What is App Development?
At a high level, app development is the process of creating software-based programs for desktop or mobile devices.
Beneath the surface, app development is extremely varied in scope and fields.
Differences in platforms, complexity, user demographics and hardware integration all inform developers how to make an app in the most cost-effective and sustainable way.
Of course, all this while still being a viable solution to a problem.
Today, app development is often a crucial aspect of businesses’ strategies as there are several unique benefits of mobile apps that nothing else can offer.
And Malaysia, with its robust digital infrastructure, is a thriving space for app development in Asia.
App Development in Malaysia: An Overview
As a country boasting high-tech infrastructure and a tech-savvy population, Malaysia has witnessed a significant rise in the field of app development.
Two key factors contributing to this growth are:
- High internet penetration and total user count, with thirty-three million internet users in Malaysia at the start of 2023 and internet penetration at 96.8 percent.
- Financial support from the Malaysian government specifically to digitalise the Malaysian economy.
Now, let’s look at the different types of apps that exist, each with unique features, advantages, and uses.
- Native Apps: These are apps designed for a specific platform, like iOS or Android. They provide an optimal user experience but require separate coding for each platform, hence more time and resources.
- Hybrid Apps: They are existing web app source codes placed inside a container that makes them compatible across mobile operating systems. They are faster and cheaper to develop than native apps, but might not deliver the same performance.
- Cross-Platform Apps: These apps are dedicated mobile apps but have been written to be reusable on both Android and iOS devices, often striking a middle ground between native and hybrid apps.
Desktop apps are generally used for tasks that demand high performance, such as heavy image and video editing or 3D modelling.
- Windows Apps: These applications are specifically designed for Windows computers.
- Mac Apps: These are designed for Apple’s MacOS, often integrating with other Apple apps and services, providing a seamless user experience.
Deciding on the type of application to develop depends on your business needs, target audience, and yes, your budget.
Now you have an overview of the different types of apps, here’s what you should know before committing to development.
Things to Know About Developing an App
Before jumping into app development, there are a few things you need to know, as this is a process that rewards careful planning, strategic thinking, and a clear vision.
Let’s take a look at some key considerations to keep in mind.
Understand Your Audience
First and foremost, you need to understand who your app is for.
Who are your target users and what are their needs and wants?
And a key question to answer: how can your app make their lives easier or better?
Dedicate time to researching your audience and understanding their behavior.
This information will be invaluable as you move forward in the app development process.
Define Your App’s Purpose
Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to define your app’s purpose.
The answer to these questions guide every decision throughout the app development process.
What problem is it solving, and what value is it providing to users?
Choose the Right Platform
There are numerous platforms available for app development, including iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows.
The platform you choose will depend on your target audience, the functionality of your app, and your budget.
Each platform has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to do your research and choose the one that best fits your needs.
Consider the Cost
App development can be pricey, especially if you’re planning to include lots of features or if you’re hiring a professional app developer.
Be sure to budget accordingly, and be prepared for the cost of development, maintenance, and updates.
Plan for the Future
Your app’s initial launch is just the beginning.
You’ll need to plan for regular updates and improvements to keep your app fresh and relevant.
This means taking into consideration the time and cost associated with ongoing maintenance and updates.
8 Stages of App Development
App development can be divided into pre-development, development, and post-development, and below we’ve broken them down into further stages so you know what to expect.
Stage 1: Ideation and Conceptualization of Your App
Without a clear app idea and concept, you’re shooting in the dark.
Before you can start building your app, you need a solid idea and concept. Here’s how to come up with a software idea:
Identify a problem
The best app ideas come from identifying real problems that people face.
Look around you, observe, and ask questions.
What problems are people encountering that an app could solve?
Research the market
Once you’ve identified a problem, do your research.
Are there already apps out there solving this problem?
If yes, how can your app do it better?
If not, is there a reason why?
Define your target audience
Who are the people that are facing this problem? What are their demographics?
