According to data from the annual survey conducted by AppAnnie, Brazilians were the ones who spent the most time on their cell phones in 2021. In 2019, the average time was 3.8 hours a day, after the pandemic the average rose to 5.4 hours a day. The worldwide percentage of smartphone use has increased by 30% since 2019.
Between Apple Store and Google Play, more than 2 million apps and games were launched in 2021. The State of Mobile survey found that on both iOS and Google Play, games accounted for just 15% of all new releases last year. The remaining 85% of new apps embrace all app store categories like insurance and health.
Companies aiming to provide a better experience and easiness for the consumer have been investing in developing an exclusive application for their organization. Some of the results obtained are greater engagement with the brand and increased revenue. Time spent on shopping apps alone surpassed 18% just last year.
With such relevant data, it is only natural for companies to include the development of a personalized application for the brand in their business strategies. Check out what they are below.
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Planning and Scope
Before getting your hands-on anything, in this case, on the code, and make the project happen, it is essential to outline some guidelines for your project to be a success.
Assemble a multidisciplinary team (IT, Marketing and other areas involved) and initially draw up a business plan for the app. It should contain information such as: goal, target audience and platforms that would like to make the app available. In addition, other meetings should be held to determine which resources will be needed, map costs and functionality. In some cases, this planning may also involve creating a draft and an app launch strategy.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? The point is that poorly executed planning can generate negative results, incorrect time and cost estimates and cause more stress than you and your team would want, therefore, do not skip steps. All of them are essential.
See below for details on each step to create a custom app for your business:
Determine the goals of the app
Simon Sinek, in his book “Start with Why” writes that “the funniest thing is that I still don’t know how to start a business. The only thing I do, and most people don’t, is always start with WHY”. How about your team discover the whys of creating a personalized app?
It is an exercise that must be done and that, in the initial moment, will bring several insights. After some time of brainstorming, think and reflect on how you can summarize in just one why. Don’t give up and don’t leave the room until you reach an agreement, as it is very important for all planning. Moreover, don’t miss the opportunity to be precise and clear about the purpose of the application from the beginning.
After this process, reflect on: what problem will the app solve? What values will the app create for the people who will download it? In what way will it make their lives easier? What will lead people to recommend the app to their acquaintances?
Analyze the competition. Go to the stores and analyze the competitive potential and ask a few questions:
- Who are your competitors?
- What is their strategy?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of other apps in this market?
- What are customers saying in reviews and on social media?
There are millions of mobile apps available and this is your opportunity to make sure yours stands out. If there are only a few applications which fit the description of what your company is planning, there are two situations: firstly, there may be no market for the app; and secondly, there may be an empty space in the market, and an opportunity for new business.
Determine your target audience
Find out who your audience is. It’s no use planning a perfect app if it’s not perfect for whoever will use it.
Will it be a solution to be used internally in your company by a certain area? Talk to the people who will use it, understand how they think and imagine how that solution would make their daily lives easier.
Is it an app to interact with customers? Carry out an email survey or, better yet, call some of them for a chat. Maybe you are not sure who your target audience is, so you can start with a few questions to help clarify:
- Who are the users? Collect data such as age, gender, occupation, location, what type of cell phone they have (iOS or Android), among other basic information for segmentation.
- What are the needs, problems or desires? There is no recipe for you to find out what the needs, problems or desires of your users are. Start with open-ended questions like:”what is your opinion on…“, what are the tasks you daily perform?“, “which worksheets do you open the most on day-to-day basis?”.
- In what ways is information been consumed? If the personalized app for your company is for internal use, it is important to find out through which means of communication they find out about the company’s news – it is not always through the same place where communicates! If the app is for your client, find out if they usually read the newsletter, access your company’s blog or if it is through direct communication with a seller. Besides that, it is also essential to find out if the customer is connected to the company’s social networks, if so, which ones? Newspapers, magazines and websites that they often access can give insights into how marketing can disseminate the app and attract the attention of new and potential clients.
Being honest in answering these questions will ensure that the resources intended for the app are not wasted or targeted at the wrong groups of people.
If you can’t clearly articulate the kind of situation your app solves a problem, there may be no need to proceed. App ideas are expendable if they don’t solve problems for real users.
