10 min read

Step-By-Step: The Process Of Mobile App Development

Written By
Okpaka Peace
Published on
January 22, 2021


So you want to build a mobile app and have no idea on how to go about it?

Don’t panic, we are here to help.

Mobile application development is not a simple process for a newbie but it is definitely not an impossible one. With the right guide and detailed steps to stir you towards the best direction, you will be able to build numerous mobile apps in no time.

Developing a mobile app is not a one-man job but a collaborative effort from different tech and non-tech specialists such as a project manager, a product manager, a UI/UX designer, a back-end developer, an IOS/android developer, a business analyst as well as quality assurance (QA) engineers.

Let’s navigate through 8 major steps in developing a mobile application, from an idea to a marketable product.

1. Research & Planning

Building a successful mobile application requires an intense period of research and planning. A research phase is essential because it gives you the platform to lay down the necessary frameworks of how the app is to be developed. This involves conducting a detailed study on what features those existing apps have and don’t have and how you can implement or create new features to make your app stand out.

In this process, it is mandatory to carry out user research to identify your customers. Understanding their pain points and their expectations would provide an insight into their needs.

Planning and research focus not only on how good your app aesthetics will be but on how usable it will be to the target customers. Questions that should be answered and documented should be “Is there a need for my app?”, “What problems would my app solve?”, “Would my app have value?” This is to rate the feasibility in the current market space.

This phase is a preparatory process to establish the viability of the idea.

2. Wireframing

The next step is to document and create a wireframe which is similar to a skeletal representation of your app to understand the functionalities. It acts as a common language for all the team members.

A wireframe acts as a bridge between your initial concept idea and the final product. It is a critical part of the interaction design process and creates a straightforward and precise outline. It is not required to be fully featured and focuses only on the user’s experience, not color schemes and styles.

Sketching out with a wireframe greatly reduces the time spent making edits and helps refines the ideas gathered from the previously conducted research. This involves arranging the components of the design in the way you envision and they are not navigable (there are no interactions).

There are 3 types of wireframes: low-fidelity wireframes, mid-fidelity wireframes and high-fidelity wireframes. Their features differ in the amount of information contained.

3. Prototyping

Being the first preliminary model in mobile app development, it is an essential part of the design process. This is a process where the design team applies ideas and tests them out at varying degrees of fidelity to check out the initial concept and how well it is received by the target users.

The static wireframes are turned navigable with functional buttons, micro-interactions, a color scheme and detailed design elements. This allows you to ascertain the correctness of the design, discover errors and rate the user experience flow of your mobile application before production.

After evaluation, the necessary changes are included in the design and verifying that your product (app) is well-received by the users, it is time to move to the next phase.

This process is in parallel with design. It is essential to prototype as you design and vice-versa.

4. Designing

This is the main focus and role of the UI/UX designers. They refine the approved wireframes, strategically place UI elements taking into consideration hierarchy, incorporate the pre-selected style guide and in turn, create an excellent user experience flow.

They put together high-fidelity mockups which are both user-friendly and interactive so the developers can turn them into a working app.

The UX and UI designer have different roles, one focuses on the interaction between design elements and the other on the look and visual feel of the mobile application. This process delivers a roadmap for the developer, directing him/her on how the final product is envisioned and how the interaction should feel and flow.

Establishing a brand guideline is vital so that your app’s branding is consistent across all team members.

A market strategy is established and means of advertisement (social media, blogs, emails) are determined.

Depending on the complexity of the mobile application and the size of the design team, the design phase timeline varies from hours to weeks.

5. Development

This is the playground of the developers. They are the main stars and their job is to program every feature designed and come up with a minimum viable product (MVP). A minimum viable product is a product with enough features to be satisfactory and usable by the early customers, who then, in turn, provide feedback for future product development.

The developers need to include an analytics engine so the app’s usage and general user flow can be seen.There are 3 integral parts of a typical mobile application project during the developmental phase. These are

Back-end Technology: This is a combination of servers, databases and applications. The back-end is the server-side of the application that analyzes and stores the data, ensuing smooth application performance and functionality. Some examples are Java, C#, PHP, Python and JavaScript.

Application Programming Interface (API): This is a code that allows communication and exchange of data between 2 different software without the interference of the user. It is a means of communication between the app and the back-end database/server.

Front-end Technology: As the end-users of the mobile application, this is what we see and interact with. They are tools and programming languages used to create the user interface and experience of a mobile app or website. Three fundamental front-end coding languages are HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

It is crucial to choose the best technology stack and programming language best suited for your mobile app

There are 5 key mobile development approaches which are: Native mobile app development, Cross-platform mobile app development, Hybrid mobile app development, Rapid mobile app development (RMAD) and Progressive web apps (PWAs). These would be further explained in a later article.

6. Testing

Ideally, this occurs simultaneously with the development stage and is a process of validating the functionality and usability of the app before public release. It is carried out to ensure major bugs are fixed as early as possible before the product’s release into the market

Although test cases can increase the amount of time spent in the development phase, they can greatly reduce the cost of maintenance and support.The mobile app is tested for usability, security, compatibility and performance to discover if it works in the intended way. The advantage of testing would be seen in a future instance where a minor change in the app occurs and you would be able to go through the documented test cases and identify the point of change with ease.

The procedure includes

1. Outlining the list of all cases to be tested and describing the test briefly and the expected results.

2. Choosing the type of mobile tests to run (Manual or Automated).

3. Preparing test cases for different functionalities.

There are different testing techniques/test cases required to evaluate a system to ascertain if it satisfies the given requirements. Some are Security testing, User experience testing, Functional testing, Service and Platform testing, Compatibility testing and Performance testing.

A beta version of the app can also be released to the public and receive feedback from the users. These feedbacks help to find out if the app’s operations are as expected.

To create a reliable app, it is pivotal to test at every stage.

7. Deployment & App Launch

App deployment (also called software deployment) involves installing, configuring, updating and enabling an application to observe a successful release to the public while an app launch is the development process through which an application updates are released from the developers to the end-users.

In this process, your developed app is submitted to the app store for approval and learning this process is important because it is done every time the app has a new update. You take back reviews from the users and based on these reviews, newer features can be added to the application.

The marketing team has their work cut out for them by advertising the products on the selected media platforms to scale up its visibility and turn viewers into app downloaders and users.

Choose a release date and create awareness

8. Maintenance & Support

This occurs at the same time as the launch phase. It entails monitoring the app after its release, checking and fixing any bugs that may arise and ensuring the app works as it is expected to.

This never ends unless you decide to abandon your users and discontinue your app’s support. Releasing newer updates and features is a part of maintenance and this relates to the feedback gotten from your end-users.

Building an app is a long-term commitment as the process is never-ending, so ensure that you have sufficient resources to maintain the product for a long term in the the market space

Now you are ready to build that mobile application, so gather your team members and brainstorm. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.