Recently I’ve found a general lack of knowledge from people surrounding app development, and if you’re getting an app developed you should at least have a basic knowledge of who and what is involved. If you haven’t read part one I’d recommend you give it a quick read to get up to speed with the terminology and people involved.
This part of the series will go through each step in the app development process and some common traps and pitfalls people fall into when having an app developed.
Let’s jump right in. The process is everything from the onset of your project right through to the release of your app and what follows.
Fairly self-explanatory really. Discussions are when everything you’re thinking related to your app is verbalised, to us, to express your idea and intent. This is the first thing that’s done and lets us gain a clear understanding of what you’re looking to have developed and some insight into why. Without this step in the process, and getting it done right at the start, there may be a disconnect between your vision and that of the development team.
Also a fairly common concept during any type of project is when your concept is taken and many different thoughts and ideas are generated in relation to it. The main idea behind a brainstorming session is for new ideas to be brought forth that could potentially enhance or alter the initial concept for the better. The app developer won’t know everything about your industry and you won’t know everything about the app industry so having this collaborative session right near the start of the project lets all parties put forward their expertise to help find the best solution to the problem your app is looking to solve.
Scope & feasibility
The most critical step of your project before committing to it. The scoping stage is when everything provided and discussed from the start of the project is gone through to work out how it will all come together to create an end result. During this stage, the technical feasibility is also assessed and any findings documented. Once the scoping stage is complete all involved parties will have a clear understanding of how the project will take shape and the deliverables associated with it. The scoping stage will typically allow for the creation of a timeline so you can see how the rest of the project will play out and the times involved with each step.
As mentioned in the first part of this series, wireframes are a blueprint of your app that shows how each screen will be laid out but does not represent the final design, only where the content will be positioned in the user interface. Wireframes let you understand how your app will look before any core development work is complete. Without a wireframe, it’s easy for an app to become a mess of undefined standards.
The design stage defines how each of the screens in your app looks and feels. Designs dictate the final appearance of your app. What you see at the design stage should be a pretty close representation of your final app. The Design stage is broken into two stages, concept designs and core design. The concept designs are the first time you’ll get to see your app coming to life and it should resonate with what you were thinking about the appearance of your app. The concept designs are normally the full-colour designs of a few core screens of your app. At this point, you’ll get a chance to give feedback if it’s not quite what you were thinking or if there are little tweaks you’d like to make. Once you’ve given feedback it’ll be taken on board and the core designs will be created using the concept designs and the given feedback. A click-through prototype of your app is also given that allows you to click through the screens of your app on your phone so you can get a true understanding of what it will look like.
The development stage is the longest stage of your app project. The development stage is where your app is brought to life from a scope and designs to an app that you can use on your phone. Generally split into separate development cycles for the iOS version of your app and the Android version of your app. During this stage, we’ll be hard at work getting your app up and running.
The testing phase, normally referred to as Beta testing, is your first chance to really sink your teeth into the app on your phone. Due to the staggered nature of development for your two core platforms, you’ll have a testing phase for each app. It’s pivotal that you block out the time to thoroughly test your app in both a functionality and scope sense and also general usage. You’ll need to provide any feedback on the app for processing. Depending on the nature of your app any online services that it connects to such as a database are generally set up in what’s called a staging environment. It’s done like this so that you can complete your testing with ease of mind that nothing you do is going to have real-world effects or consequences. Especially useful to test functionality such as purchases through your app without having to commit real funds.
The final core step of your project: this is when your app is ready for public consumption. This involves the setup of your app information including everything that the public will see displayed on the download page of the App Store or Google Play. You’ll have a say in this content and it’s your chance to sell your product to the public. The requirements of this information will be laid out for you and depending on the nature of your app has a fairly quick turn around. Once your app information is setup they’ll be sent through to Apple and Google for processing. Apple processing can take up to a week but is normally complete within a day or two. Google’s processing happens within an hour. Once the processing is complete your app can be made available to the public.
Your app journey doesn’t end here, however. It’s really just the beginning and brings me straight into two of the biggest pitfalls someone having an app developed can make:
- not treating their app like a business, and
- not marketing their app.