Select the platform
Nowadays platform options have been limited to 2: Android and iPhone. Commercial and widely used apps are released on two app stores: Google Play and App Store.
In the case of specific applications, which fulfill a certain function and have device limitations, as in industries, for example, can be launched in only one store. The most common is to use Android, this lowers the cost of appliances and provides simplified launch processes.
Learn about the types of apps and pick one
There are some technical decisions to be made from the start, and this is a crucial one. Choosing between native, hybrid or a web application has many implications for its further development and maintenance.
Which is why it’s critical that this question is already in your market research as well, aligned with the core purpose and target audience you have just determine, so you can make the best decision.
- The main differences between native, hybrid and mobile apps are:
- The programming languages in which they are developed affect and depend on the budget, expected deadlines and available experience.
- Access to native device APIs: possible impact on the functionality of the device you want your app to access.
- Distribution Method: it will greatly affect how you commercialize your app and determine your promotion strategies.
- support: based on your target audience and the market you want to be in; most of the time, you will wish to be present on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Play Store.
A native app is the one built for a specific platform, such as iPhone or Android, using your code libraries and accessing your available hardware resources (camera, GPS, etc).
Meanwhile, a web application, on the other hand, is hosted on the web and accessed from a browser on the mobile device. We are going to explore the pros and cons of both approaches.
Native apps tend to be faster and more responsive. Since the code running the app is stored locally on the phone, there is no need to wait for static content (like images and text) to download from the web. Although dynamic content still needs to be accessed from the web, is an improvement over the web model that everything needs to be downloaded each time.
Native apps can run asynchronously, which means dynamic information can temporarily be locally stored on the phone and synced with the web-based central server later.
Adopt the native application approach gives access to the hardware features of that platform, and this allows for interesting features such as: take pictures, access GPS information, make calls, make use of near field communication (NFC), etc.
It represents free shelf space for new products and can be a great way to advertise and get new users, especially if an app offers unique features.
The biggest disadvantage of developing a native app compared to a web-based one is that a separate codebase must be created and maintained for each individual platform. For example, if you initially decided to build an iPhone app, you would have to design, code, and deploy an iOS app to the App Store. If in the future you decide that you also want an Android version, it will be necessary to redesign the app for the Android device, as well as code it and publish it to the Android app store – it goes similarly for other platforms.
While there can be savings in porting an app from one platform to another (instead of building it from scratch), the cost may be less than you might think..
From a design point of view, the task of changing the look of one platform (e.g. iPhone) to another (e.g. Android) is generally very straightforward.
From a development perspective, however, the codebases are two entirely different languages and they will have to be completely rewritten simply to mimic the functionality of the original app.
The biggest advantage of creating a custom app for your company that is a web version is, obviously, the biggest disadvantage of a native approach.
When developing a web app, you are centralizing your offer. Users of any mobile device (iPhone, Android; even Blackberry, Palm and future devices that are yet to exist) will be able to access the app and use it right away, in other words, it will not be necessary to download or install it on their cell phones.
There is no waiting for the release of the app version and you just need to have a team to maintain it. Single solution means there is a single version of the code base that all users on all platforms access and use.
Real time updates
Furthermore, your app updates can happen in real time “automatically”. There is no need to wait for the App Store to review and approve your change, and you don’t need to have your users base going through the software update process on their own.
Another big advantage of the web-based approach is that you are not bound by the rules set by the terms and conditions of competing app stores. You are free to offer content and advertising as you see fit.
It’s also worth mentioning here that from a technical perspective, things are moving very quickly on the mobile web. For an experienced web developer, many (although not all) of the limitations of the web can be compensated for or overcome.
The biggest disadvantage of the mobile web is the limitation or lack of access to the mobile device’s hardware resources like GPS, camera, NFC, etc. For those developing an application that must have access to any of these hardware resources, this limitation often forces the decision to create a personalized native app.
Beyond that, while the restrictions and requirements of a development for a platform can be seen as stifling or restrictive, they also serve to force consistency and inherently resolve many subtle details with very little work. When developing a mobile web solution, it is essential to have responsible people on the team to offer adequate support, since the user will not be able to count on the support of the online stores.
