Businesses, both big and small, are investing in mobile app development. According to Statista, mobile app revenues will reach $935 billion by 2023. Competition is fiercer than ever and consumers have high standards. That’s why enterprises, startups, and developers need to be aware of mobile app development best practices.

For many startups and tech companies, an app is the foundation of the business itself. Without the app, there is no business. Meanwhile, for established companies, app development can be the difference between success and failure. To give a random example: consider Domino’s Pizza. Would this vast chain have seen its share price triple over the last five years without having developed a mobile app for pizza delivery?

Common wisdom in the tech startup world is that ideas alone are worthless. Execution is everything. Hence businesses requiring a mobile app need a great product. But what should entrepreneurs and business leaders look out for when developing their app? How can they ensure the development of a great product?

There are a number of key app development factors that are crucial to success. As such, decision-makers need to be aware of these factors when embarking on a mobile development project. This article serves as a guide to mobile development best practices for entrepreneurs and business executives.

Table of contents

  1. Align your product plan to your business objectives
  2. Invest in specifications, wireframes and prototypes
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Plan for scalability
  5. Keep security at the forefront
  6. Test, test, test
  7. Maintenance and regular updates
  8. Choose the right mobile app development partner

Let’s get going.

1. Align your product plan to your business objectives

Established companies and startups develop apps for many reasons. For example:

  • To increase sales
  • To grow their brand
  • In order to build a network
  • As a direct marketing channel
  • To keep up with the competition
  • To improve customer service

An app exists to achieve a certain business objective. This objective must be central to every stage of development: idea, design, development, beta release, launch, and maintenance.

The project managers and the development team that build the product must have a deep understanding of the business and its objective. And where a company is working with an external team, communication of these fundamentals is essential.

Without a clear goal, it is hard to define an app’s target audience, metrics for success, return on investment, and key milestones. All of which are crucial to a successful app development project.

2. Invest in Specifications, Wireframes and Prototypes

You’ve got an idea, you and your team are excited, and you want to get moving as quickly as possible. But only fools rush in. Before getting started you need to align everyone and be very clear on the product’s specifications. We recommend considering the steps in this list:

1. Research

Look into what your potential competitors are doing and what solutions already exist. Check reviews for existing apps or tools. What are their users complaining about? What can you do better? This can be a great source of inspiration for the upcoming development, as well as learning from – and avoiding – other people’s mistakes.

2. Defining the problem you are trying to solve

Referring back to best practice #1, it is crucial that everybody involved understands the core problem and business goals.

3. Validating ideas

Moving into the development phase will be time-consuming and will bring considerable costs. Before moving forward you need to be confident that what you will be building will be useful and beneficial for your target users.

4. Create User stories

Once you are clear on the idea it's a good idea to invest some energy in drawing up different user stories, what actions will your users be taking on your app, what screens would be useful for these actions. Describe the typical flow your user will take, from the moment he/she would think about using your app, even think about the context the user is in at that moment, is he driving his car, is he on his couch, is he at work? Taking the user's perspective and thinking about how and when he will use your app will greatly improve the experience

5. Draw up specifications

Define the final set of features your mobile app, web application or platform will have, based on all of the above. Write the specifications of each feature down, so you know what data will need to be saved.

6. Create a wireframe

A wireframe is a blueprint for your mobile application. It is the bridge between an idea, specifications and high fidelity designs/prototypes. It will be a sketched out version of your application mapping out the different user flows. This is step helps you see the different features come to life.

7. Design your application

Once your wireframe is complete, invest in high fidelity UI designs. Make sure that everything is visualised before a single line of code is written. This will save you a lot of time and money later on because you will avoid heavy refactoring costs, havingalready seen the end result.

8. Make a prototype

Using these UI designs, you can even make a clickable prototype, so that potential end users can navigate through your application and get a feel for what it will look like and how it will work. This can be used to validate and even begin to sell your idea to customers.

This process should not be rushed. Prototypes must be experimented with and shown around. Get feedback on your designs at an early stage. Without a wireframe, things quickly get confusing. You can lose sight of your app development objectives and ultimately waste time, money, and resources.

3. Keep it simple

Startups and app developers alike often make the mistake of over-developing their product. In pursuit of creating the perfect app, they cram in as many features as possible. This is the wrong approach.

