The Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Development

18 November 2021
Szymon Wójcik
Szymon Wójcik
iOS developer
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  • Intro

Remember the times when the only app on your mobile phone was Snake and ringtone maker? Now, mobile apps are an essential part of our daily lives – and customers do love those. Order a cab? Check the weather forecast? Book a hotel appointment? All of those things and far more we can do just by taking out our mobile phones. 

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that companies of all sizes and industries want to have their own mobile app. You could say that to survive in today’s hyper-competitive business world, having a mobile app is almost a must. 

But how and where should you build a mobile app? What are your options for the mobile app development process? And most importantly, how much will mobile app development cost? How to get from an idea through the mobile application development process to a viable product? Where to look for mobile app development services?

All those questions and more we’ll try to answer in this article.

What is mobile app development

Let’s start with the basics – what does mobile application development even mean? Basically, it’s a set of processes through which developers design programs that can run on our mobile devices. 

Mobile app development process creation isn’t just about writing the code and then making sure it works on mobile platforms, though. To make sure the app is ready for market release, it needs to go through several development stages and processes: from validating your app idea to learning more about your audience and creating wireframes, testing stability, and then regular maintenance. 

Types of mobile app development

In the past years, virtually the only way you could make sure that the app will be working on a given device was to create a native app. Now, you also have an option to make a cross-platform app that can work on any platform as well. How are they different and who wins the native vs. cross-platform battle? 

  • Native mobile app development

Native applications are built for a specific platform (iOS or Android) using the software development tools and languages supported by those operating systems. So Android developers rely on programming languages such as Java or Kotlin while for iOS, they use Objective-C or Swift. 

As those apps are optimized for working on a specific platform, they are generally more secure, faster, and so they perform better. Native development also gives the developers complete access to the given device’s features – from the camera and microphone to different kinds of sensors. 

That performance and usability come at a cost, though – quite literally. Developing native apps is more expensive as you need to code them separately for each platform you want to use.  If you wanted to build a native app for both iOS and Android then, then you would need to design two separate apps with your mobile app developers – and most likely, pay double the price. 

WhatsApp is an excellent example here. As it requires access to the device’s camera and microphone to work properly, both Android and iOS platforms have their own native versions for Google Play and Apple App Store.

  • Cross-platform mobile app development

The second option you have is creating a cross-platform app. With tools like Flutter, mobile developers can build a single app with reusable code that will work just as well on both systems. 

If you want to release your mobile app on multiple platforms but have a limited budget, then cross-platform apps might be exactly what you need. Since the developers do not have to write unique code for each operating system, the overall cost is greatly reduced.

It takes a team of skilled mobile app developers to put together an application that would work well on several platforms, though. The biggest challenge here is that they need to keep an eye on all the little differences between operating systems and the hardware the devices run on. That might be especially tricky when it comes to implementing complex interfaces and features. Cross-platform apps may work a bit slower than native apps. Their range of features is pretty limited as well. 

But for many companies, the cross-platform app works fantastic. Take for example Slack, one of the most popular collaboration tools – can you even tell it’s a  cross-platform app? Besides their web browser and desktop app for macOS, Windows, and Linux, Slack also offers a mobile app that works just as well on Android as on iOS.

Types of mobile apps development
The Types of mobile apps development

Benefits of mobile app development

Looking at the number of new apps appearing every day on the app store, you might wonder from where even the boom on mobile apps came from. So here are some stats to show you just why exactly everyone wants to have their own app nowadays. 

Benefits of mobile app development
The benefits of mobile app development

1. The mobile app market is growing at a rapid rate

Half the world’s entire population now owns a smartphone. And quite often, also with a fast internet connection that allows them to download various apps whenever they need. In 2020, smartphone users downloaded 218 billion apps – and the numbers are only expected to grow. So is it that surprising that the revenue of the mobile industry is also growing? According to Statista, we can expect that mobile apps will generate $935 billion by 2023 – most of the revenue coming from paid downloads and in-app advertising.

