Many perceive the mobile product development process as a complex and costly one, as product owners can get deterred by a series of factors dealing with analysing the market, choosing a certain type of app, estimating the costs, deciding upon the execution, etc. Nevertheless, all of these steps are equally important, as neglecting some may have devastating effects upon the others and cause delays in the release.
The mobile product development process as a whole comprises several distinctive phases which we’re going to discuss and carefully analyse in this article.
Initial Analysis, Buyer Persona & Customer Journey Map
In the initial analysis phase, every startup owner needs to answer some basic questions regarding his idea: Who is it for? What budget will be allocated? Will the product be profitable? Will it be part of a future, more complex project?
Depending on the answers to these questions, a strategy on how the product should be tackled will be established.
The Buyer Persona and Their Journey
In order to fully understand the buyer persona, you need to answer another set of questions: Who will your customers be? How and when will they use your product? Most importantly, what will keep them coming back after having installed the app?
Your buyer persona analysis should include actual demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations and goals. Make sure to also keep in mind what is called the conversion funnel. After your customers are reached, they need to be acquired, converted, retained and nurtured in order to become brand evangelists.
The customer journey map will help you better understand how your future customers will be using the mobile product. As you can imagine, this map is highly personalised and there is no general pattern that applies to all mobile products. There are, however, a number of prerequisites which include a relentless focus upon the customer’s perspective, the demographics, the need to segment your audience and have a clearly defined customer goals.
Marketing and Monetization
In other words: how will you make money with this mobile product? If, for example, users will pay for it in the App store, what will help differentiate your product from other similar ones that are free? What’s its value proposition and how does it stand out?
During this mobile product development phase, you also need to decide upon mobile first, mobile only or mobile after. Going mobile only will require a great deal of your time and money to be invested into promoting the product, since the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store don’t do much for your app in terms of marketing and discoverability.
If you choose to go mobile first and leave the web for later, you might be facing imminent death since not all apps are Instagram or Angry Birds.
Our opinion would be to go web first and mobile after. The explanation is simple: this approach gives you the opportunity to gather a list of email subscribers and website visitors and those figures ultimately provide you with sufficient information to know if your product is being downloaded and used.
Sketching and Wireframing
After having analysed the customer persona, it’s time to wireframe the app, in order to understand future functionalities and ensure that no essential aspects are overlooked.
Through sketching, team members communicate and collaborate in order to better understand the specifications and the functionalities of the product.
After the sketching phase, wireframing will further help with arranging all the components of the design in the proper way. You can use tools if you want to automate the process – Balsamiq is one of them.
We’re using Marvel App during sketching and even user interface design. It’s simple and really easy to use.
User Interface Design
This stage in the mobile product development process is tightly connected to sketching and wireframing and it basically involves refining all the information gathered so far. As the name suggests, the phase focuses entirely upon the user.
Is the design intuitive enough for users to know how to find their way around it?
In order to make it as user-friendly as possible, there are some rules that can be followed and they include: attention to patterns, consistency, hierarchy, feedback (we have written an entire article about this) and simplicity.
In order to be able to go on with the execution of the mobile product, you first need to estimate all the resources (both time and money) that will be necessary for future development. Asking some questions may come in handy:
- How much time will the development take?
- How much will it cost?
Depending on the product and its requirements, the implementation plan includes: the roadmap, the prototype (how complex will it be?), the resources (time and manwork) and the costs.
The Clickable Prototype
This is generated based on sketches, wireframes and user interface. The clickable prototype is a sort of a sample that is intended to be as closest to the final version of the product as possible.
At Thinslices, we’ve come up with a three-stage process that helps us better deal with prototypes. The process includes:
- a “proof of concept” stage: we do market research and create user scenarios in order to come up with the concept for the mobile product;
- a design stage where the interactive screen mockup focuses on the interface, emphasising the main visual elements;
- coding in static mode: this helps stakeholders understand how users will interact with the product.
During the prototyping stage, testing plays a vital role because this is where usability concerns are eliminated.
This is where you should know whether you are building a native, cross-platform or a hybrid app. Although web applications are easier to distribute, they require better development skills and higher budgets.
Native apps are apps written for a certain platform, iOS or Android. Although they work great on their “native” platform, they can’t be translated to a different one.
Web apps work exclusively via browsers and, although hybrid apps can be installed just like their native counterparts, they will also work via a web browser.
We’ve published an article via Contract IQ where we discussed the overall costs of a mobile product development process.
Quality Assurance (QA)
Quality assurance is an ongoing process which needs to be in place from the very beginning. However, its importance and relevancy skyrockets during the development phase. In order to set in place an efficient QA process, you need to use specific tools for each stage of the mobile product development process.
Make sure you submit the app to the store only after having undergone thorough testing. In what concerns marketing-related aspects, both Apple Store and Google Play Store have precise policies in what concerns the launch of an app so that it reaches the end-users.
If you’re interested in learning more things on how to take your product to the next level, we would recommend Launch This Year, a project which features step-by-step lessons to guide you through the journey.
Maintenance and Support
Whether it’s planning for continuous updates or testing upgrades, the maintenance and support process needs to be an ongoing and integrated part of your after-launch strategy in order to help you maintain your mobile product’s functionality after its launch.
Bottom line, the mobile product development process is a long and costly one. That’s why you really can’t afford making mistakes or overlooking essential elements. Neglecting steps in the process may seem to make the whole journey faster but it’s really what will lead to potential disasters. Ultimately, “slow and steady” is what wins the race.
Emanuel Martonca is the CEO of Thinslices, a mobile development company which turns ideas into live products. With more than 10 years of marketing experience, he is working hard to prove that with the right team and the right mindset, everything can be accomplished. In his latest e-book which can be viewed for free on Thinslices’s website, he shows how the path from idea to live app can be achieved in less than 6 months.