Mobile application development is the process of creating software apps for mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and other hand-held or wearable gadgets. The apps can be preinstalled on the user’s device, downloaded from online libraries (app stores), or accessed through the device's internet browser.
This article covers everything you need to know about mobile application development, from what it entails and its role in the commercial sector to how you can create custom mobile apps using third-party software development services.
Let’s get started.
In just over a decade since smartphones hit the mainstream consumer market, mobile software development has grown into a 206.85-billion-dollar industry. Mobile apps are ubiquitous in today’s tech world and deeply integrated into everyday activities. Here are some industry stats to put the popularity of mobile app development and usage into perspective:
Given the vast ready market, mobile apps present unique business opportunities. For instance, you can earn big by monetising a mobile app via in-app purchases, ads, or service subscriptions. You can also incorporate mobile apps into your IT infrastructure to enhance business processes, sales, and customer experience.
A recent study found that 48% of small businesses have a mobile app, while 27% plan to build their own to boost business growth. Additionally, many entrepreneurs see mobile apps as an effective way to improve customer service and branding efforts. The study further reveals that 79% of SMBs prefer to outsource mobile application development.
Speaking of outsourcing, mobile application development services can help you build and customise an app from scratch. The developer designs, builds, tests, and deploys a mobile app true to your specific functional, compatibility, and performance requirements. App development is often too demanding and complex to handle in-house. That's why hiring a team of well-equipped developers with the necessary expertise and resources for the job makes more sense
There are four main types of mobile application development: native, web, hybrid, and cross-platform. Each type takes a different approach to coding and structuring and is ideally suitable for certain kinds of apps. Here’s a description of the four development styles explaining their differences, pros and cons, and fitting use cases:
A native app is a software application built for use on a particular device or runtime environment. This means you can have a native mobile app that runs exclusively on Android, iOS, Windows phones, or BlackBerry.
Native apps are closely meshed with the target device's hardware and operating system, making them faster, more reliable, and highly efficient in utilising the underlying resources. Plus, they have access to the full suite of features available on the device and OS. And in terms of design, native apps have a natural look and feel consistent with that of the host platform.
The biggest problem with native apps is that you have to develop duplicate versions of the same software to run on different platforms. This drives up the cost of development, not to mention the complexities of managing several variants of the same app.
Native app development is best for building high-performance apps tightly linked to the capabilities of a particular device or operating system.
Progressive web apps (PWA), a subcategory of web apps, run inside specially designed app browsers. PWAs also achieve a native-like look and feel, performance, and capabilities through sophisticated API integrations.
The main benefit of this type of development is that the resulting app can run on any web-enabled device. However, the browser’s design can sometimes limit the app’s performance, functionality, or user experience.
Web app development is commonly used to create mobile versions of existing web services.
Hybrid mobile apps are basically web apps that mimic native apps. Instead of a typical browser, the web app runs within an encased native environment and an embedded browser that’s invisible to the user. Hybrid apps can also access all the device’s features, though via APIs.
Blending native and web capabilities result in more versatile apps with easily reusable code and native characteristics. Their biggest downside is that they need a lot of tweaking and testing in order to operate on different platforms, which can compromise performance and design consistency.
Hybrid app development is a cost-effective way to build a mobile app with dynamic online content, web services, access to local device features, and the ability to function offline.
Cross-platform or multiplatform mobile development is an approach that allows you to create mobile apps capable of running on more than one platform. There are several different ways to develop cross-platform apps. For one, you can design web apps, PWAs, or hybrid apps that work across various platforms. Another option is to use cross-platform development frameworks such as Native React, Xamarin, or Flutter to add cross-compatibility to seemingly native apps.
The obvious benefit of cross-platform development is that you end up with an app that runs smoothly on every mobile device, regardless of size or OS. Such an app cuts development costs, time, and complexities. But if designed or structured poorly, cross-platform apps can be a compatibility or UX nightmare.
Cross-platform development is ideal for producing mobile apps for the mass market or a diverse user base.
The process of developing a mobile app can vary widely depending on the app and the developer. But for the most part, software development follows a strategic approach that guarantees efficiency and results. It takes the following six steps to develop a mobile application:
The first step in the development process is determining the kind of app to develop. Crucially, the ideation stage determines the objectives of the app and the technical capabilities needed to meet those objectives. The goal is to answer the following questions:
The second stage is about shaping your idea into a workable development project. At this point, you gather and organise all the details of the new mobile application to create a template or roadmap for the project. Analysis and planning typically involve:
The user interface (UI) is the front-end or user-facing side of the app, while user experience (UX) represents how users feel when using the app. UI/UX design is a broad term that covers the interactive aspects of a software application from the users’ perspective — things like ease of use, relevance, and responsiveness.
The goal of UI/UX design is to create a user-friendly, intuitive, and interactive mobile app that users find useful, exciting, engaging, or entertaining. Designing an app’s UI/UX means testing various information architectures, workflows, wireframes, prototypes, and style guides to ensure the app behaves as expected once in the user’s hands.
