The mobile app development process, demystified

So, you want to build a mobile app? But where to start?

And how do you know that you’ll end up with something your customers will actually use? Do you understand which platforms you need to build your app on and whether you need a native or a web app?

Our clients start talking to us at different stages in their app development journey. Some companies are very clear about the specifications for their mobile phone app development. Others want to spend time with us, as digital experts, understanding how their customers might use a new app, and ensure they stand up against competitor products. Regardless of the scope of your app development, we want to share some general considerations that you can take to your next stakeholder meeting.

Understanding the App Design Process

Going into any significant technical project, you’ll need to understand the key steps, timelines, and costs to progress from initial company or client problem, to client ready product. We follow the Double Diamond model to maximise the discovery, user research, and human-centred design elements of building an app and other digital products. The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking).

Depending on where you are on your digital journey will determine which parts of the diamond you will need. If you’ve already defined your company or customer needs for example, we can pick up this model part way through — and in conversation with you, help challenge or validate these needs. It’s also crucial to understand that no process is ever linear, and no model is perfect. We like to use these models as frameworks that we can work within rather than strict guidelines that don’t let us move, to learn and validate things quickly.

1. The Discovery Phase

This is where you help us understand, or, we guide your team to understand what the core problem is that you’re trying to solve. We typically tackle this phase in a workshop environment involving members of our experienced team and key stakeholders of your team.

2. The Definition Phase

Insights and discussion from the Discovery phase help us to define and pinpoint the key challenge for your team to overcome. A lean canvas is a typical output of this phase.

It’s at this point that we’ll recommend key next steps. Perhaps you need UX research to further develop your idea, or you may be ready to jump straight into a Design Sprint or start developing a prototype/Proof of Concept.

Wireframes for Daresay. Example by Arvid Långström

3. The Development Phase

Development sees us talking to your wider team and customers to understand the problem further, seek inspiration from other industries or companies struggling with similar challenges and co-designing your solution with core members of your team. Importantly, this phase is user focused rather than company driven — we’re here to solve genuine user problems through user research and insights.

At this point we’ll provide concepts for your UI design, outline our recommended architecture of your mobile app build, and develop a roadmap to get to your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You’ll then have a good feel for the scope of the mobile app design process, high-level timelines and how much it could cost.

How an MVP approach gets you moving faster.

4. The Delivery Phase

We use a Squad based approach that embeds a client product owner in our expert team of mobile app developers, UX, and visual design experts. We work in 2 week long Agile sprints, so we can deliver your MVP as soon as possible. This enables us to flex with the very different budgets, timelines, and internal pressures of our clients. It also provides clear milestones for both our clients and squads to ensure we’re meeting expectations and that the product build is on track.

The sprint-based model allows us to deliver working software in every sprint, and refine our thinking, and re-prioritise functionality as we work towards our MVP release. Transparency and client input is critical throughout this phase — we provide the real-time status of each sprint in our shared project board.

Our goal is to provide you with a ready-to-launch MVP app, as soon as possible, that solves your immediate problem, and meets your user’s needs. It also allows us to have a real-life app in the hands of users, that we can research again, and grow, based on real-life feedback. We work in a way that is intended to deliver our clients value — we look for simple solutions that solve real problems, and often that can be more cost effective for our clients.

Once the MVP is launched, we then continue our working relationship to prioritise new functionality, new releases, and maintenance.

“As leaders, we should ask more, and teams should show their results better, not by looking at deliveries, but at goals achieved. While the leadership defines, in a transparent and objective way, what must be achieved, the team has the right to decide how you will get there.”


The importance of outcomes over outputs

We believe in delivering outcomes or results to our clients, rather than simply providing outputs or features. If your core problem or challenge cannot be solved by adding a new app feature, then why would you invest in our squad to do this? Outcomes should change a user’s behaviour or provide a positive financial impact for clients.

Already have an app, but it’s not working well?

We don’t just build apps, we fix them too. We can rework existing code to improve existing solutions, or integrate off the shelf solutions too. Providing we’re solving user problems and improving the digital experience for your customers, we’re all in.

Keen to learn more?

We’d love to chat about how we can work with you to deliver innovative solutions to your digital problems.

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