Building a Business App: How to Bring Your Idea to Fruition
Business apps have experienced rapid growth in recent years, with companies embracing both internal and external mobile apps to improve engagement, boost productivity and increase sales. However, when you have a great business app idea, it can be hard to know how to bring all its potential to fruition.
Mobile apps are emerging as a necessity for both consumers and businesses alike, with a growing demand for branded business-centric apps. The potential for business apps is extensive, supporting a range of functions like promotion, online transactions, customer loyalty programs and productivity.
Starting Your App Journey
While the best apps are often straightforward, creating even the simplest interface can take a large amount of time, research and resources. Here are some best practices for you to keep in mind when going through the app development process.
Pick your target market.
It is important to validate whether there is a market for your business app. First, identify your target audience, understand who they are and how they might behave. Knowing your end-user inside and out is vital to app success.
Who is your audience? What are their needs? How can you design an app to match these needs? What value does your app offer? The app’s ability to meet the end users needs will ultimately determine how successful it is. A clearly defined target audience will not only help inform your design decisions but will also allow you to effectively market your app later on.
Choose a platform.
This is one of the most pressing questions in app development. Consider which platform you want to build your business app on. Research which platform your target audience tends to use most and let this aid your decision. This is especially important if you are only launching your app on one store initially.
Developing for multiple platforms will ultimately increase adoption opportunities. Therefore, eventually, you will want to have your business app available on both the major stores. Another and more affordable option is cross-platform app development – this allows you to build the same app once across devices. Cross-platform app development tools can reduce the time and costs associated with developing apps separately on both platforms.
Keep it simple.
In the case of mobile apps, less is more. A successful business app is one that fully satisfies the end user’s needs and does so quickly and effectively. An app might do just one thing, but it does it exceptionally well.
The best approach with mobile apps is to identify the minimum viable product right from the beginning. When you strip down functionality and then test and adapt your idea based on feedback, you have a better chance of building something successful.
Build with analytics in mind.
Once your app is live, you will need to keep track of how it’s being adopted and used to measure its success. Make sure that it is easy for you to analyse your app’s performance after it gets built. Plan for in-built app analytic tools that help you monitor user behaviour. Measuring and monitoring app engagement and usage behaviour through in-app analytics can provide invaluable insights on how to enhance and optimise the user experience, safeguarding your apps future success.
Understanding user motives, the most popular features or pathways in your app, and who your users are can also help you make the right strategic decisions and focus your marketing efforts in the right place. Not only this, app analytics can help guide any future app updates, ensuring your app’s functionality and usability is maintained at the highest standard.
Budget for long-term.
App development is a significant financial cost that requires a great deal of planning and careful consideration prior to jumping in. As such, deciding on a budget upfront is integral to your app project. Keep in mind that work doesn’t stop once your business app has been built and released.
When you are preparing your app budget, it is important to plan for multiple releases. Develop a strategy for maintaining your app, making changes and adding new features as technology and your company grows. Planning resources ahead of time is key to ensure that your app keeps up with your rapidly evolving business requirements.
Building Your Business App
The mobile app development process begins with a concept. From there, an app can go through many different stages of evolution.
STEP 1: Define your goals.
App development should start with well defined and clearly set business goals. Consider asking and answering the following questions:
- What exactly do you want your app to do?
- What business goal/s will your app achieve?
- How will it appeal to users?
- What problem is it going to solve?
- How will it simplify life for its users?
- How will you market your app?
- Will your app be monetised?
Make sure you have a list of all the features that are most important to the core functionality of your app. Other features and functions can be built around the core and can be added in at later stages.
STEP 2: Sketch your ideas.
Now that you have defined your app’s purpose, start to create sketches of what the app it might look like. Sketching your app will help you brainstorm and visualise the ideas you have in mind.
Get out a piece of paper, trace the size of your app screen, and start drawing – focusing on each individual screen of your app. Remember, this is a technical drawing, so focus on technical elements like buttons, menus, text, and user prompts. Draw all different possibilities which come to mind and select the best ideas to use in your app.
STEP 3: Research and research some more.
In this step, it is important to dig deep and research your competition as the odds are someone else has already had a similar app idea. Examine the competition and identify how you can differentiate your idea to offer a superior app. When evaluating competitor apps, consider the following questions:
- How are the competitor apps faring in the app stores?
- What have the competitor apps done successfully?
- What mistakes have they made that you can avoid or improve on?
- Why do people want these apps? What are the apps missing? (look at the app reviews, blog posts, etc.)
- How are they marketing to their customers? (check out screenshots, icon design & descriptions)
- Is there a gap in the market?
- Is your app adding something unique to the market?
Leverage this information to create an app that offers more value to its users. Look out for possible copyright restrictions and other technical holds ups.
STEP 4: Create a wireframe.
A wireframe is a storyboard for your app that provides the foundation for development. Wireframes are essentially blueprints that help demonstrate the visual architecture of your app and detail each screen as well as the general flow users will follow. This is where you begin to design your app to give it more clarity and functionality.
If you are utilising an app development company, with your guidance they will do this step for you. Otherwise, there are many wireframing websites that you can use to help bring your app to life.
Wireframing is a crucial step for visualising and defining the scope of an app and its functionality. This app ‘blueprint’ allows the development team to understand and interpret what you are after.
