Would you believe me if I told you that 60% of our potential clients don’t find out their target audience before starting their mobile app project or that 30% have no clue how they can monetize their app? It’s true, and this lack of knowledge can cost a mobile entrepreneur thousands of dollars and months of development spent on a product they started without app development planning.

Mobile app development planning

I’ve worked as a delivery manager for over eight years already, and during this time I’ve had a chance to work with startups, small businesses, and large enterprises. Some of them had experience in mobile development, others didn’t, but most of them shared common challenges and concerns.

In this article I’ll talk about the main challenges you might face if you decide to create your own mobile app for business and things you need to consider at the planning stage. This will help you to have a clearer vision of the budget you’ll need for your app.

Now let me ask you some questions that you need to answer before you start developing your app.

1. Who’s your target audience?

Before you even start to think about the features you want to see in your app, you need to know exactly who you’re building your app for. If your answer is everyone, then you’re building it for no one.

If you know who your potential users are, you can find out what devices they use. Defining devices is important both for development and testing

You need to understand your target audience and know it well. What is their age? Gender? Hobbies? Preferences? Outlook? All of this is very important to build a brand, as probably know if you already have a business.

Defining target audience works similarly with mobile apps, only with a few nuances. Knowing your target audience helps you decide on the feature list for your minimum viable product (MVP). If you know exactly what users need in the first place, it will be easier to put unnecessary features to the backlog and focus on what matters.

Another benefit of knowing your audience is more technical. If you know who your potential users are, you can find out what devices they use. Defining devices is important both for development and testing.

mobile devices quality assurance target
What devices do your users have? Find it out to make your quality assurance more effective

You need to understand what platform you should choose: iOS, Android, or maybe both? Also consider versions of operating systems. This will help you reduce hours for testing and save you some money.

Maybe your audience uses the web more? If so, think about a web application or a mobile website.

How big is your target audience? If you plan to conquer the love and loyalty of thousands of people, you should think about making your app scalable before it even exists. Plan the server location so that your users have quick access to your service, and have a scalability strategy ready beforehand.

2. How will you monetize your app?

There are many ways to monetize an app, and the methods aren’t universal. A monetization strategy that works for one type of app won’t work for another. Some types of apps are just hard to monetize other than with advertisements.

In general, there are four types of monetization strategies for mobile apps:

  • Subscriptions
  • Advertisements
  • Freemium
  • Paid download

You need to decide on your monetization strategy before you start development as some features will depend on it. For example, if you decide to offer subscriptions, you’ll need to implement in-app purchases and pay attention to app market fees.

Be ready to get only 70% of the revenue from each payment, as the Play Store and App Store keep 30% from in-app purchases.

in-app purchases subscriptions
Games is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about in-app purchases, but subscriptions, no ads app version and additional features are also in-app purchases you can use to return investments from your app

Of course, if you create your application for business, you don’t need to monetize it: in this case your app is a marketing and sales tool you use to attract new audiences and bring additional value to clients.

3. What’s your deadline?

How much time you have before the release date will influence the development process. It takes time to develop applications, but this time can be significantly decreased if you’re in a hurry.

The first thing you need to do is to choose only non-negotiable features for your MVP. These features should also include one unique feature so that users have a reason to install your app instead of hundreds of others.

Your deadline will also influence the technologies you use on your project. We always advise planning for app development with native technologies for the best quality, but if the deadline is close it’s acceptable to use cross-platform technologies to accelerate development.

For example, with React Native you can develop cross-platform apps for both Android and iOS much faster than if you used native technologies. Or if you already have an Android app, you can make a quick adaptation for iOS using React.

There are always ways to speed up development, but you should consider the quality you need and also the functionality. Native development gives you access to all smartphone hardware, meaning everything from cameras to NFC chips are available for your app.

Cross-platform development requires additional solutions for connecting your software to device hardware, and sometimes these solutions can cause inconsistencies in your app.

4. Do you want a minimum or maximum viable product?

If you want to know how to plan a mobile app project, start with choosing between minimum and maximum viable product. These are two completely different strategies, and you must choose one. Each has its pros and cons, but in my opinion a maximum viable product is riskier.

Note that if your target audience prefers great and unique status products, a minimum viable product probably won’t work for them

The biggest advantages of a minimum viable product are time to market and versatility. With a minimum viable product, you’re able to quickly adjust your product to market needs and make sure you meet those needs from the start.