After designing the app’s interface, it’s time to actually develop the mobile app. This stage involves creating and merging the app’s back and front ends. The back end comprises all the intricate background mechanisms, such as database engines, runtime tools, and routines, powering the app. The front end is the interactive interface based on the UI/UX design.
Everything about the coding process depends on the kind of software being built — its type, scope, requirements, technology stack, and dependencies.
Once the app is built, it undergoes a series of rigorous tests to ensure it functions and performs as needed. Testing is crucial for quality assurance before the product launches.
Besides checking for bugs and glitches, the quality assurance team tests the app's adherence to the predefined requirements, branding, security, compatibility, and user experience. Any errors or inconsistencies found are reported to the development team for fixing.
The app is finally ready for launch. But first, it must be packaged into a file system that users can download and install. The installation package will depend on the target platform, whether iOS, Android, or Windows. Once that’s done, it’s just a simple matter of distributing the app to its users.
Putting your app on mobile app stores is the easiest way to distribute a new app to the masses. To do so, you’ll need to apply for a listing on the major app stores. You’ll also have to submit the app for review to ensure it meets each store’s standards. Alternatively, you can go for private distribution using Google's alternative distribution options or Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program if the app is not meant for general use.
After launch, the developer may offer ongoing software support, such as helpdesk assistance, software maintenance, and updates, for an extra fee or according to the development agreement
A mobile app is a powerful business tool and a worthwhile investment. You can do a lot with a strategic mobile app to grow and improve your business. Here are the four main benefits of developing a mobile app:
Nearly everyone in the world owns or has access to a smartphone. And with mobile users dominating global online traffic, a mobile app can reach more audiences faster than a commercial website. Moreover, most people prefer apps to websites, mainly for their ease of use, speed, and convenience.
So, your digital-driven venture can better infiltrate the market when wrapped neatly in a mobile application.
Mobile apps enable your business to engage with customers on a higher and more meaningful level. Modern smartphone apps can be made incredibly versatile, allowing customers to interact with a company or its offering in more intimate ways. For instance, a mobile app can give customers a virtual tour of your premises, let them try out various products virtually, and even customise their orders — the possibilities are endless.
More importantly, mobile apps are excellent tools for personalised customer engagements, which boost customer retention. According to Zendesk’s CX TRENDS 2023 report, 77% of business leaders agree that personalisation increases customer retention. Meanwhile, 70% of consumers spend more with companies that offer fluid, personalised, and seamless customer experiences.
Mobile apps are a great source of high-value business data. Data collected from an app’s usage metrics and user profiles can be analysed to reveal informative patterns in user behaviour/preferences, market trends, and business performance. Such valuable insights can help guide critical business decisions.
In 2022, mobile users spent $167 billion in app stores, while businesses spent $336 billion advertising products and services on mobile apps. These figures prove that monetising an app can be highly lucrative.
Also, as an e-commerce avenue, a mobile app can drastically boost your sales volume. For instance, you can easily turn a shopping app into an effective marketing tool by incorporating personalised recommendations, customer rewards, and high-level engagements.
Converting an idea into a successful mobile software application is no easy task; it takes a special set of skills, temperament, and level of experience. So, you can’t just pick a mobile developer out of a hat.
It’s important to research and vet the available developers to ensure you get excellent customer service and a high-quality software product. To that end, here’s a list of crucial factors to consider when choosing mobile application development services:
Choosing the right software developer means vetting each candidate individually. Here are some of the questions you should ask during vetting calls or meetings:
There’s no definite price tag for mobile apps. The final cost of mobile application development services hinges on the following factors:
Budgeting is very important when developing any software application. Discuss costs with your developer and plan accordingly to ensure the project gets funded to completion. Also, set aside some caution money in case the project goes over budget.
In conclusion, developing a mobile app is a wise business move. Your company can profit from the app directly through app monetisation or indirectly through improved customer services, better accessibility, and improved business processes. But remember, an app’s success relies heavily on the software development process and the choice of developer.
Don’t cut any corners when developing a mobile application. Consider mobile application development services for your next mobile app project. Working with the right professionals guarantees a high-quality product that checks all the boxes.
The breadth of knowledge and understanding that ELEKS has within its walls allows us to leverage that expertise to make superior deliverables for our customers. When you work with ELEKS, you are working with the top 1% of the aptitude and engineering excellence of the whole country.
Right from the start, we really liked ELEKS’ commitment and engagement. They came to us with their best people to try to understand our context, our business idea, and developed the first prototype with us. They were very professional and very customer oriented. I think, without ELEKS it probably would not have been possible to have such a successful product in such a short period of time.
ELEKS has been involved in the development of a number of our consumer-facing websites and mobile applications that allow our customers to easily track their shipments, get the information they need as well as stay in touch with us. We’ve appreciated the level of ELEKS’ expertise, responsiveness and attention to details.