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Mobile apps provide the consumer experience that customers demand. A study by Oracle showed that 85% of people aged 18 to 34 own a smartphone and spend 90% of their time online using mobile apps. If your brand doesn’t yet have a mobile app, it’s time to give serious consideration to how much business you’re missing out on.
Of course, the popularity of mobile apps makes the competition to get yours noticed tough. It’s not enough to simply have an app – you need it to meet the demands and expectations of your users.
This article will tell you all you need to know about:
What mobile app development is Why is mobile app development so important? The most common types of mobile app How to create a mobile app Why you need to hire a mobile app developer What to look for in a mobile app developer How much it costs to hire a mobile app developer How to hire a top-quality freelance mobile app developer
Let’s start with the basics.
What is mobile app development?
Put simply, mobile app development is the process of creating software intended to be run on mobile devices. It stems from the more traditional development of software for desktops and laptops but is focused on optimizing smartphone features such as:
GPS Cameras Biometrics Gyroscopic sensors Accelerometers Temperature sensor Bluetooth NFC
While mobile app development is similar to desktop software development it’s important to recognise the key difference between the two. Mobile device hardware does not compare with desktop and laptop hardware.
Take gaming, for example. The hardware on mobile devices simply doesn’t allow for graphics and functionality that gamers demand from their consoles and PCs. There is still a demand for gaming apps, but developers must find innovative ways to make games appealing within the limitations of the device.
The trick is getting the balance right. For all that they’re popular, roughly 1 in 3 apps downloaded is deleted within 30 days because it failed to provide a satisfactory customer experience (CX). These days CX is the biggest factor in determining customer loyalty and cannot be ignored.
Whatever the technical details of your app it must be visually appealing, user friendly and solve a problem. These are the core principles of making a successful mobile app and must be at the heart of the development and design process.
The best way to ensure your app ticks all the boxes is to find an expert mobile app developer who has previous experience and working knowledge of the type of app you want to create.
Why is mobile app development so important?
A mobile app keeps your brand relevant. As smartphones and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to take over so many aspects of daily life, users are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile apps for speed and convenience. It’s quite conceivable that someone uses mobile apps every single day to:
Wake up Check the news Connect with friends Check their route to work Pay for the train Read and respond to emails Carry out banking transactions Watch catch-up TV on their lunch break Place a bet Check the status of a delivery Read a book Put the heating on ready for when they get home Order their shopping Track their run Get a takeout delivered
No doubt you can think of many other ways people use apps, but the point is that they are part of daily life. We use apps for everything from communication and entertainment to mundane tasks such as switching on the heating and shopping.
So, whatever product or service your business supplies, there is a fair chance you can enhance your customers’ experience by putting it in app form because that’s the way they want to connect. Sounds straightforward, right? But there’s a catch.
There are 3.5 million apps available to download on Google Play. And the big hitters have set high standards for the way apps should perform. Imagine trying to launch a social media app that is slow and clunky. It wouldn’t stand a chance against the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
The truth is, as with all things marketing, if you’re not a global giant don’t try competing with global giants. Instead, go back to basics. Think about what your users would want from an app. It might be an e-commerce store that makes buying easier for them. It could be notifications to keep them up to date with an order. It might simply be a QR code ticket or reservation confirmation.
The key is to identify their pain points (even if they haven’t noticed themselves yet) and create an app that makes their life easy and improves their customer experience. Of course, to do this you need a professional mobile app designer to ensure that the end product delivers on CX and doesn’t become one of those 30% of apps that are deleted within a month of being installed.
A mobile app can help enhance your business through:
Increased accessibility Brand recognition Ease of purchase Increased sell-through Instant feedback Social media integration Secure payments Push notifications Improved customer engagement
In addition to CX and brand awareness, there are also opportunities to monetize your app through:
Additional sales Loyalty schemes In-app purchase of crypto coins Selling advertising space
The most common types of mobile apps
Before you can get started with developing a mobile app you must decide what type of app you want to create.
There are essentially three types of mobile app:
An app created specifically for and within a platform - typically iOS or for Android. Native apps in iOS are the easiest for a mobile app developer to work on as they use Xcode and Objective-C which are consistent across all Apple products so one app will work on an iPhone or iPad. Native apps for Android are not as straightforward as each manufacturer uses different hardware and runs on a different version of the operating system. Due to the additional complexities of Android app development, you can usually expect it to take 40% longer and cost more than an equivalent app on iOS.
As the name suggests, a hybrid app is a combination of the two. Essentially, it is a native app that has an HTML5 embedded in it which enables it to be used on different platforms with just minor amendments.
