The (Almost) Complete Guide to Mobile App Development
Mobile apps offer you a highly effective way to build stronger relationships with your customers.
August 17, 2021
Why Build a Mobile App?
Are you thinking about developing a mobile app for your business? You’re not the only one.
Your competitors are probably thinking about it, too. They may even be working on—or already have—an app for their business.
Much like websites, social media, and other marketing and branding tools, mobile apps offer you a highly effective way to build stronger relationships with your customers. Here are just a few benefits you can gain from developing an app for your business:
1. Increased Brand Awareness
How many times do you look at your phone in a day? When a customer puts your app on their phone, they’ll be reminded about your brand every time they look at the screen. And if your app engages them with notifications, that awareness skyrockets.
And that’s not the only way apps increase your brand’s visibility. Your presence in app stores means your brand will also be seen by everyone searching for apps in your category. Your business is therefore seen as tech-savvy and perhaps even forward-thinking.
2. Higher Customer Engagement
This may come as a shock, but your customers don’t want to talk to you. They may email you, but what they really want is for you to make doing business as easy as a few taps on their screen.
If your app makes it easy for your customers to buy from you, pay their bills, process a return, use coupons, pre-order forthcoming products, and so on? You’ll not only see higher engagement, but you’ll get rave reviews in the app store—boosting brand awareness even more.
Push notifications are another way your app can increase customer engagement. Got a special offer or a sale going on? You can push a short message out through your app and have it pop up on your customers’ screens.
3. Improved Customer Service
If customers don’t want to talk to you to place an order, they certainly don’t want to have to call with a complaint or service need. The easier you make it for them to get help, the more they’ll love you for it.
According to Hubspot, 50% of customers buy more from a brand after a positive customer service experience, and 67% would pay more to get better customer service.
With the right mobile app development, your app can give customers the kind of service they’ll rave about. Some common customer service features include in-app messaging, call and call-back buttons, directions to your nearest store, and the ability to leave feedback.
4. Deeper Customer Insights
Remember how impressed you were the first time you saw how much you could learn about your customers from website analytics? Mobile apps give you even deeper insights into the behavior of your customers.
You can discover the questions they want answered, the stores they visit most, the app features they find most valuable, and more. This data, in turn, can help you improve the app, develop more effective ads and outreach programs, and deliver the products and features your customers crave.
5. Mobile Is Here to Stay
More and more, people avoid brick-and-mortar stores and shop online. According to Statista, 22% of retail sales will happen online by 2023, and a big driver of that is mobile eCommerce. Nearly half of eCommerce (49.2%) happened via mobile devices in 2020.
As mobile apps take off, businesses like yours will continue developing and improving sophisticated ways to gain buyers’ attention, give them a delightful user experience, learn more about them, and use that information to make more sales.
Types of Mobile Apps
If you go by Google or Apple’s app store categories, there are dozens of types of mobile apps. All of these categories can be divided into six general buckets.
1. Games and Entertainment
This is by far the most popular type of app. It’s also the largest and most competitive category; as of June 2021, games accounted for over a fifth of all apps available in the Apple app store, according to Statista. Pokemon Go, Angry Birds, Words with Friends, and Among Us are some of the most popular examples.
2. Social Media
The most used apps on just about anyone’s phone are social media apps. People use these apps to share news, jokes, photos, tidbits about their life—just about anything. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram lead social apps, while others spike in popularity and fade away.
Lifestyle apps are about fitness, dieting, drinking, dating, music, travel, and other ways of enjoying life. Most include some kind of social media sharing. Examples include MyFitnessPal, OnTap, and Spotify.
Utility apps are often used, but not flashy or fun. Most of them come with your phone. Some examples are your calculator, calendar, flashlight, reminders, and notes apps.
5. Business and Productivity
Believe it or not, business apps are also enormously popular, and the category is almost as competitive as games. That’s because these are the apps you use to get tedious tasks done quickly. Banking apps, shopping apps, task list apps, and apps like Google Docs are examples.
6. News and Information
Just about every news channel has its own app—including local news outlets. This category also includes apps like WeatherBug, Feedly, Reddit, and LinkedIn (although those last two could also be considered social media apps).
Popular Development Languages and Frameworks
Android, iOS, or both? One of the most important decisions to make is the platform to release version 1.0 of your app.
This choice, in turn, will help to determine what kind of mobile development environment to implement.
Manufacturers like Samsung, Acer, Dell, HTC, Lenovo, Sony, LG, and many more use the Android open-source environment for running apps on hardware such as smartphones, tablets, and wearables. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the Android platform.
