How Mobile Apps Can Help Your Business: Part 2

Mobile Apps for your Business brought to you by Steve Renner

Part Two: Thinking about Starting a Mobile App? Here’s How.

These days, a mobile-friendly website alone won’t cut it. More midsize and small businesses are launching their own mobile apps. Restaurants, beauty salons, design firms—all types of businesses are following the mobile app trend to ensure a more user-friendly experience. Are you?

Let’s discuss the how-tos of designing, building, and launching your own mobile app.

How-To: A Helpful Guide

The mobile app trend is new, constantly changing, and, in its own way, intimidating. Here, we’ll demystify a few things about how to get started on your own mobile app.

Know Thyself

A clear objective for why you want to create a mobile app for your business is critical before getting started. What’s the purpose of your mobile app? What do you hope to accomplish? How and why are you hoping to make your business more user-friendly? What problems will your mobile app presumably solve? Answer these questions, and you’re ready to begin.

Lay the Groundwork

Start by developing sketches about the layout and design of your mobile app. This is the conceptualization stage. Think logo, features, colors. What type of aesthetic is your business hoping to impart? Minimalist? Fun? Information-rich? Some conceptual sketches will help your team get going on turning this idea into a reality.

Do the Homework

With any new venture, research is imperative. In terms of unleashing your new mobile app onto the world, find out if there are any others functioning in the same way, aiming to accomplish the same thing, and solving the same problem. If so, how many? How effective and marketable are they? Can you take your idea and retool it to make it better, faster, stronger?

Another essential component of mobile app research is to find inspiration for your own app. Seek out effective layouts and color schemes that speak to you.

Basically, there’s nothing new under the mobile app sun. But, given the right amount of diligent research, you can take your idea and make it original. Observe your competitors, and learn from their successes and mistakes. Breaking into the mobile app game at this stage shouldn’t be discouraging; you’ve got a lot to learn from.

Testing, Testing

New products can’t succeed on their own. Feedback is very important. Bring your rudimentary wireframe to colleagues and friends, essentially crowdsourcing the material. Listen to suggestions and constructive criticisms. Let people do a test run, and encourage (brutally) honest feedback. Your app will be better for it.

Insider tip: On average, it takes about 18 weeks to build a mobile app.

The Technical Talk

At this point, your developers should be ready to start building the backend of your app, presumably having already set up servers, APIs, databases, and various storage solutions.

Since mobile app backend development requires some heavy lifting, it might be smart to invest in a backend provider (such as StackMob, Parse, or Appcelerator). Backend providers do the lifting for you, storing information in their database, storing files, offering geolocation and push notifications.

Next, you’ll need some skin. “Skins” are what designers and developers call the various screens needed for your mobile app. These skins should pop, and their design should depend largely upon the feedback provided by your test groups.

Revise, Refine, Release

After yet another round of testing (remember: take notes on design), you’re ready to revise and refine all the details of your mobile app. Make any final changes to layout, color scheme, etc., and get your mobile app ready for release.

Helpful hint: As you build your mobile app, you’ll be constantly testing. Android lets you install and test your app in a live environment. To do so on iOS, you should download a platform like TestFlight.

Now it’s time to release and market your mobile app, and to get it seen. But the release of your app comes with its own snags. While Android doesn’t review your new app for approval right away, they will eventually. iOS, on the other hand, reviews immediately, and approval isn’t finalized for about a week.

Tip: Try submitting your app to PreApps (or likeminded pre-approval platform). This way, you’ll get some of the earliest feedback possible for your new mobile app.

Next time, we’ll talk about the whys of launching a mobile app for your business. Stay tuned!