Developers should instead focus on a minimum viable product, or MVP. This is a version of a product with sufficient features to attract and retain early adopter customers. The MVP should be built with a core feature, which itself is derived from the core business objective that the app is attempting to achieve.

Delivering an MVP is an important stage in the validation process of an application. It will provide developers with data and customer feedback. Using that information, further functionality can be introduced.

The engineering should be uncomplicated, too. Good developers will create lists of APIs, frameworks, and libraries for their wireframing. Being consistent with the use of these tools is important. Introducing features that use a different library – or worse, a new programming language – will add unnecessary complexity to the codebase.

In summary: to the greatest extent possible, keep it simple.

4. Plan for scalability

The plan for your app, presumably, is for it to grow. So plan for scalability from the very start. This means building an app with the capacity to manage increased user numbers and traffic.

Earlier, we talked about planning for how your application will look and feel. But planning on the backend side and the architecture of your application is equally important. Doing so effectively requires long-term thinking at the planning stage. Potential scaling issues must be identified early, or you’ll be burdened with downtime later on.

Firstly, data requests from the client-side (meaning users’ devices) to the server-side need to be efficient. The number of outgoing requests need to be tested extensively. Data can, and should, be stored on the client-side as well. Good developers will find the right balance between storing local data and server-side requests.

Server-side processing must happen quickly and efficiently. Modern day APIs should have their most used endpoints return data in 300ms or less. This requires careful programming and moving time-consuming tasks and processes to asynchronous background workers.

5. Keep security at the forefront

Mobile apps must be developed with robust security at their foundation. Brands have a duty to protect their customers’ data. Indeed, in Europe, GDPR regulation gives consumers rights to control their data. Developers need to have this firmly in mind when building a product.

Businesses also do not want to deal with the reputational damage of a data breach. Mobile apps require – at a minimum – the following features in their development:

  1. Secure code and API endpoints
  2. Data encryption
  3. Caution with third-party libraries
  4. Use of authorized APIs only
  5. Repeated security testing

To keep customers safe and to avoid disastrous data breaches, businesses and app development teams must be conscious of the above security features.

6. Test, test, test

Testing has already come up a few times in this article. But it requires its own section nonetheless.

Testing is the process through which developers measure functionality, usability, and consistency. Testing will show if the app is working properly, is secure, and ultimately whether it is capable of achieving its strategic goals.

Many software development companies will have people on the team that are mainly focused on testing applications, or engineering solutions in which testing is part of the build process. These are called Quality Assurance engineers.

Developers, testers or QA engineers will consider the following when testing:

  • Method: real devices or emulators
    • So many devices exist nowadays and performance can differ greatly from one to another. It’s important to make a decision on which devices will be supported and to protect quality on this selection.
  • Planning and testing efficiency
  • Process: manual testing vs automation
    • A great deal of time can be saved by automating the testing process. Especially for larger projects, it’s worth investing in testing automation. It will pay off in the long run.

If you don’t test your app, the result will be bugs, performance problems, unhelpful interfaces, and unhappy users. As a consequence, your mobile app will receive bad reviews and its app store rankings will suffer.

7. Maintenance and regular updates

Mobile app development doesn’t end at product launch. Apps require regular maintenance and updates to achieve their central business objective. Moreover, updates also provide value to users and are a positive signal to the app store algorithms.

One technique that many top developers employ is continuous integration. This is the regular (production) integration of code changes into a shared repository. Each integration can be verified by an automated build and an automated test.

What this means is that errors are detected and located more easily. Equally, each change introduced to the code is small, so identifying a problem is much faster. In practice, this results in speedier and more efficient, and most importantly more regular updates. That’s good for users and good for business.

8. Choose the right mobile app development partner

In this article, we’ve explored mobile app development best practices. It is crucial that businesses and entrepreneurs understand these principles. That’s true whether the project is carried out in-house or with an external partner.

The safest way to ensure mobile app development best practices in a given project is to find a mobile app development partner that employs these practices by default. Partnering with a good development company can add expert input, reduce the project timeline, reduce risk, and even cut costs in the long term.

At Nebulae, top-class development practices are part of our DNA. If you’re considering a mobile app development partner for your business or startup, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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