The best of both worlds are hybrid apps. They are installed on a device just like any other app. What sets them apart is the fact that they have native app elements, apps developed for a specific platform like iOS or Android, with web application elements, websites that act like apps although are not installed on a device, but they are accessed on the Internet via a browser.
- A code base to manage
All the advantages of hybrid apps come from the fact that, instead of building two of them, you are building one app and simply adjusting it a bit so that it works on both platforms.
Using a hybrid app, you only have one code base to manage.
- Saving time and money
You will only have one code base to manage, and with a smaller team than two native apps would have required is possible. Or, if you choose to have a large team, you will gain in agility and delivery time.
Hybrid apps are easier to move to another platform. Once you create one platform, you can easily launch on another like Windows Mobile.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Apps
When compared to native apps, it is possible to observe that hybrid apps are more prone to present errors and also to be slower, this is because it has some characteristics of the operating system in its language in order to run on the mobile.
User experience can be compromised in hybrid apps, as each platform (iOS and Android) has unique capabilities that can be exploited, in order to include them in a hybrid model it will be necessary to use a combination of specific plugins, and this often leads to an increase in time and cost.
After making a decision on the type of app, you will allocate your resources much more easily and can plan your entire development project.
Each project is unique and, when establishing the functionalities, the focus must be on the target audience that was established during planning. So if it’s a app for corporate, it must meet the needs of those who will use it, that way, counting on the help and collaboration of stakeholders in the definition of features will make a difference and reduce rework.
Based on our experience at Lyncas, we can highlight some basic features of the app, such as: login, notifications, registration, menus and search.
But each project focus on solving some problem or proposing some specific functionality. In the case of a virtual store, the app will have typical areas like: shopping cart, products, categories, features, inventory management, customer service and orders list. While in a Warehouse Management app, it will include: check in and out, labels, change of address inside the warehouse, queries and inventory.
Design UI & UX
All the apps and systems in general are about troubleshooting, everything involves people and users. As developers, managers, leaders and suppliers, we have no way of knowing what users thinks and how they uses the app. Far beyond a beautiful and pleasant layout, app design is about creating interfaces that meet user expectations for interactions and experiences within mobile apps. Using UI/UX techniques, the designer develops solutions that make using the app easy and intuitive.
By using UI/UX techniques, the designer will create the necessary structures to keep the app easy and intuitive to use.
Immersion and Problem Definition
Steps related to the problem and business of the client. Surveys with script, personas and user’s journey are used.
Improvement opportunities, Design
UI (Low or High Fidelity), Navigable Prototypes, Style Guides.
The draft provides all the tools you need for a truly collaborative design process. From initial ideas to pixel-perfect final art, prototypes and developer handover, it all starts here.
In simple terms, a mobile app wireframe is a two-dimensional draft that serves as a visual guide and demonstrates how an app will work.
The point of the wireframe is not to represent the complete design of the app, only the main screens and interface elements. The app owner and development team can use a wireframe to agree on and clarify the direction and the scope of the entire project.
Simply put, storyboards are a series of illustrations or images arranged in a chronological sequence with the purpose of previewing the usability of the app.
According to Localytics, a mobile marketing research firm, 21% of people use an app only once after downloading it. Low retention rates can be due to different factors, but it’s crucial to understand users’ behavior and find ways to engage them and encourage them to continue using the app.
Prototypes demonstrate user experience issues you might have never thought of. This way, it is possible to anticipate some challenges and make adjustments when actually developing the app.
For example, if you realize that a certain button in the prototype is clicked much less frequently than the other buttons, it is worth investigating why. Is the font not legible? Does the button disturb or distract users? The list could go on. By developing a prototype, it is possible to observe the behavior of users and develop strategies to engage them.
App cost factors
A survey by a mobile data and analytics company, App Annie, showed that 86% of consumers’ mobile time is spent on mobile apps. In order to keep up with this growth trend, 90% of US companies are increasing their investment in mobile app development.
Nevertheless, what slows companies down in executing an efficient mobile app development process is not knowing how to plan and budget them.
It is fundamental to keep in mind that each mobile app is unique and depends on several strategic decisions for the business, which is way there are differences between projects; scope and time frame are also factors that will go into the cost of the project.
