Mobile applications are now the fastest growing branch of the IT industry. According to App Annie, a market data and insights company, 2017 was a very good year for them as people were downloading many more apps then than they usually do. People spent more time using the apps, each month storing about 80 different apps on their smartphones and actively using about half of them. These figures are little wonder, as don’t all we use apps every day? Just to mention the Messenger or social media, and last but not least apps which enable booking flights etc. While for business, good apps are the best channel to reach customers.
Globally, in 2017 the count of downloads of mobile apps hit the level of 175 billion, that is 60% more than in 2015. Since then, consumer spending on apps has accordingly increased by 105%, reaching the level of US$ 86 billion. In addition, the time which users spent using the apps has increased by 30%. This all makes the mobile apps market the most promising of all.
What are the three latest hot trends in mobile apps, and can we develop an app on our own?
The so-called Internet of Things (IoT) apps are thought to become one of the leading trends in the year 2018. Actually, IoT is just another name for things like smart homes, smart offices, or autonomous vehicles. Although at this stage IoT still needs some more time before it operates in full swing, this trend is on the rise. Analysts forecast IoT to expand from its level of US$ 157.05 billion in 2016 to US$ 661.74 billion by 2021. This all directly affects the trends in mobile apps as IoT devices are controlled by smartphones.
Another rapidly growing sphere where mobile apps are involved are mobile payments. It is due to the rising popularity of Apple Pay and Google Wallet as after they have come into being, customers are more open to the idea of e-commerce, and they use their smartphones to make payments more often.
Forecasts also say that in 2018 we’ll see the rise of cloud-based mobile apps. The rapid development of cloud technology has boosted its use in mobile applications, the reason being that cloud technology simplifies the process of mobile apps development, and also significantly reduces its costs.
Developing a mobile app
It seems that developing a smartphone app is a terribly difficult procedure but as it turns out, in reality, it is not necessarily so. However, regardless of whether we plan to develop an app entirely on our own, or in cooperation with an external provider, there are a few steps which are worth keeping in mind to help us steer clear of pitfalls.
The first step is finding out whether our target group uses such solutions already. The fact is that mobile apps are most often used by persons who are under 30 years of age. So if the answer is “yes”, the next step is to think about what kind of an app we can offer them. This research phase is important, as thinking outside our usual ‘box’ may prove really valuable. Ideally, we should approach the subject like visionaries do, and offer potential users a solution that will be the first of its kind on the market. It is also worth thinking about how to improve something which the market offers already.
Having set the goal and, above all, having devised a good idea for an app, a developer should think of some likely scenarios and operation modes. Also, a description of available functionalities will be necessary. This all can spare us functional errors at the implementation stage. Having completed this step, we can focus on the communication plan, as the appropriate placing of individual elements can make our application simple, convenient, and fun to use. In designing the app’s architecture, we ought to plan the content and divide it well so that users find it easy to follow. The content must be not only well-organized but also interconnected in such a way that the transition between the individual tabs is hassle-free. At this stage of designing an app interactive mock-ups will come in handy as, after all, even the very grip on a phone set or a tablet can influence the proper arrangement of individual elements. Also, interactive mock-ups help identify and fix potential errors. The next step is designing the graphics, as the app should be legible and easy to understand. And it should stand out in the crowd. It is worth keeping in mind that an app should reflect its intended users’ taste: a mobile app targeted at teenagers will look different from an app meant just for drivers. The graphics should be the right size, too, and generally smaller elements are a better choice, as we want the app to be easily operated with fingertips.
Once all these elements have been finalized, it’s time for the software. There are usually two choices: the first one is to develop a native application working with a specific operating system, such as iOS. Such a solution will enable an efficient use of the phone’s resources, but it won’t be possible to launch the app on a device which uses e.g. the Android system. The other choice could be to use multiplatform languages, such as Adobe Air. This particular language enables transfers and running the very same code on different devices, which means that an app is developed one time only, thus sparing extra costs.
Once the software has been developed, the application is almost ready and can be made available to customers. However, it is good to run as many tests in advance as possible, as it is a means to find out if everything works well and to pinpoint elements which still need working upon.
The very last stage is the app publication. Putting it in a dedicated store (Google Play or iOS – App Store) requires a developer account. Publishing the app is free of charge, and the publication waiting time takes up to a dozen days. Even the best designed mobile app needs a well-thought-out and effective promotion campaign including off-line and online public relation activities, such as QR codes, adverts, or publications in the industry media.
Lastly, let’s remember that after it has been published, every app requires verification, updates, and perfecting. Therefore don’t forget about monitoring your app and gathering stats, as it is going to eventually pay off.