We’ve got an app for everything.
To get food home delivered.
Or ferry us to the restaurant.
Then to pay for the food.
And then another one to find nearby gyms.
One that gives exercise tips.
Another to order home gym equipment and activewear.
There is even an app to find friends, partners, doctors or handymen, or anyone else that you need.
Finance, entertainment, education, communication… you name it, and you have an app for it.
Now imagine the process of developing and deploying all these apps.
Myth: The app development lifecycle involves complicated processes that you won’t understand unless you speak fluent jargon.
Truth: The app development lifecycle involves a series of steps that you can understand even if basic English is all you know.
Don’t believe us?
Here’s the app dev lifecycle, explained in plain English. Read on.
1.Researching The Idea - Discovery Phase
Your client knows they need an app that lets the end-user do x, y, and z.
But what OS should it run on?
What device configurations and screen sizes should it be compatible with?
Can app users create accounts?
How can they create the account?
What more can the user do with the app?
And the list of questions goes on.
As a developer, your job is to understand your client’s goal. And then translate those goals into features and specifications that the app needs to have.
Ask your client to answer the following:
Define the business goals.
Should the app bring in sales volumes?
Should the app create awareness?
Should the app supplement a physical product?
Identify how you will measure success.
Will x number of app downloads be enough?
Do you want people to use your app every day?
Should the app have a specified amount of sales?
Carry out user research
Do end-users need an app for the task at hand?
How will the app benefit the user?
Can the user customize some aspects of the app?
Map the customer journey
Where will the user start?
What steps will they have to take to get the task done?
How will the user reach the end of the app use process?
What kind of app does the competitor have?
Which features do they lack?
How to outdo the competitors with better app features or experience?
Once your client has answered all these questions for you, you should be able to convert the answers into technical specifications.
Based on the list of requirements, calculate the cost and estimate a timeline.
Now, discuss it with the clients and see what works for both of you.
2.UI/UX - The Design Phase
Every app looks and feels a certain way. You have to design your app for three things:
- One, seamless navigation
- Two, effortless experience
- Three, polished look
That is achieved with the following substeps:
Information Architecture and Workflows
How will the data flow through the app?
What data will be displayed to the user of the app?
What data will the user provide?
What data will the app collect?
Answers to these questions will give you an idea about how the app needs to function.
A builder would never start building unless there is a sketch ready. For app developers that sketch is called a wireframe.
Don’t look at the app aesthetics in this step. Just focus on user experience.
Draw a barebones structure of the app.
What fonts should the app use?
What should the app color palette be?
How will the app converge with the company’s brand image?
Hold client discussions to get a style guide ready. This will determine the app’s final look and feel.
Take the wireframe. Add the style guide to it. There you go, you have a mockup ready.
How the app will actually look = a mockup.
Mockups include the static design of how the app will look. The prototype has functioning models.
Developing prototypes takes time. But it is worth the effort. It also doubles as an early-stage reality check for the app’s functionality and usability.
3.Building The App - The Development Phase
Now it is time to actually get your hands dirty. (Not really.)
The technical specifications that you had ready in the first step will help you out here.
This step includes building the brain of your app. It involves a database (the place where all the app data comes from) and server-side objects.
What are server-side objects? Those that are responsible for all the calculations and operations that your app does.
API or Application Programming Interface is the communication channel between the back-end and the app.
Mobile App Front End
This is the part that deals with the actual app that the user will use. The stuff that you designed in the design phase will come to life at this stage.
If the app works online, it will be connected to the API and back-end server. Want to make the app available offline as well? Make provisions for using local device storage as well.
4.Quality Assurance - The Testing Phase
Once your app is designed and developed, it is time to take it for a test drive. Actually, test drives.
In the design and development phases, you depend on ‘use cases’ to drive you forward. Similarly, in the testing phase, you use ‘test cases.’
Here are the quality assurance tests that your app needs to go through.
User Experience Testing
Does the app match your client’s expectations?
Does the app give the end-user a satisfactory experience?
Take the app to beta testers and find out.
Do the apps’ features work the way they are intended to?
This is the bug-catching stage. Include as many users as possible for functional testing. More users mean more test cases and more chances of detecting all possible bugs.
How does the app interact with the user?
Do the app screens load fast enough?
How does the app use the available network bandwidth?
Does the app drain device battery?
Is the app size too much?
This is when you have to judge your app on the grounds that the actual end-users will consider.
Is the app susceptible to crashes?
How does the app store user data?
Can the app keep the data confidential?
Will the app be safe enough for making payments?
Remember: No matter how good your app is, if it fails on data security or privacy grounds, it will eventually face public wrath.
Device and Platform Testing
Mobile devices and their operating systems keep changing. Every day you see system updates and new devices.
Will the app function on all popular devices and operating systems?
Will the app be able to sustain future changes?
You are creating an app for not just today but tomorrow as well. So make sure your app is ready to meet the challenges and needs of today and tomorrow both.
5.Deployment and Support - The Maintenance Phase
Your app is ready.
It passed the internal testing.
Now, it is time to launch it on the app store. And let actual users try it out.
Deployment and support include:
- Meeting app store guidelines.
- App promotion.
- Analyzing key app performance metrics after launch.
- Responding to reviews and end-user feedback.
- Ensuring the app gets regular features and security updates.
- If users report bugs, they need to be fixed too.
Get Started Today
That wasn’t too hard, right?
Now that you know the mobile app development life cycle, it is time to start doing it. Check the list of top app developers if you have any more questions. And get your app on the floors at the earliest.