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Mobile App Development Process Steps: All Stages Revealed

22 Nov 2021

19 Min

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Technology development does not stop for a minute. This progress makes it possible to transfer more and more everyday tasks to mobile every year. According to analysts, the global number of downloads of various mobile applications should reach 258 billion by the end of 2021. And this record is far from final. This testifies to the huge popularity of the niche and the demand for mobile solutions in general.

However, despite the huge number of applications on the market (more than 5.5 million), there are still blind spots in the niche, and this industry awaits new startups and their bold digital solutions.

App development process is a multi-step pipeline that needs to be sorted out in order to avoid various mistakes and wrong business decisions. So we decided to prepare the ultimate guide that will help you walk through the entire pipeline, from the idea to the finished digital product.

The Basics of App Development

Steps of app development are a vast topic, and it's worth starting with the basics. In general terms, the whole process of creating a digital solution is software development, at the end of which we get a fully working product that launches and works on mobile devices. Then the software is uploaded to the official store, which corresponds to the platform, and after that, any user can take advantage of the fruits of the developers' labor.

The main difference between this approach and web development is that the result is a mobile product created, taking into account the peculiarities of the platform on which it will be launched. In addition, applications require installation on the device, and otherwise, you will not be able to launch them in any way. Meanwhile, a derivative of web development is a website that will be accessible from any browser on any device, be it a tablet, smartphone, desktop PC, and much more.

Mobile Application Development by Platform

Despite the fact that several years ago, the number of different mobile operating systems was amazing, at the moment, the market is dominated by only two platforms: iOS and Android.

All iOS apps only work on iPhones and iPads, which are Apple-branded devices. Objective C was previously the main language for creating digital solutions for this platform. But now, it has turned into a support language due to its obsolescence. In addition, it was replaced by the newer and more modern programming language called Swift.

Meanwhile, Android apps are not limited to a specific line of devices, as there are dozens of different brands of mobile phones and tablets from different manufacturers on the market. However, what unites all Android applications is the programming languages ​​that help specialists create them: Java and Kotlin.

Mobile Apps by Type

In addition to different platforms, mobile applications can differ from each other in type, and in this section, we can distinguish only two: these are native and cross-platform solutions.

Native application

The main feature of this kind of digital product is that it is tailored only for a specific platform (iOS or Android). As a result, you will not be able to run the solution on the Google platform if it was originally created for an Apple device. This approach is quite expensive in the long run since, in addition to developing two separate versions of the application, you will need to maintain parallel support for the two products in the future. This will result in the app maintenance cost being multiplied by 2.

Discover everything you need to know about app maintenance cost in our recent article

Cross-platform application

This option is the complete opposite of the previous one. Such solutions can run on both platforms without any technical limitations. This significantly reduces the cost of development and further support of the digital solution since you have one ultimate version of the app in your hands. And all this is available thanks to Flutter technology, which is the pride of Google company.

Learn more about Flutter and why it’s a big deal in the cross-platform development sphere

What to Think Over Before App Development

You can't just start developing a mobile app from scratch. The lack of preparation and a clear plan will quickly lead to you making the wrong decisions, or the app development process itself does not budge. Therefore, there are a few things you need to think through before experts start turning lines of code into a fully functional product. We decided to collect several pre-production stages and explain to you what their essence is.

Ideation

Any digital product is the result of someone's bold idea. However, at the very beginning, you may only have a vague understanding of what your final product might be. And in order to reveal a clear outline of the future application, the idea must go through a lot of brainstorming sessions. All of them are needed so that you can clearly answer several rather important questions:

  • What is the purpose of your application?
  • What problems for ordinary users should it solve?
  • What “killer feature'' can distinguish your solution from the competition?
  • What will motivate users to use your app?

Once you can clearly state the answers to the above questions, you can move on to the next step.

Market Analysis

This stage can be divided into two rather important parts: the analysis of competitors and the target audience.

