Build Your First Mobile App In 16 Simple Steps!

In the ruthless app development industry that spares no one and the cut-throat competition, building your first mobile app is tough! With all the things you have to take into consideration, it becomes very stressful to think clearly.

We’ve created this step-by-step guide to help you out and prepare you for a strong launch and an even stronger app!

Step 1 – Come up with the idea 

First things first, you must ask yourself whether your idea solve a problem, provide a service, or entertain people? Why will people use your app? Will it make their lives easier? Is there a real value in your app or it’s just a slightly better version of an existing app? These answers should provide you with a direction of where your idea is heading. Try to be super focused on the problem that you’re solving to be able to build the right solution. Don’t try to solve all the problems, so instead of saying “Our mobile app is the best at chatting”, you could choose only one problem in chatting and try to solve it. “We empower people to converse instantly, even if offline” is an example of what your key offering should be.

While you think about this new idea, define who your users are. Think about their persona, profile and what they like and dislike.  Ask yourself if what you are doing resonates with your main target market. If yes, move forward. If not, then drop the idea at once and never look back, because and idea without a well-defined target market is not an idea at all.

Recommended readings:
Paul Graham’s “How to Get Startup Ideas”
7 Ways to Think Up Great Startup Ideas
“Business Ideas: What are the best ways to think of ideas for a startup?” From Quora
Marketing Personas: The Beginners guide

Step 2 – Listen to your target users 

Talking to people will help you gather insights and feedback to direct you. Beware that your idea is most likely to receive resistance at first. Listen carefully and try to converse with those who are not in favor of your idea and see why they don’t like it. It’s a healthy exercise to pinpoint major issues in your ideas or to boost your confidence in it and convince them. At all cases, you must present your idea with passion and enjoy the challenge.

During the initial brainstorming sessions, you might have several directions for your idea. Write them down and break the ideas by rigorously asking yourself if the idea will work, why would people use it and if there are others that are already doing what you want to do. If you answer these questions, then you have validated the initial idea.

Recommended readings:
7  Best Brainstorming Apps
How to Brainstorm More Effectively

Step 3 – Analyze competition

You’ll need to see who else is in the field of what you want to do and analyze their performance. There are endless ways and different criteria to analyze competitors. You might consider the value of service provided in terms of content quality, ease of use, navigational controls, pricing, and availability. On one hand, you do this analysis to see if there are any gaps that your competitors missed where you could focus on and leverage against them. On the other hand, you could find out that your app’s category is already saturated and it’s time to move on and look for another idea.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to analyze competition is checking Google’s keyword planner. By entering keywords that are relevant to the idea in mind, you’ll see the volume of searches conducted by users and what kind of competitors dominate this realm. You could also use a tool like App Annie to see what mobile apps are popular in different geographical location and to compare your competitors.

Recommended readings: 
The Ultimate Guide to Performing Competitive Analysis on Apps
5 Tools That Help Analyze Your App Store Competition

Step 4 – Write your idea down

After talking with your users and checking competitors, you need to sit down and write exactly what you’re building. This will make you super focused in the next steps and avoid any confusions. I’m not talking about a crystal clear 2-year vision or product roadmap, but just a guide to know what you want to build and test. 

Once you get the basics, you should start outlining your business model. This will help you identify your prospective revenue streams, where to allocate resources and how to pay for the development process. It’s always a work in progress, but you can’t go on without having at least a preliminary business model in the back of your mind.

While you develop the business model, you should decide on the app’s name and make sure to choose a catchy one. Like first impressions, the name could set a really great or terrible impression about your mobile app.

Recommended readings:
App Monetization: 6 Bankable Business Models That Help Mobile Apps Make Money
9 Mobile Buisness Models That you can use Right now to Generate Revenues
Top 10 Tips for Naming Your App

Step 5 – Develop a Prototype 

After writing down your main thoughts about your app, developing a minimum viable product (MVP) comes next. Choose the most basic features of the app and start prototyping them. The MVP allows you to ship your app early with the least costs possible to be able to test it and see if it’s accepted by early adopters. It saves you the hassle of spending too much time, money and effort into a complex unusable app.

