So, you have a rad new mobile app idea. What’s next? Bringing your idea to fruition!
At this stage, you are ready to usher your app idea through seven development stages. However, understanding the mobile app development process helps you set the right expectations for your team, reduce the time and effort of development, and get a heads-up on the potential hurdles.
With a track record of more than 300 projects, Orangesoft has driven mobile apps from A to Z quite a few times. That’s why we’ve decided to shed light on mobile app development stages and share our time-tested tips and tricks for supercharging and de-risking your mobile app development process.
It all starts with the right app development approach
During an app development project, you'll have to make hundreds of decisions. Choosing the right development approach is one of those make-or-break commitments that impact the entire application development process. Some approaches or methodologies offer more flexibility, while others focus on documentation and defined product criteria.
According to Statista, Waterfall, Agile, and Aglie-based approaches like Kanban are the leading software development methodologies most teams practice. Let’s examine each closely and see how well they complement mobile development.
The Waterfall methodology follows a sequential, linear process where your development team consistently transitions from one stage to another. With this method, you must complete the stage before moving on to the next step.
This approach doesn’t allow for dynamic, real-time changes and scope adjustments. Instead, the team opts to accommodate changes after the release of the initial product.
Although upfront project planning makes project management and measuring progress easier, this approach introduces high risk and uncertainty for projects with evolving requirements. Simply put, you won’t be able to adjust your vision to customer feedback or other insights until the product is out.
Agile (and the like)
A favorite of teams, Agile is an umbrella term and a philosophy that revolves around incremental, iterative development. Instead of rigid planning, Agile focuses on flexibility, allowing teams to change requirements over time based on user feedback.
Using this method, cross-functional teams work in iterations to produce a working product at the end of each iteration. The main characteristics of Agile software development include:
- Wide choice of Agile software methodologies (Scrum, Lean Software Development, etc)
- Enhanced flexibility and adaptability to the changes during the development
- Greater focus on customer needs and feedback
- Short, fixed-length sprints to accelerate the delivery
- Frequent and early testing to improve the quality of the product
Due to the flexibility of the approach, Agile is a perfect match for projects where there is a lot of uncertainty around achieving the end goal. In this case, the development team helps the client gradually shape the product's vision based on analysis and customer feedback. Usually, an app development team uses a combination of Agile methodologies for their projects.
Scrum is a preferred methodology for implementing complex, dynamic projects. As an Agile-based approach, Scrum helps the team to deliver value incrementally in a collaborative way. A scrum team works in sprints.
Sprints are short, fixed periods during which the team completes a set amount of work. This method allows the team to regularly push out workable software.
As Scrum is rooted in Agile, it also focuses on early delivery, continuous improvement, early issue resolution, and visibility into the process and the current state of the product.
As a complementary framework, Kanban is laid on top of other methodologies to deliver complete visibility into the project's progress. Essentially, it is a visual method for managing and organizing work. Team members can view the status of every piece of work at any time using a Kanban board.
Kanban helps teams break a project into smaller, more manageable stages and establish the grounds for iterative development. Work items are represented visually on a board, allowing team members to see the state of every piece of work at any time.
This approach is the most flexible way to manage a project and helps prevent bottlenecks. Hence, seasoned T-shaped teams typically use this framework to minimize task overload.
Lean, another Agile-based methodology, allows teams to slash the development effort, costs, and unnecessary features. The Lean methodology has an iterative development process at heart, supported by specific quality standards and close collaboration between the project stakeholders.
The principles of Lean development include:
- Eliminating waste (saying goodbye to anything that doesn’t add value to the customer)
- Focus on learning and client feedback to make data-informed decisions
- The project is seen as a whole, with each stage aligned with the full-scale vision
- Focus on building quality through incremental development, test-driven development, and other techniques
Among the main benefits of Lean is accelerated product delivery. Also, according to researchers Peter Middleton and David Joyce, this methodology increases software development speed by 37%.
