Mobile app deployment: here's what it is and how to plan for it
In search of a comprehensive breakdown of mobile app deployment? Then you’ve come to the right place! Check out our in-depth guide for everything you need to know.
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An app is an excellent way to draw in customers. However, the process of devising an app for smartphones can be daunting, and the deployment involves several different considerations.
There are also other challenges, like design, development, and running a comprehensive mobile app test, that need to be combatted.
This guide explains the deployment process and explores the difficulties for providers of getting a new app in front of users. It’ll also help you ensure a long lifecycle for your app.
What is mobile app deployment?
Mobile app deployment means making your app available to an internal or external audience. In the former scenario, this entails putting your app into a production environment where it can be modified and assessed. In the latter, it means releasing it to the end-user.
An end-user can download a native app (one installed directly onto mobile devices) through a dedicated app store accessed from the device. Submitting a native app to one of these stores can be complicated. It’s important to understand what this submission process looks like, as you’ll need to put considerable work into it.
In the long term, a successful app deployment needs to consider customer appeal and basic functionality. Putting yourself through the difficulty of a deployment process is pointless if nobody wants to use what you’ve created.
Android app deployment
iOS and Android smartphones have their own individual app stores, with a slightly different deployment process for each of these. Other companies like Microsoft also have app stores, but these are less popular.
Before launching a mobile application on Android, you need a developer account with the Google Play Store and to provide metadata including a name, description, category, and icon. Apps on the Google Play Store are not subject to any kind of review process. This means that once an app is submitted, it’s available for download shortly. As such, Android devices are particularly attractive to developers.
iOS app deployment
If you want to deploy a mobile application on the iOS App Store, you need a separate developer account and the metadata previously mentioned. Before an app can appear here, it must pass a stringent review process.
This can take up to a few weeks, as every app must be manually approved to gain entry to the iOS app store. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with the Apple app store’s development guidelines to speed things up.
How do you create a mobile app?
All software development is a complex process, but mobile development tends to follow the same concrete steps. You identify a problem your app can solve and who it will be competing against. With millions of apps currently available, you must stand out from the crowd or do something better than anyone else, especially since app users have no time for poor quality.
Once you’ve solved this problem, you move on to designing the app’s interface and other elements. You can then hand this over to a developer to make something that actually works. When you’ve created a working app and tested it, submit it to an app store and monitor it for updates and improvements.
How do you plan a mobile app project?
While app creators have established a roadmap for putting an app together, doing so can still be daunting. That’s why it’s important to improve your workflows by delineating each step and breaking said workflows down into manageable chunks.
You may want to frame your app creation in terms of listening and adapting. By slotting each step of the process into this framework - taking a step forward, listening to feedback, and adapting accordingly - you can refine your product while maintaining a reasonable development and deployment timeframe.
How do you deploy a mobile app?
The process of deploying an app - i.e. submitting it to an app store - is arguably one of the easiest parts of app creation. It comes after a protracted period of research, reflection, and refinement, and while this might extend to the app submission process, you should hopefully be at the point where changes are few and far between.
A better question might be how to ensure you have an app worth deploying. This has implications for both the pre-launch and post-launch phases of the app’s lifespan. If an app doesn’t meet an app store’s requirements, on either a basic or more complex level, it won’t see end-users at all. If an app does tick these boxes but doesn’t solve a problem or perform well, there won’t be enough end-users to sustain it.
While mobile app development has become enormously popular, it remains very expensive. Therefore, we must understand app deployment in a broader context to ensure our efforts pay off.
The mobile app deployment process
A typical mobile app deployment process looks something like this:
The first thing you need to decide is what your app will do. Mobile devices (or, more specifically, their apps) have streamlined several tasks; we can buy train tickets, plan driving routes, listen to podcasts, and so on. Enterprise apps can also make business tasks easier.
While all of these apps serve different purposes, they perform the same basic task: solving a problem or streamlining a process. It’s possible to build an app that solves a problem nobody else has. However, a successful app may simply be one that does an existing job better than anyone else. Failing to put customers first will reduce engagement with your app.
At this stage, it’s a good idea to be flexible with your ideas. While you’ll be engaging in detailed research during the creation process, you’re still working off a lot of assumptions. And it’s easy to get attached to an assumption, even to your own detriment. You should also avoid diving into code at this stage, as the code-writing process is too long to be of any use yet.
Once you have a solid idea, it’s time to start interrogating it. That means understanding what it will be competing with. As we’ve established, competition among apps is fierce. Reviews and install numbers are especially useful, as these help you gauge popularity, see changes from one iteration to another, and identify niches your app can fill.
Your research will help you decide how best to monetize your app - something all apps need to consider. You might want to request payment upfront or consider something like ad revenue or in-app purchases. Your choice will inevitably be shaped by your specific app and its broader audience.
If your app doesn’t have an analogous competitor, this could mean you have an edge in the market. However, it can also make research difficult. One solution is to look at apps that launched in similar circumstances, even if their function and target audience is wildly different from yours.
Another important consideration at this stage is what the development process will look like. A good way to put this together is to establish a set of milestones to meet. Your choice of platform (or platforms) needs to be decided at this point, as Android and iOS development require different skillsets. These factors may impact your app distribution.
