All set to create a mobile app for the first time? There would be a few things that you are not quite sure about, even if app development is what you wish to make a living from. In what follows, we will address some such beginners’ queries.
If there is one sector in the tech domain that is really flourishing worldwide, it has to be the mobile apps market. According to forecasts by industry experts, the mobile app industry will touch $60 billion in revenue, by the end of 2018. Not surprisingly, many young, tech-savvy, enthusiastic people are taking up app development as their career of choice. We here highlight a few issues that a first-time mobile app developer should not be confused about:
- Android, iOS, or Blackberry first? – The Research-In-Motion powered Blackberry platform is struggling, so there won’t be much point in developing apps exclusively for it – at least for the time-being. Otherwise, it’s a toss-up between whether you should start off with iOS or Android apps first (provided that you are not interested in cross-platform mobile app development). In terms of device share, Android is way ahead of Apple. But, with the recent launch of iOS 8 and the well-received previews of Swift programming language, plenty of developers have started to lean towards iPhone applications too.
- What should the price of the app be? – Unless if you are the owner of a mobile app company, this is not something you need to worry about. However, if you are – consider pricing your apps at the average premium level, $1.99 (particularly for iOS apps). With decent downloads, this price will help you retain a healthy margin, even after Apple takes away its 30% cut. It would be a good idea to start off with a few free apps though. In any case, at iTunes and Google Play Store, the ratio between free to paid apps is heavily skewed in the former’s favor.
- How should you showcase your coding expertise? – A customized mobile application is not about you – its about whether potential customers would find it easy and beneficial (more on the second point later). Irrespective of the language you use, focus on keeping the overall source code simple. In case any problem comes up, you should be able to debug it easily. What’s more – clients of most mobile app companies in Australia ask for source codes. You need to be able to explain the codes, without confusing them. Make good use (without plagiarizing!) of the open-source libraries.
- Will your app stack up to the competition? – A few exceptions aside, the concepts and ideas you think up for your first app have already been used by other app developers. Do a thorough research of the applications at the stores that belong to the same genre. Download some of them, install them on your mobile device(s), check out their features, and think how you can make an improvement on them. Give your targeted clients enough reasons to try out your application.
- How will users remain engaged? – This is where the importance of push-notifications come into the picture. Researches have shown that such notifications are often the most common channel via which people interact with the apps on their phone. If you are developing a mobile game or an app for kids, use sounds, animations and interactive graphics as points of interaction. DO NOT request people to fill up lengthy forms on an app – the response rate won’t be high at all.
- How much will my first app cost? – Budget considerations should always be at the fore, when you create an iPhone or Android app for the first time. The total costs for developing an app can range from $1000 to $10000 (or even more), depending on the precise type of the application. During the app development process, carefully monitor and iron out all unnecessary expenses. When you give out free app quotes to your clients, mention the overall cost figure as accurately as possible. There is no rule as such regarding the cost of your first app – what matters is the budgetary specifications of your client, and…well…its prospects of success!
- How does your app benefit people? – And we are back to the issue of usability – the factor which can make or break a new app’s fortunes. The app you make should provide one clearly focused benefit to target customers (for instance, a mobile finance manager). In case you have decided to start off with a mobile app for kids, include some educational features in it (otherwise, most parents won’t approve). Avoid trying to punch in too many ‘advantages’ in the initial version of an app. Instead, increase its functionality in future upgrades/versions.
- If you hit a roadblock, who will help you? – Unless you are working freelance, there will always be colleagues at your Android or iPhone app company who will willingly help you out. You should also become a member of top-rated app development communities and forums online. If you face a problem while coding, post your queries there, with the relevant code-snippet and a reference to the app you are working on. With time, you will find that your reliance on help from others is going down.
- Should you develop an app for a niche audience? – Absolutely. there’s nothing wrong if your first app is targeted towards a limited number of viewers (say, the students of a particular university). Provided that you complete the project well and the app-reviews are good, you can show it off in your portfolio – and move on to apps that have a mass appeal. There are mobile app developers who believe that developing applications for niche audiences tends to alienate a company from general app-enthusiasts – but that is only a myth.
- Is it necessary to learn how new storyboards should be used? – A typical first-timer’s question. Right from rapid prototyping, to managing animations and high-end visualizations – checking storyboards is integral during almost every phase of iOS app development. No matter how ‘busy’ you might be, take out time to learn the latest storyboards (you will find Xcode 6 tutorials for iOS 8 online). Learning to use storyboards increases your proficiency as an iPhone app developer by several notches.
- How important is it to make a ‘good-looking’ app? – Cannot be overemphasized. An interesting app icon, vibrant, quick-loading splash screen, and smooth, user-friendly interface (UI) can really enhance the attractions of a mobile app. If you are a developer, do not take the shortcut of trying to design an app yourself (designers can become coders, it never works the other way round!). Instead, get a team of expert, experienced graphic designers in your team. They will help in making an app that truly stands out.
- How should I promote my new app? – Contrary to popular belief, mobile app marketing methods need not be anything different from how any high-end software is marketed. Publish online press releases, highlighting the key features of your soon-to-release app. Post pictures of the app screens and prototypes, to build up the curiosity level among prospective buyers. Do not make the folly of over-hyping your app though. If you send out untrue information about your app, bad word-of-mouth publicity would follow – and that can permanently tarnish the reputation of your mobile app agency.
- What should I write in the app description in iTunes/Play Store? – Probably the one thing about making and publicizing apps that does not require much of an innovation. Find out how the most successful apps in Apple iTunes and Google Play Store have been showcased – and follow the same framework. Generally, there should be a brief description, followed by a list of the main functions/points-of-difference of your app. Do not forget to include high-quality, properly cropped screenshots of your app as well.
- Should you invest some extra time for mobile app testing? – Let’s put it this way – if you don’t, there would be every chance that your application will be rejected at iTunes. A buggy Android app (which might get listed at the Play Store, for the approval guidelines are not as stringent on this platform) will also lead to adverse feedback, and ultimately, a sharp fall in downloads. Test your app on the devices of a focus group as well as over the air (i.e., the cloud network). Coding errors can happen – you only need to make sure that they are flushed out before the app is submitted.
Find out the best ways in which you can track the performance of your app (you do not want people to install and use your app just once, right?). First-time developers tend to be confused regarding what an app should do while running in the background. Take advice from your seniors and/or web forums in this regard. The payments you receive for your app will be according to the pre-specified store (Apple Store or Google Play Store) regulations. It’s great if your very first app gets featured at the stores – but there is no reason to feel down if it doesn’t. Keep following the best practices, and professional success will arrive over time. After all, earning recognition in any field requires patience!