Pros of Android
Huge international smartphone base. Globally speaking, Android holds the largest smartphone user base by far. According to StatCounter, Android owned 73% of the worldwide mobile operating system market share in 2020, while iOS held 27%. (When you break it down by region, however, the picture changes drastically. More on that in a minute.)
More features. Because Android is an open-source system, Android developers receive access to many features unavailable or restricted in iOS applications, an advantage particularly useful to custom Android app development companies.
Quick and inexpensive app release. Android apps can be easily published to the Google Play app store, sometimes in just a few hours. In Android app development, the cost to publish an app is only $25.
Cons of Android
Fragmentation. Android devices from various manufacturers come with so many screen sizes, resolutions, and other hardware differentiators that development teams might need to spend more time on customizing features to work with specific devices.
Testing can be lengthy. Manufacturers vary, too, in terms of when they adopt different versions of the Android OS. In conjunction with hardware variations, this can add time to QA testing for Android app development companies.
Development costs can be high. If development and testing are lengthy procedures, this can raise a company’s overall costs substantially.
Java vs. Kotlin for Android Development
First introduced by Sun Microsystems back in 1995, Java is an object-oriented, open-source environment used widely in development for both Android and other operating systems. Java app development is easy to do, with code that looks much like C/C++. Java Android apps have access to extensive libraries for everything from logging to unit testing, for example. The Android Studio integrated development environment (IDE) contains built-in Java source files.
On the other hand, some Android mobile app development companies find Java’s repetitive syntax to be problematic.
Unveiled by Google in 2017, Kotlin for Android requires developers to write less code than Java does, which accelerates development. Kotlin also eliminates some Java-specific issues such as NullPointerException. And it offers access to all frameworks and libraries written in Java.
However, the learning curve for Kotlin is rather steep, and Kotlin hasn’t yet built up nearly as much community support as Java.
In contrast to Android, Apple’s iOS is a closed system. iOS developers using the platform can only create apps for Apple hardware devices—iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and so on.
Pros of iOS
High-end demographics. While Android enjoys the lion’s share of the global market, iPhones are more popular in wealthier countries. Statista reports that 58% prefer iOS in the US, and 69% prefer Apple over Android in Japan. And Apple users spend more, accounting for 64% of worldwide consumer spending on app stores.
Quicker development time. Because iOS powers only Apple products, iOS developers only need to fit an app to a limited number of devices and screens.
Large installed iPad base. If you’re planning an app that runs on tablets, iOS can be a particularly attractive environment. In the fourth quarter of 2020, Apple continued its perennial lead of the worldwide tablet market, shipping 19.2 million units and capturing 36% of the market share, according to Canalys.
Cons of iOS
Longer release time. Compared to the Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store has strict review guidelines for both apps and updates. Apple might reject an app or update based on its content, security issues, or poor performance. After submitting an app for review, Apple developers can wait as long as a week for an answer.
Lack of flexibility. iOS apps can also be difficult to customize due to the many restrictions of the platform.
Objective C vs. Swift for iOS Development
When Apple’s App Store first opened in 2008, every app was written in Objective C. One important reason for Objective C programming is that Apple Objective C is a relatively user-friendly language for those new to object-oriented development. Apple also viewed the development environment as robust and scalable. Additionally, as a C language superset, Objective C has many functions that deal specifically with graphics, I/O, and display functions.
In 2014, Apple introduced Swift as an even easier and faster method for iOS development companies to use. Swift app development includes a feature called “Playgrounds” for helping iOS developers teach themselves to move from Objective C to Swift programming. Now gaining widespread adoption by iOS developers, Swift development can be used either in conjunction with Objective C or separately.
Hybrid Mobile Development
Cross-platform mobile development environments allow you to create an app that works on both Android and iOS devices. While this may seem like the way to go, hybrid development does have its drawbacks—namely, an inability to take advantage of the full feature set of either platform.
Ionic App Development
The Ionic development environment lets you create hybrid iOS, Android, and web apps with the use of HTML and CSS. Ionic provides a library of mobile-optimized UI components, gestures, and tools. Apps are rendered using Web Views, a full-screen and full-powered web browser. Ionic can produce elegant mobile UIs, but rendering times can be slow on larger apps.
React Native App Development
Like ReactJS, React Native replaces the use of HTML and CSS for UI development with JSX, an XML markup language that compiles UI components into native platform-specific components. For example, a React Native text component will render natively on Android as a TextView, but on iOS as a UILabel.
