Mobile App Development Process – Step by Step Guide 2023

The transformations in the mobile application development industry are on the rise. Thanks to micro-processing technologies, people can now use mobile apps on various platforms. So, the fact that smartphone apps will be able to run on desktops and may seamlessly integrate with different operating systems makes mobile application development a necessary and lucrative step for every business owner. That explains why 77% of CIOs are adopting a mobile-first approach to move towards digital transformation as more and more people start using smart devices (a report by McKinsey survey).  With this said, it becomes imperative to understand the mobile application development process so that your business can flourish in the digital era. So, without any further ado, let’s break down the app development process!

What is Mobile Application Development?

It is vital to understand the phenomenon before we unravel the app development process. You may think that it’s a static process followed by a few established mobile app development steps. However, that is a bit true, but not entirely. The process has a lot of intricacies involved.  Simply put, the mobile app development process involves software development applications that people can run on their mobile devices. Typically, it utilizes a network connection to work with remote computing resources.

Application Development

Thus, every mobile app development guide includes building installable software bundles (code, assets, binaries, etc.), executing backend services, such as data access with an API, and testing the app on devices. But that’s not it. The functional character of a mobile app has to be strong for the users. Meaning the app should be scalable, so the app creator has to consider aspects from screen sizes to hardware requirements. As you may see, the IT industry is flooded with mobile app development jobs. Therefore, it’s vital that the process you follow to develop an app is well-defined and comprehended by startups, entrepreneurs, and especially developers.

Mobile Application Development Platforms

Despite the recent emergence of a few new platforms, there are still only two that account for the majority of the mobile app development market share. One is the iOS operating system from Apple Inc., which powers the well-known iPhone line of smartphones. The second is Google’s Android operating system. In addition to Google, several other OEMs also use the Android OS to build their own smartphones and other smart devices. While developing for these two platforms shares certain similarities, using particular software development kits (SDKs) and development toolchains is necessary for each. Apple solely uses iOS for its own devices, but Google only makes Android available to other organizations if they meet certain requirements, such as installing specific Google applications on the devices.

The Approaches to Build Mobile App 

When building mobile apps, you can choose from the following four development approaches-

  • Native Mobile Applications
  • Cross-Platform Native Mobile Applications
  • Hybrid Mobile Applications
  • Progressive Web Applications

Irrespective of the approach you choose during the mobile application development process, each approach has advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, you have to select an approach that is the most suitable for your business objectives and desired level of user experience. Selecting the most appropriate mobile app development approach will enable you to avail of computing resources and add native features needed for your app.

1- Why select the Native mobile application development approach?

Selecting native app development is beneficial when you build an app with native platform features. Native applications can control hardware functions, for instance, the device’s camera, GPS, and microphone, that improve the speed of feature implementation and make it more effortless to deliver an excellent user experience. In addition to this, Native mobile app development ensures that push alerts are enabled easily. For example, it allows push notifications to undergo the iOS Server (APNS) and the Cloud Messaging Platform of Google. Therefore, native apps have rarer defects as the code is written in the original language.

2- Why select the Cross-Platform mobile application development approach?

Both Android and iOS nearly have an equal market share. So, it’s highly likely that you will find your possible customer on either one or both of the platforms. However, you will need enough budget to develop separate applications for both operating systems. But not every business may have it. Moreover, development using the Native approach is likely to make it more challenging to offer the same level of functionality and speed that your application demands. Therefore, if you wish to assemble a common development team to publish for both Android and iOS, if you wish to deliver the same quality of user experience across both platforms, or don’t have the resources to develop and manage two different applications, go for cross-platform development.

3- Why select the Progressive Web mobile app development approach?

PWAs (Progressive Web Applications) are developed with the help of standard web languages, such as CSS, HTML5, and Javascript. However, a user can access these apps only in the browser of their device. Thus, if you believe that your user may have continuous access to an internet connection and can manage using the application using the browser alone, does not need any native device capabilities like a camera, GPS, machine learning application module, gyroscope, and more, then you can develop your app using Progressive Web Applications.

1- Comparison of the four development approaches:

Native  Cross Platform Hybrid Progressive Web
Native apps are in the original coding language along with the framework delivered by the platform provider. Whether iOS or Android, it is run directly on the OS of the device. You can use different programming languages and frameworks for developing a cross-platform app. However, they can be compiled as a Native app that runs directly on the OS of the device. You can only use JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5 to build a Hybrid app. They are compiled as application installation packages. Contrary to native apps, hybrid apps run as a ‘web container’ providing browser runtime and bridging for native device APIs. Progressive Web apps offer ditch app store delivery as well as installation. They employ some fixed browser capabilities to deliver a user experience that is similar to using an application.
Excellent runtime performance Multiple platforms have a common code base Web and mobile apps share the code base The app is available for both mobile and web
Direct API access The app is easy to develop and maintain Employment of web development skillset No need for installation
Expensive Dependencies of bridges and libraries attached with native device features. Poorer performance compared to native apps Application capabilities depend on the browser
Multiple code bases needed Limited performance Native device features have limited support Native device features have limited support.