Keep in mind that it’s not enough to know the pros and cons of each methodology to make the right choice. The development approach is selected based on the requirements of your product, business specifics, existing resources, preferred release cadence, and other factors. An experienced development team led by a skilled project manager will help you make the right call and maximize the success of your product.
7 mobile app development phases that turn your app idea into a successful product
No matter how cool and innovative your app idea is, it won’t see the light of day unless it goes through an effective development process. At Orangesoft, the software development life cycle includes seven key stages. These include ideation, planning, prototyping, design, app development and testing, product release, and post-release improvements.
At our company, the development process is Agile-driven. Therefore, stages may overlap and are repeated in cycles, building on each other.
#1 Ideation or discovery: Shaping your vision (1-2 weeks)
A comprehensive, well-planned discovery stage is like building a house foundation: without it, your initiative would collapse shortly after its onset. At this stage, you and your development team put the app idea on paper, ensuring it aligns with your business goals, market trends, and target audience.
In the discovery stage, you create a blueprint for your mobile app development project. This phase is all about researching, analyzing, and fitting the findings into the bigger picture of your product.
Creating an effective product strategy and setting direction requires your development team to look into the following areas:
- The state of the market, including trends, dynamics, and saturation
- Potential competitors (both direct and indirect) to see how your app idea stacks up against the competition and what core features similar products bundle
- Target audience analysis to uncover the pain points, needs, and expectations of the users
During this phase, you gain a detailed understanding of your user persona and the stages your customers go through when interacting with your company. Based on the findings, you also identify your mobile product's unique value proposition. Then, your development team helps you identify the right monetization strategies and success metrics.
If your product idea is one-of-a-kind, your development team can also develop a proof of concept during the discovery stage to see whether it’s technically feasible.
This phase finalizes with developing a product brief that includes the key idea of your mobile application, its users, preferred development process, and other pointers. The more comprehensive your brief is, the easier and faster it will be to identify the scope of your project and source detailed requirements.
#2 Planning: Allocating development resources (2 weeks)
The planning stage also dots the i’s and crosses the t’s of the project scope — which is then documented in the software requirements specification (SRS). The latter describes what the software will do and how it is expected to perform. The SRS also outlines technical requirements and lists the non-negotiables for a successful technical implementation of your idea.
#3 Prototyping: Walking a mile in the user’s shoes (2 weeks)
The mobile app design process begins with thorough quantitative and qualitative UX research to determine users’ motivations, needs, and behaviors. The research informs the product design process and ensures your app’s interface aligns with how users interact with the product in the real world.
This mobile app development stage continues with wireframes that demonstrate each screen's basic functionality and content layout. The wireframes then undergo rigorous UX testing to gain early feedback and iron out UX issues while they are still cheap to fix.
Wireframes are then combined into prototypes — visual mock-ups showcasing the app's fundamental design and functions. App prototyping minimizes the risk of reworks and revisions later in the development and ensures that all project stakeholders are on the same page.
During this stage, your development team should test the prototypes to get validation from real-world users through feedback and surveys.
#4 Design: Honing the visual identity of your product (2-3 months)
Once your application prototype is tested, the design team creates detailed layouts to demonstrate the look and feel of each screen for further development. Design layouts also include templates, UI kits, and all other visual aspects of the user interface.
At this stage, your design team also creates a UI style guide that documents all design elements and product interactions. The style guide forms a base for design and implementation decisions for product owners, designers, and developers.
#5 MVP development and testing: Where it all comes together (4-6 months)
Using one of the prioritization techniques, your development team understands the minimum level of functionality your application needs to solve the core pain points of the users. According to the minimum viable product (MVP) approach, you do not need to address every problem at once.
The point is to launch an MVP valuable enough to the early customers so that you can gather feedback as early as possible and minimize the development costs.
At our company, the MVP development process goes alongside Scrum, whereby we work in time boxes called sprints that last about two weeks. At the end of each sprint, the team releases a Potentially Shippable Product Increment — a certain portion of value delivered for the customer.
This approach allows the team to ship software on a regular cadence, adapt to the changing requirements, and accelerate the time to market.