Vue Native is a hybrid development environment introduced in 2018. The goal of Vue Native is to build lightweight but richly featured cross-platform mobile apps. Essentially a wrapper around React Native APIs, Vue Native is designed to let developers take the best features from both React Native and VueJS.
For its part, React Native is seen as competing not with Angular but with NativeScript, an offering from development firm Telerik. Although it can also be used independently or with Vue, NativeScript is fully supported by Google to share most of its code base with web apps in Angular development. NativeScript is available with a full stack of tools, services, and solutions for both Android and iOS, including code encryption and security.
Flutter Native App Development
Flutter is a new and increasingly popular widget-based UI toolkit from Google for building graphically “beautiful” Android, iOS, web, and desktop apps from a single code base. Flutter app developers use Google’s Dart programming language. Flutter also contains a hot reload feature meant to let Flutter mobile developers build UIs, experiment with new features, and fix bugs with sub-second reload times without losing state on hardware, emulators, and simulators.
Flutter’s fully customizable widgets include a “Cupertino-style” series for iOS app development. Google eyes expanding app development in Flutter from iOS and Android to Microsoft Windows and Apple’s macOS environments soon.
Owned and produced by Microsoft since 2016, Xamarin was originally built by the developers behind the Mono open source project. Xamarin uses C# and native libraries wrapped in Microsoft’s .Net layer for cross-platform app development across iOS and Android, with support for both Apple Watch and Android Wear. Code for business logic, database access, and network communications can be shared across all platforms, but Xamarin also lets developers create a platform-specific UI code layer.
Most Xamarin developers use Windows computers with Microsoft Visual Studio, and Xamarin installed. Developers can generally keep the native look and feel of iOS and Android apps from within Xamarin. Yet, they can also call existing platform code, such as Swift, to achieve platform-specific functions like barcode scanning or PayPal.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Mobile App?
Trying to price mobile app development is like asking, “How much does a car cost?” The answer depends on the type of car you want. A luxury car with all the bells and whistles will cost you a lot more than a basic commuter car.
The same is true of mobile app development. Generally, you’re going to pay $20,000 to $500,000, depending on the app’s complexity.
A basic mobile app with elementary logic and basic UI, built for a single platform (i.e., Android or iOS, but not both) will cost between $20,000 to $50,000 to develop.
The next step up would be an app with medium complexity—a couple of complex features, intermediate business logic, maybe some custom UI work or animations. Now you’re into the $50,000 to $100,000 range. Again, this would be a single-platform app.
If you need a complex app with many features, advanced logic, custom UI, a complicated architecture, and so on, the price tag will run anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 or more—and that’s still for a single platform.
Building an app for both the iOS and Android platforms could drive up the cost of any app.
Reduce Costs Without Cutting Corners
You may be able to reduce costs by outsourcing mobile app development. A custom software development company can tap into remote, offshore teams to reduce development costs while still delivering a high-quality app. Outsourcing is a great way to reduce development costs without sacrificing features, complexity, or quality.
To get an accurate cost estimate from a mobile app development company, make sure you give them a complete picture of what you expect the app to do—the features you want, the platforms you need it to operate on, the databases and other software it will interface with, and so on.
How Long Does It Take to Build a Mobile App?
Like cost, the amount of time it takes to develop a mobile app depends on its complexity—the more complex, the longer the development time. Generally speaking, it takes three to nine months to develop Version 1.0 of your app.
If this seems like a lot, remember that not all this time is spent on actual coding. The steps in mobile app development often include:
- Creating project brief (1-2 weeks)
- Researching app with developers (4-5 weeks)
- Designing app (6-12 weeks)
- Developing and prototyping (6-12 weeks)
- Releasing app (1-2 weeks)
An experienced mobile app developer should be able to give you an accurate estimate once they’ve scoped the project. Beware of companies that overpromise, however. If a developer tells you they can build your highly complex app in a month, for example, they’ll most likely underdeliver.
Choosing a Mobile App Development Company
On that note, how do you choose the right mobile app development company for your needs? Here are six things to look at when evaluating a development partner.
1. Client Reviews
The quickest way to get a feel of a potential development partner is to see what others say about them. Review sites abound, making it barely an inconvenience to discover what it’s like to work with them. Check Google Reviews, Clutch.co, GoodFirms.co, and the company’s own website to find out what it’s like to work with them.
You can also ask for references. Not only will you get answers to specific questions from their existing clients, but it also shows you that your potential development partner isn’t worried about what you’ll learn.