Competitor analysis

To make the most out of competitor analysis, you should follow these tips:

Explore the app stores

Look for the solutions that are related to your idea. Then, learn what they’re offering to users. You should know all the features of competitors' applications and how they are trying to stand out from others. It will help you come up with your “killer feature”.

Pay attention to user reviews

It’s a source of useful information on the drawbacks of your competitors’ products. By studying them, you can gain insights into features or UI for your product and also avoid mistakes that your competitors have made.

Take notes

Jot down every piece of information that you find noteworthy. Pay attention to the date of the last update to learn the frequency of maintenance and if the app is still alive. Also, view the number of downloads and other information. In addition, you can download these applications yourself and test them for a perfect understanding of what you will have to compete with.

Target audience analysis

It's vital to define your target audience using various criteria. You should imagine your future customer using a few points that will be based on your app idea. Usually, the target audience will be defined using these criteria:

  • Age. A Bitcoin wallet can't interest a kid. Just like a cartoon streaming service isn’t likely to draw the attention of a grown man.

  • Location. This aspect also has an impact on your idea. For example, if you are planning to launch in the United States, you should think about the availability of an iOS version of the application, since this platform is the most widespread in this region. Also, the distribution region affects some security compliances.

  • Income level. This aspect is related to audience age. A grown man will likely have a job and can afford to buy an app, while schoolkids or students that don’t have constant income will prefer to download an app for free.

  • Interests. Imagine your average user and try to find out what other interests related to your app idea they may have. If your idea is to make an app aggregating news related to video games, then your target audience will rather be young and should be into video games and other geeky things (TV series, comic books, and so on).

If you want another method to define your target audience, you can go a simple way. Users are all around you: your family, friends, co-workers. Ask them how they solve problems in the area of ​​your concern.

Pick Your Monetization Model

Any entrepreneur wants a digital solution to become a source of permanent income. And in order for everything to work out like this, you need to choose in advance the form of distribution and monetization of your application. In total, there are four options between which you can choose or combine them.

In-app advertising

The app is free, but it comes with ads. They are the most popular way to get revenue from a digital product. A lot of apps choose this option to let customers use their digital products for free.

Freemium model

The app is still free to download, but some of the features or content are paid. This is another rather popular way to gain profit since the application is still available to a wide range of users. Meantime, some quality-of-life features require a one-time purchase.

Subscription model

The whole app or main part of its functionality is available after subscribing. Often, such solutions provide several subscription options (for different periods, a set of available features or content, joint subscriptions for several people, student subscriptions, and much more).

Paid model

The name speaks for itself. The app is available for download only after a one-time purchase. After that, all the functionality of such a solution is available to the user, and there are no additional monetization methods (advertising, subscriptions, and so on).

Paymium model

It's a combination of two models. The app is pay-to-download, but there is an option to buy or unlock additional content or features.

App development process steps

Popular apps and their ways of gaining profit

Working Out Functionality Requirements

So, you have dealt with the main preparatory stages, and now you are left with the final and one of the most important, namely, making a list of features and technical requirements for the future digital product.

We recommend that you focus on developing the MVP version of the application. This abbreviation stands for Minimal Viable Product. At its core, it is a ready-to-release version of the application, which has only the most necessary functionality that helps to fulfill the main tasks assigned to it. This choice has several positive aspects:

  • It allows you to test your idea in real market conditions and collect the feedback vital for improvement.
  • Accelerates mobile application development process and time-to-market by focusing on only the critical functionality.
  • It is a cost-effective way to get your hands on a working digital product with a lot of room for further development.

We have revealed in more detail the benefits and examples of the MVP approach in our recent article.

A clear list of requirements and features will help you start developing faster since your programmers or the companies you hire for development will immediately understand what exactly you want.