Depending on how complex your app will be, it can take months or years to bring it from idea to launch. Along the way you will need to carry out regular testing and tweaking to tackle performance issues as they arise. This is completely normal and should be factored into the time and costs associated with the project.
A common practice is to first create and launch an app on iOS and then use the lessons learnt from that project when planning the slightly more complex creation of your Android app.
Before you speak to your mobile app developer, be clear in your own mind what you want to achieve. Be realistic but don’t hold back. At this stage, you should be looking to present your developer with your best-case scenario.
Based on your discussion with the developer you may decide to temper your plans and start with a more basic app and add extra functions later. Between the two of you it’s good practice to decide on what is known as an MVP (minimum viable product). This is the most basic version of your app. Of course, it must include all the basic functions your users will expect but needn’t be the ideal app that you originally envisaged.
It's better to launch an MVP that performs well rather than push for something too ambitious and end up with an app that provides a poor user experience. Once you’ve lost that user, attracting them back is an uphill struggle.
This is where it all begins. The key questions to ask yourself at this stage are:
What is your target audience? What do other similar apps not offer? How does your app solve a problem?
Developing a successful mobile app doesn’t always mean coming up with a completely new idea. It could just be building on an existing app that is not quite hitting the mark.
This is usually the stage at which you first contact a mobile app developer to discuss how what you want compares with what is possible on your budget. Be prepared to make changes but always keep in mind that this is an investment in your business and first and foremost must add value to users.
The user interface (UI) must be visually appealing. Think about how to make it user friendly and how users will navigate around the app. Attention to detail is crucial. Your choice of colors, icons and font must link the app to your brand while delivering on CX.
When designing your app, you will start with wire frames which are essentially the digital equivalent of initial sketches.
Development and testing
This is when your freelance developers begin their work in earnest. Make sure you remain in regular contact for progress updates and to discuss any issues that might arise. Testing and developing go hand in hand throughout the early part of the development process.
As you test and amend your app, remove any non-core items. Remember, this is about connecting with your users so make it sharp and ensure everything adds real value.
Once you have a workable prototype, beta testing will be necessary to try the app in a semi-real situation.
Data breaches are incredibly damaging to the reputation of your brand. Any app you plan to launch must be thoroughly tested for security before you take the plunge. Logins must be secure and sessions should be closed down after a period of inactivity.
Promotion and launch
A mobile app is a significant investment. The way you promote and launch it will be a huge factor in determining how successful it will prove to be. Once you have an expected launch date you can start planning your promotion strategy.
Your launch preparation must include making sure you have developer accounts and all the right licenses.
To make sure your mobile app is a success, you will need to analyze how effective it is in terms of engagement, customer count and revenue. This is an ongoing process so it’s worth keeping in contact with your developer.
The cost of developing a mobile app
There are huge variations in cost when it comes to mobile app development. The most simple apps might only cost around $2,000 but major corporations spend millions.
Most small businesses will expect to spend in the region of $40,000 - $60,000 to bring an app to market.
The location of your developer will influence the cost too. Freelance developers in India or Eastern Europe charge considerably less than those in Silicon Valley.
When you start to look into the best ways to create and launch a mobile app, you may be tempted by one of the numerous sites that advertise that they have templates that you can use to create it yourself.
While this is true and it is possible to develop your own mobile app using one of these programs, it’s worth remembering the 3.5 million apps available in the Google Play app store. Taking time away from your usual daily activities to create a generic app that gets lost in the mire and fails to grab your audience is not a good use of your time.
When you commit to developing and launching a mobile app for your brand, the only way to make it a success is to find a developer that can create a bespoke app that does what you need it to do – and does it well.
Mobile app development is a long and complicated process which you don’t have time for alongside all your other activities.
It’s also unwise to have one person conceive the idea and then design, develop, test and launch the app. This is a very narrow approach that fails to reap the benefits of other voices. Working with a mobile app developer and bouncing ideas off each other is a far more practical method of creating an app that will be well thought out and perform as you would like it to.
Finally, having previously developed software does not automatically guarantee you can create a high-performing mobile app that will engage users and enhance your business. If you were looking to move into mobile app development as a career, it would be a feather in your cap, but no mobile app development company would consider you the finished product. So, why would you subject your business to a mobile app created by an amateur? You wouldn’t use such a lax approach to any other aspect of your business so don’t use it for such a huge branding opportunity.
There is also the fact that developing an app requires the use of software development kits. If you don’t have one, you can’t create an app, and the cost of these can run into $000s.
When it comes to hiring a mobile app developer, you can choose to keep the project in-house or outsource it. If you have an existing in-house software development team, your first step will probably be to consider the talent already at your disposal.