In light of this, let’s examine the mobile app development steps and understand everything you need to know to build a successful mobile application.

Mobile Application Development Process

While many know the advantages of developing a mobile application, they do not know how to build one for their business. If you diligently follow the mobile app development steps and choose a compatible strategy, you can unlock huge success. Broadly, seven key mobile app development steps are involved in the process. They are:

  • Strategy
  • Analysis and planning
  • Design
  • Application development
  • Testing
  • Deployment and support

1- Strategy

Strategizing your mobile application is the first step of the mobile app development process. Here, all you have to do is answer the “why” aspect of your app and define it. The questions can be like this- What is the goal of your application? How will the app resolve industry issues? What is the basic business model of your app? What revenue model will the app follow? How much do you wish to invest in the app? What will be the marketing strategy for your app? Answering such questions will provide you the insights into how you can proceed with the mobile application development process.

Moving forward, you will have to build user personas. For instance, if you’re developing an e-commerce application, you have to define the user’s age, style of interacting with mobile apps, expectations, and more.

2- Analysis and Planning

Now that you have given a shape and structure to your app idea, it’s time to carve out directions. Planning is that phase of the mobile application development process where you define use cases and capture detailed functional requirements. Once you identify the needs of your app, produce a product roadmap. It involves assigning priority to the app requirements and classifying them into delivery milestones. Here, you will have to define your minimum viable product according to your cost and resources and prepare the plan for the first launch.

Another major part of the planning process is the identification of the skills required for your app’s development. For instance, Android and iOS both employ distinct development technology stacks. So, if you wish to develop an app for both platforms, then your development team must have both Android and iOS developers. On the other hand, if your app is less complex and does not need platform-specific controls, you can create an app using a cross-platform stack like Flutter or React Native.

3- UX/UI Design

The aim of an app’s design is to offer a smooth and easy user experience with a clean look. While the overall success of an app depends on how well users adopt it, the part that UI/UX tools design has to play is taking care of the interactiveness, intuitiveness, experience, and user-friendliness of the app. While neat UI designs help with easy adoption, the app should have an intuitive user experience so that user engagement is intact.

Mobile app design process- Learning to work with design software is just one aspect of design. You can hire someone to build your mobile app for you or learn how to do it yourself. Above all else, the design must consider the app’s features, capabilities, and functionalities. The end-user should always be considered during design. The key steps of the mobile app design process are-

  • Determining Workflows
  • Create Wireframes
  • Develop Style Guides
  • Build Mock-ups
  • Prepare Prototypes

4- Information Architecture and Workflows

Design is core for the entire mobile application development process and determining the data that the users will see is the first step. This data largely defines the user journey within the application. When you plan the information architecture of your app, make a note to incorporate the rules that offer various roles and privileges to the users. Workflow diagrams help you focus on detailed user interaction possibilities and their manner of app navigation.

5- Wireframes

These are nothing but digital sketches that product designers draw on paper or a whiteboard. Wireframes are layouts of the concept you develop for the app and are also sometimes referred to as low-fidelity mockups. They offer a visual structure to your applications’ functional demands. Wireframes tools make you focus on the feel and user experience of the app and not necessarily the colors and styles. Preparing wireframes is a cost-effective solution to create an improved mobile app design.

6- Style Guide

Style guide demonstrates the app’s design standards, including the typefaces, color scheme, and graphics that resonate with the company’s branding guidelines. Following a style guide promotes consistency in the design and keeps all the people involved in the mobile app development process on one page. It maintains the one agreed-upon look and feels of the app.

7- Mockups

These are high-fidelity designs that are the final structures of the application’s visuals. To create mockups, you have to apply your style guides to the wireframes. You can use Invision, Figma, Adobe XD, and other tools to create high-fidelity mockups. They collaborate across your applications development and design team.

8- Prototype

While mockups show your applications’ functionality employing static designs, you can develop interactive prototypes using tools like Figma and Invision. Prototypes promote a better user experience and display the looks of your final app. Though they are time-consuming, investing time in building prototypes is always worth the effort as they allow testing both the functionality and design of your application.

9- Application Development 

Before you start core development or programming, there are a few decisions you have to make. This mobile app development step:

  • Defines the technical architecture of the app
  • Choose a technology stack
  • Define development milestones

Moreover, if the mobile application development has the scope for technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Augmented Reality (AR), you will have to consider verifying this with the development team if they have the capability to design and execute them. Being technically precise will enable your application to offer a rich user experience. In addition, your app can stand out, and you can gain a competitive edge in the market.

A quintessential mobile app development process involves three major project segments. They are-

Back-end/Server technology

It involves the essential database and server extensions required to support the app functionality. However, if you already have a backend platform, you might consider making some changes to it for your new mobile app.

