Understanding Mobile Application development
The processes required in writing software for small and wireless computing devices is called mobile application development. Native applications, hybrid applications, HTML 5 applications are the various types of mobile applications. Mobile application development is closely associated with traditional software development. Mobile applications are written keeping in mind, unique features a specific mobile device offers. This, in turn, enhances the overall process of mobile application development as the software optimizes and benefits from the unique features offered by the device, For example, if a gaming application is being developed for iPhone, it is designed in a way that takes advantage from the unique feature of iPhone’s accelerometer.
A mobile operating system also known as (OS) is a software that allows smartphones, tablets, and wearable gadgets to manage resources of a device and enable interaction with the user. Mobile application development is evolving every second. A new operating system is introduced every six months that provides users with unique features that mobile applications can utilize. Presently, two popular operating systems are the talk of the town, iOS is made for iPhones, and Android is used on Samsung, Google Pixel, Nokia etc. Developers experiment with multiple solutions to introduce a specific version of the operating system or a native operating system, that enables them to create a version that best suits their development needs. Lacking to keep up with the development updates will result in privacy, security and cybersecurity issues.
There are specific application stores, the ‘Apple app store’ and the ‘Google play store’ for iOS and Android users respectively. In the market, numerous platforms enable you to seamlessly build and develop a mobile application from scratch. Appery.io, Appsheet, Appy pie and Skuid are some examples of mobile application development platforms.
One needs to abide by an entire workflow while developing a mobile application. Let us learn more about the mobile application development life cycle.
1) The Research
Research is the first step that you need to take before diving into creating the application. The more strong your research is the stronger your application will be. Research is a wide web, and while conducting your research you need to touch on all the important aspects. Do a proper market study and discover the viability of your project. Market research also paves the way for brainstorming and discovering ideas. Know your target audience. During each stage of the process keeping the end-user in mind is of utmost importance. Conduct a thorough research on the end-users. The initial analysis should include demographics, motivations, behaviour patterns and goals of your buyer persona. Apart, from this, do your research and develop a clear idea on your application’s objectives, its USP, investments, marketing, maintenance, target platforms, development time frame etc. Another important part of this stage is analyzing the competition. A detailed study of your competitor’s application will enable you to figure out what features are missing in their application so that you could include it in your application, to make it unique. Lay down the necessary groundwork. All these factors ensure strong precedence for the other steps to follow.
The next step that follows is to ‘wireframe the application’. Mobile application developers initiate application design with sketches on paper. Wireframes are basically the digital form of these sketches, they give visual structure to your application’s functional demands. It refines the ideas and organizes all elements of the design in an adequate way. You can identify any technical issue found in the backend development process in this initial phase. Wireframes are closely aligned with aesthetics and user experience, it does not say anything about colour, fonts etc. It provides a visual indication of the application and depicts the salient details like the size of the component and their placement. Creating wireframes is an easy, quick and cost-effective option for designing application layouts. While creating wireframes you should keep in mind the device-specific design. This creates inclusivity and enables device-specific user experiences. Your application will be compatible with all forms, be it an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet.
3) Technical Check
Once, you have a clear understanding of the visuals, you need to concentrate on the technical aspects of your application. Evaluating the backend systems if it is capable of supporting the application’s functionality is a critical and crucial part of the mobile application development process. To decide if your application is technically sound, you need to access public data by sourcing public (API), Application programming interface. API enables the communication between the application and a back-end server/database, it includes software that also enables interconnecting with OS components. Database and server-side objects enable supporting functions of your mobile application by connecting to a network. Both, these allow gaining a sound understanding of the application functionality. An application varies according to its prescribed format and operating system; be it a smartphone or a tablet of iOS or Android, etc. It will have different requirements. A technical check allows us to understand and comprehend all the technical related issues and demands. After we get a clear understanding on this aspect, the team can communicate and brainstorm to prevent any shortcomings.
In the application development process, prototyping is of utmost importance. Prototype development can take a lot of time but it enables short testing of your application’s design and functionality. It is useful for simulating the user experience and the application’s workflow expected from the actual product. Prototype is basically the demo version of the application. When the technology is new and concepts are untested, prototypes come in handy to understand the visual interface and user experience. It helps you to evaluate design concepts, get feedback, and identify issues in the flow and usability of your mobile application. In the prototyping development process, it is a good idea to involve people who are not part of your mobile application team. This will enable you to evaluate the functionality of the application in an unbiased way. After the feedback, You can reach out to the UI/UX designers to correct any shortcomings that are identified. Your target is to finalize your application design and craft an efficient prototype that will guide you through the actual application development process.
