Updated: Jan 19, 2022
No matter the niche, creating and developing apps are an excellent way for businesses to serve and connect with their customers.
Statistics show that mobile devices like iPhones and Androids account for 68% of traffic in eCommerce stores. Fashion retailers are some of the biggest utilizers of mobile apps, converting at least 89.3% of their mobile traffic into sales.
The numbers speak for themselves, and they are a testament to the increasing relevance of mobile apps for businesses.
Companies use apps to stay ahead of consumer demand. Apps have tremendous potential when it comes to creating new businesses or expanding existing ones.
So, how can you leverage the power of apps for your business?
Read through our step-by-step guide on how you can develop and market your own app.
Define and refine your app idea
Do competitive market research
List and prioritize app features
Create design mockups
Create your app's graphic design
Produce an MVP
Build the app
Conduct a User Acceptance Test (UAT)
Submit your app to the mobile app stores
Improve your app with user feedback
Pre-launch email list
App Store Optimization (ASO)
Public relations (PR) and media kit
Influencer or affiliate marketing
Social media campaigns
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Whether you're a first-time builder or someone who needs to resuscitate a failed development attempt, this resource will guide you through the process.
How to Develop an App in 10 Easy Steps
1. Define and Refine Your App Idea
As with any business endeavor, app-building starts with an idea. You may already have several ideas in the pipeline. Pick one and hash out the rough details.
Start with how you want your app to work, whom it is for, and what you intend the essential features to be.
If you're the visual type, you can sketch in the dominant colors for your app interface. This will give you a mental framework of how you want your app to look.
Remember: As an app builder, you are an innovator trying to solve a problem or address a need. Use this "spark" or pain point to provide the best user experience while balancing functionality and design.
2. Do Competitive Market Research
Sure, you may have a great app idea, but it's worth knowing if there's a market for it. Before you spend time and resources developing and marketing an app, it's wise to conduct market research.
Reach out to current customers to see if they're interested in an app. Find out if they think it would enhance their user experience. Ask if they have a wish list of features they expect from a new app.
If you do not have a database to tap into yet, don't worry. You can still get all the information you need through surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions. With these tools, you can gather valuable insights into what your target market wants and needs.
Some companies specialize in market research. If you have the budget, consider hiring them to streamline the process.
The next step involves checking your competitors. Analyze their customer feedback to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and take your own experience with their app into consideration as well. Learn how you can use these insights to make your app better.
By leveraging your competitors' strengths and weaknesses, you have the potential to develop an app that addresses consumer needs better.
Take note of the reviews and ratings of your competitors, as well as the following details:
Number of downloads: Gives you insight on user demand
App name: Lets you know what kind of messaging/branding appeals to your target market
Features: Might help you weed out unnecessary features or highlight unique ones
Pricing/or in-app purchases: Gives you an idea on monetization
Updates: Lets you know about common bugs, issues, and frequency of updates
3. List and Prioritize App Features
Note down the features you're going to focus on in development and how you can further improve your idea.
Focus on user experience. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Imagine what the perfect app would be if you were a consumer.
Map out the user journey and align it with the features that the app will need. For a fashion retailer, the user journey may look like this:
Users can log in or register through email, Facebook, or Google.
Users can input their measurements or preferred sizes to customize their feed.
Users can filter and select other product features like colors and styles.
Users can create a wish list for things they want to buy in the future.
Users can select one perk, freebie, or voucher with every checkout.
Users are required to enter critical information before they can make a purchase.
Users can earn store credit relative to the amount they spend on each checkout.
Suppose you're a developer and you're developing an app for a business. It is essential to manage expectations regarding execution.
Make sure to document everything so you do not miss out on even the smallest detail. A well-documented process will also help you settle any disputes and also help clarify misunderstandings regarding the output during testing.
4. Make Design Mockups
Making a design mockup of your app before you start building will give you a visual framework during the development stage. Ideally, your mockup should contain a rough sketch of your app's layout, user interface (UI), and general flow.
In any case, don't spend too much time on the details. The goal of this step is to give you a preview of how your app will look. It should simulate precisely how users will move through the app.