The more precisely you can define your target audience, the better you can cater to their needs.
Sketch your idea
Start by sketching out your app idea.
This doesn’t have to be a detailed design, but a rough outline of what you want your app to do and how you want it to look.
Stage 2: Product Planning for Your App
Once you’ve nailed your app idea and done preliminary research, it’s time for product planning.
This is where you lay down the groundwork for your app’s development. Here’s what you need to do:
Identify Your Target Audience
Knowing who your app is for is just as important as knowing what it will do.
Your target audience will influence your app’s design, functionality, and marketing strategy.
Take a look at their demographics, preferences, and behaviors.
Decide on Platforms
Will your app be available for iOS, Android, or both?
The platform you choose will influence your app’s design and development costs.
For example, developing for iOS is generally faster and less costly than Android due to the variety of Android device sizes and operating systems.
The Value of Cross-Platform
A cross-platform approach allows you to reach a wider audience.
You can use tools like React Native or Flutter to streamline the development process for both platforms, potentially saving time and money.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Before you build a full-featured app, start with a Minimum Viable Product – a version of your app with just enough features to be usable.
This allows you to test your app concept before investing heavily in development.
Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)
Then, aim for a Minimum Lovable Product, which is a version of an MVP that is not just viable, but elicits positive emotional responses from users.
Stage 3: Creating a Wireframe or Prototype
Once you’ve done all the necessary groundwork, it’s time to create a wireframe or prototype of your app.
This step will help you visualize your app’s layout and flow before actual development begins.
Understanding User Journey
Wireframing isn’t just about sketches and blueprints; it’s about mapping out your users’ journey through the app.
What screens will they see? How will they navigate from one section to another? How will they accomplish their objectives?
App Monetization Strategy
While creating your wireframe, it’s also vital to plan your app monetization strategy, which must align with your audience’s preferences and willingness to pay.
Mockup Creation and Prototyping Tools
There are many excellent tools available for creating wireframes and prototypes.
Some of the best include Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD.
These tools allow you to design screens, add interactive elements, and even emulate how your app will look and feel on different devices.
For those without extensive technical experience, we’d suggest using Uizard as it is very user-friendly, and has multiple tools including AI assistants to help speed up the brainstorming and wireframing process.
Stage 4: Designing the App
With the user journey outlined, monetization strategy decided, and the right prototyping tools in hand, you’re now ready to step into the world of designing your app.
At this stage, your abstract thoughts begin to take a tangible form.
The emphasis here is on UI/UX design, which is a crucial factor in the success of an app.
The Importance of Good UI/UX Design
UI/UX design is much more than just making your app look pretty. It’s about creating an interface that’s intuitive, easy to use, and engaging.
The UI (User Interface) encompasses the design elements that users interact with – think buttons, text, images, sliders, and so on, while UX (User Experience) is how they feel when they use your app.
Choosing the Right Design Language
The design language you choose for your app can make or break the user experience.
The design language is essentially a set of standards that govern how the elements of your app’s UI should look and behave.
Stage 5: Starting the App Development Process
After you’ve nailed down your UI/UX design and chosen your design language, the next step is to actually start the app development process.
This is where your brilliant idea turns into a functional app.
Choosing the Right Technology Stack
A technology stack is a combination of software tools and programming languages that will be used to build your app.
This decision should be made carefully and depends on several factors such as the platform (iOS, Android, etc.), the functionality you want to include and your budget.
Understanding Frontend and Backend Development
Frontend and backend are two crucial aspects of app development that work together to create a fully functional application.
The frontend is what users interact with, including design elements like buttons, sliders, and other UI components.
The backend is responsible for things like database interactions, server configuration, and the logic that makes the app function.
The backend is where user data is stored and retrieved, and it’s what allows your app to scale as your user base grows.
PS: For simpler projects or MVPs, consider looking for a suitable no code app builder.