STEP 5: Demo your app idea.
When you are working on an app project, it can be tough to view your progress from a neutral perspective which can lead to missing the obvious. This is why it is important to demo your app idea to friends, family, colleagues and anyone else who is willing to give you constructive criticism. The end goal of this step is to finalise your app’s structure and foundation.
An interactive mockup is a powerful tool for gathering crucial feedback on your app design and user flow. This allows you to collaborate and iterate quickly and efficiently, helping you to address any concerns about your app idea.
STEP 6: Define the backend.
This step in app development is where the wireframe is used to examine app functionality in the ‘backend’. To put it simply, the backend is where you find the implementation of logic and data handling as well as integration with third-party systems.
There are some do-it-yourself app builders that can provide you with the tools to do this. However, if you are unclear about the technical jargon, it is recommended to use an app development company instead.
STEP 7: Start building.
With a strong foundation in place, you can start building your business app. First, your developer will set up your servers, databases, and APIs. If you are using a quality do-it-yourself app builder, this will be done for you. Remember to modify your app’s functionality to reflect any changes based on the first phase of testing.
It is also important to sign up and create an account with the relevant stores. Keep in mind that this may take a few days to process. When you pick a platform, make sure to follow the guidelines of that operating system. If you don’t follow these guidelines you run the risk of your app being rejected. Try to become familiar with the regulations and best practices for each store, as eventually, you will want to release your app on both.
STEP 8: Design the look.
Now it is time to employ designers to create your app’s user interface. The user interface is a crucial part of your business app that ensures it is appealing, intuitive and easy to navigate. Keep any feedback on your app in mind throughout the design process.
Designing the user interface is crucial for engaging and navigating app users. That is why it is important to design your app with user experience in mind. A great user experience is simple and intuitive and showcases features in a manner that users can use with ease.
This is where important design elements such as logos, colours, styling and fonts will be fleshed out. Interactive mockups can be used to gather feedback on designs by demonstrating what the app will look like and how it will function.
STEP 9: Test your app.
Don’t wait until the end of the development process to test your app. It is much easier to test your progress along the way. Things that seem obvious to you may not be clear to anyone else, and, your app might not be used the same way you intended. Therefore, getting early conceptual feedback can help validate your app design and avoid expensive errors.
It is important to test your app’s functionality and user interface to ensure it is meeting expectations. Gather feedback directly from testers and use this to modify and optimise your business app.
STEP 10: Test again.
Once you have undergone thorough testing and developed a smoothly functioning, aesthetically pleasing app it is time to examine how your app functions in a live environment. One of the best ways to test your app is with beta testers. Beta testing is a crucial step before launching your app as it allows you to invite testers to review your app before releasing it to the app store.
The main goal of beta testing is to get real-world experience on how well your app performs with actual users. The beta release allows testers to find bugs, test interactions, and other implementation-based things like loading times all of which is extremely important for app success. These testers will help you detect any issues in your app’s beta version related to user-friendliness, navigation and performance on different devices etc.
STEP 11: Release your app.
Now that you have brought your idea to fruition it is time to launch your app into the marketplace. Keep in mind that Google Play allows you to release your app to the store instantly without it being reviewed straight away. Whereas, the Apple App Store needs to review and approve your app before it can go live, which might take a week or so. Store’s may also request changes to your app during this time.
STEP 12: Marketing and promotion.
Leveraging a comprehensive marketing strategy is essential for paving the way to a successful launch and a fruitful position in the app marketplace. Don’t make the mistake of starting your marketing plan once your app is developed. Successful apps are promoted well before they hit the app store. Once you have your core features down, get your marketing team involved and start brainstorming ways to spread awareness of your business app before it is released.
Marketing your app requires planning and leveraging a range of marketing mediums and techniques. It is recommended to divide your app marketing plan into 3 campaign phases: pre-launch, launch and post-launch. Depending on your target audiences preferences, you can use a wide range of channels for marketing your app, including:
- Social media ads
- Search engine marketing
- App store optimisation
- Content marketing
STEP 13: Maintenance and updates.
Building an app is one thing, managing it after it has been deployed is another. The app development process isn’t over once you have launched your app; it will need constant improvement and regular maintenance. As such, you need to commit to releasing continuous app updates to fix bugs and release new features that keep users coming back for more. Planning for this now will help make your life easier in the future.
In such a fast-changing and evolving landscape, being able to iterate, learn, measure and react quickly to your user’s needs is critical for app success. It is important to consider rolling out app upgrades across different mobile platforms, app testing and lifecycle management to ensure that your app achieves lasting popularity.
There has been a significant increase in the variety and types of business apps that are being downloaded, with more consumers turning to mobile apps to interact with brands. With 90% of companies planning to increase investment in mobile apps, it important to remain competitive by taking the plunge and developing your own business app.
Choose the best app development approach for your business based on your time frame, skills, and budget. One of the best ways to build a business app is to employ a professional app development team or firm who showcase a range of expertise. When choosing a developer firm, it is important to consider their reputation, reviews and portfolio.
With Liquid State, you can manage and deliver the right communications to the right people on the right devices. Our platform empowers businesses to build code-free cross-platform apps for a variety of business functions. To chat with a professional about your future mobile app needs, contact us today.