However, a minimum viable product doesn’t work for all businesses. If your target audience prefers great and unique status products, a minimum viable product probably won’t work for them, and you’ll need to raise the stakes. This has worked perfectly for Apple, for example, as they’ve rolled out full-fledged innovative products that appeal to their audience.

minimum and maximum viable product
Apple became one of the brightest examples of how a maximum viable product can disrupt the whole industry and get people crazy about it. If Steve went for minimum value — would it be the same?

The planned scale of your project will influence the budget you’ll need for app development. And the budget is our next question.

5. How to plan app development and budget?

Estimating your budget can be challenging, especially if you don’t know exactly what the development process consists of.

Before you start, you need to think about the type of contract you want to sign with an outsourcing company. There are two main types of contracts:

  • Time & Materials — You pay for the number of hours the development team spends on development, communication, quality assurance, etc.
  • Fixed Price — The whole project is thoroughly estimated and the scope is fixed.

Eventually a client will want to change something in the project

I usually advise a time and materials contract because it’s more flexible and allows you to change separate bits of the project as it goes along. Practice shows that:

  • eventually a client will want to change something in the project;
  • it’s hard to estimate a whole project, especially if it’s big, so a fixed price is fine only for small applications.

Another thing you need to think of is third-party services. Not all of them are free. For example, if you want to implement Google Maps or Apple Maps, be ready to pay. Accounts for these services are paid, and you’ll also pay for all search requests from your users. If your user base is large, you’ll need to consider it in your budget.

For example, Google Maps may cost approximately $100 to $300 per year.

A server will also cost you at least $200 to $300 per year.

If you want to integrate a payment gateway, remember that it will charge a percentage of each transaction. And we’ve already mentioned that in-app purchases that will cost you 30% of each payment.

Analytics is another thing you’ll definitely spend money on. And while these sums may not seem so big in the beginning, remember that they’ll still cost you a pretty penny every year or month.

Another continuous expense is maintenance. Many clients completely forget about the necessity to maintain their apps after release. But maintenance is crucial, as each year new devices and versions of operating systems appear on the market as well as new libraries, frameworks, and other technologies. Maintenance is a very important part of your mobile business, as you need to support your app and its users.

Another thing you’ll probably spend a lot of money on is marketing. You won’t need to spend on marketing if you develop an enterprise app for your own employees or an app for warehouse or factory workers. But for consumer-focused apps, marketing often requires a big budget and a great strategy, but all this depends on your market and niche.

6. What’s your unique focus?

If you want to create an app that will become popular, you need to think about what will make it stand out. Your focus can be anything, from a nice UI and pleasant animations to a killer feature that will make your service absolutely necessary for users.

Without a unique trait, your application will just become one of the millions of apps that don’t get even a hundred downloads. While mobile applications are a great way to sell, promote, and earn money, this is also an extremely competitive area.

Try to translate your uniqueness in different marketing channels, like social media, app store and your own website if you already have one.

7. What’s your user involvement strategy?

You need to think about user involvement already during the pre-planning mobile app development stage. Imagine you’ve invested in marketing and persuaded people to install your app. Now your main task is to keep them, and you need to know how you’re going to do that before the app even exists.

User involvement consists of many different things and a well-calibrated balance between them. One of the best practices is to remind users of your app but not be annoying with push notifications. Your app needs to be clear and user-friendly, which is something you’ll be able to evaluate only with the help of analytics.

user retention
How will you attract and retain users to your mobile app? Think about your strategy beforehand, as it will shape your application as well

From my experience, I can say that around 80% of clients don’t plan to integrate analytics in the first version of their app. However, analytics is the most important thing for an app’s success, especially in the beginning: it allows you to analyze user behavior and understand what parts of your app don’t work for users as you intended.

Imagine you have an ecommerce application. It’s great, but for some reason people don’t make as many purchases as you expected. Without analytics, you won’t be able to see that they leave your app at the checkout because it’s confusing and doesn’t send a verification code within one minute.

With analytics, you can detect the exact features or places in your app that don’t work for customers. You can also use A/B testing to find out the best strategy for keeping users in your app and lead them through the user journey smoothly.

Final thoughts

Many customers come to our company with a simple and understandable desire: to make an app that will bring value to people and money to its founders. But mobile applications can’t be built on only that. They require thorough planning and your personal involvement as a mobile entrepreneur. Now you know the basic idea of how to pre-plan an app.

If you’re ready to plan a mobile application development project, contact Mobindustry for a consultation. We’re ready to share our mobile expertise to help you create an app that people will truly enjoy using.

Article written by:
Yana Gerasimova
Mobindustry delivery manager

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