What Is App Development Lifecycle? 8 Key Phases For Non Tech Founders

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The app development lifecycle, also known as the software development lifecycle (SDLC), is a structured process that guides a development team from the initial idea to the final deployment and beyond.

Some are more iterative and flexible than others, but all are valid and have their place.

waterfall methodology software development vs agile software development methodology

It is crucial for anyone involved in building mobile or web applications.

This post takes a bird’s eye view of app development’s eight key phases and provides additional resources so you can zoom in and learn about each in detail.

What fun! Let’s begin.

Phase 1: Ideation & Conceptualization

The idea phase is all about laying the groundwork for your app. 

It’s where you start to visualize what your app will look like and how it will function.

A large part of this involves brainstorming and conceptualizing the app idea, so you can clearly define the problem your app will solve and identify the target audience.

Key Activities

  • Market research
  • User surveys and interviews
  • Identifying business goals and objectives

For a more in-depth discussion on this topic, check out our guide to finding software ideas with market demand.

Phase 2: Planning

In this phase, you’ll outline features and functionalities of the app, create user stories, and prioritize tasks.

Planning sets the stage for a smooth development process and ensures everyone involved in the project understands what needs to be done and when. 

Key Activities

  • Requirement gathering
  • Feature prioritization
  • Creating a project timeline
  • Deciding on your technology stack

If you’re a non tech founder, our rankings of no code web app builders and no code mobile app builders might be useful for finding the perfect tools to bring your app to life. 

If you’re really new to this, check out our newbie-friendly guide to tech stacks.

Phase 3: UI/UX Design

The design phase focuses on creating wireframes, mockups, and prototypes that define the app’s user interface and experience.

You definitely know this, but don’t underestimate how much of a role design plays in the success of an app. 

A well-crafted interface separates ‘acceptable’ user experiences from ‘amazing’ ones.

Key Activities

  • Wireframing
  • UI/UX design
  • Prototyping

Check out our simple explanation of visual and practical differences between wireframes, mockups, and prototypes.

Phase 4: App Development

In the development phase, the coding begins. Developers write the code, integrate APIs, and build the backend infrastructure.

Your app starts to take shape as more and more features are added and tested. 

Key Activities

  • Frontend development
  • Backend development
  • API integration

If you’ve never built an app before, find out how a market-ready app MVP can be done in 12 weeks or less. 

Phase 5: App Testing

Testing is crucial to identify and fix major bugs, errors, and performance issues before the app is released to the public.

It ensures that your app works as intended and provides a seamless experience.

It’s not practical to expect all bugs to be detected at this stage, though it’s reasonable to expect no critical errors by the time the app has its first users.

Key Activities

  • Unit testing
  • Integration testing
  • User acceptance testing (UAT)

Our mobile app testing guide tells you everything you need to know on the topic.

Phase 6: App Deployment & Launch

Deployment is an exciting phase as it marks the official launch of your app to the world. 

Proper planning and execution are essential to ensure a successful launch, and is as much marketing as it is about development. 

Once the app is tested and approved, it’s ready for submission to the app stores or web servers.

Key Activities

  • App store submission
  • Server deployment
  • Launch marketing

While not strictly related to development, a little app store optimization goes a long way to helping your app maximize visibility and clarity to users. 

Phase 7: App Maintenance & Updates

After the launch, ongoing maintenance and updates are essential to fix bugs, add new features, and improve performance.

Maintenance ensures that your app remains functional and up-to-date, providing users with a reliable experience over time.

Key Activities

  • Bug fixing
  • Performance monitoring
  • Regular updates

Many founders and businesses can be shocked by how expensive app maintenance can be, so we hope our app maintenance costs breakdown shows you where all that money goes.

Phase 8: Scaling (Optional)

Growing the User Base

If the app gains popularity, scaling becomes necessary to handle increased traffic and user demands.

Scaling allows your app to accommodate growth and maintain performance, ensuring a positive user experience as your user base expands.

Key Activities

  • Infrastructure scaling
  • Performance optimization
  • User engagement strategies

Founders who use no code tools initially may find our post on three signs to go custom code useful when deciding when to make the transition away from no code.

The Software Development Life Cycle Applies to All

Doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a developer, designer, or project manager.

Doesn’t matter if you’re building an Android, iOS, web, or cross-platform product.

None are exempt from the app development lifecycle.

Even the table plays a role 🙂

Again, here are the eight key phases:

  • Phase 1: Idea & Conceptualization
  • Phase 2: App Planning
  • Phase 3: App Design
  • Phase 4: App Development
  • Phase 5: App Testing
  • Phase 6: App Deployment & Launch
  • Phase 7: App Maintenance & Updates
  • Phase 8: Scaling (Optional)

A structured approach helps you build apps that meet user needs and business objectives.

And of course, if you need any help, contact us to learn how we can help you bring your app idea to life.

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