The mobile application market is bustling and expected to grow by a healthy 13.4% compound annual growth rate from 2022 to 2030, reaching a market size of $187.58 billion. Obviously, mobile application development will fuel that growth.
If you’re keen on grabbing a piece of the pie, due diligence is essential. This guide will delve into a high-level discussion of best practices for mobile application development, from strategy to design to testing and more.
What Is Mobile Application Development?
The set of procedures and processes used to code software for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets is called mobile application development. Mobile app development, like web app development, traces its roots in more traditional software development, but due to the drastic difference in the nature of the platform (i.e., hand-held devices), mobile app development focuses on leveraging the unique features of where it will be used.
For example, an exercise mobile app will take advantage of a smartphone’s accelerometer and other sensors that are simply absent in other devices like PCs. The same is true for how smartphones are handled — gesture controls and unique mobile OS considerations are also absent in other devices.
iOS and Android are the two most prominent mobile OSs available today, and often, these systems come with pre-loaded and essential (or at least fundamental) applications. Some of these are basic browsers and app stores. Of course, there are thousands of other app options from there, and all these mobile-specific programs are created through mobile app development.
10 Best Practices for the Mobile Development Process
As with any software development process, there are best practices that should be incorporated into mobile app development. These may have some overlapping principles with other processes but at the same time are customized for mobile.
1. Prior to Starting, Ensure You Have a Solid Mobile App Development Strategy
Your mobile app strategy takes into account all the vital factors you need to consider when developing a mobile app. This includes a thorough understanding of how the app integrates with your business, how the app interfaces with users, how it produces income or otherwise achieves its primary objectives, how to recruit the right mobile developers, and generally how the finished mobile app becomes a valuable digital asset.
While it may not be exhaustive, a mobile app strategy should be comprehensive in breadth. It needs to contain everything you need, at high-level characterizations, to achieve success. Don’t forget to include the app’s category, necessary development tools, and internal business policies and protocols.
Before mobile app development even begins, the strategy that serves as its roadmap should be complete. Consider getting help from business analysts and managers in areas that are not your expertise and, of course, acquiring help from senior developers who can provide the technical skills you may lack.
A mobile app is typically focused on user growth, user engagement, or brand awareness. Usually, it’s a mixture of the three. This doesn’t mean you just pick and choose — you need to customize for your business’ specific SMART goals.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely, and they apply to objectives not only in mobile app development but in project management in general. While not a be-all, end-all management principle, setting SMART goals at least contains your goal-setting into well-defined and achievable standards, making it a good starting point for the process of actual development.
Once you’ve set solid SMART goals, you can define a target audience and begin brainstorming mobile app features.
Identify Your Product’s Value Proposition
Your mobile app’s primary value proposition should be part of your mobile strategy. Drilling deeper, before the actual development, you need to brainstorm what it offers, its target marketing positioning, potential users and customers (they may not be the same), and market fit, among other things. You should also start to define unique service propositions that flow out from the primary value proposition.
The key here is to clearly state what problem your mobile app solves for your target market before even assigning or recruiting a mobile app development team to start coding. You need to check specific competitive advantages your solution has over potential competitors as well.
Create a Roadmap for Developers To Use During the App Development Process
Your mobile strategy might be a figurative roadmap, but during the app development process, you also need a literal one. Your mobile app development roadmap serves a few goals:
- It generally facilitates internal work on the app, or how the idea of the app and its business objectives are achieved through concrete steps.
- It streamlines communications with any stakeholders external to the development effort, which may include investors and contractors with vested interest in the process and, of course, end users — or, for the duration of the development cycle, beta testers.
- It serves as the mission statement for the vision of the actual mobile strategy, letting audiences know how the vision is executed.
- It serves as a transparent stepladder of progression for the mobile app development process, and it also quickly becomes a cheat sheet for meeting market requirements.
- It serves as a tool for prioritization, as it should clearly show which parts of mobile app development should come first.