2. Mobile apps are more efficient than websites and offer the same functionality

Modern apps can now offer exactly the same functionality as any website – while being easier and more convenient to use for a regular user. Think about it, if you could order a cab with one click on the app or had to find the cab company through the website, which would you pick? 

Because we always have our smartphones with us, we can access services or find information wherever we are. Push notifications have also made our lives easier. Whenever we get new mail or a task to do, we can get a notification instantly – and respond to them in seconds.

3. Developing an app can be cheaper than developing a website

It may cost less for you to build an app than it does to develop a website. Mobile apps are much more affordable and easier to update, which means that you can get hold of a wide range of modern features for your mobile operating systems without having to develop the entire thing from scratch.

4. An app can boost your company’s image by providing information about your products and services in a user-friendly way

One of the biggest benefits of having a mobile app is that all the information you’d like to give to your customers—including special sales and promotions—is right at their fingertips. Whether they need to read more about a product they want to buy or find an answer to the issue they have, it’s far easier for them to find it in the app. With push notifications, you can gently remind customers about your products and services as well.

5. Smartphone users spend more time on mobile apps than they do on other types of media, so it’s important to have an app available for customers to use while looking for your business online

Another massive benefit of mobile apps is that they’re designed to be used on the go. Wherever your customers are and whatever they are doing, they can reach out to companies just by taking out their phones. In the United States, 96% of maps usage time and 86% of weather content was consumed through smartphone apps. It makes sense – people need to access maps and GPS services on the go, so a smartphone is obviously the best choice. There’s actually a pretty good chance that someone might be searching for your business from inside an app right now!

6. Mobile devices make up 70% of all web traffic, making them the most popular way to access the internet today

As far more people nowadays have access to fast cellular internet, that makes it far more convenient for them to use the internet on their devices. For example, people no longer have to sit in front of desktop screens to access their email accounts – all that can now be done through mobile devices. As the speed and quality of mobile internet only get better, the number of people preferring to use their phone over their computer is only going to increase too.

In fact, more than half of the people worldwide access the internet using mobile devices, while only 43% do so via desktops nowadays – and for desktops, the number keeps dropping with every year.

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app

Now let’s get to the key question: how much would creating a mobile app for your brand cost? That’s a tricky question to answer, as the end price of the mobile application development process depends on several factors. Mainly, on how complex you want your app to be, what type of the app it should be, and how many features you want it to have. Plus, the development phase is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to app expenses. After your app is ready to be used, you’ll need to still handle the ongoing costs of regular maintenance, development environments, updates, marketing, and eventual bug fixing as well.

Let’s assume that you are building a full-featured enterprise app and the end cost will be approximately around $500,000. What’s included in the price?

  • Design work and User Experience: at least $150,000.

You can’t skimp on either designs or user experience work, as it’s the main thing that can attract (or put off) users from your app. Poor user experience is also regularly rated as the top reason why people abandon apps shortly after downloading them, so you should treat it as your priority.

  • Coding and programming: at least $150,000

The app development process is usually divided into two parts: front-end for the design and back-end engineering for the coding. The more complex the project is, the longer it will take for the development teams to create stable code, and thus, the more expensive this stage gets. 

  • Testing: around $50,000

You don’t want a situation when your team is flooded with complaints that the app doesn’t work on given devices or that the app is frequently crashing. This is why you should test your app on multiple devices (and carriers) for any usability or compatibility issues. Start with beta testing, and go through security testing and performance testing. 

  • App deployment:  $100,000

To make your app available to your active users through the major app stores, developers have to install and configure it to work on a dedicated server. Then, the link to your app is added to one or more app stores, from where your active users can download it – but also get future app updates for software applications.

  • Maintenance: $50,000

Your app will also require regular maintenance to ensure that it works properly and that all eventual glitches and bug fixes are patched. 

While there’s plenty of information online you can use to calculate your app’s price range, you should remember that all of those are just rough estimations of the costs. To get a bit more precise information, it would be best if you send your quote to a few development companies and compare the costs coming with each offer. 

