In today’s world, it is almost impossible to imagine life without mobile apps. From ordering food to booking a vacation, there is an app for almost everything. According to Statista, the number of mobile app downloads worldwide is projected to reach 299 billion in 2023, up from 260 billion in 2021. This shows the increasing demand for mobile apps and the potential for businesses to reach their customers through mobile app development.
Mobile app development is the process of developing software for smartphones and tablets. It involves conceptualizing, designing, building, testing, and launching a mobile app that meets the needs of its target audience.
In this guide, we will take you through the step-by-step process of mobile app development in 2023, from ideation to launch. Whether you are a business owner looking to build an app to reach your customers or an aspiring app developer, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to succeed in the world of mobile app development.
1) Mobile app development lifecycle in 2023
The mobile app development lifecycle refers to the various stages that an app goes through from ideation to launch and beyond. These stages can be divided into the following steps:
A. Idea generation
This is the first and most crucial step in the mobile app development process. It involves coming up with an idea for an app that meets a specific need or solves a particular problem.
B. Market research
Once you have an idea for an app, it is important to conduct market research to determine the demand for your app, your target audience, and your competitors. This will help you refine your app idea and ensure that it is viable.
C. Define your minimum viable product (MVP)
An MVP is a small version of your app that includes only the most essential features. The purpose of an MVP is to test your app idea with a smaller group of users to gather feedback and make necessary improvements before launching the full version of the app.
D. Analysis and planning
In this step, you will analyze your MVP and plan the development of your full app. This includes determining the scope of the project, creating a project timeline, and estimating costs.
E. UX/UI design
User experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design are crucial components of mobile app development. UX design focuses on creating a seamless and intuitive experience for users, while UI design involves creating the visual elements of the app, such as the layout and color scheme.
F. App development
This is the actual process of building the app. It involves coding and integrating the various features and functions of the app.
G. Testing and debugging
Before launching the app, it is essential to test and debug it to ensure that it is free of errors and meets the requirements of your target audience.
Once the app is fully developed and tested, it is ready to be launched in the app store.
I. Maintenance and updates
Even after the app is launched, it is important to regularly update and maintain it to improve its performance and address any issues that may arise.
2) Mobile app development platforms
There are several platforms available for developing mobile apps, each with its own set of tools and resources. The most popular platforms are:
iOS is the operating system for Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. To develop an app for iOS, you will need to use the iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) and Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment (IDE).
Android is the operating system for a wide range of devices, including smartphones and tablets. To develop an app for Android, you will need to use the Android SDK and an IDE such as Android Studio.
Windows is the operating system for a range of devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. To develop an app for Windows, you will need to use the Windows SDK and Visual Studio, Microsoft’s IDE.
3) Alternative mobile app development platforms
In addition to the traditional platforms mentioned above, there are several alternatives available for developing mobile apps. These alternatives include :
A) Native apps
Native apps are apps that are developed specifically for a particular platform, such as iOS or Android. They are developed using the native programming language and tools of the platform, such as Swift for iOS and Java for Android.
B) Cross-platform apps
Cross-platform apps are apps that can be used on multiple platforms, such as iOS, Android, and Windows. They are developed using frameworks and tools that allow for the creation of a single codebase that can be compiled for multiple platforms.
C) Hybrid apps
D) Progressive web apps (PWAs)
Progressive web apps are web applications that use modern web technologies to deliver a native app-like experience to users. They are designed to be fast, reliable, and work offline, and can be installed on a device like a native app.
4) Mobile app development process
Mobile app development is the process of building software that can be installed on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. The process involves several steps, including:
A. Build an app development strategy
This involves defining the goals and objectives of the app, identifying the target audience, and creating a plan for development and marketing. This step is important for setting the direction for the project and ensuring that it meets the needs of the business and users.
B. Brainstorm your app idea
This involves coming up with ideas for the app, considering what features and functionality it will have, and determining how it will solve a problem or meet a need for users. This step is crucial for identifying the value proposition of the app and determining its unique selling points.
