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What to Expect When Developing an App

July 25, 2019

Gone are the days where you could hack together a functional app and expect your customers to be wowed by the amazing tech. If you want to deliver an experience your users truly love, here are a few things you should expect along the way.

Building an app takes time and planning. It takes strategy and skill. And it takes the same considerations, no matter who you are.

Today, I’ll share with you four common paths that you can expect to cross as you build your next (or first) app.

But first, let’s start with the obvious: Building a great app is no walk in the park.

You can’t just wake up one Monday morning, decide that an app would be perfect for business, and then go live with a brand-new app within the week.

Your customers have high expectations.

Building an app also isn’t as simple as hiring a hacker to code up a makeshift version of your existing website or web app.

As CEO of MindSea – a mobile app design and development company – I’ve overseen the creation of dozens of apps. From B2B to SaaS to e-commerce to news apps, these four things are what you should be expecting no matter what:

  1. Expect to hire additional help
  2. Expect it to take time
  3. Expect your app to never be ‘finished’
  4. Expect your customers’ lives to change (a lot)

Now let’s dive in...

1. Expect to Hire Some Help

If your team is small, you likely won’t have the resources you need to bring your app to life on your own. Maybe your team lacks the technical skills. Or maybe you have a team full of highly skilled developers, but you can’t afford to pull them from their current projects.

How do you move forward without sacrificing elsewhere? You have two main options:

Hire Talent and Build the App In-House

The first option is to expand your team so you can build the app in-house. This could mean hiring new developers or shifting current talent to the app project and hiring to fill their old roles.

If you’ve hired developers in the past, this process will be pretty familiar. Here’s what you’ll want to look for in potential hires:

  • A diverse portfolio that showcases their technical and design skills
  • Case studies and examples of work they’ve done in the past
  • A deep understanding of the app development process

Outsource to an App Development Company

Option two is partnering with an app agency to lead the charge. The best app agencies have experienced teams that have been responsible for many successful apps, giving you peace of mind that they’ll be able to execute your vision, too.

Of course, outsourcing app development comes with a few big questions:

  • How do you find the best mobile app agency, and what should you be looking for?
  • How can you be sure they’re capable of delivering what you’re looking for?
  • How much will it actually cost to build an app with an agency?

The MindSea team put together a free guide to help you navigate the in-house vs. outsource decision, including the key questions you’ll want to ask yourself as you consider your options.

In-house or agency

The bottom line is this:

No matter which path you choose when you’re building a mobile app for your business,  expect to hire help.

2. Expect It to Take Time

Building a mobile app that climbs the app store rankings and drives results for your business is not just an afternoon side project for one of your developers.

That’s because writing the code is only a small part of the app-building process.

The truth is, you’ll be investing a lot of time into your mobile app before you write a single line of code. Here’s what the process looks like:

Building Your Strategy

Before you can even think about coding, designing, or prototyping anything, you absolutely must have a strategy in place. This strategy is going to help you understand two very important things:

  1. What you will do
  2. What you will not do

If these two things aren’t clear from the beginning, you’ll end up adding bells and whistles that aren’t necessary, then getting pummeled by waves and waves of revisions.

At MindSea, our strategy for planning and building great apps is called The Blueprint – it’s a three-step process that has any business ready to build their app in three weeks.

The Blueprint

As you refine your strategy, you should also research the guidelines and regulations for mobile apps in your industry. For example, if you’re a healthcare startup, you need to make sure your app is HIPAA compliant before you build.

User Research and Testing

You may think you know what your users want. Maybe you’re relying on a few conversations you had with customers in the past. Or maybe you’re just trusting your gut feelings about the industry and your audience.

But who knows your future app users better than you do?

The users themselves.

Instead of going with your gut or assuming that those few folks you talked to are representative of your whole audience, be prepared to invest time and money in the user research and testing phase.

Prototyping and Designing

Coding an app without creating the entire design and UX beforehand is like trying to navigate a corn maze blindfolded — you’ll find yourself constantly going in the wrong direction with no reference points to help you adjust your path.

It’s an absolute must to prototype your mobile app.

The entire thing.

If you understand how every single aspect of the app will look and function, and you’ve tested this prototype with future users, then it’s less likely you’ll need to rewrite thousands of lines of code.

3. Expect Your App to Never Truly Be ‘Done’

Successful mobile apps don’t always launch with every single feature polished and ready to go. Over time, companies fix bugs, add features, and introduce upgrades. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a version 1.0 app in any app store.

Facebook is always testing new features such as groups, marketplace, and now dating.

Instagram used to be photos-only before allowing video posts.

And Uber is on version 3.353 of its iOS app (and as I was writing this the company made version 3.354 ready for download).

But it’s not just B2C giants that are constantly improving.

Mint by Intuit recently reduced its mobile app’s size by 30%.

Salesforce’s mobile app is on version 18.3 in the Apple App Store.

And we once helped Proposify reimagine its entire mobile app.

To see how committed app developers are to testing, expanding, and improving their apps, take a look at the list below – these are just a handful of the apps currently undergoing beta testing through Apple’s TestFlight program:

Apple TestFlight program

Clearly, the top companies – from stalwarts such as 1Password, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft to fast-growing startups such as Buffer and Todoist – invest in continuously improving their user experience.

4. Expect Your Customers’ Lives to Change

I touched on this earlier, but your customers’ needs and expectations are going to change over time. As new technology emerges, your customers start to behave differently. As their behavior changes, they expect you to adapt to their lifestyle – not the other way around.

The very first iPhone came out 12 years ago.

Before then, the idea of being able to access the internet in a way that was just as (if not more) user-friendly than your home computer was a pipe dream at best, let alone being able to order any product you can think of through Amazon 24/7.

Nowadays?

If you don’t have a mobile-optimized website, your target audience doesn’t want to hear about you. More and more software businesses are investing in mobile apps to keep up with their customers’ on-the-go lifestyles. E-commerce businesses without convenient mobile apps are losing business to Amazon.

Here’s the thing:

There’s no way of truly knowing what iPhone-level innovations lie around the corner. The one thing you can plan for is that your customers’ lives will change – and it’s up to you to adapt accordingly.

Build a Great Mobile App

If you want to build a mobile app that your users and customers will love, there are four things you should be expecting as you push toward the development stage:

  1. Expect to hire additional help
  2. Expect it to take time
  3. Expect your app to never be ‘finished’
  4. Expect your customer's lives to change (a lot)

Understanding what to expect is key to preparing properly and not getting caught off-guard when you hit a few bumps in the road.

From the Blueprint process to the first prototype to the in-depth user testing, if you want your app to climb to No. 1, it’s going to take time.

So get to work – your customers are waiting.

Looking for some extra help getting started?

At MindSea, our speciality is building high-quality, well-designed, user-driven mobile apps. If you’re looking for guidance in strategizing your next (or first) mobile app, get in touch with a MindSea Product Strategist today.

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