Getting Started with Mobile App Development
Mobile app development can be challenging – not only because there are overwhelmingly numerous competitors out there – but because there are varying system constraints developers must abide by.
The following overview aims to serve as a starting point in which designers and developers can begin delving into the creation and development of mobile apps.
1. An idea or a solution to a problem
Innovation starts with either an idea or a solution to a problem.
With mobile devices being such a pervasive platform, everyone seems to have an idea for the next big app. But if you’re dry of original ideas, another way of starting the process is to think of problems that are in need of creative solutions. Just think of where we would be now if Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb.
A practical, concrete way of gathering ideas and solutions is to observe the problems you face in your own daily living, and to list them down. After listing them all down, think of ways you can resolve them, and filter out the ones that are impractical or unfeasible.
- iPhone App Development – Case Study Part 1 – The first in a series of blog posts that will catalog the process of developing one of my first iPhone apps, including drafting the idea, development, design, launch, and marketing.
- iPhone App Development – Case Study Part 2 – Part II in my series about developing an iPhone game app. In this post, I discuss the final gaming logic, hiring a developer, and the cost breakdown of the project.
- Steal This Idea – Silent Disco DJ App – Inspiration for building a new type of app. But is this idea solving a real problem? You decide.
- Build Winning Apps: Being First & Being The Best – A simple business truth about how to build incredibly successful apps.
2. Target market
Before proceeding with creating a mobile app, you first have to identify your target market, and your target market’s willingness to purchase.
Around 62 percent of smart phone users are between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, composed of individuals that range from single professionals to young parents. This age group downloads mobile apps on a daily basis. Aside from keeping the statistics in mind, it would be strategic to focus on the downloading patterns of this group (i.e., what kind of apps the group downloads), as well as the feedback received from the said individuals.
Once a target market is identified, app developers should also take into consideration their market’s willingness and capacity to buy apps, premium services, subscriptions or in-app purchases.
- How I Went From $1,000 to $200,000 With Apps – A look at how I targeted a completely new audience, built a lot of apps that targeted that audience and made some money by doing it.
- Gangnam Style Insights, Chartboost Tips, CPI Trade-Offs – When developing an app, you want to identify the target which is often determined by demand. See what happens when you do.
- Does Your Business Needs a Mobile App? – Learn how businesses are using apps to strategically target the right customers.
- How to Make Your Mobile Apps Stand Out From the Crowd – One of the most important parts of app development is thinking about how you will be different. Here's a walkthrough of how you can do that.
3. Market visibility and competition
You may have a great idea, but it might not be as widely acceptable and profitable as you project it to be.
The market visibility of an app, meaning the sustainable buzz the app is projected to incur, is vital to its success. App developers may look to strategies such as finding a way to get into “Staff’s Picks” in an app store, or through App Search Optimization (ASO).
ASO works similarly to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in such a way that the app’s name, relevant information and details are used as keywords to attract the public’s attention.
With ASO comes the awareness of the existing competition that your app will have to contend with. A comprehensive plan to elevate your app’s visibility is a must so that it doesn’t drown in the multitude of apps already available in the market.
- Sensortower blog – These guys do it all. A Must read for ASO and Market visibility. Checkout their post on 7 Unexpected App Store Keywords. You'll learn what misspelled words are popular on the App Store, and how you can take advantage of them.
- Mobile App Development Tips -When targeting an audience, you must meet their needs and demands. This post is a must for developing apps and determining your target market.
- 7 App Business Moves Your Competition Is Doing Better Than You Are – Emulation is key. We aren't copying our competition, we're studying them and improving a game or service. Here's a post that will walk you through some areas that may be costing you big downloads.
4. Accessibility and functionality
When designing an app, it’s important to keep these two keywords in mind – accessibility and functionality.
Apps should be able to adapt to the constraints of mobile devices, but designers should be cautious of making texts too small to read, or creating layouts that are just too tight. Adaptive designs, which allow users to adjust text size and layouts, are encouraged.
Designs that are too complex are usually harder to use and navigate, especially since mobile apps are used in unpredictable, on-the-go situations. Oversimplified designs, on the other hand, can also lead to bland and confusing results as well.
Once an app is downloaded and installed, a user will decide to keep it if he or she discovers deeper functionality within the app that uninstalling it would not even be an option.
- When App Development Falls Short – Having a hard time mastering User Experience? Learn how to nail a smooth UX with these key insights.
- 10 Tips for Mobile UX – A look at specific developer rules and techniques like the 80/20 rule. 80% of app users will use just 20% of and app's functionality. This is a great checklist you can to make sure your user's take advantage of everything your app has to offer..