C. Market research
This involves researching the market to understand the competition and potential demand for the app. This can include analyzing industry trends and conducting user surveys or focus groups to gather insights on user needs and preferences. Market research helps businesses understand their target market and identify opportunities for differentiation.
D. Define your minimum viable product (MVP)
This involves identifying the core features and functionality that are essential to the app, and building a basic version of the app that can be tested and refined. The MVP is a way for businesses to test their app idea with a smaller investment of time and resources, gather user feedback, and iterate on the design and functionality based on user needs.
E. Analysis and plan your app development
This involves creating a detailed plan for the development process, including timelines, budgets, and resources. This step involves breaking down the project into smaller tasks, identifying dependencies, and establishing clear goals and milestones.
F. Build UX/UI design
This involves designing the user experience and user interface of the app, including the layout, graphics, and overall look and feel. The UX/UI design process typically involves creating wireframes, style guides, mockups, and prototypes to visualize and test the app design.
♦ What is user experience design?
User experience (UX) design is the process of designing and optimizing the user experience of a product or service. In the context of mobile app development, UX design involves designing the overall look and feel of the app, as well as the way it functions and how users interact with it.
The goal of UX design is to create a seamless and intuitive user experience that meets the needs of the users and provides value to the business. UX designers use a variety of techniques and tools, including user research, wireframing, prototyping, and usability testing, to create and refine the design of the app.
♦ What is user interface design?
User interface (UI) design is designing and optimizing the visual and interactive elements of a product or service. In the context of mobile app development, UI design involves creating the look and feel of the app, including the layout, graphics, and overall aesthetic.
The aim of UI design is to create an aesthetically pleasing and intuitive user interface that provides value to the business. UI designers use a variety of techniques and tools, including color theory, typography, and layout design, to create and refine the visual design of the app.
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5) Mobile app design process
The mobile app design process involves several steps, including:
A. Research and planning
This involves gathering insights on the target audience and the goals and objectives of the app, and creating a plan for the design process. This step is important for understanding the needs and preferences of the users and determining the direction for the app’s design.
Wireframing involves creating simple, low-fidelity prototypes of the app to visualize the layout and flow of the app. Wireframes are used to test and iterate on the app design before building the final version.
Prototyping involves creating a functional, interactive version of the app to test and refine the design and functionality. Prototyping allows designers to test the app with users and gather feedback before building the final version.
D. User testing
User testing involves testing the app with users to ensure it is easy to use and meets the needs of the target audience. This can include testing the app’s navigation, user flows, and overall usability.
Based on the feedback gathered during user testing, the design team will make any necessary refinements to the app’s design. This may involve making changes to the layout, graphics, or overall aesthetic of the app.
F. Final design
Once the design has been refined and all necessary changes have been made, the final design is created. This includes the creation of all necessary graphics and assets, as well as the development of style guides and design guidelines to ensure consistency in the app’s design.
The final design is then implemented in the app development process, using the programming language and tools specific to the platform.
H. Begin app development
This involves building the app using the programming language and tools specific to the platform and integrating any necessary backend services and APIs. This step involves technical architecture, technology stack, and development milestones.
Furthermore, most app development projects have three integral parts;
- Backend development
- Frontend development
- Application Programming Interface (APIs)
♦ What is mobile app backend development?
Mobile app backend development refers to the activities that take place behind the scenes when a user interacts with a mobile app. It involves building and maintaining the server-side infrastructure that enables the app to access, process, and store data.
The front end of a mobile app is what users see and interact with. It includes the user interface, layout, and graphics of the app. The backend, on the other hand, is responsible for storing, securing, and processing data. It enables the app to perform tasks and access data that are not possible on the device itself.
Backend development involves setting up and configuring the server or cloud infrastructure, developing and testing APIs to enable communication between the app and the backend, setting up and managing the database, and implementing security measures to protect data and prevent unauthorized access.
Some examples of tasks that are performed in the backend of a mobile app include sending information for processing on the server, handling user sign-ups and logins, enabling messaging and communication, storing data on the cloud, and answering user queries.
