Don’t Build a Mobile App Until You Read This

There’s no denying the increasing popularity and sophistication of mobile apps.

Companies may consider designing mobile apps to improve customer satisfaction, increase their product offerings, or scale their business in ways not possible without one. But what many companies fail to consider are the numerous complexities that go into the successful launch of a mobile app.

Before diving into any mobile app development project, companies need to be crystal clear on what they’re trying to achieve and the required technology stack for their app. In many cases, companies don’t have the talent to effectively design and implement a mobile app, leading to projects that fail shortly after starting . Without understanding mobile development's nuances, companies will waste precious time and money designing things that simply won’t accomplish what they desire.

Many companies fail to consider are the numerous complexities that go into the successful launch of a mobile app. Before diving into any mobile app development project, companies need to be crystal clear on what they’re trying to achieve and the required technology stack for their app.

Let’s take a closer look at the elements of a successful mobile app build, common mistakes to avoid, and the benefits of building an app the right way the first time.

Defining your Goals and Feature Set

Before starting any mobile app project, it’s crucial to define your short and long-term goals for the app. These will help you understand what you need in terms of features and functionality. In turn, knowing your core feature set upfront will ultimately guide your decision making on the technology stack you choose when the time comes.

The best way to start this process is by working through a needs assessment. Here are some of the questions that your team can start with:

  • What pain point are we trying to alleviate or what value are we adding through a digital product?
  • What functionalities do we need in our mobile app that a web-based one can’t achieve?
  • What is the core functionality of the mobile app?
  • What benefits do our company and/or our customers gain from using this new app?
  • How will a customer use the app?
  • How scalable does the app need to be?
  • Do we have the right talent to build our app or do we need to outsource?

Working through this needs assessment will help clarify your overarching purpose and whether a mobile app is necessary. In some cases, companies move forward with a mobile project when they could have achieved the same results by building a web based app. Or you may discover that the initial feature set you had envisioned doesn't align with your users' needs or business objectives. A clear purpose and clarity of vision are essential to nail down from the onset of our project.

Choosing the Right Technology Stack to Achieve Your Goals

Once you know what features you need, you can then clarify what technology stack is best to bring those features to life. It’s important to note that there isn’t an objective best approach to take; rather, it all depends on your goals for the specific app. Typically when developing an app, you take either a native, hybrid, or native cross-platform approach to development. 

Native Apps

Native apps are built with platform-specific programming languages such as Swift or Objective-C for iOS, and Kotlin or Java for Android apps. Native apps typically have more specialized and in-depth functionality because they can easily connect to device hardware features. This tailored-to-platform approach leads to better performance and optimized UX. 

Suppose your product roadmap has specific and complex functionalities such as accessing a device's camera, hardware memory, sensors, or push notifications with deep linking. In that case, a native build might be the best option.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are built with programming languages that function across platforms. A traditional hybrid app is written using web technologies such as Javascript, HTML, and CSS. But, instead of the app opening and running in a browser like a web app, it opens within the application using an embedded browser that is invisible to the user.

With hybrid apps, the build time is slightly longer in our experience because of the extensive testing needed for every platform but the cost is lower because all platforms use a single code base. If your mobile app functionality is relatively simple, then a hybrid app might be the best solution. More straightforward features such as displaying content on a mobile app and not accessing the mobile device's hardware features lend themselves well to this technology.

Hybrid apps do have pitfalls of their own. New hybrid platforms such as React Native can scale well, but most older hybrid models are more web-based and struggle to scale on mobile. 

Examples of Hybrid App Usage:

AirBnB tried using React Native for their app but didn’t find the success they were looking for due to the specific needs of their platform. You can check out their documented experience here.

Native Cross-Platform Apps:

Up until recently, most companies have opted for either a hybrid or native approach to development. But some companies such as Instagram and Netflix have been experimenting with cross-platform app development. Cross-platform development essentially brings benefits from each methodology to the user and developers when executed properly.

