In case you haven’t noticed it (and it would be hard not to), people are spending a lot of time on their phones, and the more they do, the more they’re demanding improved, seamless mobile experiences.
As a result of our ongoing love affair with our phones, more businesses are choosing to invest in developing mobile apps of their own. However, creating an app isn’t exactly a simple proposition. It takes considerable time and the talents of many individuals to bring an app to life. If you happen to be one of those companies that thinks it’s time to have an app of your own, we have some advice to help avoid some of the typical challenges that can occur when developing a mobile app.
The 10 Pitfalls to Mobile App Development
Companies both large and small face a number of potential challenges when initiating app development. However, by providing you with the following list, we hope to make your development process go much more smoothly. With that in mind, here are the top 10 most common pitfalls of mobile app development:
1. Skipping the Strategy
There’s a very good reason why carpenters measure twice and cut once: they want to be sure that the only cut is the right cut. If you don’t take the time to clearly define the business or user problem that you’re trying to solve by developing your app in the first place, you may end up spending a whole lot of time and money developing features or functionality that you don’t need or building a platform that is not supported by your users. For example, if 90% of your customers are on iOS devices, why would you want to spend any time on cross-platform development? It would make little sense. By taking the time to carefully consider why you’re developing your mobile app, you’ll save yourself, and your development team a lot of wasted time, effort, and money.
2. Not Defining What Success Looks Like
Here’s another example of how investing time wisely on the front end can make a huge difference when you come out the other end of the app development process. Take the time to define how exactly you’re going to measure whether or not your app is a success. Will they be based solely on registrations? The number of downloads? Sales revenue? Your success metrics will greatly impact your overall strategy, development approach, and costs. Success can be measured in many ways. Taking the time to decide what those ways will be will help to ensure that your app’s “success” was actually, you know, successful.
3. Taking Your Eye off Your Competition
One of the best ways to gauge what problem(s) your app should attempt to solve is by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. Unfortunately, many companies—perhaps in their desire to create an app that is wholly original and not influenced by other apps—fail to take a look at what their competitors have done with their apps. Big mistake. Reviewing your competitors’ apps can give you ideas for design and functionality, as well as a sense of which features are considered “table stakes,” and where you can go above and beyond to differentiate yourself as a brand or company.
4. Failing to Clarify All Technical Requirements
While they might feel like they are, mobile apps are not magic. A ton of technology research and development goes into every app, and not taking the time to gather a complete set of technical requirements prior to development can lead to wasted time and cost. For example, if you know that your app has to integrate with other tools or databases, you need to approach the project with that in mind. Regardless of the business reason for developing an app, that reason is going to be powered by technology, and you need to make sure that all of your technology ducks are in a row before app development commences.
5. You Didn't Define Your MVP
Perfection is a tough nut to crack. Truth? You’re never going to crack it. If you spend too much time trying to develop the “perfect” app before you launch, it’s quite possible that you’re going to miss your window of opportunity to get a perfectly good product into the market in a timely manner. As the adage says, don’t let “great” be the enemy of “good.” Put your minimum viable product (MVP) out into the world, get feedback directly from initial users, and use that feedback to inform the next phase of the app. Remember, a good idea today is better than a great idea tomorrow.
6. You Failed to Determine Your Priorities
This common pitfall relates to the previous one: You can’t do it all on the first shot, and that’s perfectly okay. When you make a “to-do” list, you usually put the most important things that you need to accomplish at the top of your list—right? App development is no different. Prioritize the features and functionality you want to invest in, and the order in which to invest, based on the value to the user and/or the business, as well as feedback from users utilizing the app in the market. There will be plenty of time down the road to tweak, add, optimize, and adjust. Initially, focus just on what’s most important to your business and your customers.
7. The Cost Was Underestimated
It’s easy enough to underestimate the cost of, well, pretty much everything, and mobile app development is no different. Some businesses only focus on the original costs of development but don’t budget for maintenance costs or marketing, and it causes the app to fail. The cost of mobile app technology, expanding features, optimizing the experience, investing in marketing, and business operational costs can be quite expensive. The sooner you accept that reality, and budget accordingly for it, the more you increase the odds of your mobile app being a success.
8. The Testing Plan Wasn’t Documented
Do you know what’s worse than you finding bugs in your mobile app? Having your users find them, which is why documenting your testing plan is critically important. There are so many different types of phones and platforms that not having a testing plan in place is akin to playing Russian Roulette with your app and losing every time. Underestimating or short-cutting testing is a minefield of delays and additional costs. However, the greatest cost of trying to make do without a testing plan is the potential cost to your brand’s reputation. Nothing will turn a user off faster than a sloppy, amateurish brand experience, and that’s one oversight that’s hard to come back from.
9. Email Marketing
You can build the most thoughtfully designed, aesthetically pleasing, beneficial app in the world, but if nobody knows about it what good is it doing? You need to have a clear plan to get the app to users. It’s not enough to just put it in the app store and assume people will find it (that might work well for magical baseball fields in Iowa, but not so much for mobile apps). SEO and marketing play an important role for users to discover the app, and of course, getting existing users to favorably rate your app is important to build credibility for future users.
10. You Forgot About the Feedback Loop
To be clear, a customer review in the app store is not the same thing as customer feedback. Reviews would not be your feedback loop because negative reviews can not be taken down and, as we all know, everything on the Internet is written in ink. What you need to do is set up usability testing prior to launching using simple services such as Usertesting.com for example. You also want to set up funnels in Google Analytics to capture data that can be used to inform your product strategy. When it comes to mobile apps, the name of the game is to do whatever you can to help increase the odds that your app will be a raging success, and soliciting user feedback is one of the ways to do exactly that.
For Mobile Apps, It's Go Time
As you read this sentence, apps are being developed, downloaded, opened, and used by tens of millions of people around the globe, each a potential customer for any company willing to toss their hat into the app ring. Yes, there are potential pitfalls in the app development process. However, by knowing what those pitfalls are before you begin that process, you can take actions that will help to ensure that developing your mobile app will be judged a success, both by you and, of course, your customers.
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