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Developing Successful Web and Mobile Apps: A 7-Step Guide

Updated on April 20, 2017

Web and mobile apps today are what websites were a decade ago. Everybody wants one—be it for business purposes or personal projects. With the app market flooded with every possible thing under the sun, you need to take some key steps to stand out from the crowd and gain significant downloads and app usage. What are they? Read on and I'll walk you through it!

Step 1: Define the purpose.

Many businesses come up with apps simply because the rest of the world is doing it. And this usually turns out to mean two things: lack of purpose and unmet consumer needs. If you’re planning to develop a web or mobile app for your business, it’s imperative that you’re clear about the purpose you want it to serve and you lay down exactly what you want to achieve with it. Are you looking to build an app that serves as:

  • a trip planner for making travelling easy?
  • a platform for buying and selling fine goods?
  • a budgeting guru for staying on track financially?

The key is to think about how your app will work and benefit your customers. What good is an app if it doesn’t add value to people’s lives, anyway? Until your app serves a real purpose or an unmet need, it will not get downloaded.

◈ More here: App Ideas that Make Money by Chad Mureta

Step 2: Do market and user research.

With millions of web and mobile apps existing today, you’re bound to find something similar to yours. In fact, there are plenty of popular ones that have similar, if not identical, competitors. For example, Wunderlist, Clear, and Google Keep are all great to-do list apps. While they all have the same primary function, they each have become wildly successful. How come? Because app success is never about who did it first; it’s about who did it better. And you can do better when you research the market and really get to know your users.

  • Check out the app stores daily and browse through the top grossing apps in your category of interest. This will help determine whether or not people are downloading the type of app you want to develop.
  • Explore your users’ behavior and preferences, and identify the pain points they’re looking to solve. This will save you heaps of money and time that you would have otherwise spent building something no one wants or needs.

Step 3: Integrate a unique and valuable set of features.

All successful mobile apps have something that others of similar category don’t. It's never enough to just put in the work and then believe that your app is going to do well. You're designing and developing for people; therefore, it's important that you focus on adding unique value to their lives. Answering these questions may help:

  • How is your story different?
  • How is your app similar to others?
  • How are your app's features better?

The bottom line is, if you don't deliver some kind of unique value, you'll find it hard to compete with the big players who are dominating the same category.

◈ Quick Question:

Which experience is the most annoying for you?

See results

Step 4: Provide a seamless user experience.

While there are quite a few components involved in developing web and mobile apps that offer quality user experience, the most fundamental thing your app needs to be is intuitive. If performing basic functions is a struggle for your users, then take that as a telltale sign of poor usability. So how do you avoid this? Easy. Choose the least digitally savvy person in your surrounding and ask them to play around with your app. If they can figure it out without asking for help, then your app’s intuitive enough. If not, then you’ve got some fixing to do.

The average user spends less than a minute to decide whether your app is worth using or not, so you need to get things right. Paying particular attention to some of the best UI/UX practices will give you a leg up in the game. Here's a pretty neat infographic to help you out:

Step 5: Create a marketing plan.

Just like any other part of your business, you need to have a marketing plan for your app—and it is highly advised that you cook up some strategies beforehand while your app is still in its development phase. This plan generally details how you aim to successfully promote your app, get new users, and convince them to hit the download button. While it largely varies based on your app type and target market, consider having some key tools in place— from your product’s website down to app store optimization and advertisement. From here, you can then have a think about:

  • Early outreach (i.e. partnerships)
  • Early access offers (i.e. easly sign-up pages)
  • Press kits and collateral

Spread awareness about your app before (and after) the launch, and you're guaranteed not just to create a buzz but also to draw massive users attention to your app.

◈ Quick Question:

Which of these apps offer the best user experience?

See results

Step 6: Do proper testing.

This seems like an obvious step in web and mobile app development, sure, but did you know that 44% of defects are found by the user? Yup, you read that right! While it’s rare for an app to come with zero minor bugs upon launch, making sure that you do proper testing can guarantee there are no major issues that need fixing. Track both front-end and back-end functionality to get a thorough understanding of your app’s performance. Why? Because without proper functionality, your users will abandon your app within 30 seconds for another.

Step 7: Keep innovating.

Assuming you’ve already launched your app, you can still design for further growth. No app is ever complete, after all! Besides planning for ongoing engagement with your users, you need to hear them out, gather feedback, and continually improve.

  • Make sure your app does what it was intended to do: solve specific problems.
  • Keep a running wish list of features you can build and add in later releases.
  • Plan to make yearly changes to keep up with OS updates.

Make your app a success.

The web and mobile app industry isn’t even in its teens, yet the rate at which it has grown since its inception validates the need to be involved with the expanding trend of web and mobile app development. Many businesses have achieved remarkable success with their apps. While technical skill matters, they’ve made it because they created something of great value for their customers. And in this industry, you only really succeed when you meet your customers’ needs.

So how about you? What strategies have you found to be most effective when developing web and mobile apps?

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