Here’s a great breakdown from Andrei Klubnikin about how cross-platform development works:

"Each operating system has its SDK and technology stack: Java or Kotlin for Android and Objective-C or Swift for iOS apps. Cross-platform app developers create a unified API running on top of a native SDK, make use of native IDEs, and build iOS and Android apps that share the same codebase. Native cross-platform applications are primarily built with Xamarin, React Native, and Kotlin Multiplatform."

Since cross-platform apps use a significant amount of the same code base between operating systems, teams save a lot of time on updates and any backend logic changes.

Examples of Native Cross-Platform App Usage:

Common Mistakes Companies Make When Building an App

The first mistake companies make when building apps is foregoing the needs assessment before diving into a project. They make assumptions about what they need in terms of features without truly validating them. This leads to lost time and money that could have been saved if there were an upfront discovery and strategy phase before writing a line of code. 

Many companies also don’t have the technical expertise in-house to build the type of app they need or even work through a proper needs assessment. They need to consider what talent they have and understand that a web developer’s skill set is much different from a mobile one. We like to use the analogy: “You wouldn’t ask a plumber to put the roof on your house.” 

Trying to build mobile capability without the right skill set and knowledge base is a good way to end up with a mess of code that may not be salvageable. In some cases, the code is good enough for a minimal viable product (MVP) that can be rolled out to a small subset of beta testers to prove the concept. In worse-case scenarios, the entire code may be bad and the company will have to start over from scratch. 

Some companies also run into budget issues trying to solve problems they did not account for through proper planning. Ultimately, they end up with a fraction of the functionality they had hoped for. 

How to Course Correct if You’ve Made a Mistake

If your in-house team is struggling with a mobile app build, it’s best to reach out to mobile experts who can evaluate what you’ve built so far. These experts can decide what they can salvage or what needs to be done to build the app the right way while keeping customers happy during the repairs.

Benefits of Building your Mobile App the Right Way the First Time

You'll save time, money and produce better customer satisfaction by executing a mobile build that is properly planned. Defining project goals, features and technology stack upfront allows you to set your team up for a more seamless workflow. You'll catch glaring mistakes earlier in the process and set yourself up for a more successful future. You may need to invest more time in your needs assessment, but it will pay off down the line.

Cost savings

When an app is built with future iterations and system updates in mind, it reduces costly rebuilds and the time needed to make any changes that are necessary. When your team has to spend less time on these updates, changes, and maintanence, you’re using your money more efficiently overall.

User Acquisition & Retention

f your app has great functionality, it boosts your reputation and leads to lower customer acquisition costs. Innovative and groundbreaking features aside, empowering your users with simple features they've become accustomed to with digital products dramatically enhances their experience and satisfaction with a brand. That can include things like simple account management or an online support system. Getting users the information they need without having to contact anyone will ease their minds.

Great functionality also means better retention.

You don't want users to install your app, use it once and uninstall it. You want the feature set to be strategic and provide immediate impact, which will drive them to come back and become engaged users. As your app becomes more robust, adding a customization level and providing user-specific content will set you apart. The more customization to each individual customer the better, so they have the best experience.

Scalability

If your app has problems scaling, you'll quickly run into issues as your user base grows. Users are quick to judge an app’s user experience, so a product that is not designed to scale can lead to a high churn rate and low ratings. Keeping growth scalability a priority upfront will allow you to grow your user base exponentially with the least amount of friction.


Building a Great Mobile App Takes the Right Team

Mobile app development is difficult and is a much different beast than web development. It takes a great deal of expert-level knowledge around the available technologies and how to approach these projects. That’s why you need the right team to tackle the job from a design and development perspective to build a scalable app.

If you want to learn more about building out a mobile app, reach out to Majestyk to learn how they can help architect the best solution for your organization. Email info@majestykapps.com or fill out the contact form on our website


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