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I’ve Decided to Build a Mobile App! Now What?

July 4, 2010

Maybe you have a successful online business and you’re looking to extend your reach to mobile customers? Serve them whenever they need you, wherever they are…

And unless you have the know-how in-house, you start looking around for external mobile application developer to bring your app to life. I’m obviously biased here, so I’ll not discuss how you should choose your vendor ;) I’d rather try to answer the question I receive at almost every first call with a customer: “What are the next steps?”

While my answer is more or less based of Bianor’s mobile application development processes, you should probably expect something similar from every professional app developer.

So, the commercial and legal part aside, a typical process goes like this:

  1. You talk with a sales person to discuss your app concept. Use each opportunity to get some valuable feedback and hopefully good ideas from them.
  2. Based on the information you’ve shared, your app developer sends you a preliminary estimate regarding the duration of the project and its price.
  3. Together with your app developer (represented usually by a sales person and a lead engineer at this stage) you start to outline the app requirements in more details. This could happen over the phone/email or in person, depending on the size of the project.
  4. If your app requires integration with your existing IT infrastructure and services, you would have to provide the necessary specifications to your app developer. If your app requires integration with third-party systems – SMS gateways, online content services, hosting environments, etc. – you would have to inform your app develop for the chosen systems or let them choose.
  5. Based on their understanding of the app-to-be and hopefully their industry experience, your mobile app developer develops and sends you a set of materials describing in details the future app. Such material could be a live prototype of the application which demonstrates all app screens and GUI elements. This is probably the best way to communicate and agree upon the app functionality, and also an excellent way to evaluate your developer’s understanding of what they have to build. For larger projects you should also expect a functional specification, typically in the form of use-cases, as well as UI design sketches demonstrating the graph design on your app-to-be. Sometimes also a supplementary specification, outlining non-functional requirements such as performance and traffic requirements.
  6. Typically you would have a couple of additional iterations back and forth – reviewing the materials received, providing feedback, getting new versions of the specifications until you’re confident you are building a killer app.
  7. At this stage, your app developer should be in the position to commit to fixed delivery dates and fixed project price.
  8. Throughout the development phase, your app developer would typically demonstrate you intermediate results at predefined milestones. Intermediate results could be a working app with some (but not all) functionality implemented. Do provide your feedback as early as possible to make sure it’s incorporated into the results demonstrated at the next milestone. Might be a good idea to ask your developer for their test protocols – gives you some idea about what’s working and what not (yet), and how extensive the app has been tested so far.
  9. Towards the end of project, there is an acceptance phase during which you are expected to test the ready app yourself and provide your feedback. If there are things that need to be fixed, your app developer does it and then you do the acceptance testing again.
  10. Once you have your ready app in your hands (version 1.0) and you’re satisfied with the results, it’s time to focus on marketing and distribution, including getting your app listed in the relevant app stores and letting know your existing customers.

Now that I wrote it, the whole process probably looks more simplified on the developer-side than it is ;)

Author: Kostadin Jordanov

4 comments

  • March 29, 2011 6:13 pm | Khalid Moll

    Hi! I’ve read your blog and was wondering if your company only develops apps for existing companies? My friend and I came up with an idea for an app but don’t know where to start. Patent it with a lawyer? Or should we find a company that develops mobile applications? Any suggestions would greatly help!

  • March 30, 2011 4:24 am | Maria Williamson

    Hi Khalid,

    You should start with researching well whether a similar app already exists. Then prepare requirements documentation outlining the functionalities of your application, screens you envision, buttons each screen should have etc. Then get in touch with a reputable mobile development company and ask for a high level cost estimate. If you want extra protection ask for an NDA. Then allocate the necessary budget to the project, select a company to run with and off you go.

    Wishing success,
    Maria

  • March 30, 2011 9:21 am | Khalid Moll

    Thanks much Maria!

    I’ll try to put something together and see how far this can go. I am using your “how to protect your mobile app idea” blog to get me started.

    Khalid

  • March 30, 2011 9:29 am | Maria Williamson

    Glad to have helped and good luck.

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