Apps like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber require a connected backend to function, while apps like a calculator, camera, notes, compass, and voice recorder do not. These apps can run without a backend as they do not require network connectivity or the need to store or retrieve data from a remote server.
♦ What is mobile app frontend development?
Mobile app frontend development refers to the process of creating the user interface, layout, and graphics of a mobile app. It is the part of the app that users see and interact with, and it involves a range of technologies and tools to build and design the app’s visual elements and user experience.
When choosing a programming language for mobile app frontend development, it’s important to consider the capabilities of the language and how well it can be leveraged for the desired platform.
Mobile app frontend development is an important aspect of app development as it plays a crucial role in the overall user experience of the app. A well-designed and intuitive frontend can make the app more engaging and user-friendly, while a poorly designed frontend can lead to user frustration and abandonment.
♦ What is mobile app API development?
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a set of protocols and tools that enable communication between different software systems. In the context of mobile app development, APIs are used to enable communication between the mobile app and the backend services, allowing the app to access data and perform tasks.
Mobile apps today rely heavily on backend services, web services, or APIs to communicate with servers and perform various tasks. APIs can be provided by external companies such as Amazon, Google, or Facebook, or they can be developed internally by mobile app development teams.
One common approach to mobile API development is using RestAPI, which allows users to quickly and easily connect with a remote cloud data server. However, making network requests through APIs can present some challenges if not done correctly. When developing mobile APIs, it is important to consider the following:
APIs should be designed with security in mind to protect data and prevent unauthorized access.
APIs should be optimized for performance to ensure that they respond quickly and efficiently to requests from the mobile app.
APIs should be able to handle an increasing volume of requests as the app grows in popularity.
- Error handling
APIs should be designed to handle errors gracefully and provide appropriate responses to the mobile app.
APIs should be well-documented to enable developers to understand how to use them effectively.
♦ Should you buy or build APIs?
The decision to buy or build APIs for a mobile app will depend on various factors, including the resources and expertise available, the specific needs of the app, and the cost and time involved.
Here are some considerations to help you decide whether to buy or build APIs for your mobile app:
Building APIs requires expertise in web development and API design. If your team does not have the necessary skills and resources, it may be more efficient to buy APIs from an external provider.
- Time and cost
Building APIs can be time-consuming and may require a significant investment in development resources. Buying APIs can save time and reduce costs, especially if you can find an API that meets your needs out-of-the-box.
If you need to build APIs that are highly customized to the specific needs of your app, it may be more efficient to build them in-house. Buying APIs may not provide the level of customization you need, and you may have to build additional functionality on top of the API.
If you are integrating with a third-party service or platform, you may need to use APIs provided by that service. In this case, you may not have the option to build your own APIs.
Ultimately, the decision to buy or build APIs will depend on the specific needs of your mobile app and the resources and expertise available to you. It may be more efficient to buy APIs if you do not have the necessary skills and resources to build them in-house, or if you can find an API that meets your needs out of the box.
On the other hand, if you need highly customized APIs or want to retain control over the API development process, it may be more efficient to build them in-house.
♦ Using common architecture
If you decide to build your own APIs for your mobile app, it can be beneficial to use a common architecture to streamline the development process. A common architecture provides a standard baseline that most developers are familiar with, which can help speed up the API development process.
There are several different types of common architectures, including pragmatic REST, web services, event-driven, and hypermedia. For mobile app development, pragmatic REST and event-driven architectures are the most commonly used.
Using a common architecture for your APIs can help you build scalable, reliable, and efficient mobile apps that are easy to develop and maintain. It can also make it easier to onboard new developers to the project and ensure that the APIs are consistent and well-documented.
♦ Documenting the mobile API development process
Documenting the API development process is important for several reasons. Firstly, it helps to keep track of the history and current state of the API, Secondly, clear documentation can help others understand and use your API. Finally, documenting the API development process can also help to ensure that the API is consistent and well-designed.
Overall, documenting the mobile API development process is an important part of building and maintaining a successful API. It can help you keep track of the API’s history and current state, enable others to use your API, and ensure that the API is well-designed and easy to use.
