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How to Build a Mobile App: A 5-Step Guide

There are many reasons why you may wish to build a new mobile app or improve an existing one. It could be a light bulb moment where you have discovered a genius idea for a business. Or perhaps you’re planning to target a new audience or demographic after seeing the initial success of your desktop website. 

With three billion users of a smartphone globally and over seven million apps between Android and iOS platforms combined, creating something new and in demand is a challenge! Regardless of your motive, following seven simple steps from app ideation to submitting to an app store will make all the difference. So, what do you need to do first?

1. Decide if you will go for a Hybrid App or a Native App

Good question, as there are different ways you can produce your mobile app. In the past, the common methodology involved hiring a native app developer who would produce a native mobile app that works on one platform such as iOS or Android. Benefits include fewer bugs, greater security and a more efficient system overall, due to the building of a functional tailor-made application for one platform only. You can use more specific software and hardware as well as a chosen language of preference to create a unique app.

Native solutions are needed only for applications where there will be complex calculations or access to low-level libraries. However, because it only used a singular set of coding that can not be used elsewhere, a native app has limitations. Additional drawbacks include:

  • Greater difficulty to find additional resources
  • Costs more because you need to hire more teams to create different codes
  • A longer process that requires more effort

In contrast, many businesses and even developers prefer the flexibility and time-saving method of designing using hybrid mobile app development software. This is essentially web apps in a native app shell, combining the best features of both. It’s now considered the best framework because you don’t need to create multiple layers of code as it can be shared across platforms. 

This saves copious amounts of time and money, whether you are building a new app or redesigning an already existing app! Plus, they’re faster which increases performance for the user. There are more language scripts you can use with a hybrid application than with a native app. For instance, we have achieved great results from Typescript and Dart but the script can alter depending on what the business requires.

What it boils down to, whether it’s your brainchild idea for an app or it requires a redesign and you’re part of the process, is the budget. Do you have enough funds in place to invest time and effort in multiple applications as part of a native app process? You don’t just require cash for the early stages of native app building but consistently updating iOS and Android applications can significantly cut into your funds. 

Choosing a hybrid app may be less of a risk and not as time-consuming. Sharing the code is a cost-effective approach. However, you essentially sacrifice performance and target each market for means that benefit the business and not the customer needs for the product.
Claims Andrius Petkevičius, CEO at BCCS Cluster.

Building from scratch or redesigning a hybrid app can cost anywhere between $50,000-150,000 depending on the scope of the project. Whereas native apps can cost more and you have to do the same process but with different codes twice at anywhere from $100,000-300,000. 

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2. Think About Your Target Audience, Consider the Features they might like. 

Next, you need to consider who will need that mobile app. As we said previously, the budget and the type of app you build play a significant role. But you need to understand your target market and think long-term instead of short-term wins. How does your mobile app solve their problem? For example, whether it’s a business or a customer on an e-commerce app, the experience from when they create an account will need to be seamless to the very end, each time. 

Hiring a UX or UI professional is a good start to help understand and nourish that journey. Knowing where they want that information, and how to access it, through the customer funnel where they make the purchase or acquisition is vital. Creating a marketing plan before launch is equally crucial to the success of your developed mobile app. 

Often companies will spend a lot of time setting up email lists etc to reach their target audience and beyond. Again it will help to look at the features and widgets of similar applications of potential competitors to see what works and doesn’t work for their audience. Try and create an app that takes their expected experience to the next level. Whether you go down the route of a hybrid or native app, it’s about creating a customisable app that’s easy for the user to navigate, compliant, smooth and tailored to the individual. 

Will the user prefer features that are heavily focused on social media links or push notifications? These are the kind of answers you will get from your target audience research, which you can then implement ready for launch. Then you can implement that after you have added up the costs it will take to hire third parties that can create those features, such as push notifications or geolocation data software needed on mobile apps. 

Keep in mind, that MVP (minimum viable product) features should be limited to launch and test as soon as possible to save time in choosing the right ones.

3. Mock Up Your Early Design Ideas

Once you have the initial ideas in place about how you want the app to look from a navigational point of view, it’s important to start thinking about the design concept. 

Ideally, you have an in-house design team already in place that understands the needs of the business and the customer using the mobile app. Otherwise, you could consider hiring an external team of professionals that would be able to support you and produce a design worthy of your idea. 

They should work in tandem with a UI or UX designer to put together a plan for the layout and design. Together with your market research, you can create the concept for approval.

4. Consider the Security Implementation for the App

Another key aspect is the security of using the mobile app for its users. This matters especially when sharing personal and financial data, which is the case with most applications these days. Hiring a cyber security team that can discuss strategies to protect against hacking and phishing scams is of paramount importance, for not just the business integrity but first and foremost to protect the app user. Hacking doesn’t just affect businesses but even cripple governments as we witnessed Costa Rica brought to its knees by the devastating cyber attacks, losing the country millions in their import and export trade daily

If it can happen to a country, surely measures need to be put in place to protect customers against hacking when using a mobile product or app. What software will you implement? What financial wallets or monetary systems will you use for the customer to add and bank funds? Will it involve crypto tokens or NFTs? Will there be software recognition such as fingerprint or facial technology to enter the mobile app? 

All of these details need to be finalised before entering the app market. In addition to implementing the best cyber attack teams from a defensive point of view, they highlight what’s needed to prevent these criminal attacks. The cost of these teams runs into the thousands annually but protects the business and the customer/app user on multiple levels. Using a devsecops approach, offered by BCCS Cluster, where you build the app from the beginning with security as a key consideration will save you time and money in the long run.

5. Test and Test Again

When you have considered all of these implementations to design and build the app, it’s imperative before launch to test the mobile app multiple times. And then test again for good measure! You want to give the app time to grow and achieve positive feedback in such a competitive market. Failing to test and see what bugs there may be, and how the app works on multiple platforms and functions will have grave consequences and stall its release. The best approach instead of cutting a few corners to save a bit of money is being thorough and ensuring it’s ready for launch. Before doing so, you’ll need to ensure the:

  • The app is not too large in download size
  • Tested across a range of platforms
  • Performs and functions on different operating systems
  • Check on the front and back end that the app runs smoothly as you expect
  • Follows all security measures created by your team

Getting feedback from customers will indicate where you’re going right and wrong, indicating what changes you’ll need to make before submitting the app. This is much easier to read with native apps than it would be with a hybrid app, as there is not as much analytical data available. Therefore, it will be more of a challenge for developers to understand the improvements required to progress the app further, following customer reviews. 

You should be good to go once you have done all these tests and confirmed through the various departments that everything is up scratch and running correctly. Depending on whether you have opted for a native application that’s solely focused on one store or you have created a hybrid app working across multifunctional platforms will determine how many regulations you need to meet based on their chosen guidelines.

At BCCS, our Cluster of members has a wide range of expertise that not just focuses on mobile app development but covers many areas of financial and technological gaps in the fintech space, including cyber security and compliance. Whichever avenue you decide is best for your mobile application idea, we’re happy to assist to complement the steps above, which we believe can accelerate your app idea to the next level! 

For more insights on the mobile app development market, have a look at the report made by a member of BCCS Cluster S-PRO here.