical performance and product costs
- Producing the design documentation
- Designing technical evaluation, experiments, and user trials
- Making the 1st prototype
In brief, the product design stage means the actual creation of a product, presenting different UX approaches & UI (app outlook), running a short-term test with a new service.
Some important design rules:
- Goal-driven approach: process needs to be customized to meet client’s requirements.
- Usability: shows that the app is usable and will bring value to end users.
- Approachability: UI elements should be easily understood by users.
- Instinctive design: users should instinctively know and understand all functions integrated into a screen design.
- Response time.
Stage 3. Development Phase: Functional Development
Development is simply taking the UI designs to make everything functional. This also means that now it is time for building wireframes & prototypes. Goals are: turning wireframes and a storyboard into the establishment of the back-end structure, drawing an outline of servers, APIs, and information charts. Basically, an expert team, which mainly consists of front-end & back-end developers, starts working on the app’s functionality, as well as integrations. Some teams place full-stack developers too. They usually handle both client-side and server-side.
Here are the essential steps involved in the product development phase:
- Creating prototype(s)/mock-ups
- Tests & bench experiments with prototypes
- Evaluation of technical performance
- Conducting user trials with prototypes
- Evaluation of actual performance
The product development phase often follows a rinse-and-repeat prototype model, refining the product, then testing again with customers or focus groups. Prototype – an interactive model that looks/works just like an actual product is being created to shape an initial idea and prove a concept. After the app’s code skeleton is ready (Alpha phase), at this point, the team starts adding more features and makes ongoing improvements (Beta phase).
The team also works on technical verifications/functionality and identifies potential blockers. Also, this step involves preparation of all the necessary tech documentation like code review, architecture, etc.
Stage 4. Product Testing: QA & Manual Testing
After you have the first app version, it’s time to go ahead and test it for the market release. Watch how users react and collect their feedback. Such solutions like Mixpanel, Appsee, Localytics can help to track users behavior. Another approach is to ask them directly, for example, in questionnaires. This should help to learn about their opinions and understand what they think about the app.
Also, testing may be of several kinds: manual quality assurance and automation QA. Usually, product development and testing processes go hand in hand at the same time.
Here are the steps taken by the team at this point:
- Unit testing
- Integration testing/UAT
- Fixing issues and testing again (repeat as many times as it’s needed)
- Publishing – making the app’s desc, screen shot, private policy links
- Getting feedback, updating, and adding/modifying app’s features
Prior to the app launch, the smartest move would be to see if there’s any glitches/issues and identify them if there are any. Bug testing is also a very important step and should not be omitted or labeled as “insignificant”. Although some issues can be fixed in less than an hour, others may demand hours to identify and fix. Indeed, the more unfixed bugs any project gets, the more extra work it requires. This also means inaccurate estimates and budget overruns.
Mobile app development is an ongoing process where the app gets iterated and updated all the time. That’s why it’s so important to plan for further app improvements based on the data that has been collected during the previous stage. Thus, experts keep on identifying which features the app might lack and how they can improve users’ experience.
Stage 5. Product Launch
Lastly, the app is ready to be launched in different application stores like AppStore or Google Play. However, since the policies for launching an application are different. This can take up to two weeks for final approval. But even after the approval, it isn’t your grand finale! The app development lifecycle doesn’t just end at the point of the app’s launch. Usually, as soon as the first version of the app is released – the development cycle pretty much starts again.
Note: Apple is famous for rejecting apps for minor things. For example, one line of text may be missing from the terms and conditions. Apple is always changing its restrictions, so there is no guarantee of immediate acceptance.
To sum-up, here are the essential stages of the apps development process in brief:
- Describing features of your web application
- Choosing server side language
- Application Map
- Page Structure
- Server-side Language
- JS Framework features
An idea comes into realization!
- Test Code
- Fix Bugs
- Final Validation
Mobile applications have become the backbone of the modern business world. With the rising popularity of mobile gadgets, the demand for mobile applications is at an all time high. Again, what’s important for building a successful mobile app?
- Research about the market
- Know your target audience’s needs
- Choose between the available technologies
- Know available monetization option
- Build a marketing & a pre-launch strategy
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