Our work developing applications for small, medium and enterprise level clients has taught us that there are 6 things that affect the cost of mobile app development, regardless of project or budget size:
1. App functionality
The first two items “Objective” and “Target Audience” are part of the research and the information obtained here will be crucial in this phase of the project, that is why our advice is: do not skip steps. Clearly knowing what the purpose of the app is and who is the audience that will use it will make a difference when designing the features expected from the app.
For example, you don’t need a geolocation service for an editing app. But you cannot make a food-ordering app without the location-based service integration.
You must differentiate between the primary and secondary functions of your app, and that’s why we recommend you to carefully decide what functionality your company’s app will have.
2. Platforms and supported mobile devices
Determining which platform to use when developing an app-based experience has become increasingly difficult as the number of devices powered by an app increases. you can design and develop apps for traditional mobile devices (Android or iOS), virtual assistants (Alexa or Google Home), messaging platforms (Messenger or Slack), IoT products (e.g. connected televisions, home automation, smart cars, etc.) and even niche apps for virtual reality.
All these platforms require very different approaches to user experience design and engineering. And even if you’re only considering traditional mobile devices, Android and iOS are very different from each other. This is partly because of the high number of different devices on Android, which can increase the cost of development and testing on that platform.
Some important decisions are made at this point in order to estimate the cost of the app:
- Which platform makes sense for the strategy of your company: iOS, Android or both?
- What type of device should the app work on: tablet, television or only mobile phones?
- What type of app will be developed: native, hybrid or web app?
In addition, it is important to remember that to publish the app on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store there is no cost to the creator directly (cost per app).
However, there is a need to have a Developer and/or Publisher account, this account on the other hand is paid.
3. Integration Points
Integration points will undoubtedly cost more money during development, but they will save you time and money in the long run.
Take this into consideration: which third-party systems the app needs to integrate with? Many apps integrate with complex backend systems (Salesforce, SAP, Sharepoint, social medias, etc) automating processes that were previously manual.
Where is the app content going to come from? Does the content already exist in other data structures (databases, APIs) or is the new content being developed specifically for the app?
Who is going to handle the content? Are there multiple interested parties involved? Is there an established editorial workflow for the review/approval of content?
4. UX and UI Design
UI Design (user interface) is the focus on looks or style of your mobile app, and UX design (user experience) is the way the user will engage with your app. Thus, the design of an app is one of the most crucial factors for the success of a mobile app..
The cost of making a mobile app is influenced by several factors.
For example: the number of screens that will go into your app will have a direct impact on the hours of work a designer needs to dedicate. Secondly, what kind of screen do you want your app to have? Would you like to include modern graphics in your UI and make the experience easier to users by using lots of animations?
If so, this will be added to the cost of developing your mobile app.
However, the most important consideration here is whether you want to go for a native UI design or a personalized UI design for your app.
When you have simple functionality built into your app, it might not cost so much. Visual resources make your app attractive and engaging. Consequently, the number of downloads will be higher as well.
5. Use of phone hardware features
Part of what makes mobile apps unique is the ability to take advantage of the “smart” parts of your smartphone. If you want features like phone GPS, location-based functionality (like iBeacon), accelerometer, gyroscope (which detects motion) and the camera (although this is usually quite easy) these factors can add to or subtract from the total development cost.
6. Hiring developers for the app project
After determining a business strategy, it’s time to get your app off ground and make it happen.
Quality mobile apps require UI design programming, Quality assurance testing and project management. It is very unlikely to find a genius developer who will meet every need.
You are going to need to hire a team for your project, for this reason we would like to introduce you to the options so you know them and adapt them to your budget and needs.
Acquisition of an in-house team
In-house developers can be a great choice in some situations. You can hire exactly what you need and keep it all in-house. It is important to have in mind that hiring a talent is an tough task and can take months, which can lead to a possible delay in the project.
Be prepared for the initial investment, once in addition to adding fixed costs to your payroll you need to worry about providing them with workspace, equipment, software licenses and benefits.
Most app development projects will require the skills of multiple freelancers and you need to manage them so that they work and deliver synchronously.
However, this working format can present project management challenges for unprepared project managers.