2. Emphasize the Importance of Security
There are two sides to security in this scenario: security from the developer side during app development and security from the user side once the app is deployed.
From the developer side, some best practices include the following.
Heavily encrypt at every potential weak point. Invest in source code as well as file-level and database encryption. Most of the code on a native app exists client-side, and you are not in complete control of what malware can track in terms of bugs and vulnerabilities. Encrypting source code creates a robust layer of security that prevents tampering and reverse engineering. The same goes in terms of accessing confidential data. Incorporate data encryption like SQLite and database encryption modules as well as file-level encryption. Lastly, secure data in-transit, not just when it’s in your app’s care. It's encouraged to use SSL or a VPN tunnel whenever possible, and always use the latest cryptography technologies like AES with 512-bit encryption, 256-bit encryption, and SHA-256 for hashing.
Minimize human error through standardized practice. Secure your app’s backend to safeguard against server-side attacks. This should be made company policy. Additionally, always find ways to reduce manual error, which serves as a typical inadvertent attack vector. Make use of high-level authentication, for instance, and minimize the storage of sensitive data. If you cannot avoid this, leverage encrypted data containers and minimize logging where sensitive information is concerned. Automate auto-deletion protocols as well to avoid leaving a trace.
Perform robust tests for security. Perform thorough quality assurance and security checks on your mobile app and your development process throughout the effort.
From the user side, understand the common issues that impact mobile app security:
- Users may store or leak sensitive data inadvertently in ways that other apps on the device might be able to access.
- Users may not actively opt in to high-level authentication checks, and thus, their logins could be more easily bypassed.
- Your app may use weaker data encryption methods that expose vulnerabilities when in use.
- Your app may use weaker data encryption on data transmission, or users may be allowing third-party access or transmitting data inadvertently to suspicious destinations.
Remember: If you understand it, you can plan for it.
3. Focus on User Experience
Poor mobile app design leads to confused, frustrated, even angry users. And these sorts of users are keen on uninstalling. Always design for user experience (UX) that is user-friendly, intuitive, and if at all possible, enjoyable.
To do this, you need to understand a few things about your target users:
- User behaviors
- User needs
- User pain points
- User motivations
You need to gather and analyze these data points contextualized based on each potential interaction with your app. Tasks on an app vary and may also be impacted by factors like the user’s environment and even attention span.
Aim to offer a UX that is self-explanatory, memorable, and familiar, so you avoid uninstalls and make it likely that users keep using your app. An app designed for UX imbues positive emotions in your users and reflects positively on your brand. And if you ask Think with Google, they’ll tell you that bad mobile experiences make users 62% less likely to purchase from the brand involved.
4. TEST TEST TEST
We’ve already touched on testing, but it deserves a closer look because of its obvious and foremost importance. Mobile app testing is generally divided into three categories:
App functionality tests if your mobile app performs as intended in terms of its function and involves testing:
- Business flows
- The user interface in its various available modes and languages
- Cross-platform coverage
Also called nonfunctional testing, this sort of testing checks parts of your mobile app that are not required to function but should be thoroughly included, such as:
- Performance and uptime
- Testing of relevant application programming interfaces
Lastly, manual testing refers to checks on real environment conditions and situations, so you would see:
- Testing network conditions
- Testing app behavior upon Interruptions (e.g., notifications, calls, text messages)
- App behavior and performance switching to background/foreground
- How well the app works with gestures (e.g., force touch)
5. Set Design Guidelines
The design guidelines you set should be based on your brand and use cases, with the ultimate goal of providing positive, branded UX.
Some core principles to focus on include:
- Reduce how much thinking power your users need to operate your app. It’s called cognitive load, and, like it or not, your users probably don’t want to waste too much of it on your app. So unless your app is a puzzler like Sudoku or Wordle — and even then, its design principles are separate from its function — you want your app to be easy to use and decluttered. Offer just enough information per screen and minimize user input.
- Empower your users by giving them control. Keep interactive elements familiar and use standard navigation components so they can keep doing what they’re used to from other apps.