♦ Focusing on security
Security is a crucial aspect of mobile API development, whether you are using an existing API or building your own. It is important to implement security measures such as access control mechanisms, privacy controls, and secret keys to ensure that the API is secure and protected from unauthorized access.
There are API standards such as OAuth2, TLS (Transport Layer Security), and OpenID that can make API integration simpler and more secure. These standards provide a set of guidelines and protocols for secure API development and can help to ensure that the API is secure and compliant with industry standards.
By focusing on security, you can help to protect your API and the data it handles, and ensure that it is a reliable and secure foundation for your mobile app.
6) Testing the developed app
After developing a mobile app, it is important to ensure that the quality of the app meets the desired standards. This is where quality assurance (QA) comes in, as it helps to ensure the reliability, stability, and usability of the app.
There are several different types of testing that can be performed on a mobile app, including manual testing and automated testing. The choice of testing method depends on the nature of the app and the type of testing required.
To ensure that the app is of high quality, it is important to follow a complete testing cycle that addresses all aspects of the app. This can include functional testing, performance testing, security testing, usability testing, and compatibility testing.
Some of the major testing methods that are commonly used for mobile apps include:
A. Functional testing
Functional testing verifies that the app functions correctly and meets the requirements specified in the design. This testing method helps to ensure that the app behaves as it should and meets the needs of users. Some key aspects of functional testing include:
- Installation and initialization of the app on all distribution channels
- Testing of business functionality and features
- Testing for any possible interruptions
- Testing of necessary device resources
- Testing of fields, parameters, and user feedback fields
- Testing of possible updates for each distribution channel
B. Performance testing
Performance testing allows you to check the consistency and stability of an app under different load conditions. It helps to ensure that the app performs as expected and meets the needs of users. Some key aspects of performance testing include:
- Volume testing to check the app’s performance under a high volume of data
- Load testing to check the speed of the app under normal and extreme load
- Testing the response time of the app in all conditions
- Concurrency testing to check how the app’s performance changes with multiple users logged in
- Testing the battery usage of the app to prevent battery drain or memory leaks.
- Stability testing to ensure the app behaves normally under all conditions
♦ User experience & interface testing
The main aim of UX/UI testing is to check if the final implementation is matching the envisioned or proposed design. Here are some points to consider when testing the user experience and interface of a mobile app:
- Testing flows, visual interaction, and ease of navigation to ensure that the app is easy to use and navigate
- Checking the consistency in design, fonts, icons, etc. across the app to ensure a cohesive look and feel
- Interface testing to ensure that the color scheme, design, and overall appearance are in line with the theme of the app
- Testing the interaction speed and navigation clarity to ensure that the app is responsive and user-friendly
- Ensuring that the design guidelines are strictly followed in the final design of the app to maintain a consistent and professional appearance.
♦ Documentation testing
It is the process of verifying that the documentation for a mobile application accurately reflects the requirements, screen layouts, specifications, and client needs of the final developed application. Some points it includes are
- Verifying that the documentation accurately reflects the requirements and specifications of the developed application
- Checking for any discrepancies or inconsistencies in the documentation
- Testing the navigation flow, screen layouts, and other design elements to ensure they match the documentation
- Reviewing the overall completeness and accuracy of the documentation
- Ensuring that the design of the application matches the requirements outlined in the documentation.
C. Security testing
The main goal of security testing is to identify and fix any vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the mobile app that could potentially compromise the security of sensitive data or leave the app open to attacks from hackers. There are several different methods that can be used to test the security of a mobile app, including
D. Vulnerability scanning:
This involves using specialized tools to scan the app and identify any potential vulnerabilities.
E. Code review
This involves manually reviewing the code of the app to identify any potential security issues.
F. Penetration testing
This involves simulating an attack on the app to identify any weaknesses that can be exploited.
G. Risk assessment
This involves evaluating the risks associated with the app and identifying any measures that can be taken to mitigate those risks.
H. Usability testing
This type of testing checks that the app is easy to use and navigate for users.
