Mobile app development is not necessarily as straightforward as it is often made out to be. New developers, in particular, often end up making mistakes – which doom their apps. The following discussion lists some common errors in app-making that you have to steer clear of.
Good-looking mobile apps that do not have any specific purpose have hardly any chance of being successful. However, including a glutton of high-end features and functionality does not guarantee the success of an application either. The trick lies in understanding the requirements of the target audience, and customizing the features of apps accordingly. Due importance also has to be given to ensuring that an app is uniformly user-friendly as well. Today, we will take a look at some common app development mistakes that developers need to avoid:
- Not having a proper work plan – Making a mobile application should involve detailed planning. Prior to even a single line of coding, sit down with your team of developers, and prepare a flowmap/flowchart/blueprint of how the work would proceed on any particular project. Break down the overall development process in different milestones, and draw up rough wireframes and mockups. Developers need to have an idea about what they are doing and how they are doing it. Writing line after line of code aimlessly is a waste of time.
- Not realizing the difference between native app and mobile web – Contrary to what many people still believe, an app is NOT a mini mobile version of a website. Developers need not be concerned about porting each and every functionality of a web portal into its corresponding iPhone or Android application. Instead, the focus needs to be on creating an intuitive, immersive UI, and addressing the needs that a user might face while on the move. With the spiralling popularity of responsive websites, the differences between mobile web and mobile apps have decreased – but the two are still far from being the same.
- Bulking up an app at the first go – For a new iOS application in particular, its very important to test the waters first. Many startup mobile app companies make the folly of trying to include as many features as possible in the very first iteration of an application, before launching it. This a) delays the release of the app, giving competitors the window to move ahead, and b) assumes that the app will be accepted by users. It is way more advisable to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with a few core features, launch it at the App Store, and seek feedback on it (call it Version 1.0 or something). If there is sufficient user-interest, you can always release an upgraded version with more features later.
- Not investing enough time for research – The year is 2015, the combined app count at iTunes and Google Play Store has gone past 3 million, and if your application does not stand out in the crowd – expect no one to actually look out for it. Sadly, most app development companies are in a tearing hurry to finish off projects – and do not bother to research the probable deployment methods, the set of features to be implemented, and the products of competitors. Surveys and user-oriented studies can also reveal powerful hints about the type of app designing and navigation that is likely to be successful. If you do not put much thought behind an app, it won’t work. Simple as that.
- Not caring about app analytics – Being happy with high initial download figures of an app is, in essence, myopic. What actually matters is the long-run success of the application – and for that, tracking its analytics data (user-location, behavior pattern, app version being used, devices and operating systems, etc.) is vital. With the help of these data, you can customize new versions of an existing app, which would actually deliver more value to the end-users. Creating mobile apps is not a one-shot game – and you should never take your eyes off the app analytics data. Constant improvement matters!
- Not making simple UIs – The creative team in any mobile app company – graphic artists, UI/UX designers and animators – need to remember one rule of thumb: what appears ‘simple’ to them need not be the same for the general, random app user. What’s more, the UI of an app should be in keeping with the latter’s genre. For example, the appearance of a mobile app for kids has to be completely different from, say, that of a personal fitness tracker app. Make sure that the app layout you prepare is indeed easy for every type of user. The average interaction time with mobile apps is low – and no one is going to ‘learn’ how your application works.
- Neglecting the opportunity of brand-building – If you are making a mobile business app, be very aware of this common folly. Apps are powerful ways to expand the reach of a brand, and bolster the overall brand-presence of any particular business. For that, all the visual marketing elements – icons, taglines, main color themes, typography, images – present on its website and print/online ads have to be present in the app as well. The brand personality should be uniform across the board. Do not make the mistake to trying to be too innovative, while creating the app for an established business.
- Using bitmaps and poor display resolutions – At a time when all the buzz is about the crystal-clear Retina HD screens of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, staying backdated is simply not an option for app designers. Leading mobile app entrepreneurs advise making hi-res versions of new applications (if required, they can always be scaled down). Indie designers often do not use vector graphics – which is yet another mistake. Finally, since bitmaps are not scalable and not visually brilliant, they are better left unused.
- Not selecting the correct monetization strategy – You will be hard-pressed to find a single app developer (freelance or full-time), who does not want his/her apps to be big money-earners. The inability to pick a suitable app monetization strategy often puts a spanner in their works though. Broadly, there are four different monetization models: making a freemium app, opting for paid downloads, displaying ads in the app, and providing subscription options. Depending on the type of your app, you need to decide the best strategy for it. Mobile games and reading apps, for example, have additional digital content available as in-app purchases. Monitor how the desired ‘conversion’ (ad clicks, subscriptions, etc.) are taking place. Do not, however, include fees on app upgrades. App quotes also need to be free.
- Not testing the app thoroughly – Programmers cannot be designers, designers cannot be beta testers, and testers cannot be developers. Each of the three are separate, and equally important, cogs in churning out an user-friendly mobile app. Before submitting an app at the store, make sure it has been tested by qualified software testers – on simulators, on the cloud, and on actual devices. A buggy, complicated app would invariably generate a flurry of negative reviews (iTunes would probably reject it rightaway) – and that will hurt the app in particular, and your company in general. Make sure that the app’s performance is uniformly good, in all network environments, and on all targeted devices.
- Not using efficient APIs – Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, are the life and soul of any good mobile application. Developers can now make use of over 5000 new APIs on the Android 5.0 Lollipop platform, while iOS 8 has more than 4000 new APIs too. These resources have to be utilized in a manner that ensures quick and easy data access for an app, without any adverse effect on the devices it is installed on (e.g., excess battery drain, or slow navigation). Mobile apps need data to remain functional, and optimal use of APIs is an absolute must for developers.
- The platform to start with – This is less of a mistake, than a source of confusion for first-time app makers. The monetary lure of iOS apps is undeniable, while Android takes the cake (with the cherry and the icing on top!) in terms of worldwide market share. The best option for new developers would be to create and launch a MVP on the iOS platform first. After judging the response to it, work can start on its Android version as well. Going for cross-platform app development at the very first go can be too expensive and time-consuming.
- Not giving enough importance to user-experience – The most advanced, feature-rich apps can flop, if they fail on the user-experience front. Researches show that 1 out of 4 apps are are used ONLY ONCE after installation, while 49% applications are used less than ten times, by average smartphone-users. This clearly indicates that there are a lot of apps out there which do not quite manage to engage users. There has to be a ‘wow’ factor about your applications, which would get people hooked. Put yourself in the shoes of a general user, and jot down the features/controls you would like in an app. Develop accordingly.
- Trying to serve too many purposes with one app – Throughout this discussion, we have used the terms ‘app’ and ‘application’ interchangeably. It’s now time to point out the subtle, yet critical, difference between the two. Standard applications refer to multi-purpose software that are created for the World Wide Web (web applications, anyone?), while an app is a small piece of mobile software that has a single core purpose (maybe reading, maybe shopping, maybe fitness tracking, maybe navigation support, etc.). Make sure that your app serves its main purpose well. It does not need to have too many features, like an application. Users should be aware of the ‘purpose’ of an app – confusing them is never a good idea.
To maintain high service standards, mobile app development companies need to continually evolve with time. Apple Watch releases today, and developers need to be familiar with the process of making WatchKit apps. With wearable technology being hailed as the ‘future of mobile tech’, thinking beyond smartphones and tablets is important. Proper mobile app marketing is essential too – people cannot check out your app if they are not aware of its existence.
Making mobile apps is, without a doubt, a challenging profession. However, if you steer clear of the above pitfalls and constantly update yourself, success can be waiting for you around the corner!
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