The user experience
Regardless of function, an app’s key selling point is ease of use; it strips the complexity from something tedious or long-winded. A major part of that is the user interface of the app. A good interface has short-term and long-term benefits, encouraging people to download the app and to keep using it after they do so.
Your interface will be shaped by your app’s functions and data. Think about what your app needs to do and what information needs to be displayed (its use cases can impact this). Then, start creating pages that contain those things.
In addition to designing these individual pages, think about mobile usability. Assess how easy it is to perform a basic action within your app and how difficult it is to perform something more complex. Remember that changing one element of your user interface might negatively impact another and to consider other things that improve the experience (like push notifications).
You should also make sure to consider the aesthetics of your app. Have a coherent approach to things like colors, shapes, and fonts. This will help users intuitively understand how your app works. If a user needs help to navigate your app, take it back to the drawing boardDevelopment
Once you’re happy with the aesthetics of your app, it’s time to begin mobile app development i.e. building the technical components that make it work. You should already understand what this process involves, but to reiterate, breaking a task down into smaller steps is a good move.
Mobile development is about building three distinct components: the front end, the back end, and the API. The front end is what your users interact with, the back end supports the app’s functions, and the API allows communication between the two of them.
There are many different tools you can use to build these components. Most programming languages, like HTML, are suitable for back-end development. However, iOS and Android apps require different programming languages.
At this stage of app creation, communication is essential. Each member of your development team should understand the broader goals of your app project, as well as the purpose of the component they’re developing - something that remote working can facilitate as easily as in-house. Make sure you listen to them if they tell you something is going wrong.
Even the most experienced team and rigorously developed app are likely to encounter some bugs. That’s why it’s important to test an app thoroughly before it’s released to the public. It’s a good idea to make sure your app testers aren’t developers; it’s their perspective and concerns you need to address. It’s also possible they’ll be able to identify vulnerabilities you’ve overlooked.
A good testing process evaluates an app from several different angles. It makes sure the app is easy to use and its basic features work as intended. You may need to run comparisons between features on Android and iOS versions.
Performance and security are other major areas of concern. Your testers can help you identify if an app is loading slowly, draining a device’s battery too quickly, or taking up too much storage space. They can also help you evaluate your app’s security practices and eliminate issues like leaky data entry forms.
The more people and devices you employ during the testing process, the better your app will be and the better you can respond to increasing device complexity. Unlike a web app, a mobile app will appear on many different hardware types. This is particularly important for apps on Android devices, as these tend to make changes to the core platform. This can have an adverse effect on app performance.
Once an app is past these milestones, you’ll also need to test it with a focus group before you ramp up marketing and deployment. This is done with a group of testers new to the app and requires you to take a hands-off approach to the process. Let them use the app and identify flaws by themselves and factor a broad swathe of feedback into the final round of refinement.
At this point, your app is ready for submission to the relevant app stores. In addition to the basic information and rounds of assessment we previously discussed, there are some other things to consider at the deployment stage.
Application deployment requires screenshots to demonstrate what the app looks like in action. This gives users a sneak peek of what you have to offer. You should also make sure you list all the relevant features and do so in an attractive way.
It’s easy at this stage to bristle in the face of any proposed changes. Be prepared to defend yourself, but don’t be afraid to listen either. It’s possible a genuine issue has been identified, and if it relates to something essential (like security), you must take these concerns seriously.
Three steps for successful mobile app deployment
Onto the part you’ve been waiting for - a few top tips to help ensure a successful mobile app deployment.
1. Look under the hood
The nuts and bolts of your app (i.e. the back end and API) are crucial components and must be in good shape before and after deployment. An overload or malfunction in these components will cripple your app and lose you customers. You should therefore check your app is scalable to compensate for activity spikes.
2. Monitor your app post-deployment
Once an app is deployed, it’s important to remember development doesn’t stop there. There will typically be more than one iteration, as you’ll need to submit updates to counter crashes and other flaws. You may also have access to other data on app usage, which you can use to refine functions and features.
3. Think about your users
This idea applies both before and after the release of a new app. During development, try to keep the focus on the problem you’re solving rather than the technical roadblocks to doing so. After release, make sure to engage with both happy and unhappy customers. It’s possible the latter will become the former if you can address their concerns.
Finding the right kind of mobile app deployment for your business
In addition to concerns about iOS and Android, you should think about the deployment process itself a little more too. There are a couple of useful deployment options to consider.
You may wish to use internal continuous deployment, for example. This means everyone in the app team or company receives updates on a new iteration of an app. They can then provide feedback on an app outside of Apple or Google’s ecosystems.
Alternatively, external continuous deployment lets you draw upon existing customers to test a new app version. You can also use Google’s infrastructure to offer alpha and beta testing of an app using this strategy and, in some cases, make this invite-only.
Each of these options can make the deployment process and lifecycle of the app longer. Unfortunately, the Apple app store doesn’t offer the latter at the moment.
Whether you’re building an entertainment app, enterprise app, or something else, the process of mobile app deployment requires a thorough understanding of an app’s nature, both before and after its release. The app needs to fix a problem nobody else is fixing - or, at least, fixing as well as you. It also needs to consider use cases, be technically competent, and appeal to customers.
New app developers need more than HTML knowledge; they must grasp the mobile application development process and the challenges around submitting to an app store. They also need to keep an eye on apps post-launch to respond to problems and refine their functionality. By doing so, the process of mobile app deployment will become much more fruitful.