App Development Process Stages

So, you have gone through all the preparatory stages, and you perfectly know your business goals and how you want your mobile application to be. It's time to start creating it. However, before that, you should know the entire development pipeline that awaits your digital solution. Since we are an outsourcing company, we will consider flow from this perspective (we will talk about development options and teams a little bit later)

Stage #1. First Contact

Your interaction with the software development vendor already begins as soon as you visit their website to get acquainted with the company, domain and technology expertise, portfolio, and much more.

In order to start a dialogue with the company, you need to leave a request in which you briefly describe which mobile solution you need and your contact information. This application goes to the sales manager of the company, where it is validated. The manager gets acquainted with your idea and contacts you for a more detailed discussion of your future digital product.

This stage is extremely important, and the list of features that you have prepared earlier will be very useful to you. Detailed information will help the company to draw up an initial estimate, in which you will see the estimated cost of developing your application. If you are satisfied with the price, you sign a cooperation contract and move on to the next stage.

Stage #2. Discovery Phase

So, your collaboration with the technical vendor has begun. This stage marks a series of meetings that allow the vendor to understand what needs to be developed, what specific requirements are for each aspect of the product, and more. Discovery Phase also allows the vendor to define the required technology stack (if you have technical knowledge, you can specify the desired technologies yourself) as well as the team composition for creating a digital product.

The entire phase consists of several steps:

  • Collecting project requirements. Business Analyst sets up a call schedule with you to collect project requirements (platforms, business goals, core features, etc.). All subsequent steps depend on this process.

  • Specification. This document is drawn up based on the list of features and the data obtained during the collection of requirements. It is a detailed documentation of all functions and technologies on the project, which simplifies communication between you and the developers. This entire multi-page specification is agreed upon with you, and you must validate it before proceeding to the next step.

  • Wireframes. This is a schematic arrangement of elements on the screen. The designer makes this sketch for each screen of the future application. It helps you understand the approximate design and what elements will be on each screen and ways to navigate between screens since each wireframe is linked to others. Subsequently, this speeds up the work on the application’s design (more on that later).

  • Quality Assurance. Once the documentation and wireframes are ready, the tester checks them for logical errors and inconsistencies according to certain guidelines.

  • Detailed estimate. The final stage is the phases. Based on the documentation, Business Analysts calculate the exact cost and development time of your mobile application.

The entire Discovery Phase can take from 2 weeks to 3+ months. And the duration of this phase directly depends on the complexity of your mobile application. However, once all the above steps have been completed, you can proceed to the next stage.

Still have questions about Discovery Phase? Dispel them with our recent article

Stage #3. Design

This stage marks the beginning of your mobile app development process. It all starts with a design and this stage also consists of several steps, the sequence of which helps to get a complete vision of the future product:

  • Immersion
  • Research
  • Concept
  • Design

In order for you to have a complete picture of the process, it is worth taking each step separately.

Immersion

Designers, together with analysts, immerse themselves in your business and its industry in order to study all the features, audience, user problems, and other aspects.

Research

Designers study the requirements of your project, user behavior and analyze competitors with similar products on the market. All this is needed in order to get an approximate vision of the design aspects.

Concept

At this stage, designers create 2-3 concepts for several screens of the application. For example, the main screen, login screen, search screen, and so on. Each concept demonstrates different design variations: colors, arrangement of elements, shape, size, and more. Further actions are possible only after you have chosen the concept you like and correspond to your vision of the final product.

Mobile development process

How the concept of an app can look like

Design

Finally, designers start creating mockups based on wireframes and the chosen concept. If the project is developed for several mobile platforms, then each design is drawn separately. Typically, the design for the second mobile platform takes less time than the first. The screenshots with the interface at this stage are called mockups. A mockup is the final, detailed version of each application screen.

Once all the mockups are ready and approved by you, the designers pass them on to the developers, and the next stage begins.

Learn more about the design process in our ultimate overview

Stage #4. Development

So, this is the stage in which your requirements and designers' mockups turn into lines of code and, in the final form - a fully working digital solution.

