With each passing year, mobile app development becomes more accessible, which is notably useful because it’s rising in importance at a commensurate rate. Catering to mobile internet users has rocketed past a handy addition to an outright requirement for any brand that doesn’t want to get left behind by its forward-thinking competitors.
Because of this, you might have decided to make 2020 the year in which you finally take the plunge and invest in a customer-facing app. It’s a tricky step, though, as there’s a lot riding on it. Present something low-quality and it won’t just fail to achieve its purpose: it’ll also damage your reputation, leading people to associate your brand with sloppy work.
As you enter the development process, then, you need to have a strong idea of the best way to build a great customer-facing app. To that end, here are five essential tips to keep in mind:
Consult your customers first
Since your app ultimately needs to impress your customers, it’s fairly important that you know what they’re looking for. This should encompass everything from what functions they require to what they expect from a strong interface. If you don’t do this, then you run the risk of putting a lot of time and thought into the creation of an app that’s undeniably strong but ultimately goes ignored because it doesn’t serve the right purpose.
As for how you should do this, I suggest using a mix of social media outreach and emailed customer surveys. Let people know that you’re thinking about creating an app and want some suggestions on what to deliver (ideally, give some options they can choose from). Once you have a decent number of responses, collate them and pick out the most notable points.
Design detailed prototypes
UI prototyping is a discipline that’s come a long way in recent years. Companies used to settle for disconnected sketches, which was fine for graphics but not so useful for determining how well elements functioned together. These days, though, there are convenient prototyping tools that make it possible to create limited user experiences that closely resemble real apps.
If you’re working with a developer (as is likely — more on this later) then you may prefer to skip this step and leave it to them, but there’s value in spending some time on prototyping at this point. This is because you’re ultimately going to be responsible for deciding when the app is ready to go, so you need to have a solid understanding of how you want it to work.
Identify your MVP
In this context, MVP stands for minimum viable product, and it’s an important consideration in software development. Here’s why: the scope for something like an app can change dramatically by increments without you noticing. For instance, you can start out planning a modest app with a few features, only to see it slowly morph into a giant and complex project.
If you know your MVP, then you can deal with this kind of scope creep: if it’s become clear that your project is too ambitious, you can simply review all the features you’ve listed and cut out anything you don’t have the time or budget to deliver. It’s also true that your customers will care a lot more about getting a useful app delivered on time than a bloated app delivered late.
Choose a great developer
If you happen to know (or be) an excellent developer, then perhaps you can handle the meat of the project, but that’s unlikely to be the case. Regardless, working with a third-party developer is generally advisable: you can communicate the requirements and then assess the results without needing to deal with issues of bias.
As for which developer you should pick, there’s one obvious choice, but it should ultimately come down to what you’re looking for. Rapid turnaround? Low cost? Creative direction? Before you commit to a particular developer, have some decent conversations with the development team. Having a friendly relationship isn’t quite vital, but it is hugely significant.
Commit to iteration
Let’s say you’ve made it through the steps we’ve looked at so far, and you’re now the proud owner of a fully-functional app that meets your MVP at the very least. What do you do now? Just sit back and let it boost your business? Well, not exactly, and here’s why: app standards change. What impresses your customers today might not impress them tomorrow.
This isn’t a reason to despair, because the march of progress affects everyone. Instead, it’s a call to iterate. View your app as an ongoing project and commit to tweaking and updating it (using customer feedback for guidance) as time goes by. This will help you stay ahead of your rivals, and show your customers that you’re invested in helping them.
Creating a fantastic customer-facing app is a great way to set your brand apart and deliver some impressive mobile experiences, but it’s much easier said than done. As you take your first steps along the road to development, keep these tips in mind. They should help you get the results you’re looking for.