So You Are Considering A Mobile App
Here are some very important aspects of mobile development you should definitely consider before you dive into the official launch.
Requirements: Before you start designing and coding, you should understand the purpose and mission of your new mobile app. What is the concrete problem your app is going to solve? This would be the “requirements phase” of the project. Undefined goals could lead to deadlines being missed, budgets being out of control and possible abandonment of the project. All key stakeholders should agree upon the final goal. This goal should also include specific timing and appropriate budget requirements. Additionally, understanding your key resources is critical. Do you have the right design and development team? Who will be responsible for project management?
Timeline and Budget: A proper timeline and budget need to be considered before moving any further with this process. One of the most popular problems I get presented with is “We have a trade show in a month and our CEO wants to launch an App like their competitor.” Or “We are allocating $5K from our digital budget to develop an App.” Designing, developing and launching a mobile application has serious timing and financial considerations. Timelines can range anywhere from 3 to 12 months and budgets can start at $50k. These of course come with many caveats. Following a process and having clear approved requirements that align with your timeline and budget are good steps towards a successful mobile launch.
Storyboard – Your Way to Success: Consider sketching and storyboarding to determine what your ideas might look like on the screen. Will your application be on multiple screen sizes? This could be a great start for what your interface might look like. This could also include approximate size and location of buttons and text.
These sketches help you create visual representations of your application and they can also be a great place for review with all project stakeholders.
Consider the following wireframe tools to help you with storyboarding:
Prototype Testing: One of the key items many people miss is prototype testing. This allows for feedback prior to launching your app, and putting hours of resources into developing the final interface and back end of your application. Put together your prototype team to review wireframes and storyboards. This team should include people outside of your company. You want honest feedback. Review how they use the prototype. This will help you make adjustments to the design of the application. This phase is only the functionality of the design.
Prototype testing sites:
Don’t Forget Your Backend: I am a fan of the whiteboard. This is the point in the plan where you spend time understanding how everything is connected. This will help highlight technical limitations and bring them to light early in the process. Your developer will take this information to set up API’s, servers and databases. This is the stage where you need to sign up for developer accounts. This can take several days to get approval, so be sure plan this into your scheduled timeline.
Use an online web whiteboard to share ideas:
Sexy Sells: A great user experience addresses all aspects as perceived by the person. This is the consumption of what people want from the application and the device. These are the skins for the mobile apps. These skins have considered the content, personas, messaging and more. This is the stage where we develop high-resolution versions of the designs from wireframes.
Lucid Chart is another tool that allows you to develop diagrams. They have a full range of icons that you can use when developing anything from buttons to screen swipes.
Alpha and Beyond: Now that the designs are done and the backend is all set up, you can start testing the functionality. A recommendation is to have Alpha and Beta test groups. The Alpha testing is typically done in house. Review for bugs, text issues, server and database problems. Once the Alpha test is complete, you can release this to the Beta testing. This would include the client and any other people designated for this group.
Here are a few test platforms to consider that allow you to import your design skins into the testing platform:
Test to Success: This is an area that I have seen skipped or rushed past due to timelines or budget constraints. Get your app into the hands of your outside test users. This is the actual application before you launch to the various stores. I have found that many bugs and hiccups are solved at this stage and savings on headaches and lack of sleep will pay dividends in the future. Consider this stage as the career saving stage.
Taking feedback from Alpha and Beta test groups, you can polish your app and anything in the backend. Each type of operating system has its own unique processes for testing in live environments.
Apple iOS will require a platform such as Test Flight.
Android can test its functionality in a live environment so there is no need for a specialized testing platform.
Upon the key stakeholders approving the final app revision, you can begin the process to release your application to the public. Each of the applications has their own process. Android has a simple process that allows you to instantly add your app to Google Play. iOS is more complicated. Apple will review your app and they have no set time frame for them to approve.
Launch Plan: This is a step that usually is pushed aside and not thought out until the app is in the app store. I strongly believe you should consider pre-release marketing to gain market traction, both internally and externally. Start telling your story at events and consider post screen shots online. Develop a launch strategy to market the application to your users. This should include training for internal teams.
Next Steps: Consider this plan among others to build your mobile app development strategy and launch plan. Bring in outside experts who have done this multiple times and who can help you successfully launch while keeping you out of trouble.