Of course, on top of that, there could be more costs associated with digital products, mobile development teams, other elements on a product roadmap, artificial intelligence involvement, and anything else that comes to mind as for a mobile app development project. This will vary from one mobile app development company to another, as each may have another mobile applications’ development pricing, too. Get in touch with us to request a quote!

Read about Top 7 Mobile App Development Trends.

What should you know before developing your mobile app?

As the number of mobile applications on the market is growing, so is the competition. That means there’s always the risk that your own app might go unnoticed, despite your hard work. How can you lower the risk? Here are 7 questions you should ask yourself before getting down to (app development) work. 

  • What type of app are you developing and what will it do for your customers?

Mobile apps can help you a lot with boosting your brand recognition and revenue, but usually only when it’s used regularly. And for people to keep your app, it must fulfill their needs or solve a given problem through the features inside.

Therefore, the first thing you should think about is what you want your application to do and what features you need it to have. You should also take some mobile app development technologies into consideration.

Let’s say that you want to make a shopping app for your customers. To be useful, such an app should be able to store customer data like login credentials or purchase history, so it would be easier for them to make a purchase through the app.  For a finance tracking app, meanwhile, you could think about adding digital solutions, budgeting tools, or push-in notifications when bills are due.

2. Who is your target audience, and how big is the market for this type of app?

Mobile apps are pretty expensive to create and the competition nowadays is fierce. That’s why before jumping into designing your new app, you should always start with detailed research on the people you think might find your app useful but also on how crowded the market you want to reach is.

For example, offering a mobile app that can help the users manage their health care plans and make any necessary changes in those could definitely be useful for people who want to manage their health better. But if there are already several similar apps on the market, then unless your app can offer something new and unique, it might be difficult for you to attract enough people to your app. 

3. How much money can you spend on development, marketing, and other expenses?

To avoid going way over budget, it is a good idea to do a rough calculation of what you can afford to pay for the development, marketing, and maintenance of your new app. If your budget is limited, you should especially pay attention to checking what ongoing costs you will have to add to your budget after launching your app. The right mobile app development company should assist you in this step. 

4. Is there an existing product that does something similar to what you’re planning to create?

If there’s already an app that has similar features to what you currently need, then it might be a better idea for you to first try to use the existing app rather than creating your own. Looking at the time and money needed for creating an app from scratch, it might simply be cheaper for you to buy or license an app from another company instead of building your own version.

If the app you are interested in was built by a development company, then our pro-tip here would be to ask them whether they offer licensing services for the applications.  If yes, then buying the license can be a much faster and cheaper way to get the tools you need rather than if you were creating your own unique version.

5. What’s the best way to get feedback from potential users before launching an app ?

When it comes to successful app launches, feedback is crucial – especially user feedback. But from where can you get it? A good place to start is to research similar applications to you and see what their users are saying about it. But for the best results, it might be a good idea to create an MVP app that your users might test before official release and comment on it.

That could save you a lot of time you would otherwise have to spend on adding multiple modifications or fixing various bugs spotted by your users. Your mobile app development company can also offer beta or pre-launch testing services for mobile apps that they’ve developed or can offer their suggestions on how you could improve the user interface design and functionality of your app before your release a viable product to a broader audience.

6. What happens if I don’t have enough funding – will I lose any data or information if I’m unable to pay for hosting services, etc.? 

As your app grows, the costs of maintenance and server storage may increase. Sometimes to the point where you are struggling to pay. What can you do then? In such cases, you should always contact the development company responsible for your app and explain your situation.

They might help you with finding a more cost-effective hosting plan if your app requires a lot of storage space, or suggest ways how you can spread the costs of developing an app over time.  

7. Do I need an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law before starting development on my mobile application (e.g., patents)?

As mobile apps are considered intellectual property, you can protect your rights to them through patents or copyrights. You don’t need to hire an attorney or fill the documents yourself, though. As most mobile development companies know exactly how to ensure the security of your app and your intellectual property, they can help you with filing for a patent or copyrights. 

