The mobile app market is full of users, as people shift to completing daily tasks on their phones rather than desktop computers. Smaller and more powerful devices can accompany us anywhere we go, putting the world at our fingertips. But the market is saturated, highly competitive, and ruthless particularly to newcomers. How should you approach developing a mobile app to maximize your chances of success? Let’s find out.
Choose the right platform
The first question you need to answer for your mobile app is what platform will be best for your business. The two main options are iOS and Android, although usually you’ll want to have an app for both. The real question is where to focus your efforts first, and to answer it, you need to think about your market, user group and future plans for the project.
According to the 2017 US Mobile App Report, iOS and Android users behave differently. The Android market is about twice as big as the iOS one, dominating particularly in developing countries in Asia and Africa. The main difficulty of developing an Android app is in making sure that it will look good on the huge variety of devices supporting the operating system. You need to contend with varying screen sizes and dimensions, different device capabilities and internal systems, as well as built-in software courtesy of the device’s producer. People with Android devices are not a uniform group.
iOS users, on the other hand, are more active and tend to spend more. As Apple caters to a somewhat more distinguishing clientele, they have very strict policies on security, notifications, and updates, among other things. The iOS experience is meant to be consistent, smooth and inspiring loyalty in users.
Looking at these factors, you need to consider who your target users are. Are they artistic types, likely to work on Apple computers and extend the experience to their mobile devices? Or are they interested in freedom of choice and customization, and thus more likely to choose Android phones? Perhaps you business plan assumes that you will start out with an Android app, because of the lower barrier to entry, and then move on to build an iOS version. These are all important considerations for when you are choosing your platform.
Other alternatives - hybrid apps and PWA
Their main advantage is that they work on the major mobile operating systems, and you don’t need to assign time and money to effectively developing a separate app for each platform. Hybrid app development allows you to share the codebase between different versions of the app, at least to some extent. This comes in handy when, for example, you need to introduce a major update, because you only have to do it once. Their disadvantages, however, include:
- a degree of dependency on internet connection, as some hybrid apps are, in fact, websites - but many aren’t (e.g. those built with React Native) and can offer a seamless, near-native offline experience;
- capability limitations - they rely on plugins to access device functionalities;
- user experience that may differ from that provided by native apps.
Progressive Web Apps are websites as well, and they come with even more functional limitations (e.g. lack of access to GPS). They can be built fast, however, and they offer a fantastic experience despite running in a browser. These apps offer push notifications, limited offline functionality, a better experience for users with weaker devices or worse internet connection. You can add a custom splash screen and an icon on the main screen, all without the need to download or install anything.
Things to keep in mind while developing a mobile app
Now that you’ve made your main choice and are building an iOS or Android app, there are some aspects of mobile development that deserve extra attention: setting up proper analytics, using a good QA process and maintaining code quality. Analyzing your users’ behavior and engagement is extremely useful, especially early on in the lifecycle of your app. You need to arm yourself with data on users’ behavior in order to make the best choices for your business. Use heat maps to make sure your users aren’t confused by your app’s design. Test the conversion of various calls-to-action and monitor your re-engagement by following user journey maps and making sure all your content is properly linked together. If you’ve chosen to go with PWAs, remember that these apps can be indexed by search engines and thus it’s important to work on your SEO.
Another crucial aspect of mobile app development is quality. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a saturated market and users are quick to judge a buggy app with a confusing design. Make sure you have a good quality assurance process set up, to catch issues before users have a chance to encounter them. QA procedures will also help you maintain high code quality, which will have a direct impact on the sustainability of your code base. Remember that the mobile app market is prone to rapid change. It’s likely that you will need to introduce new features to your product, and soon. Invest in a maintainable code base that’s easy to develop further, and you won’t have to worry about refactoring in the future.
Current trends in mobile app development
It’s rarely enough these days to build a simple responsive app in order to attract users. Many of us expect unique experiences and beautiful designs, as we’re both busy and spoiled with plenty of high-quality content. If you’re thinking about taking your mobile app to the next level in terms of technological advancement, consider these cutting-edge solutions:
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
This subfield of Artificial Intelligence deals with helping computers understand human languages. It’s a difficult task, because natural languages come with metaphors, synonyms, homonyms and various ungrammatical sayings, all of which can blur meaning. But by using Machine Learning and Deep Learning, we can take great strides in automatic translation, text summarization, and other fields. It gets particularly interesting when we add voice commands to the mix - voice is translated by various algorithms and Natural Language Processing is used to interpret the commands’ meaning. Smart homes and virtual assistants are both technologies dependant on NLP. Practical applications such as aids for the disabled can benefit from it greatly, as well.
Machine learning relies on algorithms and training data sets, which teach computers how to interact with data. This includes image recognition, facial recognition, voice recognition, automated image editing, autonomous cars, medical diagnosis, text segmentation, and more. Industries and fields that can take advantage of ML include fin-tech, marketing, and business intelligence. Machine Learning algorithms are often the first step to image processing and editing (e.g. face recognition, filters and changing backgrounds).
This is a subfield of Machine Learning and involves teaching computers to understand the content of various images. They can then classify the objects in those images, or even identify them. One example is handwriting recognition, which can be very useful for digitalizing handwritten text. Computer Vision can be applied in robotics, medical devices, as well as public safety and surveillance systems.
Augmented or Mixed Reality
You’ve probably heard of Pokemon Go, which makes use of augmented reality by overimposing digital images onto a real camera feed from your phone. Mixed reality is similar, but involves more interaction between real world objects and virtual overlays. This field has amazing potential for artistic initiatives and modern media, including advertising. Learning benefits from it, as well, by becoming fun and interactive. Maintenance work, e.g. in a data center or a factory, could be made much easier with special glasses providing information on various physical components of machines and devices.
Internet of Things
As the name suggests, IoT involves communication between various devices and a new level of control over the every-day objects that surround us in our daily lives. Smart homes, automated traffic lights and intelligent fridges are only a few examples of what we can achieve with this technology. In the world of business, IoT has a huge impact on workspace automation, industrial monitoring (e.g. for elimination of waste), and tracking high-value packages.
Hopefully this article has given you a good idea of what to consider when beginning the development of your mobile product. The world of mobile development offers so many possibilities that it’s easy to get lost in it. If you still feel confused, talk to your development team - chances are they have the knowledge you need to make even the most difficult decisions.
Want to develop your mobile app with us? Fantastic! iRonin’s mobile experts are firm believers in adapting to each project’s unique requirements and choosing solutions that support our clients’ business.