Plan first, technology second

Making mobile apps too often means not spending enough time on planning and project preparation. This on the other hand means that the application in its self and the planning and production -projects become overly tedious. Here are a few fundamental questions, to which you should find an answer to before starting up the technical development of an application.

What is the aim of an application?

This question could be kind of a no-brainer, but a lot of the times also one with no clear answer thought out before starting to develop the app. An application should have a clear objective and a reason for it’s existence. For instance, an amusement park’s app could exist to create a better customer service experience – it is easier for people to move around the park and get information, when they have an app that gives them answers to any question they could have about the events and services on the park area. 

The overall business model of the app should be considered thoroughly. Are we employing a "app only" channel strategy and business model or are we planning on "app + web" approach? 

When setting goals, one should also consider using numeric targets. How many downloads do we set as a goal for the app? If the application enables selling your company’s products or services, it might be good to set a goal in terms of money for sales through the application.

What features should I include in the app?

Think about Swiss Army Knives. They are quite useful if you're navigating a rough terrain or forgot to bring a bottle opener to a romantic picnic, but it's not very likely that you're going to use a Swiss Army knife every day unless you're some kind of McGyver.

The same applies to apps. Users are unlikely to adopt your app for daily use and they are even less likely to adopt all of your app's features. So it might not be wise to implement everything you can think of to the first release. Focus on the actual "knife" features instead of the "tooth pick" or "corkscrew" features.

Who are the users of my application?

In planning and developing an application one of the most important steps is user research and creating user personas. Nearly every good and successful apps have one thing in common; they are designed for the consumer.

If user research isn’t carried out well enough, it becomes clearly noticeable through a bad user experience and poor financial performance.

What can I learn from applications already on the market?

Your mobile application idea might be one of a kind but in most cases similar or even identical apps already exist. Use enough time testing and trying out different apps. You will surely get plenty of ideas in planning out your own application.

When the app is ready, the work begins

A lot of organizations have spent a lot of time and effort in building and publishing their mobile apps, but what may come as a slight surprise is the difficulty of growing their app's user base and the cost of technical maintenance. Technical maintenance includes ensuring compatibility with different devices and iOS/Android versions and development of new features.

Other costs are related to keeping the app alive and competitive: creating new inspiring content for users and marketing the app. With so many apps on the market, the importance of proper marketing plan and resources in very high even if the app itself has clever viral features built in.