I. Compatibility testing
It is also called configuration testing. It allows checking if the app is compatible with different devices, operating systems, and screen sizes.It ensures that the app performs as expected on different devices and detects any missing features. Some aspects of configuration testing include:
- Testing the compatibility of the app with different devices and operating systems
- Checking the compatibility of the app with different screen sizes and resolutions
- Ensuring the app works smoothly on different network connections and internet speeds
- Testing the app’s compatibility with different hardware components, such as sensors and cameras
- Verifying that the app is compatible with different versions of the operating system and can be upgraded as needed
- Checking for compatibility with different third-party apps or services that may be required for the app to function correctly.
J. Platform testing
Platform testing is important to ensure that the app is compatible with a wide range of devices and can be used by a diverse group of users. The aspects covered in platform testing include:
- Testing the app on different devices to ensure it works correctly on various hardware and software configurations
- Testing the app on different operating systems to ensure compatibility and proper functioning
- Ensuring the app works correctly on different screens sizes and resolutions
- Testing the app’s compatibility with various network conditions and carriers
- Checking the app’s compatibility with different languages and locales
- Testing the app’s performance under various conditions, such as low memory or battery levels, to ensure it can handle unexpected scenarios.
K. Recovering testing
Recovery testing is a crucial step in the mobile application development process to ensure that the app can handle and recover from errors or failures. By conducting recovery testing, developers can ensure that their app is robust and able to function smoothly even in the face of unexpected challenges. Some aspects it includes are;
- Testing the app’s ability to recover from hardware and software failures
- Checking the app’s ability to recover from communication errors with the device
- Testing the app’s recovery capabilities after unexpected shutdowns or crashes
- Verifying that the app can recover data and restore functionality after a failure
- Ensuring that the app can handle errors and exceptions in a graceful and efficient manner
L. Beta testing
With beta testing, the application is tested by real users in a real-world environment to ensure that it performs well in terms of reliability, security, functionality, and compatibility. Beta testing is typically the final stage of testing before the app is released to the general public. It includes:
- Testing the app’s performance under real-world conditions
- Gathering feedback from users about the app’s usability and overall user experience
- Identifying and fixing any remaining issues or bugs before the app is released to the public.
M. Testing phase
Mobile app testing phases refer to the different steps involved in evaluating the quality of a mobile application. It consists of various steps to ensure the quality of the final app. Below are a few of the steps.
♦ Test scope
The scope of testing is crucial in the mobile application development process as it helps to define the parameters, features, or functionalities that will be tested.
It allows the team to determine which test methods need to be used, whether it be functional testing, performance testing, security testing, or a combination of various methods. By narrowing down the scope of testing, it becomes easier to ensure that the final product is of high quality and meets the desired specifications.
Some parameters to consider when defining the scope of testing for a mobile app include:
♦ Type of app
Is the app a native app or a hybrid app? This will determine the platforms and devices that need to be tested.
♦ Interactions with other apps
Does the app interact with other apps on the device or require specific permissions or integrations?
♦ Network compatibility
Does the app require a network connection to function properly, and if so, what types of networks (e.g. Wi-Fi, cellular) need to be tested?
♦ Testing front-end and back-end
Do you need to test the user interface (front-end) or the server-side functionality (back-end) of the app?
♦ Device, operating system, and version coverage
What devices, operating systems, and versions need to be tested to ensure compatibility and performance?
♦ Location coverage
Will the app be used in multiple locations, and if so, what locations need to be tested?
After the test scope, creating a plan is the next step for testers. The planning stage of mobile application testing involves identifying the most appropriate testing methodology for the specific requirements of the mobile app, writing and choosing test cases tailored to the specific app, and deciding whether to conduct testing in-house manually or use software tools.
- Deciding on the type of testing tools that will be used
- Estimating the time required for testing
- Determining the budget for testing
- Developing a test plan document that outlines the entire process, including the test scope, test cases, testing method, and testing team.
After planning the strategy, it’s time for executing the entire testing process. The execution phase can be successfully carried out only if the scope and testing methodologies are clearly defined. Testing execution focuses on the specifications of the devices, platforms, or operating systems on which the application is to be tested.
