With the constant rise in the use of smartphones and the increasing number of functions people use the devices for, paying careful attention to the mobile app development process is becoming more and more important. More than 50% of today’s web traffic is generated by mobile devices. Ensuring top-notch user experience on phones and tablets is becoming critical for today’s businesses.

Smartphones have become the source of all information, the link between the customer and services and products, the intermediary between business and their clients. The more engaging the app, the more likely it is to be successful. And the more people use the app, the more intense the user’s online presence and greater benefits for the business.

There are 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide, and the number is expected to hit 4 billion in the near future. This basically means that 45.12% of people on the planet own a smartphone. Mobile apps are more important than ever, and thus the development process should be well-addressed. The probability that the user uninstalls the app after just one use is high. That’s why to bring satisfaction to the users and profits to your company, you should seriously consider a couple of things:

Do your research

This stage is a crucial and basic starting point. Be thorough and specific to decide on each significant aspect of your product development.

Choose your target audience and define their characteristics, find out their needs and way to address them in the best possible way.

Be aware of the market requirements and your competition. What makes your app distinctive among others? Which functionalities will make it stand out? Find out your product’s possible weak points and how to improve them. What changes will you need to implement in the future? Start with a clear vision of your final product and think ahead. Always keep the user in mind. Also, you’re creating an app for a smartphone – make it fit for its features.

Investigate safety requirements, technological options, choose your distribution platform, find out its app development guidelines and make sure that you follow them strictly.

Careful research is the foundation of your business plan, the development of your app, and the satisfaction of the users.

To stay on top of the game, always keep an eye on the current trends in technology. We’ve compiled a list of our predictions for 2020. Our post will get you up to speed in no time.

Choose your technology

Choose among hybrid, native, cross-platform or web-based, depending on the system and platform you want to develop your app in. We’ve covered this tech dilemma more extensively in another post on our blog. We’ve also written about the top mobile development frameworks, discussing the differences between React Native, Flutter, IonicPhoneGapCorona SDK and Xamarin.

Pick up the recommended and most favorable architecture for your specific project. Bear in mind that iOS and Android have different developing processes, conventions which you need to follow while, e.g. naming code elements. Be consistent with the coding style you’ve chosen, and make sure to use the most modern tools while trying to be on top of all the latest and greatest API’s.

Make security your top responsibility

Take security very, very seriously. Native apps are generally considered more secure, and if you make one, you need to follow the best practices for the chosen system, as each platform has its own clear guidelines. Protect sensitive user information, ensure strong authentication, authorization and encryption processes. To provide app security, use application performance management tools. Security should be under continuous testing (through penetration testing and the like).

BSG expert’s view on good security practices:

There are many ways to ensure the security of users. Firstly, authentication tokens are partitioned in a private zone of the app, secured by the Operating System. Other users and apps cannot access them unless the phone is rooted.

All communication should also be encrypted, which won’t allow one to get the authorization token directly from the requests. Tokens should have a limited lifespan.

If any kind of suspicious behavior – e.g. access from a different country – is detected, the user should be forced to relog. Two-factor authentication should be implemented by an e-mail or SMS token. There is also a possibility of integration with 3rd party two-factor authentication services, like the Google Authenticator.

Security can be further increased through the implementation of popular protocols like XAPP (currently integrated into numerous apps, like ICQ, Google Talk or, previously, Facebook Messenger).

Focus on the user

You’re not developing an app for its own sake – you’re making it for the user. Therefore, stick to the golden rule: what the user needs is what the user gets. And that means personalised UX, compatible UI, excellent layout performance, intuitive navigation, respect for the UI thread (background thread for running tasks), speed, usability (!), convenience, efficiency and functionality in the long run.

The app should adjust to the screen, look great and perform smoothly, attract and engage the user who is often distracted from using it, so make it easy for them to come back to the app any time without losing whatever they’ve already completed and achieve what they intended with the app.

Keep it lean

Make navigation simple. Create only necessary objects. Don’t clutter the interface. Simple means fast, convenient and usable, and that’s what you’re aiming for. For a quick review of the leading mobile UX trends in 2020 head over to another post on the blog.

Test it, test it, test it

You never know when something may go wrong – the app development should be under ongoing evaluation at each stage of the process, from its very beginning. Every feature and every function should be tested and that is no lonely quest, but a serious team work. Invite beta-testers (e.g. through the TestFlight beta testing service for Apple), but also gather an expert Quality Assurance team to deliver a bug-free, „Right the First Time”, fully functional, infallibly secure and usable product.

BSG expert’s view on quality

Quality can also be verified automatically. The initial step to cover it is the implementation of Unit Tests – small fragments of code that verify the implemented app logic and allow to detect invalid behaviour at the very early stage of development. On Android, they can be developed using JUnit with Mockito or Kotest extensions.

Quality can be ensured through the implementation of UI tests. Automatic verification of flows within the app and its high-level behaviour provides a powerful tool for keeping the app stable and friendly. While harder and more time-consuming to develop than unit tests, Automatic tests pay-off as they let QA specialists focus on more specific cases. Android is equipped with a library designed specifically for this purpose – Espresso.

Continous Integration / Continous Delivery / Continous Testing (CI / CD / CT):

All processes described above can be automated in pipelines by CI / CD / CT tools (Continous Integration / Continous Delivery / Continous Testing). CI allows the automatic build of an app at given milestones (e.g. after every commit) and ensures that invalid code was not deployed to VCS. CD is then responsible for building the app and preparing for further work – testing by the QA team (app is provided daily or after a specific feature is finished) or as an input for CT. CT work is to verify, with the use of Unit Tests and Automated UI tests, that the app is free from at least the most popular issues. Services providing such functionality include Bitrise or Fastline.

Make room for development

With the devices changing so quickly, be prepared to introduce any updates and fixes any time and provide constant support and maintenance.

BSG expert’s view on making the apps future-proof
Making sure the app is easily maintainable is good practice overall, but the best way to do it is through modularity. Modularity makes updates and modification of the application much easier and the modules can be reused in other apps.

For iOS: due to frequent updates make sure you use the most current version of the system and the programming language, pay utmost attention to Apple’s guidelines for code-writing. Use localisation files for user strings for future translations.