Hiring a consultancy for app development
Companies all around the world have already realized that working in partnership with an IT consultancy can streamline several processes and projects.
A consultancy in app development cuts off the fixed costs associated with in-house developers, as well as the project management expenses and challenges associated with hiring a group of freelancers.
At Lyncas, for instance, we have a complete multidisciplinary team to understand your project from initial idea to launch. In our Software Factory, we apply a methodology that has been working for our clients and their projects, in which we participate from understanding to sustainment of the app.
In any case, we recommend seeking references from clients already served by the consultancy, as well as requesting a detailed proposal on the scope of the project. Decision making should be based on the overall value you receive and the total cost of ownership, not just the hourly rate. By the way, do not start your project without a signed contract.
Who you hire to make your app can make a big difference on the results. This is the most critical decision you will have to make.
Data is very important, so data security should be at the top of your list. You must ensure that your app is hack-proof, as well as any other known threats.
This can be done by using an app security software. And the cost of this varies depending on the security issues you are looking to fix.
8. Maintenance Plan
Work does not stop after the app is deployed. In fact, responsibility only increases. The app your company has developed needs to survive in this fierce market.
To do that, it is necessary to offer constant updates and correction of bugs. Users feedback is usually immediate and may include issues, suggestions, and requests for improvements. It is essential to answer them, as this avoids stress in case the app fails or does not meet the user’s expectation..
You need to think of a maintenance plan from the start and account for it in costs as a certain percentage. Plan to promptly update the app or face the fact that it will become irrelevant and will be deleted by users. This plan should go hand in hand with your overall digital strategy, helping you stay ahead of the digital curve.
8 steps to build a personalized app
If you have read this far, you’re actually planning to make a personalized app and understood that skipping steps can increase the cost of your project.
Analyzing the target audience and establishing the objectives and functionality of the app will make all the difference when thinking about building your app. So, let’s go to the essential parts of this construction phase:
As part of an app architecture, there will be frontend and backend services. Frontend development cares about app user experience, while backend development focuses on providing access to data, services and other existing systems that make the app work.
Architecture is a starting point or roadmap for building an app, but you will have to make implementation choices not acquired in an architecture. For example, the first step is to choose a programming language in which to write the app.
2. Planning the back-end;
Imagine a piano, the keys that the musician presses are the frontend, the strings that emit the sound, it’s the backend. A very simple example to demonstrate how an app works (or any software you may know!) the part you see, like colors and layout, is the frontend part, but what makes it all happen is in the backend.
And the server side is concerned with business rules, security and app performance. It is divides in three:
- Server: where user information and data will be stored to be distributed according to requests;
- API: is an Application Programming Interface, which works as a bridge between the frontend and the backend. It can also be an integration API for location, photos and even external data.
- Database: the place where structured data is stored and easily found.
Don’t restrict yourself to programming. Prioritize requirements and create a milestone-based development plan. To improve project progress, we suggest segmenting the project into smaller deliveries.
Scheduling status meetings will help you measure progress against project estimates. As your team completes each step, you should review it to ensure it meets your expectations in addition to dealing with possible changes to the project. In many cases, involved parties can make suggestions that change the scope of the project. Having a system to control changes will help you manage, assess and prioritize changes.
3. IDE (Integrated Development Environment);
A IDE, which is, a Integrated Development Environment, allows a developer to consolidate different aspects of writing software. For example: source code editing; creating executables and debugging.
- Source code Editor: it is a text editor that facilitates and helps the creation and verification of the codes created and signals the developer through visuals.
- Creation Tools: they are programs that automate some processes in the creation of the app, such as compiling, linking and packaging code into an executable format.
- Debugging: when a program does not run correctly, IDEs provide debugging tools that allow programmers to examine different variables and deliberately inspect their code.
4. SDK (Software Development Kit);
Just like a furniture installer needs the right tools to assemble kitchen cabinets, the developer needs a package of parts and/or tools to develop the applications.
The basic SDK usually includes a compiler, debugger, and application programming interfaces (APIs), but it may also include:
- Development Environments;
- Test and analysis Tools;
- Network Protocols.