Stage 6: Get down to app testing
You need to make sure that your app works as expected, and that it provides a smooth, enjoyable experience for your users.
App testing isn’t just about finding bugs or checking if the app crashes. It’s a comprehensive process that includes different types of tests:
Unit testing is about testing the smallest parts of your app, called units.
A unit could be a function, a method, or a class. The goal is to ensure that every part of your app works correctly on its own.
Once you’ve tested each unit, you need to test how they work together.
This is what integration testing is all about.
It checks if different parts of your app interact with each other as expected, without any conflicts or issues.
Functional testing is about making sure that your app works according to its specifications.
It tests the app’s features and functionalities and checks if it meets the requirements that you’ve defined.
Usability testing is about the user experience. It checks if your app is easy to use, intuitive, and user-friendly.
You can conduct usability tests by asking real users to use your app and provide feedback about their experience.
Just so you know, unit and integration testing are done at the code level as a standard part of a developer’s work process before implementing any changes to the app.
Meanwhile, functional and usability testing requires manual navigation of the app itself to discover bugs or test user-friendliness.
Tools for App Testing
There are various tools that can help you conduct these tests more efficiently and effectively.
Here are some popular ones:
The best testing tool depends on your platform of choice as well as the size of your team.
Stage 7: Launching Your App
Now that we’ve covered the idea, design, development, and testing stages, it’s time to launch your app!
This stage is equally critical as it’s all about getting your app in front of users and making sure it stands out among a sea of competitors.
Marketing: Creating the Hype
Even the most fantastic app won’t make a dent if no one knows about it. Your marketing strategy should start well before your app is ready to launch. Let’s break it down:
Build a brand
Define your brand identity, including the tone, style, and message you want to communicate. This will be a guide for all your marketing efforts.
Create a website
A landing page or a full-blown site can be a hub for all information about your app. Make it engaging and easy to navigate.
Social Media Engagement
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are excellent channels to engage with potential users and create buzz around your app.
Collaborate with influencers in your app’s niche to reach a wider audience. This can be an effective way to gain visibility.
App Store Optimization (ASO)
Just like SEO for websites, ASO is crucial to enhancing your app’s visibility in app stores. Use keywords wisely and create a compelling app description.
Submitting to App Stores
After testing and marketing preparation, it’s time to submit your app to the app stores.
This process can take a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on the platform and the review process.
Here are the three major ones:
|Apple App Store
|Usually around one day to one week
|Google Play Store
|Roughly a few hours to three days
|Huawei App Gallery
|Three to five working days
Also, keep in mind you’ll need to learn the basics of app store optimization to make sure your app ranks high on searches.
Gathering User Feedback
Once your app is live, your job isn’t over.
Gathering user feedback is crucial for further development and improvement.
Here are some strategies:
- Encourage users to leave reviews and ratings on the app stores.
- Use in-app surveys or feedback forms to gain insights about user experiences.
- Monitor social media and any other channels where users might be discussing your app.
- Use analytics tools to track user behavior and identify areas of improvement.
Stage 8: App Maintenance, Improvement, and Bug Fixing
Once your app is launched, your work isn’t over. In fact, it’s just beginning.
This stage involves continuous monitoring, improvement, and bug fixing to ensure your app stays top-notch and continues delivering value for its users.
Monitoring App Performance and Uptime
App performance is a crucial aspect of your user’s experience.
Slow or unresponsive apps are a surefire way to lose users.
You’ll need to constantly monitor your app’s performance and uptime. This includes ensuring the app works smoothly, loads quickly, and doesn’t crash or freeze.
- Encourage users to leave reviews and ratings on the app stores. These reviews are a goldmine of information about your app’s performance and usability.
- Use in-app surveys or feedback forms to gain insights about user experiences. This can lead to identifying potential issues and areas of improvement.
- Monitor social media and any other channels where users might be discussing your app. Active monitoring of these platforms can provide you with valuable feedback and user perspectives.