Mobile application development process is a long flow that requires systematization, and such an approach is present. The entire creation process is divided into sprints, each lasting two weeks. Each sprint starts with a planning meeting and ends with a stable, working product or functionality. In a planning meeting, you and the development team agree on the amount of work to be done over the next two weeks.

If depicted schematically, then each sprint will look like this:

  • On the first day of each sprint, a project setup takes place.
  • The second and subsequent days are devoted to coding and testing.
  • The last day of the sprint is a demonstration of the work done to you.

During this stage, many specialists are involved, and each performs its own important function.

Team composition for app development process

SpecialistsResponsibilities

Project Manager

Supervises the app development process, prepares reports and presentations of the work done at the end of each sprint

UI/UX designer

Working on mockups for each sprint

QA engineer

Write test plans and checklists

Developers

Write code based on mockups and project documentation

At the end of the sprint, the Project Manager prepares a report for you. The sprint report usually includes:

  1. List of completed features
  2. List of non-completed features (and why)
  3. Change requests implemented during the sprint
  4. Change requests not implemented during the sprint (and why)
  5. Known issues
  6. Time spent on development, including bug fixes and change requests

In addition, the development team prepares a functional demo of the project that allows you to test the functionality implemented during the sprint.

The whole cycle is repeated anew until all the agreed features and functionality of the mobile application are developed.

Stage #5. Quality Assurance

We decided to highlight this stage separately since it also has quite a few nuances that you should know about.

The main goal of testing is a cleaning of the digital product from bugs, errors, and functionality that does not work as intended. The final mobile application must comply with the documentation and guidelines by 100%. In the first scenario, the user experience depends on this. In the second - the ability to publish your mobile application in the official store.

Quality Assurance can be divided into three sections:

Requirements analysis

An initial type of testing takes place at the Discovery Phase. QA analyzes the documentation compiled by Business Analysts for inaccuracies or logical errors. They also check that the project complies with all Google and Apple guidelines.

Planning

At this stage, the testing strategy is determined. Documentation is created in which testers indicate the types of tests that should be carried out on the project, the required test devices, OS versions, and other details. For large projects, planning occurs before each sprint. For smaller ones - once.

Testing

QA tests the implemented functionality at the end of each sprint. In other words, testers take part in the project from the first sprint to its release. As soon as a bug is discovered, QA draws up a bug report for developers who will fix the bug with its help.

It's also worth mentioning two types of testing, as you'll hear about them on every report at the end of every sprint. You should understand what checks your mobile application went through.

  • Manual. QA manually tests the product. In this way, the product’s usability is tested, and bugs are found in the interface and other parts of the project. This is an obligatory part of software testing and cannot be skipped since full testing automation is impossible.
  • Automation. Some tests are impossible or very difficult to do manually. For this, a code is written that tests the business logic of the product.

In addition, the tests themselves are divided into several types:

QA testing types

Testing typeDescription and purpose

Functional

The main task of these tests is to check if the feature is working correctly in relation to the project's business logic and requirements.

Negative

For this type of test, invalid data is entered to see how the system behaves. They help show how stable the application is and how it handles errors.

Positive

The correct data is entered to check if the system is performing as expected.

Smoke

These tests are done at the end of each sprint. They must confirm that the business logic is implemented correctly and works without harm to the main functionality.

Regression

These tests are done to make sure that newly added features do not interfere with those that were previously implemented.

Load

They are needed to check how the system works under different loads. The server response time should not exceed the specified in the spec.

Stage #6. Release and Maintenance

Here it is - the finish line. Long months of the mobile development process have resulted in a fully functional application that is ready to benefit the business. The developers are making final edits, and then you can follow one of two paths:

  • All application rights and source code are transferred to you, and you yourself publish your application in the appropriate store (or the vendor helps you with this).
  • You continue to cooperate with a vendor who supports your digital product with updates, improvements, and much more.

