The average smartphone user spends at least 2.3 hours a day on their smartphones, and 80 to 90 percent of this time is spent using mobile apps. Just open any app store, and you’ll see how there are mobile apps for almost anything you can imagine—from productivity and utilization apps to games.
Users download an average of 8.8 apps per month, and the numbers keep increasing. In fact, the number of app store downloads increased by 15% from 2015 to 2016. Statista projects that by 2021, there will be a total of approximately 352.9 billion app downloads.
Revenue from mobile apps also increased by 40% from 2015 to 2016. It’s also forecasted that by 2020, mobile apps will generate approximately 188.9 billion U.S. dollars in revenues via app stores and in-app advertising.
As such, businesses have adopted mobile app marketing strategies to keep up with the trend and take their own share of the market.
In this comprehensive guide, you will learn how to start your own mobile app—from business planning to building and launching your new mobile app.
Phase 1: Planning
1. Decide What to Build
So, you’ve decided to build an app. But, what app do you want to build?
It’s important to determine the specific goals and functions of your app before you even start getting into the nitty-gritty of mobile app development. After all, no business venture will ever be successful without clear goals and objectives.
First, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is my target market and what is my buyer persona? This will help you center the functions and features of your app towards what your ideal customer needs and wants.
- Why are you building a mobile app? Knowing why you’re investing in a mobile app will help you determine your overall vision. Before you answer the different “whats,” ask yourself first the most important question of “why.”
- What are the goals of my mobile app? Whether it’s to provide a more convenient channel where your customers can reach you, to increase your website traffic, or to generate more leads, you need to be sure of the objectives that your mobile app would achieve both for the users and for your business.
- What problems do I want this mobile app to address? Chances are, you saw a need or a problem that you want to solve through a mobile app. By knowing the problems you want to address, you can properly determine the functions and features to include in your app.
- How does this mobile app tie into my overall business goals and strategy? There are many business goals a mobile app can help you achieve such as brand awareness, customer engagement and loyalty, and increased revenue. You should know which business goal your mobile app wants to achieve so you would know how to measure its performance.
- Who are my competitors? Do your research and look around the major app stores if there’s already an existing app that provides similar functions as yours. This will help you find your edge and set yourself apart from the competition.
Having all this information written down or documented will help you present your idea to potential stakeholders or partners. Create a sketch of your idea to help you visualize the mobile app that you want.
Once you have the answers to the above questions, you can then decide whether you want to build an app for Android or iOS or both. Building an app for Android and iOS simultaneously can be costly and risky, especially because you are still clueless about how the audience will receive your mobile app. Go back to your target audience to know which device they likely use to determine which platform to prioritize for your mobile app.
2. Have a Business Plan
Diving in head-first without a clear-cut business plan would be unwise. Have a business plan to help you align your founding team around shared goals and even help you raise funding later on. A solid business plan will also allow you to prepare for risks and threats, and prevent future problems.
Your business plan should include all the pertinent information about your mobile app such as the current and projected trends, budget, monetization, operations, promotion, and more. Writing a business plan is a tedious task, but it’s essential to launching a successful business.
Here are the core parts of a formal business plan:
Chapter I. The Problem
- Statement of the Problem
- Unique Value Proposition
Chapter II. The Company
- Company Overview
- Products and Services
- Company History
- The Team: Roles and Responsibilities
Chapter III. The Market
- Target Market
- Market Size
- Market Trends and Projections
- SWOT Analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
Chapter IV. The Marketing Strategy
- Customer Acquisition Strategy
- Promotions and Publicity
- Advertising Strategy
- Key Metrics
Chapter V. Financial Plan
- Monetization Strategy
- Startup Costs
- Funding Required
- Financial Projections
3. Plan Your Funding Strategy
Once you have your business plan completed, it’s time to plan your funding strategy. Building a mobile app can be costly, so it’s important to have the funds ready to avoid unnecessary delays. Here are some funding strategies you can consider.
- Get a silent business partner. A silent business partner doesn’t have anything to do with day-to-day business operations, but they will support your project by providing capital. Make sure that your chosen business partner can deliver on their promise and shoulder the necessary project expenses.
- Team up with your colleagues or peers. When you come up with a brilliant idea for a mobile app, you’ve most likely discussed it with some of your peers. Ask them if they’d be willing to pitch in their own expertise and knowledge to make it even more profitable. Chances are, they’d see how your mobile app can generate revenue in the future, and be willing to invest their money and time in your startup mobile
- Look for angel investors. Angel investors are affluent businessmen or organizations who are looking to invest their money in brilliant, new ideas in exchange for partial ownership rights or equity. Make sure to draw a clear contract before you sign any deal.
- Apply for a bank loan. If you’re willing to make a personal or business loan for your app, then you can approach any of the major banks to get pre-approved. This is probably the quickest way to get funding. Make sure you have your business proposal ready to show the bank representative its potential for success.
- Try crowdfunding. There are many crowdfunding sites you can sign up for such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, RocketHub, AppBackr, Patreon, and more. Here, you ask the general public to invest any amount to your project in exchange for a percentage in the profits. The downside to crowdfunding is that your app idea will be made available to the public. Your idea can easily be copied or plagiarized by another individual or group who have the funds at their easy disposal.
4. Hire an App Developer
Now that you have your funding strategy in order, it’s time to hire a mobile app developer.
When hiring people to help you build a mobile app, consider their experience in the field. Look at their portfolio and the mobile apps that they have built thus far. Are the apps performing well? Check for references. If trusted peers recommend them, then you’re usually on the right track.