5. Programming Language; – most commons: React Native, Natives Swift (apple), Java Android
You have learned about the kinds of platforms and devices, besides understanding that there are different types of applications, this was important because it will make it easier to choose the ideal type of language for the personalized app that your company will acquire. Let’s briefly talk about the most used languages:
- Objective-C: one of the first programming languages for iOS apps, it is very stable, however, it requires a lot of details, and during development it ends up polluting the screen.
- Swift: created in 2014, it is a consistent and intuitive programming language,
- developed by Apple to create apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch. Open source, it gives more freedom to developers.
- Java: an object-oriented language, known for creating systems and websites, available since 1995. Java was quickly adopted by Android for app development.
- Kotlin: a multi-platform open source programming language, object-oriented and functional, concise and statically-typed, developed by JetBrains in 2011 and widely used by Android developers.
- C# + Xamarim: Xamarin is a development platform maintained by Microsoft which allows the creation of native mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone using the C# language with the . NET.
- Dart + Flutter: Flutter is an open source framework developed by Google in the Dart language, aiming at creating multi-platform (iOS and Android), web, mobile and desktop apps. Fluidity and agility to create apps through compilation in native code.
6. API (Integration Services)
Application Programming Interface is basically what the abbreviation API stands for. It is a set of applications that allow the construction of an intelligent interface, which allows two systems to communicate.
For example, when you place an order on a pizzeria’s app and is able to follow the route that the delivery boy takes to deliver it to your home, this app may have used an integration with Google Maps.
You might want the user to make an online purchase and pick it up at the physical store, or maybe dispatch orders in an automated way, you might want to control deliveries in real time as in the example mentioned above, or wish to create roadmaps for your sales team. Anyway, possibilities are endless, however, this needs to make sense to the audience you are creating the demand for.
Name, date of birth, address and all the information that will be collated from the people who will use your app will have to be stored in some place, that is where the Database comes in.
A Database is the place where structured data is collected, stored and organized in a consistent, efficient, protected and accessible way for consultation and research whenever necessary.
8. Server (Cloud).
A server is a powerful infrastructure, whether physical or in the cloud, that performs the storage of information processing, it can be used in several ways like database, emails, files, web and apps.
When it comes to the app server, it is expected it to respond dynamically and personalized to a client request. Therefore, it is something to pay attention to, since apps that have a slower response cause users to abandon them and/or switch to a faster one.
Marketing: develop an app marketing strategy
If there is one element that greatly affects the success of your app, is the preparation to market it and expand it, including your branding, public relations, pre-launch efforts, reach and simply general web presence.
Now, you might think it’s too early to think about app marketing before you even start developing it. However, your efforts will multiply in the long run if you start building anticipation on it before you make it available on the app stores.
How to build expectation on your app:
Determine your brand: will the name, colors, logo and the tone of your content set the app apart from the millions of others apps and companies? Ensure consistency of your app and across all platforms you are present in.
Find your channels: where does your target audience usually go? Are they easier to reach through social media or email? Do they prefer video over written content? How much time do they spend on their mobile devices? Some of these answers you may have already discovered when you researched your target audience. If you still do not have all the information you need, get back to the research.
Create content: Based on the answers in the previous point, you should now know what content your audience wants and where to find it. Start mapping your written and/or video content and share it on selected channels. Remember to answer the questions, as simple as they are they are important to connect with your audience.
Establish partnerships: what people are the influencers in your industry, both small and large? Make an effort to reach them in a differential way and provide them with a lot of value to get your app in the eyes of their audiences. According to data from the Influencer Marketing agency, 82% of users follow brands on Instagram and more than half (55%) have already purchased something based on an influencer’s opinion.
Landing Page: other suggestion is to create a unique page rich with information about the app, including nice videos and photos will grab your audience’s attention, include a FAQ and of course, extremely important is to have the direct link to the app stores to make downloads easier.
Anticipation: while the app is not officially launched, you can generate audience expectations by collecting the email address of your future users (respecting the GDPR rules, of course!) so they are the first to know that the app is available for download. These steps will make promotion easier when it’s time to launch, and you’ll have a community waiting for the launch.
Having a personalized app for your brand is a strategy that can make all the difference in your business, and the best it is planned, from idea to execution, more successful the launch and public acceptance will be.
If you have plans to get a personalized app, contact Lyncas and find out how we can help you.