15/04/2015

By Nick Black, Co-Founder and Director of the UK's leading mobile app developer Apadmi


When a business decides to build an app, it is important to consider the purpose and the target audience throughout the whole development process. If the end user isn’t taken into account, it’s likely that the app will fail to be successful with recent research highlighting that 90 per cent of mobile apps are abandoned within the first year.

To create a successful app, a strong development plan needs to be devised, considering each stage carefully. The plan should be thought out before work actually starts on building the app so that the reason for developing it is at the centre of the whole project. This should ensure that the app is less likely to fail as there is a clear structure in place and it isn’t just being built for the sake of it.

One of the first things that a business should consider when it comes to developing an app is the reasons why are they choosing to build one and who is likely to use it. If an app doesn’t have a clear purpose then people are less likely to download it, or if they do install it, it probably won’t be used for long and will most likely be deleted. The app will struggle to work for the end user if it doesn’t function to meet their needs. For example, an app shouldn’t be made to replace a mobile website as both platforms carry out different jobs. An app can do things such as boost customer engagement, increase revenues through paid downloads and encourage in-app purchases, but a mobile website may be more useful when a user is looking to access detailed information.

In terms of determining who is likely to use the app, it’s helpful to carry out some research with the target audience first to get their feedback on the idea and figure out whether they would be interested in what it has to offer. This will help to clearly define the intended audience and will show whether the app will suit them. If the target audience isn’t interested in using the app, then it has little chance of succeeding.

For the end user to want to use the app they need to know what it does and how it will benefit them. What function will it perform and why should they download it? Apps work better when they have one clear job rather than trying to do lots of different things. If the app does need to perform a few tasks, then this should be considered early on as it’s much harder to incorporate more functions that can all work together once the development process has started. This is why early planning is really important.

It also needs to be simple and easy-to-use whilst being reliable as well. If the app is too complicated and difficult to navigate then it’s more likely that users will abandon it. Further to this, it’s important to remember that apps may perform differently on the various devices available. So a ‘one size fits all’ design shouldn’t be adopted because it may perform differently on an iOS device and an android.

Planning is key in order to ensure the app is well designed and thought out and it’s important to obtain feedback from the intended audience to shape the development of the app. By asking the audience what they think about the design, problems and usability issues can be identified and resolved quickly.

Another thing to consider is where the data will come from for the app. If the purpose of it is to allow users to purchase the products sold by the business, then it will need to update regularly when the stock that is available changes. In these scenarios, updating information needs to be simple and this can either be done by embedding content within the app or downloading it from a server. The first option is simple to code but can make updating information difficult, whilst the latter makes updates quicker but it takes much longer to download the information from the server beforehand.

Most of the time a business will not have all of the resources in-house to complete the whole development process. They may have to outsource some or all of the work depending on the team they have available internally. When this is the case, outsourced teams need to be referenced and checked properly to ensure that they have the appropriate skills to create the best app possible. It should also be made clear what they are responsible for and costs should be calculated in advance.

By ensuring that all those involved in the creation of the app are aware of their role, it will also help to make it clear from the outset that the app will be launched under the company’s name that wanted the app building – not the third-party development team’s name. If it’s launched under the wrong name, then the users may not know who the app belongs to and it’s difficult to get the name changed afterwards.

In addition, when using a third party developer, the owner of the app should have copies of the code as they have the legal rights to own this too. This is the information that makes up the app and will be used later on if any changes or updates need to be made to the app. Regular copies of the source code should be obtained throughout the entire process including the final version. Once the development has been completed, the business may want to use another independent body to check that the code is correct.

The final, and arguably most important stage of the app development is the testing period. Regular testing should be carried out during every phase of the development process. This is to ensure that any problems that do occur can be dealt with in the first instance. It can be much harder to fix an issue if development has already progressed too far and it could mean that the completion of the app is delayed. The app should be tested in lots of different scenarios to examine how it will deal with potential problems across various platforms, such as loss of battery life. An app is unlikely to be successful if it is not tested frequently as issues are bound to occur at some point. If they are not identified and fixed then the app may be inefficient or not actually work at all.

By completing all of these planning stages, the app has more chance of succeeding and gathering interest from the target audience. Thorough planning is key when beginning any project so that any key milestones are met and all stakeholders involved are aware of all dependencies and their duties. The development of the app will be well structured with the end product being carefully thought out. If people do not feel as though they need the app because it does not have a clear purpose, then they won’t download it and it will most likely fail.