To help your users visualize what your app is like, create a quick wireframe/prototype to be able to bring your idea to life. Wireframing is the process of creating a mockup or prototype of your app. It primarily allows you to define the information hierarchy of your design, making it easier for you to plan the layout according to how you want your user to process the information. You can find a number of prototyping tools online and according to Forbes, the most popular ones are BalsamiqMoqups, and HotGloo.

Recommended readings:
The Ultimate Guide to Minimum Viable Products
Top 5 Design Tools for Wireframing

Step 6 – Validate what you got

Validation provides proof that there are demand and interest for your first mobile app or any apps you build in general. Show your prototype to users, let them use it and listen clearly to their questions. This is different than Step 2 because you have something working in their hands. Talk about the core features that you want to validate then talk about its details.

In order to gather feedback, prepare a list with questions that represent the points you need to validate. You could create signup forms by using Google Docs or survey monkey and distribute them via Facebook, twitter or even by sending emails.

If users don’t like the product, go back to step 5 and develop another prototype. It might take a while before you find a prototype that people admires and like.

Recommended readings:
9 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Validated Their Business Idea
Mobile App Brainstorming

Step 7 – Design the features and user flow 

 Once you have your initial concept drafted, the following step is to figure out how do you want people to use and engage with your app. Based on the interface, you’ll set the user experience and the vibe of the application. Write down the list of features you want to include in your mobile app. Include the flow of how the user will navigate the app from start to end. This will also help your developer to clearly understand your expectations.

Recommended readings:
16 killer design tips for creating mobile apps
Heed these 10 expert tips for mobile app design

Step 8 – Eliminate any non-essential features

Your number 1 focus should be on the core value of your app idea and only it. Delete any feature that is not a key to your main idea. Of course, there are certain add-ons and beautifying features that could be inserted later on, but only add them as future updates to the original product.

Focus on one thing, one thing only and excel in it. This will help you save costs developing the product and will get you going much faster. As they say: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

Recommended readings:
Pruning: Making room for something new
How Focus on Core Features Grew Bootstrapped Feedly to 15 Million Users

Step 9 – Develop the team 

While hiring a developer or a designer, make sure to look out for development companies that has a talented and driven teams to hire from. Talk to them and see if they believe in the idea as much as you do. Believe me, passion is very important for delivering a quality app.

While you’re at it, you’ll need to open developer accounts at the app marketplaces you are developing for. Raul Varshneya, a specialist in mobile products, explains: ” You must register for a developer account with the respective app stores to be able to sell your app through their platform. Google’s Android charges $25 a year and Apple charges $99 annually. You have the option of registering as an individual or as a company if you already have one formed”.

Look for development firms that have a pool of talented designers and developers. Check online for their previous work and applications they made. This should allow you to see their style and decide whether they will be the right fit for you or not.

Recommended readings:
50 Freelance Job Sites For Designers & Programmers
Hire Freelance Software Developers from the Top 3%
How To Scale a Development Team Building
Start Developing iOS Apps
Building Your First App For Android

Step 10 – Get going with the testing

As you have the initial functional version of your app, you will need to see what works and what doesn’t, and how can you enhance it. That’s where the technical beta testing comes. You will need to get testers to try out your app and give you feedback. Get your family, friends, colleagues and concerned parties to try your app. You could also search for beta users in websites like Erlibird, Hacker News and Startuplist and many more.

Go for a closed beta test before launching and make sure that you select the right group of people to test the app so you could enhance the app’s user interface or find bugs and get the developer to fix them before your launch. You’ll need to define goals to your testers to be able to extract viable data to help you correct and enhance it.