‘Design’ is the most important step of the mobile application development process. UI/UX design plays an essential role in creating an efficient mobile application. The user experience(UX) deals with the interaction between design elements, it is concerned with the structure and functionality of the interface. The user interface (UI) consists of text, images, sliders, colour, fonts and all the items the user interacts with. Designing a mobile application is a multistep process and should be reviewed in every stage. Out of the box, ideas should never be neglected and should be adopted as quickly as possible, you can create multiple variations of a screen by experimenting with the layout of navigation, buttons and other visual elements. The more your product is unique the higher the chances of your design being original and popular. The purpose of an application design is to employ an easy, efficient and seamless user experience. The success of a mobile application is measured on its ease of use and how well users are benefiting from all its features and adapting to it. The goal for a mobile application for UI/UX designer is to develop an incredible user experience and an interface that makes an application interactive, interesting and user-friendly catering to customer satisfaction, confidence and popularity of your application.
After all the above steps, it is time for the Application development process that requires a lot of patience from your side. During the development phase, your development team will execute the styles and functionality of your application. As the development proceeds, the application goes through a set of stages. Even though the core functionality is present, it is not tested. In the second stage, the functionality which is put forth is adopted. In this phase, the application undergoes basic testing and bug fixing. It is important to note some issues might still exist, then the application is released to a group of external users for more testing, this is where the other bugs are identified and are fixed as early as possible then the application reaches the next phase. The agile methodology comes in handy when you are dealing with a complex project, wherein the user demands change frequently.
Application testing is an extensive process, it is very crucial to test your application for its usability, compatibility, interface, software quality, security and performance. It allows you to know if your application meets the user requirements and expectations. To enable an unbiased and genuine testing process, application testing should be performed by non-developers or people who are not directly associated with your application development. There are various aspects of testing; Functional Testing, to test if the feature works according to your requirements. Usability Testing, to test the user- friendly factor. Performance Testing, to measure the overall performance of your application. Then, there is device-specific testing, security testing etc.
Application testing enables you to get feedback, identify bugs and eventually improve your application. It enables you to develop a different insight into your application. To test your application, you can give your application to a few people in your target audience, you can also make your application available for a beta trial. The feedback you receive from beta users will enable you to identify whether the app’s functions are adequate, proper and operating well in real-world situations. It is important to ensure your application is stable, usable, and secure. Inspecting all aspects of app testing will give you a complete understanding of your application working. Testing an application beforehand will help you to save costs. Fixing bugs at a later stage becomes costly.
The deployment of the application is the final phase. Select a day and announce an official launch for your application, release your application on the application stores; google play store for android apps and apple app store for iOS apps. Before launching your mobile app
You need to have a developer account with Apple app store and Google play store. The policies of launching the application vary for the respective app stores. While preparing to release the application on the apple app store, be ready with information concerning the title of your app, its description, category, keywords and Launch icon etc. Once submitted in the Apple App Store, iOS apps go through a review process which may take some time depending on the quality of your app and how well it abides by Apple’s iOS development guidelines. A review process is not required for Android apps, they become available within a few days of submission.
After the launch, you can measure the success of your app by supervising its usage through mobile analytics platforms and track key performance indicators (KPIs). A critical step follows after this, which is the Feedback from users. Look out for credible feedback and suggestions so that you can update the same in the future versions of the app. Hear out issues, the end-users face, check crash reports, and frequently enhance the app with improvements. Every app requires updates and new features. This enables you to improve and keep your application engaging and popular with users. With the first version of your app release, the application development cycle begins again. Constant supervision and maintenance of the application is integral for its success
A mobile application development cycle has all these stages. Every stage of development needs alertness and patience. The application development cycle is an ever-continuing process. It is a long time investment that you cannot neglect after the launch. Frequent updates and improvements are necessary. You have to be observant, alert and agile in carefully evaluating your application. As you receive user feedback, it is integral to work on the issues faced by the users. Constant supervision and alacrity in resolving issues and incorporating improvements is the key to develop a successful application, the users love to engage.
Sameer Mehta is a blogger and entrepreneur and writes on technology and lifestyle related topics. He has more than 15 years of experience across technology, consulting and marketing. He has written for Entrepreneur, West Agile Labs, Exegy Consulting, Jewellerista, etc.