From Idea to App Store: The Mobile App Development Process

From Idea to App Store: The Mobile App Development Process
Laura Marshall Nyble
Laura Marshall
February 3, 2023

We get asked this question all the time, and rightly so! Building an app is complex and daunting to the uninitiated. That’s where we can help - in our step by step guide outlining the typical phases of the development process.

A quick warning to any keen developers reading this article: we’re not going into any technical details - we’ll save that for another day.

1.It all starts with an idea - You might be here because you already have an idea for a new mobile app. If not, don't worry, the ideas will come! The best starting point is to look for aspects of your life or work that would be enhanced with an app.

In business you might be looking for ways to scale more quickly. A typical example we see often is the need to manage a large number of employees or contractors with things like rotas, messaging and reporting back during the day - tools like Whatsapp and spreadsheets start to become too cumbersome after a while and hinder growth.

Outside of work, you might have a particular hobby or interest which would be easier or more fun if there was an accompanying mobile app: why not start a stamp collecting community for example!

You’re also allowed to take inspiration from existing apps in the market - some of the best products and apps are improvements on an original. Think iPods - not the first mp3 player but certainly the most successful.

2. Do your research - Analyse your competitors', especially customer reviews and identify what they are doing well. Can you also learn where they are going wrong and how they could improve? Use this to help optimise your own development plans.

It’s also key to understand what you really need the app to do. This is especially important if the app is supporting your business - we highly recommend setting aside time by yourself (or with your team) without distraction to think through these questions:

  • What is the vision for the app - if there were no barriers what would your app be able to do, what features would it have?
  • Who are your users? What do they want to get out of the app?
  • What do the results of your market research show?
  • When do you want to launch your app? - timing may determine what you’re able to achieve.

3. Define your core app features - The next step is to use the answers to the questions in the research stage to outline exactly how you want your app to deliver value to the users.

Start by taking the list of features and deciding whether it is a feature that is critical in order for the app to work, a feature that the user would reasonably expect to be there, or something that would be nice/not needed right now. By the end of this exercise you should be clear on where to focus your efforts when developing and, in theory, you could stop development once the critical items are complete and you’d still have a working app.

We’d highly recommend having a neutral party join you in this process to challenge any decisions you make.

When done properly, it is often surprising which features end up being “core”.

4. Design mockups - Next it's time to design how your app is going to be displayed. You should focus on creating a simple, intuitive, user friendly, and aesthetically pleasing product. This is way easier said than done and if you don’t have this skill set it will be important to reach out to someone who does.

Test your design on a few people and get feedback in order to iterate and improve it as much as possible before the development even starts.

5. App creation - Finally the time has come to bring your ideas to life. There are several development options available. You might have your own team of developers to hand, or perhaps you’re able to do it yourself. If not, working closely with a software development company like Nyble will give you the ultimate development experience - speed, quality and of course, support on all the other steps of the process.

We recommend using an Agile development approach. This style of development needs a whole blog series on its own but, in short, you’re looking to very rapidly build a working prototype and then iterate quickly with new working prototypes created regularly so you can be testing and tweaking whilst development continues.

The alternative approach of developing everything in one go and waiting until the end for a product you can test is sure to lead to disappointment and costly revisions.

6. Testing - The need to test your app thoroughly cannot be over exaggerated. Start testing as early as possible in the process… as soon as you have something that can be interacted with. Ideally you’d even use a style of development known as test-driven development (too technical for this article - but results in much more stable apps).

Eventually you’ll be at a point where you can invite real users to test a beta version of your app. Pick users that will be honest with you but that are also sympathetic to what you’re trying to do and likely to really give the app a full spin.

First impressions are crucial and the last thing you want is your app to fail. The testing process should ensure your app is working as expected and that it will run smoothly once in the hands of the users.

7. Launch - You’ve made it! You’ll need some good screenshots of the app, a good name and description. Once you’ve signed up for an Apple Developer and Android Developer account you’ll be only a few clicks away from releasing your app to the world! Grab something with bubbles and celebrate!

8. Maintenance - Depending on how many users your app has, you’re likely to start getting feedback almost immediately. It’s important to monitor that feedback and your app’s performance in order to update and improve your product . Due to the evolving nature of technology, you’ll also need to bear in mind that mobile operating systems are updated regularly and often with short notice. Having support to update for changes that impact your app will be key.

It might sound overwhelming but the process is a lot of fun - especially with Nyble at your side. If you have plans for a mobile app, be sure to reach out to us, we’d love to discuss it with you and help you make it a big success.