2. Company Culture
You’re going to be working with the team you choose for several weeks, so make sure it’s a team you’ll like working with. They should listen more than talk. They should be able to empathize with your business needs and your user’s needs. They should be dedicated to craftsmanship and future-focused.
And they should truly enjoy their work. Great mobile app development takes more than hiring skilled people. If everyone feels heard and supported, they’ll be able to do their best, most innovative work.
A company with these core elements woven into their culture is more likely to deliver a quality product.
3. Similar Experience
Check to see if the company has experience building mobile apps like yours. If so, they’ll be able to apply the lessons they learned on previous projects to accelerate the development cycle for your project and increase the quality of the final product.
If their experience doesn’t exactly align with your needs, it’s not necessarily a strike against them. As long as they keep up with mobile app development trends, they should still be able to deliver a high-quality product. But if you’re having trouble choosing between two similar companies, the one who’s done similar work before might be your best bet.
Delivering software on time is always important, but for mobile apps, it can mean the difference between success and failure. If you’re trying to beat a competitor to market or capitalize on a trend you see developing, missing your launch date makes it harder to achieve the success you expected.
The key to meeting release dates and deadlines is their software development methodology. Ask them to walk you through their development process. Are they Agile? How do they track and report project status? What’s the level of transparency?
A high level of transparency helps keep the project on schedule. By alerting you of delays early enough, you have time to change tactics and mitigate the impact of the delay.
As you evaluate potential development partners, be sure to get detailed cost estimates. You not only need to know the total cost of development, but also a breakdown of that cost. This allows you to compare apples to apples.
Ask potential mobile app partners to show how they estimate each feature of the application. If every development company’s total cost exceeds your budget, you might be able to choose low-priority features to drop from the project to bring the cost down.
While it’s tempting to partner with a “rock star” software development company, those firms often charge a premium for their services because they’re in such high demand. In other words, you pay more for the same services and quality you could get from a lesser-known company.
6. Support and Maintenance
Finally, ask your prospective mobile app partners what happens after release. What level of support and maintenance is included in the estimate?
Apps often have bugs that aren’t found until they get into the hands of users. Operating system updates can impact app functionality, too. When your customers report a bug, you need to get it fixed quickly to keep it from having a negative impact on your brand and the app’s success.
The level of maintenance and support you get depends on the mobile app developer. Make sure the developer you partner with offers technical maintenance and support for bug fixes and upgrades.
Making Money from Your Mobile App
How much you spend on building a mobile app depends on how much you expect to make from the app once it’s built.
If you’re developing the app for internal business uses, you need to know up front how it will benefit your bottom line. Will it reduce costs? Get your products to market faster? Help you retain customers?
If you’re developing a commercial app, are you going to charge for it upfront? Make it subscription-based? Or will you offer it for free and make money by selling ads or offering in-app purchases?
An entire white paper could be written on the various benefits and optimization methods for monetizing your mobile app. It’s another area where an experienced mobile app developer can guide you.
Knowing how you’ll monetize the app will influence the design. If you’re going to sell ads, developers will need to know how much screen real estate to devote to an ad, and what type of ad it is. Banner ads are coded differently than interstitial ads, video ads, and so on. They also impact app performance in different ways.
You may find you want to use more than one method—for example, combining a subscription-based model with in-app purchases. Just keep in mind how your monetization model will affect the user experience. If you frustrate users with constant ads or interruptions, your app may receive a low rating and customers will stop using it.
Figuring out how to make money from your mobile app is complicated, but it’s critical to the app’s success.
As the title says, this is an almost complete guide to mobile app development. While it touches on everything you may need to consider when planning your mobile app, it doesn’t take a deep dive into any of those areas.
You’ll need to decide what type of app you want to build, how it will improve your revenue, what technologies and platforms are best for your needs, and whether or not you can build the app with your in-house talent.
If you decide to outsource the development of your mobile app, you’ll need to research custom software development companies that specialize in mobile apps—particularly, the kind of app you want to build.
We’d like to be included on that list.
Taazaa means “fresh.” Think new. Not canned. Tailored to you. We work with like-minded people and organizations looking for a fresh experience around creating and unleashing great software—including mobile apps.
Since 2007, Taazaa has helped hundreds of businesses like yours stay relevant in a world of relentless change. Leveraging custom software solutions and emerging technology, we follow design-based development practices that promote rapid delivery and a tailored fit to your business.
We’re agile. We’re high-empathy and low-friction. And we make great mobile apps.
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