In some cases, you will be fortunate enough to have the ideal candidate already on your team. If that’s not the case, you can either recruit a full-time employee or hire a freelancer.
Due to the ever-evolving landscape of mobile app development, it’s usually wise to find a reliable freelance mobile app developer to work alongside your existing in-house team if you have one. With them collaborating on the project, you get the best of both worlds; the continuity of an in-house team and the support of an expert.
One of the problems of recruiting a full-time mobile app developer is that it generally costs around 25-40% more than hiring a freelancer and, once the app is established, you don’t really need them anymore. Of course, there will be times when you want to add new features or fix a problem with your app, but by remaining in touch with a reliable freelancer, you need only pay them when you need further work carried out on the app.
What to look for in a freelance mobile app developer
When hiring a freelance mobile app developer you know that they are going to tackle unforeseen problems along the journey. You just don’t know what those problems will be or how they will manifest themselves.
Things to look for when hiring a mobile app developer are:
A developer should be able to demonstrate a deep knowledge of modern programming languages. If your app is likely to be feature-rich and complex, it’s important you look for someone with a wealth of experience in designing apps for multiple platforms. If you are only looking for a basic app, you may well be able to take advantage of lower rates being offered by a new freelancer who is yet to establish a reputation. You’ll still want to chat to them about their past experience and what skills they can bring to your project.
As remote working has grown in popularity, lots of people are looking to set up as freelancers so you must carry out due diligence to ensure you’re getting together with someone that has the experience and skill set you require and not just someone chancing their arm at mobile app development.
Knowledge of cloud structure
Cloud infrastructure is the future of mobile apps with most of the top performing ones already deployed, hosted and managed this way. A developer who doesn’t work with popular cloud services could be obsolete before your anticipated launch date. Or all the effort and resources you put into developing your app might be wasted as the end product is already out of date.
Experience of winning UI design
User interface design is one of the most important aspects of the whole process. Ask to see a portfolio so you can see a developer’s previous work for yourself and see if they can provide metrics that demonstrate how popular their designs have been with real users.
Keep in mind that your app must engage your audience and provide the service they want. From design to functionality, your mobile app needs to stand out from those of your competitors. If your developer doesn’t convey that they can think creatively, there is a string chance that you will end up with a dull app that fails to attract users.
Even if the project is limited to you and a developer, working together is going to be crucial. You will need to gauge how well you connect and how keen the freelancer is when you first speak to them. Are they excited about your project? Do they contribute to the conversation with snippets of ideas that show they think like you? Can you see yourself working with this person for the long term?
This is vital in any collaboration but even more so if you are hiring someone who will work remotely. How responsive they are in the preliminary stages will go a long way to determining whether you feel comfortable working with them. If you do decide to go ahead and hire them it’s important to agree on protocols for communication right off the bat – especially if you are in different time zones.
How to hire an expert mobile app developer on Freelancer.com
When it comes to hiring a mobile app developer on Freelancer.com, there are two ways to go about it:
Hire a freelancer directly Post a project
When you hire a freelancer directly you will need to search for those with the right skills and experience for your project and then assess their profiles to decide which ones to approach. This can be time-consuming but if you have a particular skill set or person profile in mind it can be the quickest way to narrow down your options.
If you choose to post a project, interested freelancers who are available will contact you to discuss the job in more detail.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to provide a clear brief that details what you want. By this time you should have a clear idea in your mind of how you want the app to perform and need to get this across clearly and concisely to make sure the right developers get in contact.
You should also have a set of questions to ask to our preferred freelancers. By asking them all the same set of questions you will make it easier for yourself to compare them.
You will also need to select a budget and a timeframe. These need to be realistic based on the job you are asking to be done. Set the price too low or fail to give sufficient time for the job to be done, and you may frighten off the best freelancers on the platform.
Once you have posted your project and started to receive bids from interested parties, you will need to assess their applications.
Things to look out for include:
Bid amount Written response (Is it specific to your brief? Does it answer any questions you asked? Does it give you confidence in them?) Star rating What previous clients are saying about their skills and professionalism Evidence of working on a diverse range of projects Portfolio Project completion rate On-time rate On-budget rate
Other factors that will help you identify top performing freelancers are:
The Preferred Freelancer badge. The orange badge with a white star that indicates they have achieved a high rating and good reviews - and have been accepted into the elite Preferred Freelancer Program.
The Verified badge. The blue shield with the white tick that shows Freelancer.com has verified the freelancer’s identity.
Hiring a proficient mobile app developer is essential to getting an app that works as you expect it to. Get this step wrong and even the best idea for an app will end up as just another statistic.
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