Regular Maintenance and Bug Fixing Schedules
Regular maintenance is critical to keep your app running smoothly and securely.
This includes performing updates to keep up with changes in the operating systems, fixing bugs, and improving features based on user feedback.
Schedule regular intervals for these maintenance actions to ensure your app remains up-to-date and performs optimally.
Tools for App Analytics
To keep your app performing well and to understand users better, you’ll need app analytics tools.
These tools help you track user behavior, identify areas of improvement, and monitor your app’s performance.
- Google Analytics: Analytics platform for ad campaigns and user acquisition tracking
- Amplitude or Mixpanel: Tools that track in-app events, user journeys, and A/B testing
- UXCam: A sessions/heatmap tool for qualitative data
Click here for a deep dive into mobile app analytics tools.
With proper app maintenance and regular improvements based on user feedback, your app will continue to grow and succeed in the competitive app market.
Best Practices on How to Make an App
Plan before you develop
Before jumping into coding, make sure you plan everything. Understand your app’s requirements, its target audience and how it will solve their problems.
Follow a design-first approach
Design isn’t just about how your app looks, but also how it works. A well-thought-out design can make your app more user-friendly and intuitive.
You can never test too much, only too little
Testing is a crucial part of app development. It helps you find and fix bugs, improve performance, and ensure that your app works well on all devices and platforms.
Iterate and improve
The first version of your app won’t be perfect. Take feedback from your users, learn from it, and use it to make your app better.
By now, you should have a deep understanding of how to make an app and the associated costs and wait times. Here’s a recap:
- Idea Generation: This is where it all begins. You identify a problem that needs solving and devise an app to solve it.
- Market Research: You validate your idea by gathering data about potential users and competitors.
- Prototyping and Design: You create a mockup or prototype of your app to visualize its functionality and design.
- Development: The actual coding of the app. Here, your idea is transformed into real, functional software.
- Testing: You test the app for any issues or bugs and fix them before launch.
- Launch: You introduce your app to the market.
- Iteration: Post-launch, you continuously improve your app based on user feedback and data.
Cost of App Development and Maintenance
App developer costs and app development will always be a significant investment.
The 2024 hourly rates of three popular outsourcing regions: Eastern Europe, India and the rest of the Asia Pacific are as follows:
Click here for a more detailed app development cost breakdown.
Also, keep in mind app maintenance is an ongoing expense that can amount to about 20% of development costs per year, including:
- costs associated with regular updates,
- bug fixes,
- server costs,
- legal costs, and
- any additional features or improvements you decide to implement
App maintenance costs vary depending on the complexity of the app, the number of users, and the platforms it’s developed for.
How long does it take to build an app?
Generally, simple mobile apps take about three to four months to develop.
More complex apps can take six to nine months.
However, remember, the timeframe can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the app, the proficiency of your team, and the amount of testing and iteration required.
Click here for a more detailed explanation of how long it takes to build an app.
App development is a long and intricate process, but with careful planning and execution, and some trustworthy app developers behind you, you’re well on your way to building a successful 7 figure software business.
Build Your Mobile App with Upstack Studio
Investing in a mobile app is a great way to keep your business relevant to key audiences as the world becomes increasingly mobile-first.
Upstack Studio specializes in cross-platform mobile app development and our team members are here to guide you through the entire app development process from ideation to launch and beyond.
🔑 Key Takeaways
- Considerations before development: understand the audience, define purpose, choose platforms, plan for costs, and anticipate updates.
- App development stages: ideation, product planning, wireframing, design, development, and testing.
- Start development by choosing the right technology stack and understanding frontend/backend.
- App analytics tools help monitor performance and user behavior.
- Testing types include unit, integration, functional, and usability testing.
- App launch involves marketing, branding, website creation, and store submissions.
- Gather user feedback through reviews, in-app surveys, social media monitoring, and analytics.
- App maintenance costs around 20% of the original development cost per year.
- Development time varies but typically ranges from three to nine months
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