Build an app – how it’s done

Build an app – how it’s done

Customers come to us with everything from an idea to a finished specification. So how do you succeed in building and launching an app, wether it’s for the store or internal?

At Crossplatform we’ve built may apps and are happy to share our experiences and knowledge.

It all depends on the “scope“. And that’s an example of tricky IT terms that we’ll demystify in this complete guide for building an app.

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Verify the app idea

To build an app requires verifying the idea
To build an app requires verifying the idea

So you got this great idea for an app and think “just build it”. But in this early stage it’s important to stop and ask some critical questions:

  • Has someone else already built it and owns the market?
  • Does the users want what you’re offering?
    • Ask some intended users to verify the idea with an image prototype
  • Is anyone willing to pay for the app?

Build the app’s key function first

The biggest mistake when building an app is to do too much features too early.
So identify the key feature or features. This defines the MVP – “Minimum Viable Product”. Meaning the minimum amount of features required to use the app. This makes up your first release, delivery.

Crossplatform can often build the key function for free in week.

Backlog – the app’s features

List the app features in a backlog
List the app features in a backlog

When Crossplatform estimates time and cost a specification is required – list of features. How many pages does the app need and what device features does it use. For example:

  • Login authentication
    • Social (Facebook, Google)?
    • Two step verification / SMS code?
  • SMS
  • Maps
  • GPS position
  • Push notifications
  • Share on social network
  • Chat
  • Camera
    • Upload images
  • Languages / localisation

This list of features make up what’s called a “backlog” – basically an advanced TODO-list.

Other than your demands time is required for configuring app navigation, tests, backup, GDPR, App / Play store content (if public release) and project management.

Design – build an image prototype and verify

Build an image prototype of your app and verify with real users
Build an image prototype of your app and verify with real users

When we know what to build we can create an image prototype, so called “mockup“. This doesn’t have to be beautifully designed but could be drawn on paper. Optionally digital solutions like invision, mockup or marvel could be used. If you don’t have a designer yourself Crossplatform’s designers are experts at mobile UX.

The image prototype serves as a kind of advanced PowerPoint that you can ask some potential users (friends, family, colleagues) test and click around in. This will give you invaluable information about the app.

Our designers can also help you refine an existing design or transform something simple from pen and paper to an interactive mockup.

When the initial mock is done and verified we can create a more refined design, an attractive look that heightens the user’s experience.

App data – building a backend

Build a backend for the app so data is stored securely in the cloud
Build a backend for the app so data is stored securely in the cloud

What many don’t think about when building an app is that all the information must be stored somewhere in a database and get send between the app and the database through what’s called a “backend” or “API“.

You might have an existing backend – like your website or another app – or a new one is required.

Then we also need to build the backend and publish it to the cloud (such as Amazon AWS, Google or Microsoft Azure).

Build the MVP app

Finally we can get started building the actual app! We’ll focus on our MVP and build as little as possible to make the app usable.

In many cases we first build the app without backend, or simply use the image prototype, to show the app for investors or do initial user testing.

However, all parts are required to produce a real app: function, design, database and backend.

Crossplatform estimates the time and use Agile methodology to deliver on time, where you’ll get weekly updates on the app’s progress. There’s never any risk of time running out and you always have the possibility to re-prioritise the backlog.

Publish to app store or internally

iPhone and Android have separate app stores
iPhone and Android have separate app stores

When the app is ready it’s time to publish to Google Play Store and Apple App Store. But some apps are only distributed internally within the company, which may feel safer but can make it more difficult for the end user to download the app.

Crossplatform will of course help you prepare content for the stores such as app screenshots, description and terms.

Maintenance and further development

Once the app is released continuous updates or development of the other features in the backlog could be required. We usually do these on hourly basis.

We look forward to hearing about your great app idea!

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