- 4 Things to Keep in Mind when Designing an App – An overview of guidelines to follow when designing an app plus the answers to some common concerns like “there's already an app like mine” that every developer has.
5. Types of apps: native, mobile web and hybrid apps
Developed for one platform, native apps are found within the device, and are accessible through icons found on the home screen. These apps are downloaded through an App Store. They can access the device’s other features, such as GPS.
Mobile web apps are not considered to be real apps but rather websites that feel like native apps but are not executed as such. They require the use of a browser wherein users are asked to go to a special URL in order to “install” them on a device’s home screen. “Installation” is the creation of a bookmark which when clicked, leads to a webpage.
Hybrid apps are a combination of native apps and mobile web apps. Like native apps, they are downloaded from app stores, and can use the device’s other features. Like mobile web apps, they need to go through a web browser in order to be “installed”.
- Android vs iOS – Which Is Better? – New developers wonder if they should develop applications for Android or iOS. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each platform.
- Hybrid Apps– Learn what exactly a Hybrid App is, and the benefits of having one single code that works on multiple platforms,
- Apps with a Backend – Ever wanted to develop an app with a backend, but unsure where to start? The analytics and your TRUE user info is in the backend. If your app has a backend already, you need to make sure you're taking advantage of it.
6. Upcoming trends
By 2015, the mobile app market is projected to reach a profit of $38 billion, and with smartphones becoming cheaper and more accessible, the need for more mobile apps will lead to more app development, more downloads and fiercer competition.
Another big trend is the merging of the cloud with mobile apps, resulting in the so-called smart apps which can drastically change the way we think and the way we learn. Instead of retaining as much information as you can with simple memory, smart apps can do it for you better and more efficiently.
Experts believe that medical apps will reach even greater heights in the future. Currently, apps for almost any medical condition are available. Women can track their diets, pregnancies and menstrual cycles. Diabetics can check their sugar levels. People who consume alcohol can even check their alcohol levels to make sure that they can drive.
- 8 Predictions for 2015 – The powerful Matt Asay lists some big changes coming to mobile development.
- 2015 Trends – Bluecloud Predictions – Learn what predictions yours truly is banking on for 2015. In this post I discuss the magnitude of having a solid source code template, registering your user, and why conversions will be more important than a user base.
- 5 Predictions for Mobile App Development in 2015 – Checkout this sweet article by my compadre Mark. Mark manages and develops hundreds of apps a year, and discusses some of the Apple-candy we're all anxious to hear about. Is there an iPhone 7 already coming our way?
7. Mobile platforms
The “Big Three,” namely Apple, Google and Microsoft, are the companies engaged in the battle for mobile platform supremacy.
Although Apple’s iOS is deemed as the gold standard of operating systems, Google is currently dominating the mobile market with 900 million users. Apple currently has 600 million, while Windows has 12 million.
Apple has a stringent process by which apps are chosen. Those who managed to get through are part of the 1.25 million apps that account for 50 billion downloads worth a total of $5 billion profit to developers just in the last year.
Google has tapped into 150,000 developers to create more than 800,000 apps. Although Android users download more apps than iOS users, the cost per app is much lower.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has 160,000 apps in its app store from 45,000 developers. The company claimed that an average Windows user downloads around 54 apps.
- iOS vs Android – Another killer article . If you're looking to get your feet wet with another platform this year, this post does a great job walking you through the must-knows. Checkout the comments section at the bottom, there's a lot of good feedback and tips from other developers.
- Platforms for Start-Ups – Learn which mobile platform is best for mobile start-ups. In this post, you can learn the development differences you need to know about each platform. As more developers launch their applications via Apple iOS, it creates an advantage for Android developers to stand out.
- Is App Development a Lucrative Endeavor? – This post dives into the facts about the major platforms and bringing home the bacon. For example, the average Android app will payout 2 cents per download, while Microsoft sees averages closer to 15 cents per download.
8. Paid, freemium and free-to-play, in-app purchases and subscriptions
Paid apps are downloaded for a one-time fee. Profitability will rely on users downloading the app before they can actually try it out, which is uncertain since there are many free apps available.
Offering freemium and free-to-play apps is currently the most effective way to earn from apps. Apps can be downloaded and used for free; however, users have to purchase paid versions of the apps in order to access premium features. Although freemium apps earn more than paid ones, it takes a while to make a profit off of them.
In-app purchases (IAP) can be used in both paid and freemium apps in order to generate more revenue. Increased profit is not guaranteed with IAP, and if done badly may lead to user frustration and bad app reviews.
Subscriptions may result in significant increase in profit, and steady income if app content is kept fresh.
