We could have put dozens of rules in here, but we thought we’d kick off our mobile app development best practices guide with simple concepts that both the IT and business side of a company can agree on. We are starting with seven best practices that no organization should forget. And make sure you tick all these boxes off before you even start building!
Mobile App Development Rule #1: Do you really need one?
We’ve already written about this, but, before building any mobile apps — or really anything at all — you need to ask yourself three questions:
- Why am I considering this?
- What am I considering building?
- Do I need a mobile app or will just a responsive website due?
Now, at Code4Nord we are a mobile app development agency, so you’d think we’d be biased with this one, but we believe you don’t always need an app for that. You definitely need a mobile-friendly website. Full stop. But maybe instead of building from scratch, you can go ahead and leverage an existing app — like for loyalty programmes — to serve your purpose. Or maybe you can use a tool like IFTTT or Zapier and leverage third-party integrations to puzzle together different tools to build an app with zero development experience.
Mobile App Development Rule # 2: Know your audience.
When you’re deciding whether to build a mobile app and what kind to build, why not start by talking to your current customers and even a couple of juicy prospects? Ask if they would use an app, how they are using competitors’ apps, and, especially, ask what they need. This helps you prioritise what you kind of app you should be building. Also go ahead and ask on socials and your newsletter list. And then go ahead and use tools like Google Analytics. Your website traffic patterns will tell you if most of your customers are accessing your brand, business or service online or via mobile. And via which browsers and mobile devices. This is something you have to check probably quarterly because there’s a massive trend toward mobile usage just continuing to increase. These answers dramatically affect any performance testing and user testing.
Mobile App Development Rule #3: Know your competition.
Do your research. This starts in app stores. Are there already existing apps on the market that satisfy the same needs? This helps you know if you can compete at all in the space. And it lets you become a user and decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t. If you’re already running a successful website-backed business, it’s good to learn from others, but you shouldn’t have to worry too much about your competition. If, however, you are trying to enter an already crowded market, understanding the market and service gaps and how you can distinguish yourself has to build into the start of your mobile app design.
Mobile App Development Rule #4: Know what you’re good at.
Are you a tech company at your core? Then heck yes you should probably in-house your mobile app development. But then you need to have the time, staffing and budget to maintain it. Don’t waste your time and money building anything that isn’t core to your business and that you’re not willing to take care of in the long-run. If building mobile apps isn’t at the core of the value you’re offering, you should probably consider outsourcing. It’s important then to partner with a mobile app development outsourcing agency that you don’t just hire, but instead partner with in the long-haul. The software outsourcing company should have the technical know-how but partner with you to understand your vision, your short and long-term objectives, and especially your current and target customers. Always remember: you’re good at serving your customers and no one can do it better. Make sure your mobile app continues to grow your great relationship with your existing customers. That’s, after all, the best way you get more.
Mobile App Development Rule #5: Reuse, Recycle.
The world is on fire, so, yes, you should literally reduce waste and recycle as much as you can. But also you can do that with code. One of the most important mobile app development best practices is hybrid mobile app development or cross-platform mobile app development. Since the Windows phone has kind of died out, you really only have to make the decision between Apple and Android. We already talked about doing your due diligence ahead if anyone is even accessing your services via their mobile devices. But let’s assume, if all goes well, you’re probably going to have to build for both iOS and Android. Which sounds expensive, but when you leverage these techniques like hybrid and cross-platform development right, up to 90 percent of your code can overlap. And if you build API-first, then you can build your website and your apps on a top of a shared codebase. This doesn’t just make for a more stable codebase, it allows for less work so your app developers can reach their true creative potential — instead of *yawn* rewriting the same code all the time. And you have less code, so if something goes wrong, you can spot it more easily.
Mobile App Development Rule #6: Make money from it.
OK this may be a simple idea, but this is the biggest failure that leads to less than one percent of all apps making any money. An app monetization strategy should be a part of every stage of your mobile app development lifecycle. Unless you’re in the gaming world, you probably aren’t making money directly off your app. Then how? The most common use case of an app is to create customer stickiness. Once they are using yours, they probably won’t bother then looking for and setting up access to another one. Another way apps create stickiness is because customers are asking for it. This is why banks offer free apps all the time because we expect it. It also improves user experience which makes for a better customer experience. Finally, an app may be the most efficient method of integrating with other partners, so you can both offer new services, appeal to each other’s customer base, and create a level of stickiness and smooth workflow that facilitates great customer retention.
Mobile App Development Rule #7: Don’t forget to be a good code citizen.
One of our favourite mobile app development best practices is just good software development. Whether you call it opportunistic refactoring, the Boy Scout Rule, or tweak-as-you-go, the idea is to always prioritise leaving code better than how you found it. Spot a bug? What are you waiting for — fix it! Or if you don’t know how to fix it, the Code4Nord team would partner you up with someone who does for some good old pair programming, so you know next time and the issue is closed out. And it’s not just the broken, clean up any mess you find. This policy is both in the break-room and the code base — try to leave it better than when you entered. This means look for ways to limit and avoid in the future any spaghetti code. And then of course don’t forget documentation. Always aim to be a good steward of you code so the next developer to use it knows how to use it and understands how it works by just glancing at it.
Just Remember: If you don’t have time to build and maintain a great mobile app, no matter what mobile app strategy you pursue, you’re setting yourself up for failure.