Despite the oft-bandied slogan, “There’s an app for that,” many companies and software developers continue to find new opportunities to develop innovative mobile apps that fill niches and address the needs of consumers. Unfortunately, the distance between a mobile app concept and successful design and implementation is riddled with obstacles and potential hang-ups that can derail a mobile app design or simply make it an ineffective one.
With so many considerations to keep in mind while designing a mobile app, it’s important to plan out everything thoroughly to ensure it works across multiple mobile platforms. Screen size, touch navigation and platform type, as well as the differences between mobile apps and mobile websites, are just some of the issues that need to be weighed and addressed before and during mobile app design.
These differences haven’t stopped entrepreneurs from founding companies and starting businesses around the sale of apps. While the mobile app design can be complex and unique to each product, the process itself can be broken down into several fundamental phases that should be implemented in every instance.
Conceptualizing a mobile app
The first thing a mobile app developer needs to ask is this: What’s the benefit of using this app? In answering this question, it’s helpful to write a definition statement. Mobile applications can be an alternative to a mobile website, or they can complement an existing mobile website and eliminate the complications of browser compatibility. Mobile apps are particularly valuable, in contrast to mobile websites, when other mobile operation system applications such as GPS are integrated into the application’s functionality.
Take time to consider how the app will be used and how it can serve users in ways other apps and websites currently can’t. Even if the idea is similar to existing products, it needs to implement unique methods and features that set it apart from your competition’s fare.
Target a market and conduct research
Every app needs an audience. Whether yours is audiophiles, foodies, stock market investors or sports fans, you need to figure out your audience and develop concrete, specific ways to serve them. Once this audience is identified, invest time into thoroughly researching these consumers and how they are currently served by your competition. What do competitors do for them, what features are popular, and what holes can your app fill?
On the business side of things, conduct price-point research to determine what price is most likely to generate the greatest amount of revenue. Depending on your target audience and other targeted revenue streams, your company should set a mobile app price that is comparable to your competition and will generate revenue without turning away users. Research efforts should also focus on marketing, advertising and public relations strategies.
Approaching the logistics
With your mobile strategy in place, you can begin mapping out and developing your mobile app. The first step, in most cases, is to develop a flowmap to visually chart the navigational structure of the app. Even for simple mobile apps, flowmaps make the app easier to develop and help guard against logical fallacies. During flowmap development, there should be a logical, easy-to-follow organization established that doesn’t confuse or otherwise deter users from your mobile app.
Mobile apps should also be designed in high resolution and then scaled down to accommodate smaller screen sizes. And the touch navigation hit area should be customized to fit the average finger size of most users.
Take time to beta test
No matter how well you develop your mobile app, bugs and errors are sure to turn up. Because of this, beta testing is invaluable. By releasing your mobile app on a small scale to a group of beta testers, you can catch these bugs and make important updates without turning your target audience off of your product. Ultimately, beta testing can lead to a wider consumer base, better reviews and higher overall revenues.
Mobile apps developers have filled a virtual graveyard with failed applications that didn’t follow this blueprint for success. Skipping an essential planning or testing period can doom a mobile app before it starts by introducing fatal errors or failures to serve consumers. Although it requires a little more patience and diligence, in the end this extensive planning and testing can be invaluable and lead to your app’s best-case scenario.