You also need to strike a balance between an app's aesthetics and functionality. But, don't spend too much time on one aspect at the expense of the other.
Map out the flow and interactions within the app — plan out the navigation flow of your app and how users will move from screen to screen.
Pay attention to button placement and where these will take your users. What happens when you click a button? What is the user expected to do?
Your app mockups should include the following:
Show distinct sections of your app according to functionality. Your main screens are where you visualize the user experience of your app. Then, translate that into your main screens as best as possible.
You need to decide where to place the dropdown menu. The dropdown menu is the primary tool users will use to access all of your app's functionality and content.
Should it be towards the side or a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen? You can refer to other apps to find the most effective navigation means for your app.
Once you're done with the mockups, take your stakeholders through the app flow to get meaningful feedback. Do this before developing the app. Using the mockups allows you to explain the app's UI and help stakeholders visualize the final app.
Remember to take notes of insights and issues you uncover at this stage. Doing so will help you fix fundamental UI/UX problems early in the building process.
5. Create Your App's Graphic Design
Graphic design is an integral part of your app because it will characterize your overall brand. Not only that, but the graphic design also contributes to a smooth and intuitive user experience.
This experience includes all the visual components of your app, like your logo, buttons, screens, and effects. Your app will also have image and video assets and animation and motion design in some cases.
Make sure to spend time refining these visual elements. Your app's graphic design can make or break your marketing efforts. As such, it's crucial that your app looks professional and legitimate, regardless of the niche.
If you're inexperienced in design, consider hiring a professional graphic designer to realize your vision.
An experienced designer can execute your ideas faster and provide suggestions to make your interface even better. You can still be as hands-on as you want, but the process will be more straightforward.
6. Produce an MVP
Ever heard the term Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
Minimum viable product is the first and simplest version of your app. Hopefully, you'll get a clearer idea regarding your app's core once you sketch things down.
Consider asking the following questions to help you focus on the critical features of your app that you would want to prioritize during development:
Which features are essential, and which ones are secondary?
Which features are likely to cause the app to bloat or slow down the development process?
What is the unique idea behind my app, and how can I highlight it through its features?
Once you've released the MVP, get feedback from initial users. This feedback will guide you as you proceed to the next stage.
7. Build the App
It's time now to turn your ideas into something tangible. When it comes to developing your app, you have plenty of options to choose from:
Build It Yourself
If you already know how to code, you can go ahead and develop it yourself. If you have dabbled with coding in the past but want to brush up on your skills, you can learn to code by taking online courses from Coursera, LinkedIn, or Udemy.
However, be warned that this is going to be time-consuming. Consider the DIY option only if you're not on a tight timeline. It's also more appropriate for a personal project that you have complete control over.
Get an App Builder
Contrary to popular belief, you can create an app without coding. There are services where you can select a template and customize features to build your app.
Keep in mind that the 'template option' may be restrictive when it comes to features and design. These services may also charge a fee for running your app.
Clutch.co has a list of app builders that you can check out.
Hire a Freelance Developer
Suppose you're more of a business planner or marketer. In that case, your best option is to hire a professional developer to help you with your requirements. Just like with graphic design, this is a smarter move if you want things done faster. Hiring a professional is also your best bet if you're inexperienced with coding.
You can check sites such as Freelancer and Upwork to source talent. Make sure to select a developer with good reviews and one who fits your budget.
Find a Partner
Many startups consist of a managing partner and a technical partner. A technical partner takes care of the programming aspects of the company. You can work with a friend or recruit a corporate programmer willing to execute your business idea.
If you take this route, ensure that you also have a solid marketing plan and relevant experience launching a product.
Hire a Development Company
Hiring a real development company is an excellent option if you're also looking for consulting and project management services. If you are building a complicated app that requires a whole team, hiring a development company is a smart move.
The downside of this, of course, is the cost. But if you have enough funds allocated for this purpose, this strategy can deliver excellent results.
Buy an App Template
Unlike the app builders we mentioned earlier, app templates are customizable. These tools come with a pre-packaged code containing core app functionalities.
Buying an app template is a good option if you can find a template that would suit your app idea. From there, you can either customize it yourself or hire a freelance programmer to adapt it for you.