- Free vs Paid Apps – Don't miss my timeless blog that holds up now more than ever. In this post I walk you through the major monetization systems, plus when and how to use them. I dissect my own apps and revenue, and show you how I derived the data to make big money-making changes to my apps.
- Why is Freemium So Powerful? – Learn what the freemium model is, and how it dominates downloads in the Store. Experts point out that in the long run, the slow and steady revenue from freemium apps is more rewarding compared to income generated by regular apps.
- Are Freemium Apps Killing Game Developers? – An interesting followup to the downfall of the freemium model for game developers. In this post, Ted dissects the gamers personality, and the split between those who are happy to pay for games, and those who expect the game or updates to be free.
9. Cost to develop
Determining how much an app would cost to develop would depend on how complex it is.
An article on “OS X Daily about iPhone Development Costs,” reported that to develop a “small” app would approximately cost around $3,000 to $8,000, while complex apps for recognizable brands can cost up to $50,000 to 150,000.
If you have an idea, but don’t exactly have the technical know-how, app developers in the United States may charge an average of $100 an hour.
Developing an app takes commitment, time, and yes, money.
Because not everyone has the cash to shell out, some startup companies and individuals do look for financial help from family and friends, initiate Kickstarter campaigns, or search for willing investors who believe in the potential profitability of their work.
- How Much Does it Cost to Develop an App – The question everyone wants to know. I walk through the expenses you can expect to pay plus some eapp estimates and cost of specific features. If you have a lite budget, read this post so you can learn where to tighten up your app.
- Why iOS App Development can be Costly to Developers – Be aware of what you're getting into. App development is a very affordable and profitable business to jump into. But you'd be surprised some of the common decisions developers make that leave them bankrupt. Learn some basic info that could save you tons of cash. For example, if you're new to the industry, keep it simple with Objective C the primary programming language for OS X and iOS. The post also lists some design styles that will save you money.
- Mobile Forms and Applications Blog – Checkout how much dough other developers are dropping on their projects. Thinking about developing your dream app? This post breaks down expenses of a $362,887 investment. Make sure you're spending money on what matters most. Leave the extras out until you're sure you have a winner.
Not all apps are profitable.
In the report “Developer Economics 2012”, market analysis firm Vision Mobile stated that the apps that made the most money during the said year were social network and communications apps, profiting 20 percent more than the second highest-earner of that year – medical and fitness apps. The third most profitable were location-based, such as navigational apps.
Ironically, AppMuse CEO Mark Stetler noted that in order to rake in profits from apps, free mobile apps have become “the rule rather than the exception”. Many freemium game apps which have gained popularity, such as “Candy Crush Saga”, are currently raking in millions because of IAP such as additional life or special powers.
An app’s mobile platform also determines profitability, with Apple offering the biggest figure per app. Developers can earn an average per app revenue of $4,000 from Apple, $1,125 from Google and, $625 from Microsoft.
In as much as mobile apps are used in an on-the-go environment, mobile app development is in constant flux, requiring of its developers a persistent need to keep up with the trends, and to meet the ever-changing needs of an ever-shifting world.
- How I went from $1,000 to $200,000 with Apps – This is one of my favorite posts. I figured out how to get a 100$ return on my investments in 33 days. In this post, I walkthrough how I do it and how to make even more by compounding efforts.
- The Cost of Mobile App Development: Is it worth it? – Why do tons of mobile app developers smarter than you, go bankrupt? In this post, you'll pickup some costly mistakes that are common in app development.
- App Monetization: 6 Bankable Business Models – Did you know that 54% of all app revenue is made up by only 2% of app developers? Learn what business models the 2%'ers are using so you can join the club.
Some of the best articles and blogs I've ever read about mobile app development:
- A Step by Step Guide to Building your First Mobile App – A great post not just for first timers, but everyone. This post helps get the juices flowing and outlines what you need to succeed in this business.
- Android Developers Blog – Put together by actual Google Play employees, this blog offers a mix of tools and technical topics. (These are the type of communities and forums you keep an eye on that could lead to an all-star developer.)
- Developer Economics – I check the Developer Economics and the Vision Mobile blog on the reg. They report current analytics and quarterly trends that offer important insight on mobile development.
- Avocarrot Blog – This blog offers monetization news, navigation tips, ad placement and hilarious cartoons that depict exactly how I feel while developing apps.
- Mashable Blog – The rockstars at Mashable have a subcategory specifically for Mobile Development.
- Chocolate Lab Apps – I love Elaine. Her site offers courses for almost everything and a blog that is not only informative, but gives a peek to the perks of being an appreneur.
- The Beginners Guide to iOS Development – This post breaks down interface and design concepts when developing an app.