Product testing begins early in the development process to catch critical issues, increase product reliability and user experience, and improve development velocity.
#6 Product launch: Releasing your app into the wild
Once your MVP is all set for the big reveal, your development team will ensure it meets the app store's guidelines (Google Play Store or App Store) and submit it for approval. If you are building an application for a regulation-heavy industry, you should also check its compliance with the applicable laws before launching it to the audience.
#7 Measure and improve: Refining your product
MVP launch is not a fire-and-forget activity. When the application is up and running, your development team monitors its performance and carries out minor fixes.
After the launch, you should also monitor the key metrics such as MAUs, DAUs, retention, activation rate, conversion-to-install, and others to define the success of your product. Insights into conversions, activities, and usage can be gained through Firebase, Mixpanel, Amplitude or other behavioral data sources.
Customer feedback collection is another pillar of the post-launch stage. By analyzing it, you can understand whether your product's value proposition and feature set address the audience's needs.
Remember that putting your product in front of the audience doesn’t automatically trigger a stream of feedback. Until you have a large user base, you should make a strategic effort to collect enough feedback to inform decisions.
Once you have enough feedback to fuel your strategy, you should prioritize the findings and decide on the upcoming updates and releases. Your release cadence is usually reflected in a post-release roadmap that includes new improvements, features, and bug fixes planned for the next release cycles. Remember, a regular update cycle is key to maximizing the success of your product and keeping your customers happy.
What can go wrong — and how to make it right
Failure happens for many reasons, but there are some common patterns spotted in product flameouts. The question is: How can you avoid common pitfalls in your mobile app development? Let our experts tell you.
Blurred product vision
The main purpose of any mobile application is to deliver value — both to your company and the customer. Without a clear product vision and defined functionalities, you won’t be able to build a product that clicks with the needs. Also, a vague vision will result in chaos, where project stakeholders can’t keep up with the changing requirements.
To prevent this scenario, you need to pay due diligence to product analysis and requirements gathering during the discovery stage. This phase may not be as exciting as the actual development, but it’s crucial to gaining a clear understanding of the product.
Bad alignment with market needs
Nobody wants to build a product with no market potential. But it happens more often than you think. Companies jump right into the development without digging into the target market and researching its needs. The result is a fully functional product doomed to failure because it doesn’t bring value to the market.
To get a feel of the market, you need to understand the deepest pain points of the customers, define your product value, and test it early in the development process. That’s why we’re building an MVP — to test your hypothesis against the real market needs and continue with confidence.
Running out of cash
Some projects are halted because a company’s resources dry up. This halt often happens when product owners can’t prioritize the right features for a mobile app and stuff the solution with frills that bloat the product and guzzle up the money.
That’s why the discovery and planning stages are so important. During these mobile app development steps, your team chooses a set of must-have features that bring maximum value to your users and reduce your development costs.
The ongoing talent shortage also has a track record of stalling new projects due to the increased complexity of software development and the limited pool of qualified software experts. Things get even more complicated when you’re building large-scope projects with cutting-edge technologies.
To tackle this challenge, you should choose an end-to-end mobile app development partner with a complementary knowledge of other technologies. In this case, you won’t have to juggle between teams and can get your project delivered faster and in one place.
If you’re building a mobile app for a regulated industry, you’ll inevitably face the challenge of regulatory compliance. GDPR, HIPAA, SOX, and other regulations can shackle your project or lead to penalties unless you know how to navigate the regulatory landscape.
That’s why selecting a mobile product development partner with regulatory knowledge is essential. Don't fight the red tape alone.
Let Orangesoft guide your product to success
The mobile app development process is challenging, and dozens of substeps can go wrong. But with the right tech partner on board, you can more easily work your way up the development pipeline faster with less stress.
Don't hesitate to reach out if you need a mobile app development company with a product-first approach, technical chops, and a business mindset. We don’t believe in cookie-cutter solutions; instead, we tailor our approach to your project and help your initiative take off and grow.