8. Conduct a User Acceptance Test (UAT)
After building your app, you must check for bugs and other issues. Conduct a thorough User Acceptance Test (UAT) where testers can fill out a form on the app's functionalities. They should also report any bugs that they may encounter.
If you're on a tight budget, you can ask your family and friends to do the UAT for you. As long as your instructions and documentation are clear, UATs shouldn't be a problem for non-technical users. After all, the purpose of this test is to recreate the experience of real-life users.
If you're hiring others to conduct UATs, don't forget to ask them to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of your new app.
9. Submit Your App to Mobile App Stores
Now that you are through the testing and debugging stage, your app is ready for launch. For iOS apps, submitting it to the App Store will allow millions of users to see it and potentially download it.
To do this, you'll have to go through Apple's App Certification Team.
Here's what you need to do:
Review the App Store guidelines to make sure your app qualifies. If you see an issue, fix it right away before proceeding to the next step.
Proceed to App Store Connect to fill in the app metadata. This is where you create your app listing and input essential details. You need to provide the app name, description, keywords, screenshots, and preview videos.
Upload your app from Xcode. Xcode is Apple's integrated development environment for their OSs. You can upload your app by packaging your project and shipping the code to App Store Connect under your app listing.
Submit it to App Store Connect for review. The App Certification Team will manually review your app against their guidelines and check for bugs that may affect user experience.
Wait for 2-3 days. Within this time, the team at Apple will get back to you with either an approval or a rejection.
If you get a rejection, don't lose heart: they'll allow you to resubmit as long as you fix whatever issue they found.
If you got approved, it's time to crack open a bottle of champagne and celebrate! Your app is officially available for download on the App Store.
You will go through a similar process when you send your app to the Google Play Store.
10. Improve Your App with User Feedback
Successfully launching your app does not signal the end of your development efforts — quite the contrary. A lot of successful apps have stayed at the top due to continuous improvement and updates.
To do this, you have to take user feedback and criticism seriously.
Check out App Store/Google Play reviews.
Use analytics to gather data.
Send out surveys or customer feedback forms via email.
Use social media to create feedback channels.
Doing all of the above will help you improve your app further, so it meets user needs. Always provide efficient tech support and customer service.
How to Market Your App for Maximum Exposure
While it's true that good products speak for themselves, marketing is crucial in maximizing the number of exposure and downloads for your app.
Whether consumers care to admit it or not, effective marketing is often the driving force in their purchasing decisions. Effective marketing leads them to try a new perfume brand or consider purchasing a new phone or a new car model.
So, what should you do to ensure your app gets the attention it deserves?
DEVELOP A MARKETING PLAN EVEN BEFORE YOU START BUILDING THE APP
Yes, you heard that right! If you believe your app can help address the needs of your potential users, that can be your USP to market it. Ask these questions to gain more insight into what your app has to offer:
What problem does your app solve?
Who is the intended user?
What's the best way to reach these people?
These will give you the core messaging that you can use to market your app.
Why is this important?
There are nearly 2 million apps on the iOS App Store and almost 3 million on Google Play. That's a lot of competition!
The more strategies you use, the more exposure you provide for your app.
Here are some marketing strategies to generate buzz for your app:
1. Landing Page
A landing page is a must for your app. It allows potential users to know more about the basic details of your app.
But don't settle for just giving information. An app landing page should generate interest in your product and have effective call-to-actions that lead to conversions.
Create the landing page while you build your app. Make sure you make it live before you launch the app. The idea is to generate interest and make your app visible to the market before its release.
2. Pre-Launch Email List
Encourage visitors to sign up for updates about your app launch. This is a great way to collect email addresses from interested parties.
3. App Store Optimization (ASO)
Much like SEO for sites, apps have ASO. You need to create optimized keywords, titles, and descriptions. ASO also focuses on keyword relevance, search results relevance, and keyword density in your description.
Roughly half of Android and iOS users in the US find new apps through search, so if your app's description is one of the most important things to focus on when marketing your app.
When ASO is done right, your app listing will rank well on App Store and Google Play. Check out this resource from App Masters for more information on ASO.
