What is mobile app development?
Mobile app development is the set of processes and procedures involved in writing software for small, wireless computing devices such as smartphones and other handheld devices.
Like web app development, mobile app development has its roots in more traditional software development. One fundamental difference, however, is that mobile apps are often written specifically to take advantage of the unique features of a particular mobile device. For example, a gaming app could be written to take advantage of the iPhone’s accelerometer, or a mobile health app could be written to take advantage of a smart watch’s temperature sensor.
Today, the two leading mobile platforms are Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Apple phones and tablets come preloaded with essential apps, including a full web browser and the Apple App Store. Android devices also come preloaded with similar apps, and you can install more using the Google Play Store.
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Types of mobile applications
In the early years of mobile apps, the only way to ensure that an app could work optimally on any device was to develop the app natively. This meant that new code had to be written specifically for each device’s specific processor. Today, most mobile applications developed are device independent.
This allows developers to use a single code base for Apple iOS, Google Android, and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). PWAs are designed to take advantage of the native features of mobile devices, without the need for the end user to visit an app store, make a purchase, and download the software locally. Instead, a PWA can be located with a search engine query and immediately accessible through a browser,
Like YouTube videos, PWA content is progressively downloaded, giving the end user a better user experience than a traditional website using responsive design. Progressive web apps can also be called instant mobile apps.
Before you develop an application, you must determine which type you will create. Below is a breakdown of various types of mobile app development technologies with information on each.
1. Native applications.
These apps are built using integrated development environments (IDEs) and languages for mobile operating systems like Apple iOS or Google Android. Native apps allow you to customize the features you need, but can be more expensive than other technologies.
2. Hybrid Applications.
3. Progressive Web Apps .
A PWA is a website that looks and behaves like a mobile app. These applications are developed with web technologies such as Facebook React.
4. Encapsulated applications.
A wrapped app runs inside a container app. Products like the Microsoft Power App drag-and-drop app creation tool allow less-experienced developers to create a mobile app quickly. But the lack of core OS isolation, OS lock-in, and relative newness could pose problems.
5. Frameworks and Libraries. You can use this boilerplate code written by someone else to speed up the development of a mobile app.
Costs of developing a mobile application
The cost of developing an app can range from next to nothing to millions of dollars; it all depends on the type of application and its intended use. Here’s a breakdown of the ranges you can expect to pay to build a mobile app:
1. No Code App Builders .
A developer does not need to know how to code if the app has basic feature requirements. Free tools like GoodBarber, Appery.io, Shoutem, Appy Pie, and BuildFire offer the freedom to create apps without having to learn Swift or other programming languages. Although these tools have limited functionality and cannot be used to build a game with no-code applications, the no-code approach will meet the needs of most organizations.
2. Business applications.
The concept of Citizen Developer, where anyone can create a mobile app, is exploding with tools like Amazon’s HoneyCode, Mendix, and Microsoft Power Suite. These devices offer drag and drop interfaces that can connect to data sources and manage the flow of content. The price is usually tied to a monthly subscription of less than $50.
3. Mobile optimized website.
Although it’s more convenient to create desktop and mobile websites, chances are the website content management tool you’re using has plugins you can buy for less than $100 to optimize your website for mobile devices.
4. Complex applications.
An application that requires features, such as 3D, gaming, or sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) , may need to be developed as a native application. The cost of a complex application is typically $250,000 or more. The price is directly related to the shortage of mobile developers.
What is the mobile app development process?
The following steps should help you develop the framework for creating an app.
1. Define your strategy based on the answers to these questions:
- What is the purpose of your application? What problems will it solve?
- Are there apps that perform this function? If so, what do they do well? What are they missing?
- Who is the app designed for?
- Will you hire developers or use an in-house team?
- What is your business model?
- How much are you willing to invest in the development of this application? Will you have investors?
- How long will it take to build this app?
- What is your marketing strategy?
- Designing your app for one of the app stores? If so, do you have the necessary license agreements and design and test criteria?
2. Select your team. If you are building this app on your own, do you need to hire a developer? A marketing person? If you’re building this app for your organization, will you have stakeholders from multiple departments involved in the process (ie C-tier, marketing, sales, IT)?
3. Brainstorm and outline how your mobile app will solve the problems you’ve identified and what features and functionality it will include. Prototyping can be as simple as using a whiteboard or paper to sketch out ideas, or tools like InVision, Balsamiq, or Adobe Experience Design. Consider the user experience when developing your vision. This includes aspects such as design, usability, security, and performance.
4. Develop your product roadmap using the findings from the previous step. This will allow you to create a step-by-step process for evaluating your priorities and deliverables.
5. Select the application development tools based on your requirements.
6. Start application development. An agile process is best for building applications. Adopt a DevOps mindset when building your app. DevOps is a modern delivery methodology that uses key features such as:
- apply automation whenever possible;
- use cloud services;
- work with open source tools;
- frequent communication with the team;
- continually test the code.
7. Build your prototype so you can share the app with your investors or other stakeholders. Use your feedback to refine app development and further test. This includes tests for functionality, performance, and ease of navigation.
8. Once the app passes these tests, it’s time to roll it out to users for official beta testing. This process includes multiple rounds of review and incorporation of user fixes before creating a deployable version of your application.
Once your application has undergone the necessary tests and reviews, it is ready to be deployed. At this point, create a channel for user feedback and provide ongoing support.