How to Get Started in Custom Mobile App Development
If you’re ready to get started in custom mobile app development, there are a few things you should know. Every app is different, but they all cost a few thousand dollars to complete at the bare minimum. This makes your app an investment worth taking seriously.
So how can you best recoup costs on your investment? With thorough planning.
Having a great idea is only the beginning. Without a clear-cut plan in place, you will end up spending a lot of time and money fixing simple issues that could’ve been handled at the beginning. This includes marketing plans, app platforms, and basic user experience best practices that will shape your app and set it up for success.
So what should you consider when getting started in custom mobile app development? Let’s take a look at some software planning basics to find out how to do it right.
Defining Exactly What You Want
You should plan to spend lots of time planning your app and defining its basic characteristics. What will it do for users? How will it look and feel? Are there other apps you want to imitate? Why should someone download your software?
Answering these questions may seem easy, but not spending time on them would be a mistake. One major downfall of software projects involves failing to define and limit the app’s scope and function. For example, if you’re building a daily planner app, it’s important not to let it turn into a camera, voice recorder, and contact management app along the way (unless you’re trying to compete with Facebook).
Adding all the bells and whistles to an app may seem like an enticing idea early on, but usually, it just overwhelms users and makes them less likely to download your project. The best apps are easy to use and keep features to a minimum.
Instead, define a specific problem and build your app around solving that problem in an elegant way. If you want to build a food delivery app, keep it limited to mapping and payment functions—anything more than that will take more time and money to develop, and it likely won’t serve customers any better.
Once you have a good idea for your app, you need to know how it will look and feel. A great place to start is to put yourself in a user’s shoes.
Mapping Out Use Cases
Use case scenarios are an important part of getting started in custom mobile app planning. These exercises help you define the experience of each user, starting with opening the app and using every function. If there are to be permissions, use cases will be where they are defined.
Doing this forces you to evaluate the importance of every feature in your app. Do they belong there? How will your developer build them? Does the technology exist elsewhere already? If so, can you find an appropriate API to shorten the development process?
If the app requires new technology, use case scenarios will show you. It’s also a great way to reflect on marketing basics. If your main users are older, making a highly complex app probably isn’t the best way to go about it. We’ll talk more about user demographics later, but suffice it to say that you should have a pretty good picture of the kind of person using your app.
What Will It Look Like?
Now that you have a good idea about how people will use your app, the next objective is to figure out what will your app look like. Using wireframe templates, you can draw out a black and white sketch of the app’s appearance, helping you answer all kinds of questions about the layout that developers need to know.
Why draw out wireframes? Because layout and appearance are entirely subjective. You—and only you—will determine what your app looks like. As skilled as your developer maybe, they won’t have the same eye for detail that you do. Even if they do, the cost of their advice is much higher than the usual market rate.
Many projects go bankrupt consulting developers on non-technical issues like color, font, and other styling choice issues. Software developers charge a premium rate for their services, and since their specialty is in app development, paying them to make design choices is not the smartest use of your money.
This isn’t to say developers aren’t great designers—just that there are better designers out there who charge much less to help your app look perfect. By using wireframes to design a basic layout of your app, you can tackle design issues early on and save your developer some time.
Picking the Right Framework
Every programming language has its pros and cons. While it’s possible to build an app from just about any code, some handle different tasks better than others. For example, Swift is the language used in iOS apps, and it is known for its security and ease of use. If you’re building apps for iPhones, going with Swift can help you launch faster and produce a better product.
Once you understand your app’s needs, knowing which platform to use will help you plot a course forward. If your app is simple, using a simple approach like Rapid App Development (RAD) might be worth considering. If it’s more data-heavy, you will probably want to work with a Python expert instead.
These are all questions to bring to a developer, and knowing the fundamentals of your app will make that conversation a lot easier. Ask which platform they suggest for your project, and see if they have any suggestions about how to improve your app.
Finding Good Developers
By now, you should have a pretty good idea about what your app will do. The next step is to find who will build it. Ideally, your team will have similar work experience to what you’re trying to build. This cuts down on unnecessary explanation, and it may even result in some great suggestions about how to successfully build an app.
A great place to start is to make a list of four or five apps you really like—maybe ones similar to yours. Take note of what you like about them, and communicate that with your developer. Things get a lot easier if your developer has an example of what to build, rather than just your rambled explanations.
Finding a good developer can be tough. There are tons of software development experts out there that could build your app without too much trouble, but that doesn’t mean they are the right fit. Instead, find a team with years of experience and hundreds of projects under their belt. This résumé may cost more upfront, but you’ll save time and money by paying for faster work.
Finally, no matter how great your app may be, it’s worthless if people don’t download it. Make sure your developer has experience launching successful apps. This kind of knowledge is invaluable when it comes to getting your product off the ground. Do your homework, then ask for advice.
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David is the Co-founder and CEO of Goji Labs. David loves working closely with passionate founders to understand their vision and help them build beautiful applications while focusing on risk-mitigation. As an author, he focuses on informative and educational blogs that enable our clients to make the most of their businesses.