If you are thinking of developing a new app or have an existing one that needs improving there are some important steps that we recommend to our customers that will help to improve the functionality and usability of your new or upgraded mobile app.
To reduce the risk of spending a lot of time and money on developing an app that is not easy for your end users to adopt, it is wise to engage a mobile app consulting services company like Blue Whale Apps that can guide you through the R&D phase of your app development. Then when we start building the app we already have a clear picture of how the app will function.
Phases of Pre-Development Research for Mobile Apps
You may be surprised how many businesses decide to develop an app based on their own desires to have one rather than a market need for it. That may be ok for some types of apps,
such as where we are just packaging existing website services like an eCommerce website into an app for ease of customer access. But if the app is going to offer something new, a new way of doing something, or a new product in itself. Then, market research is essential to fully understand the need and desire for the new product or service. At this stage, it is best to do this in the form of a survey of the target audience. Sometimes this can feel like a waste of time and money, but it pales into insignificance compared to developing an app and then finding there is no market for it.
A big part of identifying the need for your new app is to understand the current market landscape. The kind of questions that need to be asked are as follow:
- Are there any other products like this?
- What is the demand for them?
- Can we improve on what is out there?
- Is there a variation or niche that we can win?
- What kind of market share can we expect?
- Or if there is nothing like this, can we create a market for it?
This is certainly not an exclusive list of what needs to be researched but if these factors can be identified then you will start to form a good understanding of your competition and the part your product will play in the market.
Branding and Personality Development
There are far too many vanilla apps out there, ones with no personality at all, that look and feel just like every other app. Now, there is nothing wrong with conforming to UX and UI design standards so that users can quickly learn to use your app, in fact, that is recommended. But many apps could do with the touch of a band designer to give them a unique look and feel that sets them apart from the competition. You can see every day the brands that have succeeded in doing this are winning hands down. Those are the household names that we all know and love like Apple. But it doesn’t take a huge marketing budget to think outside the box and give your product its own identity.
UI and UX Design
A critical part of any app is the UI (user interface) it is where the user interacts with the technology. UI design is the more aesthetic side of interface design and includes color palettes, typography, animations, buttons, and imagery. It goes hand in hand with your band design and is highly focused on your user demographic preferences. For example, a business app will have a very different UI design from a child’s game.
UX (user experience) on the other hand is more about the structural design, and how the user moves around your product. Apple and Google have design frameworks that should be followed as closely as possible to reduce the user’s learning curve when adopting your product. For example, if settings are located in the same place in most apps, it would be unwise to put yours in a different location where the user has to search for it.
Taken together UI and UX design is a critical part of the pre-code design process that if done right will make your application appeal to the right audience and be easy and intuitive to learn and use.
Ok so the research is done and the UI and UX design is done, so let’s build it, right? Not so fast!
For large app development projects especially if you are breaking new ground with its functionality. It would be wise to build an MVP first.
What is MVP?
MVP or ‘minimum viable product’ is a bare-bones approach to app building where you build out the minimum core features so that you have an app for early adopters to test that will get a working prototype into the user’s hands.
This can often identify some very important design changes or roadblocks that need to change the direction of the final development. It is an ideal way for users and investors to road test an app prototype to get a real-world feel for what it will ultimately be, without the need for all the bells and whistles and final detailed refinements. Those are the things that can take up a lot of time in development, so it’s good to ensure you are on the right track first and MVP development is the best way to do that.
MVP development is a quick and cost-effective way to get the first iteration of your app on the market so you can start to run some usability research studies.
Usability Functional Testing
The purpose of usability functional testing is to assess if your app works the way it should, this can only be done once you have a working prototype to let users test. Testers are provided with survey questions to document their experience. The tester will need to perform a feature-by-feature series of tests to validate if the feature functions in the way it should and if the output is as expected. This includes using the product in ways that were not intended by the designers as end users often do, Ie. let’s try to break it by inputting invalid information or using it in the wrong way.
Closely related to UX design, usability research focuses on whether or not the end user can access the functions that you have built into the product. This time user surveys are about finding out how your users feel about your product, how much they know about it, what issues they are encountering, and how well workflows are operating when they use the product. They may also be asked what they think other users’ experience would be with it and if they think other users would find it easy to use and learn.
Having completed the above stages you are now ready to go full steam ahead and build out your app with its full design and feature set, safe in the knowledge that it will work in just the way you planned it, be user-friendly, and will resonate with your target audience.
If you would like to explore your app design idea in more detail, here at Blue Whale Apps we offer mobile app consulting services to help you go through all of the above design phases, then our mobile app development company can code your final app design.
Call Blue Whale Apps for a free consultation and our experts will be happy to help.