In the field of technology, mobile applications are the current fad. These applications, or apps as they are called in short, have become a very integral part of marketing, customer satisfaction, and overall brand management strategies of almost every business. With a good portion of the public turning to their mobile devices for everything they do, these applications help businesses keep in touch with their customers.
Are mobile apps a fad though? It seems as though more and more people are using smart phones and tablets and that more and more of our lives are being impacted by our mobile connectivity. Mobile apps are the way we interact through our devices, I think they are here to stay. The question now is what business can benefit from a mobile app and how do they go about getting one?
Considering the importance that the mobile applications have gained in the current market, it is understandable that every business whether large or small is thinking about developing these apps so that it is not left behind in this technological race. Think about this, there have been over 5 billion app downloads since the Apple App Store was launched. Since then apps have taken over the mobile content world. Apps are a part of every mobile platform from iOS to Android and Blackberry and includes tablets, pda’s and phones. The biggest concern on the minds of all business owners is cost. How much does it cost to create and launch a truly useful app? Developing an application for a mobile platform is not a simple task. It requires a number of things, the most important of which are a creative idea and a quality development process plan. With these two things in hand the costs associated with developing an app can be reduced. In the end it is not that expensive to create a mobile application for most businesses. It’s not until you get into complicated, custom functionality that app development starts to get expensive.
Features of a Good App Development Plan
In order to develop a good mobile application for any business, it is essential that you keep the goal in mind for which the application is being made. If you are clear on this part then developing the application would not be that hard. Once the idea has been conceptualized, you will need to layout a development plan that will lead you to the creation of your mobile application. The following are some of the basic features that a good app development plan must have.
What Type Of App Are You Making?
Before beginning on any app making venture it is important to know what kind of app you want to make. Simply telling a programmer that you want an app for your business is the surest road to a disappointing and expensive result. For the purposes of this article I have grouped the potential types of apps into 5 groups.
- Basic Applications: These are basic, top down apps that mimic your web content. These apps are easy to build, easy to navigate and come with very little functionality. This type of app could run anywhere from $ 500-$ 2000 depending on what you want and where you go to get it.
- Database Driven Applications: These are apps that rely on huge databases for functionality. Users are able to search, access and sometimes add information to the database as part of its functionality. This type of app requires more coding and can be more costly than a basic application. These usually run in the $ 5,000 to $ 50,000 range.
- Games Applications: Games are by far the most popular and most visible of the successful applications on the market today. Who hasn’t heard of Angry Birds, Cut The Rope or Words With Friends? These apps are the most complicated, require the most coding, the most skilled programmers and the most time. Game applications can run anywhere from $ 10,000 to $ 250,000. One report speculates that Angry Birds cost in the range of $ 125-$ 150,000 to create and launch.
- Mobile Applications: These apps allow users to log-on and interface with services and systems of your website. This could be anything from an e-commerce store through an online stock broker with a mobile trading platform. Costs here depend on what type of functionality you need.
- Custom Applications: This category if for everything else. The list of potential applications is limitless.
Understanding the Requirements
Understanding the requirements is the basic step of any development process. Until you are crystal clear on what the mobile application is going to do, you are not going to be able to develop it. Thus, when laying out the plan for developing the mobile application, give due time to this phase. Try to understand every single minute detail about what the application will be required to do before moving on to the next stage of its development. The first requirement of your design is the platform it is intended for. Are you designing an iPhone app, an iPod app, an app for tablets, an app for Android or an app for everything. It does make a difference, the more platforms you want to support the more costly app development will be.
It is especially important to consider the functionality of the application. How is it going to be used? What do you want your customers and clients to see? Be sure to have a specific layout in mind and map out how the pages should be linked. Just handing an idea over to a programmer is not a good way to approach the app design process. You should have the finished product ready to go (on paper) before moving on to the coding phase. The programmer should only be there to turn the design ideas into code.
Constant Improvement and Development
Constant improvement at each step of development is another important aspect that must feature in the development plan of a mobile application. Timely improvement and development will advance the overall design of the application and will make it more in tune with the requirements it is supposed to meet.
Documentation of every detail that you put in the design of the app is also necessary as it saves you from the trouble of going back and forth if complication occurs. Thus, constantly documenting the steps throughout the development process of the mobile application can prove to be very helpful too.
It is useful to have a project manager specifically for this job. It is important for someone with vision of the finished product to work closely with each part of the design and programming team. The individual aspects of the design process must be kept in line with that vision. It is too easy for problems to pop up that can derail the entire project. Remember the Hubble Telescope? Millions of dollars of telescope floating in the sky useless because two parts of the project were not communicating properly. Problems like that can be avoided with a knowledgeable app development manager.
Coding and Testing
After the final draft of the design has been prepared, the next phase of the mobile appdevelopment plan should be the coding of the application. This step is of critical importance and should be given the most attention. If you have followed the development plan up until this step, coding will be much more simple as the whole background work for the coding would have been completed in the previous steps of the plan.
This is a crucial phase in the development of the application. Without proper attention to details the finished product could end up looking much different than intended. This is another area where a proper application development manager comes in handy. The manager will help guide the programmers along the path that leads to a finished product that matches what the design team intended.
Once the coding has been done, the final steps of the appdevelopment plan will include the testing phase. The first one of which is alpha-testing, wherein you yourself test the application and ensure that it is working in the right manner. The second testing phase the app will enter is the beta-testing stage, wherein the customers get the chance to use it and report back their feedback about the working of the application.
Testing phases are an incredible opportunity for businesses and app developers. This is when you first get to see your application in action. At this time it is important to take careful notes and check to make sure that all the design elements are present and functional. It is also a time when adjustments and tweaking can be done. A well run test period can lead to numerous advances in later versions of the application.
The testing phase will then lead to the release of the mobile application which will bring the development process to its end.
The whole development plan of creating a mobile application cannot be accomplished if you do not have the required resources at your disposal. Most of these resources can be found in the form of help topics on the internet and there are many organizations that provide them to the appdevelopers as well. All it takes to go live with an app is a membership with iTunes Connect. It costs $ 99 per year and allows you to upload as many apps to the store as you like. Uploads include all pertinent information, pricing and payment details.
Do-it-yourselfers can find a wide variety of online app building services. These website operate like blog sites and allow users to build apps with provided templates and plug-ins as well as create custom designs of their own. Not all sites are the same so be sure the one you pick supports the mobile devices you are targeting. Some sites also offer more tools for web savvy business owners. Here is a list of a few that don’t require a lot of technical know-how; AppBuilder, AppExpress, iBuildApp, and Mobbase.
Still, if you are unable to procure the resources such as installing developer tools, device and cellular emulator, security, GPS and resolutions awareness tools, hopper test, and debugging tools for developing a mobile application, then you can turn to a specialist. Recognized mobile application developing companies will work together with you to create your mobile application. Some SEO and content management companies are also providing mobile services and app development. There are also businesses specifically in the app design field.