Traps & Pitfalls
Your App is a business so treat it like one!
This really starts from day one of your app but continues right through to after your app’s release. If you don’t have the time, energy or motivation to treat your app like a business then you may want to rethink everything about it. Don’t have a business model? Haven’t thought about the legal implications of your app? Aren’t interacting with your users?
At the end of the day, you need to think about your app as a product that your company is selling. This links directly to my next point, not marketing your app.
Not marketing your app!
How are people going to know about your app if you don’t get it out there? There are many misconceptions such as “I don’t need to market because my app is going to be so great it’ll market itself”. This is pretty much never the case. Even apps or products that seemingly look to be overnight successes often have massive amounts of marketing put in behind the scenes to get to that point. Marketing isn’t my expertise but I don’t think there’s such a thing as bad marketing. Any eyes you can get on your app and exposure you give it the more users you’ll get. Marketing should also never be an afterthought and you can begin marketing well before your app is complete to start building a following and community of potential users. It should also not stop just because your app has been released. Also, make sure not to make promises in your marketing that you can’t uphold. This could be a whole point in itself but goes for critical things such as giving users a solid release date before your app is even finished.
App bloat comes in three different forms. Scope creep, turning your app into a swiss army knife and losing focus on your core value proposition:
This is when you change, modify or try to sneak in additional functionality that wasn’t included in the scope of your project. This occurs during any stage after the scoping stage is complete. Scope creep acts to directly inhibit your vision of the app and the whole flow of the app process as it removes focus on the current vision of your app. If something hasn’t been discussed or thought about before or during the scoping stage then was it really that important in the first place?
‘Swiss Army Knifing’ your app
Similar to scope creep, coming up with an app idea that’s a swiss army knife of functionality is an app doomed to fail. An app that can do everything sounds like a wonderful idea, but at what cost? If you think about how you and most other people use apps, having an app that can do everything but users only use their own select portion of the app becomes a waste of time and money.
Losing focus on your value proposition
Losing focus generally goes hand in hand with scope creep. It’s easy to lose focus on the core value proposition of an app during the initial discussions and what comes after. Just because you’re in touch with a development team doesn’t mean you should start throwing all of the ideas you’ve had over the last few years into contention. The worst iteration of losing focus is not having focus or a core value proposition in the first place.
Not testing your idea or audience
This one is huge. Often people will have a spur of the moment idea, lock it in their brain and run all guns blazing straight into a brick wall. Most ideas can often be tested and validated through other real-world examples and tests. We’d always recommend testing the waters of any app no matter how big or small the idea. This can simply be done through other platforms and services. Facebook groups or Instagram pages can validate many app ideas.
Thinking you’re invested when you’re not
It often happens when people have a spur of the moment idea and get in contact with us. They provide what we see as barely any information and thinking that the idea they spent an hour last night thinking about is the biggest investment they’ve had and it’s going to save the world. Some great insight from Antony Ceravolo the Co-Founder of www.Lovefilm.com, a Netflix rival that he sold to Amazon for over $3,000,000 back in 2011, says that he sits on and thinks through his ideas for over 6 months before he even looks to act on them.
Not understanding the process
An app doesn’t just pop out of thin air, it takes hundreds of hours to bring it from its infancy to a product that users can download. Underestimating this will set you up for a huge disappointment in terms of the money you’re looking to invest in your idea and the timeframe your app can be completed in. It’s obvious that Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb and Uber have all invested up to hundreds of thousands of hours into their apps and looking to have a system that even remotely compares to their isn’t an overnight job so it’s always good to take a step back and think about what’s actually going to be done to bring your app to life.
The price of an app
As mentioned in the previous pitfall the price of an app isn’t a few hours of someone’s time to get to a finished product. If you get someone to build you a house you don’t expect it to be complete in 1 day and apps aren’t any different.
We’re all done with part 2! You should now have a fundamental understanding of the app development process along with a bunch of the main traps and pitfalls people fall into when getting an app developed. If you want to talk through our process, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
APP DEVELOPMENT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW – PART 3