4. Public Relations (PR) and Media Kit
A PR or media kit is easy to prepare. It's a package that contains vital information about your app. You also need to provide high-quality media assets like photos, logos, and demo videos that you'd like the media to view.
You can add a short write-up about your app and link it to your landing page. This will make it easier for tech writers and journalists who are looking to write about new apps.
5. Paid-to-Free Campaign
Paid-to-free campaigns are an effective marketing strategy to increase app downloads. The philosophy is simple: If you want customers to pay to use your app, offer a free trial that encourages users to download and try your app. This way, you can collect potential user information.
The best part? People who enlist in your free trial already fall into your target market. You can then reach out and encourage them to sign up for a paid plan or offer a discounted yearly plan.
6. Influencer or Affiliate Marketing
You've probably seen some form of influencer marketing on your social media feeds this week. Some businesses reach out to Instagram and Facebook influencers, while others ask YouTubers to promote their product.
The idea is that influencers can provide their followers with authentic feedback about your app.
Reach out to people whom you think will genuinely enjoy or benefit from your app. Establish genuine connections with these influencers. If you do this, your marketing efforts won't sound fake or scripted.
If you've just launched a fitness app, reach out to a fitness model, bodybuilder, or fitness content creator. Make sure their values align with yours.
Offer them free use of the app and other perks, such as an affiliate code for downloads. Give them a free hand to provide honest feedback to their community in every way possible.
For more information about influencer marketing, check out the "Influencer Marketing Strategy" course taught by Rutgers University and offered through Coursera.
7. Social Media Campaigns
Social media campaigns are a reasonably new strategy that has proven to be one of the most cost-effective marketing solutions out there. Social media ads are more affordable than traditional ads on TV, newspapers, and billboards.
Maximize your social media marketing efforts by creating a cohesive, 360-degree social media plan covering all platforms: web, socials, email, and anything else. Ensure that they send a unified message, including graphics and the tone of your captions and write-ups.
Consistency is crucial when implementing your social media calendar. For example, schedule posts at the specific times your target market is active. Always put out high-quality materials that give users a glimpse of the top features of your app.
8. Blogs Posts
Set up a dedicated blog for your app. Make sure you post relevant and helpful content. When writing blog posts, make sure you optimize for the right keywords so that your content ranks highly on Google's search engine results pages (SERPs).
Don't forget to guest posts on more established blogs to get the word out there about your app. Cross-posting is a very effective way to increase brand awareness.
You can also reach out to tech and niche bloggers. Provide them with all the needed resources to review and write about your app in their respective blogs.
9. Email Marketing
Email marketing is often overlooked, but statistics show that for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you stand to gain $42 more.
Part of email marketing's success is its simplicity. People typically check their emails like they check their social media, so it's a great way to grab their attention.
Here's how you can make the most of emails:
Offer quick deals such as discounts, vouchers, and the like.
Remind users to renew their subscription or upgrade to a paid plan.
Include write-ups that have snippets of interesting information according to your target market's profile.
All in all, it's a great way to welcome new users and maintain your connection with existing ones.
10. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When a user searches for relevant keywords, you want your app to show up on the first page of Google's search results.
SEO IS WHAT MAKES THIS POSSIBLE
Ranking highly on Google is a great way to encourage downloads because it is everyone's go-to search engine, thanks to its thorough and intelligent algorithm.
To optimize your app for SERPs, you need to identify the best keywords according to your app niche or category. Use those keywords to build quality links and content to boost your rankings. Use multi-tools like Ahrefs to help you with your SEO.
Some of these strategies will help you generate interest months before the app launch. Others will ensure that you continue to have downloads for the long haul.
If you have the funds, consider investing in paid marketing to promote your app. Paid advertising is ideal for solopreneurs or small teams without an in-house marketing staff.
Creating an app is a problem-solving and solution-building process. Hopefully, these steps and tools will help you get started on your app-making journey.
Treat your app like any legitimate business, and charge users accordingly. Sure, you can provide discounts and freebies, but you also need to keep your bottom line healthy.
This way, you can keep expanding and improving your app and business so that you can eventually develop other apps that will address yet another set of problems.
Remember: Don't get too caught up in procedures and details. Let your creativity fly!