The process of developing a mobile app from start to finish

Each day, thousands of mobile apps are published to the Google Play and Apple App Store – from games to social networks, and ecommerce apps. But before someone’s idea becomes a full fledged-app, each has to go through specific development stages: 

  • Researching and planning your app idea: This stage is all about defining your goals for the application, specifying your target and audience and also listing the features you will need.
  • Market Research:  Doing proper market research will help determine if there is a demand for your app and what kind of competition you should expect then.
  • Design and wireframing: By creating sketches of how your mobile app should look and act, it will be easier for you to visualize the complete, viable product.  
  • Mobile application Development: Here’s where your app will finally start to take a shape as the developers will work on creating the code for the front and back-end of your future app and implement all requested features.
  • Mobile App Testing: This ensures that the app will function as intended without major bugs or issues
  • App deployment: Once your app is installed on the server and added to the app store, it’s ready for your users to download.
  • Post-launch activity: The last stage includes app promotion, regular maintenance, eventual bug fixing and adding updates to your app

Common pitfalls that can happen during mobile app development

As many companies that realized far too late they made a mistake during research or app development can attest, those mishaps can directly affect how successful (and profitable) your app might be. What are the most common problems you should be aware of?

  • Failing to understand what your users want: One of the most common mistakes business owners make is confusing their needs with their customers’ needs. The end result: An app that no one wants to use. By carefully researching your app idea and your future users expectations before starting with the app development, it will be much easier for you to focus on how the app should work to be useful to your customers. 
  • Going over the budget:  This one issue is a sad reality for many companies –  realizing that they went over the budget or that they don’t have enough funding for increased maintenance costs of their mobile app development process. Before getting into developing your new app, you should create a (as detailed as possible) budget plan and stick to it. But as it is hard to predict everything, you should also prepare some extra space in your budget for dealing with unexpected issues. 
  • Lack of skills/time when working in-house:  Many companies tried to first build an app with their in-house team. In the middle of the work though, they found out that their developers don’t have the needed experience to deal with a problem they faced. Or, simply, that they have so many tasks to do a day that there’s barely any progress on the app development. 

Outsourcing your project to a mobile app development company can help you avoid this one problem, as you can build your team out of people who have the needed experience and skills to get your project finished successfully. In the long run, the costs of hiring an outsourced team might also turn to be far lower than if you stayed in-house.

  • Mimicking Your Website or Desktop App: As the mobile design screens work differently from the desktop screens, trying to copy how your website looks is a recipe for chaos. While it’s excellent to maintain an identical color scheme and theme across the board (for branding purposes), the app’s UX should always remain a priority. When you build an app you need to ensure it’s optimized for the specific platform you intended it for (iOS, Android, Windows etc.) and that it’s as intuitive for your users as possible.  
  • Overcomplicating the app A successful mobile app is simple enough for the customers to easily find their way inside it and has exactly the features they need. If you instead try to cram several features into your app, you are only making it more confusing for your users. Plus, there’s also the risk you can quickly go over your budget. 

Should you outsource mobile app development?

Companies used to be pretty skeptical about handing their mobile app development process to third-party developers, as they worried about the quality of the product or service as well as the safety of their data. What’s more, outsourcing was seen as a pretty expensive option. But that’s no longer the case. With a bit of research and planning, outsourcing your app development can be considerably cheaper than designing it in-house progressing, this is an excellent way to cut at least a part of the costs related to app development. 

There are many companies providing mobile app development services – and we’re one of them. Let us know how we can help and we’d be glad to assist!

Over to you

Getting a new mobile app for your business doesn’t have to be anything difficult.  Even if you don’t have any previous experience with building mobile apps, after reading our guide you should on what should you focus on. Spend some time researching your mobile app idea and planning the costs, and who knows, maybe your app will be the next big thing? 

Contact us and get a free project estimation!

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