1- API

API, i.e., Application Programming Interface, is the medium of communication between the application and the backend server or database. You can develop a perfectly scalable and secured app interface for data transfer between the backend and front end if you adopt microservice-based architecture with proper encryption standards. Some external APIs that the app may need for enabling, using, and consuming the app’s capabilities are-

  • Push notifications
  • Single or multi-factor authentication services for user sign-in
  • Location tracking
  • Payment processing
  • Social media platform integration
  • User engagement analytics
  • Cloud data storage
  • Media Access
  • CRM connectivity

Mobile App front-end

The app that users download, install, and interact with on their smartphones is the native mobile application. Mostly, apps have an interactive UX where they need real-time data and network connectivity between the backend and front-end technology. However, some apps can also work offline and use data storage available on the device.

1- Application Testing

Testing is crucial for ensuring that the mobile application development process builds a stable, secure, and useful app. So, first of all, you need to prepare some test cases that consider all the elements of application testing and ensure comprehensive testing.  A lot like use cases driving the mobile app development process, test cases drive the testing part. They direct the entire team to perform tests in a phased manner, record test outcomes for software testing quality, and trace fixes for retests.

Here, you can involve your QA team during the mobile app development steps and Analysis designing. Doing this will make them understand the functionality needs and goals of your app, which will, in return, allow them to produce accurate test cases. Some companies also attempt test-driven development and automated testing. It demands more effort for the development and maintenance tests where the team has to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of implementing test automation.

The critical tests involved in the mobile app development process are-

A- Functional testing 

It’s impossible to predict user behavior and interaction accurately. Functional testing enables you to ensure that almost every user scenario goes right. Simply put, functional testing ensures that every user is able to use the features of your application without facing any issues. You can further break down this testing into system testing and unit testing. System testing ensures the functionality of the app as a whole, whereas unit testing tests individual functions of the app.

Read Also – Difference Between Unit Testing and Integration Testing

B- Performance testing

As the name suggests, this category of testing evaluates the performance and responsiveness of your application. Find answers to the following questions to measure your application’s performance-

  • How responsive is your app to user queries?
  • How much time does your app take to load the screen?
  • Does your app drain the device’s battery?
  • Is your app capable of leveraging network bandwidth properly?
  • Does your app consume more than average storage?

You can simulate the maximum number of concurrent users to ensure that your app is able to handle the load and can perform efficiently even when the usage increases.

C- Security Testing

Security is highly imperative for enterprise mobile applications development. You must ensure that your users do not end up in a vulnerable position caused by hacking and other unethical activities. For this, ensure all the APIs utilized by your application for interfacing with the backend should use the HTTPS protocol and have additional authentication steps for API access.  In addition, ensure log-in sessions are traced on the user’s device and the backend. These sessions are terminated by the system when the user is not interacting for a specified time (usually ten minutes or less). Moreover, other provisions, such as data entry forms, should be tested during the mobile application development process to protect user data.

D- Device and Platform Testing 

As we know that as technology grows with light speed, mobile operating systems now undergo frequent updates. Giant mobile device manufacturers such as LG, Samsung, Motorola, and more use customized open-source Android platforms available in various form factors and sizes. On the contrary, Apple devices have a controlled environment as Apple manages the operating system and hardware on its own. Note that if you’re developing a mobile application that consists of features that need Augmented Reality or Artificial Intelligence, you have to arrange particular test conditions and environments to integrate such features.  Testing is a critical mobile application development step to ensure the app’s success. Strategizing and executing a comprehensive mobile app testing strategy is vital to deliver a high-quality product.

2- Deployment 

Launching your native mobile application requires you to submit it to a suitable app store. That is the Google Play store for Android apps and the Apple app store for iOS apps. For this, you need a developer account on both of these platforms.  However, before you finish up the mobile app development for app store submission, make sure you select a name and bundle identifier that is different from the testing version of your application. This will enable you to distinguish the testing version from the production version.  You have to prepare metadata to release the app to the app store that includes:

  • Application’s title
  • Description
  • Detailed description
  • Keywords
  • Category
  • Launch icon
  • Banner graphics
  • App store screenshot images

When you submit the app; it goes through the app store review process. The app store will take a few days for this purpose, depending upon the quality of the application and its adherence to the app store guidelines. If it rejects the app, it will notify you of the grounds for rejection. But the good news is that you can rectify the issues and reattempt submission. It is recommended that you go through the additional review till your application is accepted and published by the app store.

Conclusion- Make your Mobile Application Development Process A Success

After your app is published on the app store and becomes available for download, make sure you track its utilization through analytics and KPIs. Doing this, along with checking crash reports and user issues, will help you monitor the app’s success. Gradually provide feedback and suggestions for your users to encourage more downloads. In addition, offer prompt end-user support and upgrade the app frequently to improve user engagement. Keeping up with new technological advancements and updates to make your app more device and operating-system-friendly is essential to make your mobile app development process a success. Taking these last steps off the list after you follow the mobile application development steps can reward you with massive returns on your investment.

By Khatija Bano

A writer by heart and profession, Khatija has been writing with years of experience in content & copies. She keeps her focus on delivering value to the readers with verified information. When not nerding out over writing or reading, you can find her binge-watching thrillers.

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