- Implementing different testing methodologies based on the scope and priority of the project
- Identifying areas for improvement and adjusting testing objectives as needed
- Regularly sending test results to facilitate prompt deployment of changes
- Maintaining a continuous testing process from the beginning of development to the end of deployment
After the testing process has been completed, it is important to carefully analyze and record the results and any errors that were found. This process, known as tracking, involves prioritizing the results based on their severity and the need for immediate action.
- Prioritizing defects as Low, Medium, High, or Blocker
- Resolving defects based on their priority, including even minor issues such as spelling mistakes
- Keeping a record of defects to ensure that they are addressed in a timely manner
- Selecting a trustworthy partner to track testing results
After the testing run is completed and all defects have been addressed or logged, it is time for the review process. During the review, a summary report of the entire testing process should be created and reviewed in order to gain a better understanding of any errors or issues with the mobile application. Key elements to include in the review document include:
- Information on the devices, operating systems, and versions on which the mobile application has been tested
- A summary of all tests conducted, including the results
- The total number of tests conducted, along with the software used and results in
- A final assessment of whether the mobile application is ready to be released or if further improvements are needed
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7) Mobile App Deployment
Deploying a mobile application, also known as launching it, can be a challenging task, particularly if the app is complex and required extensive testing. Here is a brief guide to help you successfully launch your mobile app:
- Make sure the app passes all deployment tests. If you have written end-to-end unit and integration tests, ensure that their output is checked and any issues are addressed.
- Rebuild the application. Sometimes, code obfuscation tools like ProGuard can remove code during the build process, which can cause the app to crash. Be sure to avoid shrinking code at the expense of usability.
- Set up continuous integration (CI) flow using tools like Jenkins, Bitrise, CircleCI, Travis, or Bitbucket Pipelines if you already have a server.
- Perform static code analysis using tools like Lint, ktlint, pmd, checkstyle, findbugs, detekt, gradle-static-analysis-plugin, OCLint, tailor, Swiftlint, Clang Static Analyzer, Infer, Swift Format, Swimat, or FauxPas.
- Prepare a product version of your mobile app for internal testing and use crash reporting tools like Instabug or Fabric.
- Automate the build process using tools like Fastlane, which can help with tasks such as creating screenshots, beta deployment, App Store/Google Play deployment, and code signing.
- Monitor user engagement using tools like Google Analytics, Fabric, Amazon Pinpoint, or Mixpanel to gather insights such as active users, session intervals, time spent using the app, retention, conversion, and lifetime value.
Best practices for mobile app deployment
Mobile app deployment involves releasing the app to users and making it available for download. To ensure long-term success for your mobile app, it is important to focus on minimizing uninstalls, delivering a great user experience, staying competitive, and maximizing financial benefits.
There are several best practices that can help ensure a successful deployment:
I. Thoroughly test the app before deployment: Make sure to test the app thoroughly, including conducting unit and integration tests and testing on multiple devices and operating systems, to catch any issues or bugs.
II. Use continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) tools: CI/CD tools like Jenkins, CircleCI, and Travis can help automate the build and deployment process, reducing the risk of errors.
III. Perform static code analysis: Static code analysis tools can help identify potential issues or vulnerabilities in the code before deployment.
IV. Prepare for different deployment environments: Test the app in different deployment environments, such as development, staging, and production, to ensure that it will perform as expected in each environment.
V. Monitor app performance: Use tools like Google Analytics or Fabric to track app performance and identify any issues that may arise after deployment.
VI. Use crash reporting tools: Crash reporting tools like Instabug or Fabric can help identify any issues that may cause the app to crash and provide valuable insights for fixing the issue.
VII. Automate tasks: Automating tasks like creating screenshots, beta deployment, and code signing can save time and reduce the risk of errors during the deployment process.
VIII. Consider using a mobile app management (MAM) tool: MAM tools can help with tasks like distributing the app to users, enforcing security policies, and tracking app usage and performance.
In this guide, we have provide a step-by-step process for mobile app development in 2023. It is important to keep up with the latest technology trends and tools to stay relevant in the mobile app development industry.
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