- Break app tasks into smaller chunks. Always design task flows in a step-by-step manner so complex tasks are more manageable.
- Offload any tasks whenever possible. This means looking for anything within your app that requires user input and looking for alternative ways to do it for them (e.g., autofill, data import from other apps, etc).
- Consider problems before they arise. Anticipate what your user might need in their customer journey through your app and plan ahead.
6. Consider Using Automation Tools To Streamline the Process
Automation in testing mobile apps provides pretty much the same benefits in most use cases for automation, including quicker testing, less manual input and error, scalability, and repeatability. Automated testing is also well-suited for Scrum and Agile methodologies, which is probably what will be used for your mobile app development. Some of the most popular automation tools include Kobiton, Appium, and ZAPTEST.
Learn More: Hire Mobile App Engineers: All You Should Know
7. Plan for Updates and Accessibility Features
To truly be committed to UX, it shouldn’t matter what your users can and cannot do, which is why you need to adhere to accessibility standards that lets you avoid excluding users with various disabilities. Around 15% of the global population suffers some sort of disability, that’s a lot of potentially wasted user information and income. Of course, simply making your app accessible is already great for your brand reputation regardless and also protects you from digital accessibility-based lawsuits.
When it comes to planning for mobile app updates, you need to consider how frequently your target users will be accessing your app. Is your app in the high-use variety, like Messenger or TikTok? That’s unlikely, so the principles for these apps probably won’t apply to yours. Always consider your use case. If you’re a fintech business, for example, how often do you expect customers to access their finances through your app?
Apps can sometimes go days, weeks, or even months without being accessed or updated. Your goal is to make sure the app works fine when it is accessed, as well as crafting an update requirements, schedules, and mechanics that don’t annoy your users, who might be updating your app more than they’re using it.
8. Define Which Operating Systems You Want Your App To Operate On
Android or iOS? Maybe Kindle Fire from Amazon? In the same way that unique hardware specs dictate what goes into your app, OS considerations also need to be factored into your development process. If you have a web app and the mobile app is paired with it, then your project would be attached to theirs or vice versa as well.
Deciding on the mobile OS to invest in also dictates what sort of app developers you hire, though technically you can code on React Native, for example, to develop an app that works for both iOS and Android. Take note, however, that cross-platform app development may not be conducive for any future needs.
Additionally, depending on the mobile OS of your choice, you may need a business analyst to help with the business side.
9. Spend Time on App User Segmentation
Audience segmentation is more prominent in marketing and sales, but the same principle applies in app user segmentation. Users may be segmented by demographic (e.g., age) or location (i.e., your app is useful only locally) or some other meaningful way based on your goals.
User segmentation is crucial for personalization in terms of UX and marketing messaging.
Automated, personalized campaigns, when executed well, actually improve UX, after all. Even if you don’t plan on actively communicating marketing messaging to your users via your app, segmentation allows your marketing and sales teams to better learn about the various segments of your audience through their user data.
10. Define Any In-App Purchase Options
According to Statista, mobile apps will generate more than $613 billion in revenues by 2025. The most common monetization strategies are in-app purchases, in-app advertising, and subscriptions. You should strongly consider defining any in-app purchase or advertising options for your mobile app, as these serve as potential revenue streams and definitely as user data streams for your business. With an active or passive role, that impacts your bottom line.
It All Starts With Your Mobile App Developers
This guide serves as a good starting point if you’re looking to begin developing a mobile app, but you already know that the mobile developers you hire will make or break your project. The people behind an effort are always the linchpin that dictates its outcome. And you should be aware there’s a tech talent crunch around the world today that is only expected to continue for the next couple of years.
To say it’s challenging to hire software developers and mobile app developers is an understatement. How about you expand your market? Revelo can help solve your tech talent hunting issues by sourcing the top mobile app developers in Latin America. Having worked with some of the top tech talent in the world, Revelo is perfectly positioned to help you build remote mobile application development teams cost-efficiently.
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