Your choice depends only on business requirements and how you see the application in the future. If you understand that the product is final, then you do not need support. In the meantime, if there is room for improvement, then you should cooperate with the vendor who has already been developing this application and knows the product perfectly.

Who Should You Entrust the App Development Process to?

Mobile app development requires the involvement of experienced professionals, and you have several options for how you can get them.

Mobile app development process

Pros and cons of hiring options

Hire freelancers

As you would expect, this variant is the cheapest but not the most trustworthy. There is almost no opportunity to control the freelancer’s work since you can be located on different continents. Furthermore, nobody can guarantee that your project will be finished and you will be satisfied with its quality. However, if you are on a tight budget, you can take a chance and choose this option.

Assemble an in-house team

This option is the most flexible and provides maximum freedom. But at the same time, it is the most costly in terms of both time and financial investments. You have complete control over the mobile application development process since you and your team are under the same roof. However, before that, you need to rent an office, equip it with everything needed, hire each employee (which can be challenging since you are competing with other firms for valuable specialists), and much more. Plus, every month, employee salaries will bite off a significant chunk of your budget (not to mention paid vacations and sick leaves for your personnel).

Contact an outsourcing company

This option combines cost-effectiveness and reliability. You are not limited to the choice of companies only in your country. There are many regions that are rich in offshore technical vendors, and you can easily find a company with relevant experience for your tasks. In addition, you do not need to worry about hiring employees, as companies are already staffed with all the necessary personnel.

Do not forget about the safety of your corporate secrets and ideas, as companies can always offer to sign an NDA. The only inconvenience may be the vendor's remoteness and the difference in time zones (which is compensated for by an individual meeting schedule).

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Mobile App?

Many entrepreneurs are concerned about how much it will cost to create their own digital business solution. There are many variables in this question that you should be aware of. The first and significant cost-driving factor is the location of your team. Different regions have different hourly rates, and while in the US, the average developer rate is $150 per hour, East European specialists ask for only $40-$50. A lot will depend on the tech hub you choose, so you should choose wisely.

Steps for mobile app development

Various tech hubs and average development rates

The second factor affecting the final development price tag is the complexity of the application you want to create. The more features you want to implement, the longer it will take. The more time-consuming your app development process, the higher the price of services will be. Without any specific information, we can give only approximate figures, which for 2021 are as follows:

Note: This estimate is valid for the popular Eastern European tech hub of Ukraine, where the average hourly rate is $40.

  • Simple app (3-6 months of development) - $70,000-$100,000
  • Medium app (6-10 months of development) - $120,000-$170,000
  • Complex app (10+ months of development) - $200,000-$250,000+

You will find out more accurate figures only after your project has passed the discovery phase, and the vendor will thoroughly know all your requirements for a future technical product.

Want to know the development cost?

Tell us about your project and get an initial estimate for free

Why Choose Cleveroad?

Cleveroad is a professional technical vendor located in one of the most popular IT hubs in Eastern Europe - Ukraine. For over ten years, we have been providing our services and leading the app development process for businesses of various industries and helping them to obtain unique digital products.

Cleveroad in numbers:

  • 10+ years on the market
  • 120+ in-house engineers
  • 170+ successful projects
  • 8+ expertise industries

We specialize in custom development services for the needs of various enterprises. Our technical expertise allows us to develop both native (iOS and Android) products and cross-platform (Flutter) applications focusing on the individual needs of your business. We also provide support for ready-made solutions with their subsequent improvement based on your needs and goals.

However, words must be backed up by action. And we have something to show you. Recently, our portfolio has been replenished with a unique project that digitalizes the popular movie rental service - Blockbuster.

Application building process

Blockbuster is a classic movie renting in your pocket

Our task was to bring this unique experience to the screens of mobile devices. And we have created two full-fledged mobile applications for iOS and Android, which have become a video-on-demand platform where everyone can rent a movie they like for a small fee and watch it on any device.

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