Recommended readings:
The Beginner’s Guide For Beta Testing Your App!
The Art of Guerrilla Usability Testing

Step 11 – Keep testing & Iterating 

You can’t afford to have your mobile app crash when it launches or have a corner case bug that you’ve missed. The worst thing you might face when you launch your app is to be showered by negative reviews. Actually, having negative reviews reduce your app chances of becoming a good one

To be on the safe side, you need to keep an eye on your app and ensure that it only receives good ratings and reviews. This could happen by integrating an In-App feedback software to enable users to reach out to you with feedback and crash reports. It would be life-saving to have a headstart when it comes to fixing any flaws in your app.

Recommended readings:
The Secret Weapon To 80% Less Negative Reviews
Reasons Why In-App Feedback is Crucial While Beta Testing

Step 12 – Build momentum

As you approach the end of the technical beta testing process, you should aim for concluding with a marketing beta. It’s when you distribute the app to the press, evangelist customers, and influencers. The main aim behind it is to test how your app is perceived in terms of user experience and design. If all is set, these people will create a buzz about your app and make others anticipate your launch. You could create a landing page that briefly explains the idea and gather email signups. Through these emails, you will gather insights and feedback while arousing people’s interest.

In parallel to distributing your app for the marketing test, you should plan a social media campaign along with the landing page that includes all info about the anticipated launch. Update them with videos, teasers, and other content that supplement the mobile app. This will allow you to build a network of targeted potential customers that are waiting to try it out and market it.

Recommended readings:
How to Generate Buzz Before You Release Your App
The 7 Keys to an Effective Pre-Launch Mobile App Marketing Strategy
Which Landing Page Service Is Best For Your Business?

Step 13 – Integrate analytics and required tools

You need to include analytics to track downloads, analyze user behavior, engagement and retention for your mobile app. Use tools like Flurry, Heap, Mixpanel, Localytics, etc. The tool of your choice depends on what services you want. You might want to push notifications, InAppFeedback, or Crash reporting. Depending on your app status, decide on the tool used accordingly.

Recommended readings: 
Free eBook: A Beginners Guide to App Analytics
A Review of the 5 Best iOS Crash Reporting Tools (Infographic)
App Analytics Tools Round-up

Step 14 – Launch your app

To launch your app you’ll need to submit it to Google play or the App Store and this could take a week or more until it’s approved. During this time, be ready to do some changes to the app to get it approved quickly. Generate anticipation before launching by creating teasers and collaborate with influential people to feature or/and mention your app on their social media accounts, blogs or websites. Approach online content publishers like TechCrunch, and Mashable to increase your app’s exposure, and make sure to post your app to Product Hunt and Hacker News on the day you launch.

Keep in mind this famous quote: “If you’re not embarrassed when your product launches, you’ve waited too long to launch.”

Recommended readings:
Five ways to prepare your app for a supercharged launch on the App Store
What are the steps in promoting an app before launching it on Play Store or Apple Store?

Step 15 – Focus on user analytics

After launching don’t sit back and relax. You will need to give your all in analyzing your users, monitoring downloads, and listening closely to feedback.View your analytics and hear out what your users want to say, because they’ll quite determine the lifetime and success of your mobile app.

Recommended readings:
Free eBook: The Beginner’s Guide to App Analytics
The Advanced Guide to App Analytics & Marketing

Step 16 – Improve (then go back to 15)

Enhancements and changes are constant, so keep an eye on user feedback and keep building. You’ll need to keep on iterating along the way and it won’t stop after you launch. In contrary, you’ll need to focus on iterations and improvements a lot more after launching. After all, you have a reputation to maintain.

Now that you know the basic steps of how to build your first mobile app, it’s time to get things going. As we said you need a strong idea, a high quality prototype, and a talented team. But essentially, you must build your app with passion, dedication and strong will to make it succeed!

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Final note: Once you start beta testing, you’ll be bombarded with bugs and glitches from beta testers. And once you launch your app, you’ll be flooded by feedback and questions from your users. So make sure to check our product, Instabug, to help you out with that. We provide you with an inclusive SDK that allows your users and beta testers to communicate directly with you from within your app to send feedback and report bugs. You’ll be able to see all user steps, aggregated statistics and device details.

NOW IT”S YOUR TURN: Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post.