It’s crucial to remember that apps aren’t just built and released on the app store. There are regular updates and consistent bug fixes that need to be done throughout its lifetime. Work with an app developer who understands the maintenance needs of your app.
It may be tempting to hire a freelancer who claims to be an expert in both app design and development. However, a team of developers or a mobile app development firm like IntelligentBee who will collaborate with you will work best for your overall goals and objectives. More people working on your mobile app means that more people can catch mistakes and errors before it can negatively affect the whole project.
Lastly, make sure they understand your business plan, and what results you’re looking to achieve.
Phase 2: Building
1. Choose Between Native vs. Cross-Platform Development
There’s no absolute best or better when it comes to choosing between native and cross-platform app development. What holds utmost importance is to create a fluid app with an optimum user design and interface. Coding your app right allows for high performance and the most up-to-date API support.
Each platform offers its own pros and cons that you need to weigh to determine whether your mobile app will work best on a native or cross-platform development.
Native applications are created for a specific mobile device operating system such as iOS and Android and has been the standard practice since mobile apps first emerged. Building native applications can be made easier and faster because iOS and Android provide native developer tools. Native applications can also access exclusive native APIs in the phone’s OS such as push notifications, camera, and in-app purchases.
However, if you intend to publish your mobile app on a different OS or app store, you need to rewrite the code and build it again from the ground up, which may delay your mobile app’s launch in another market and cost you more.
This is why some developers and mobile app creators choose hybrid or cross-platform development. Cross-platform application development also includes some native features by using a native harness or wrapper that acts as a bridge between platforms. Because its applications can also include native hardware features, it doesn’t just look like a mobile version of a website. Developers can also package the app locally or through a server to allow both online and offline access.
Cross-platform applications are relatively new, so there’s not a lot of published community support. The Apple App Store can also deny your application when it recognizes that it’s not a native app. When that happens, you’re limiting your app’s reach and potential.
When you’re hiring a mobile app developer, discuss with them the pros and cons of both native and cross-platform apps.
2. Pay Attention to Design
User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are paramount to a mobile app’s success. When building a mobile app, you should think like a user to make sure that your app is easy to use.
A simple app works best for users, especially those who are not too patient or tech-savvy. You don’t need to pack it with extra features that are unnecessary to your app’s main function. Go back to your goals you to avoid going off-track.
Here are some quick tips for you:
- Less is more.
- Use big buttons, big fonts, and big icons.
- Use high-performance graphics.
- If it seems like a flaw (instead of a feature), that’s because it is.
- Design according to the overall theme of the app.
- It should work on all known screen sizes.
3. Test. Modify. Adjust.
Never launch an app without testing it. You and your team of developers should test the various functions, features, usability, compatibility, performance, recoverability, and security of the app. Test your mobile app on various devices of all known screen sizes such that they should look and function the same.
After addressing bugs and errors internally, ask people who fit your target market to test your mobile app. They can give you insightful feedback to make it better before you launch and market it on the app store.
Some developers release a beta version on the app store or play store, and ask beta testers to try them out and review the app. Or, you can release it to a chosen group of people who fit your target market and ask them for a detailed account of their experience.
4. Register a Developer Account on App Stores and Submit Your App
Create a developer account on Google Play Store or Apple App Store and pay the annual app store fees of $99 for Apple and $25 for Google. The developer will be the one to upload the mobile app, but the account should be under your name or company to maintain control and ownership.
Once you submit your app, it will then go under review to determine whether it’s up to standards, which may take time. Your app can be subjected to revisions before it’s approved. Once approved, it will be available in the app store for download.
Phase 3: Marketing and Promotion
Your work doesn’t stop when your mobile app goes live on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. You want people to download your app and use it, so spread the word about it.
Here are some things to include in your app marketing pipeline:
- Be creative with your app store product description. Yes, people read those when browsing the app store. Write a catchy product description that tells the reader what your app does and include screenshots to show how beautiful and simple your design is. You can even make a short video and include it in the app description.
- Get your app featured. Submit your mobile app to app review websites. Any review or feature article will help increase your online visibility and improve brand awareness.
- Reach out to influencers that fit your target market. Ask them to try out your app and post a review on their social media accounts or blog.
- Look into app marketing sites and app promotion groups. Websites such as AppShout!, AppBrain, and AppStorm are app marketing and promotion sites that you can consider. You can also try to organically increase buzz about your app through social media and word of mouth. Get your app out there!
- App Store Optimization (ASO). Keep in mind that 63% of apps are discovered through app store searches. Optimize your app so that it ranks higher on app stores. Higher ranking means more visibility and ultimately, more chances of downloads. Do your keyword research and place your top keyword in the title of your app and your product description.
- Place a download link on your website. Take advantage of your website traffic and place a direct link for them to download your app. This will also help improve your ASO.
- Include a download link in your email signature. If you have an email newsletter, include a call-to-action at the bottom to download your app. You can place a download link in your email signature so that anyone and everyone you correspond with can see that you have a mobile app ready for download.
- Create a demo video. Distribute your demo video to various video sharing platforms and social networks. Make it short and simple, and include the most amazing features of your app.
- Partner up with a digital marketing agency. If you have a budget, you can partner up with a digital marketing agency to help you reach your target audience and get your ROI faster.
Building a mobile app is no walk in the park. There are important considerations you need to make—from conceptualization to execution and sales, which is why it’s crucial to work with app developers who understand the importance of scalability and sustainability in this saturated digital market.
Stand out from the noise and make sure that your app is the best it can be. At IntelligentBee, that’s what we’re all about.