Consumers spend a whopping 85 percent of their smartphone time using apps. Because of this, it has become imperative for businesses to offer an app that helps connect customers with their products and services. Fortunately, the process of building an app has never been easier. In fact, business owners with little to no experience are able to bring their app vision to life, and they even have the option of saving money by doing it in-house.
1. Research the Needs of Your Customers
The first steps you take before the app building process begins will have a monumental impact on the success of your final results. After all, if you do not take the time to research what your customers need and want in an app, it will be much harder to develop something that they will use. Therefore, it is vital to conduct some market research. Consider sending a short questionnaire to your most loyal customers that asks them to rate their interest from 1 to 10 for each major feature you are considering adding to your app.
2. Sketch out Your Idea
After you compile your market research, you should begin by drawing sketches of how you envision each of the app’s features. You do not need to be an artist to perform this step. Instead, this is simply a way to get a better look at your idea and to help you formulate a solid approach to the actual development stage. Even if you end up outsourcing the project, your sketches and notes will provide a valuable resource.
3. Use a Mobile App Builder
You do not need to have any special technical skills to utilize a mobile app builder. Even better is the fact that some companies offer special perks that take the pressure off of working with your design. For example, the Bizness Apps mobile app builder is completely free to use until you are ready to launch the app. This means that you can take your time and tweak things as needed without being required to make a financial commitment. In other words, if you end up deciding that the app you develop is not going to work, you can scrap it and start again without losing a lot of money.
4. Keep Apple and Android Products in Mind
Apple and Android products have their own specific app needs, and each company utilizes privacy standards that you must adhere to. Due to this, some businesses choose to create two unique versions of their app that can be distributed via the appropriate mobile device. However, you can take advantage of mobile app builders that make it possible to develop one app that works properly on both platforms. Either way, it would be a mistake to completely ignore Apple or Android in favor of their competitor, especially because they have a combined market share of 96.8 percent.
5. Create a Wire-frame and a Prototype
A wire-frame provides all of the basic elements of your app, but it will not have most of the information filled in or be operational. Imagine a website that has the text boxes and other basics visible without having them filled in, and you will be able to understand what a wire-frame looks like for an app. After this step has been completed, you can move forward to a full prototype that contains text, images and any applicable links. The prototype stage is prime for testing and tweaking.
6. Add Support for Push Notifications and Sharing
Getting someone to download your app is only half the battle. Although people spend the majority of their smartphone time using an app, the average consumer only focuses on five apps at a time. This means that the rest of the apps on their phone go unused for long periods of time and may never be utilized at all. Studies show that adding push notifications can increase user engagement by 88 percent, so it is vital to include this feature. Additionally, giving consumers the ability to share information from the app with their friends via social media will provide your company with invaluable free exposure.
7. Build Back-End Functionality
The back-end functionality that you use to support your app is a critical piece of its overall speed and usefulness. The majority of larger apps such as Twitter that offer widespread connectivity and sharing have a cloud server on the back-end. This makes it possible for the app to remain constantly updated, and it can also remove some of the storage space requirements that are placed upon each user’s smartphone. If your app will be mostly self-contained and feature data that is fully stored on each person’s phone, though, you may wish to use a more simplistic MBasS back-end.
8. Test Everything
After your app has been built, you need to test each function multiple times to ensure that nothing is broken. It is also necessary to run your tests across every possible platform. Therefore, if your app is compatible with iOS and Android devices, you should test it on a variety of iPhone and iPod generations. The same steps should be taken with Android’s products, including the Kindle.
9. Refine Everything to Provide the Best User Experience
We all hope that our first testing phase will provide perfect results, but the odds are high that this is not going to be the case. Take everything you learn from your tests and refine your app to offer the best possible user experience. Make sure that it is easy to navigate through the app. It is a good idea to ask one of your technologically challenged friends to spend some time using the app in order to discover any functionality issues that could prevent common users from enjoying the experience.
10. Build Anticipation for Your Launch Date
Properly marketing your app before it launches can hugely increase your download numbers. One of the best examples of building anticipation before a launch date was the year-long marketing rollout for Hatch, which is a virtual pet app. Although you do not need to get started a year in advance, it is best to begin promoting your app and its upcoming launch date as soon as possible. This can help you receive coverage from tech websites. If you combine this approach with offering a special for early adopters, it is possible to build a very strong launch.
Now that you know all of the basics, it’s time to start building your app! Keep in mind that there are millions of apps available, and only the very best will receive high praise and build a steady user base. For that reason, it is critical to always keep the needs and interests of your target market in mind.
Featured photo credit: Jason Howie via flickr.com