The Ultimate Guide for Beginners – Developing Mobile Applications

February 15, 2024by Munnyumya Allan

Mobile Application Development: A Comprehensive Overview

As of the third quarter of 2019, the Android app store housed 2.47 million apps, while Apple’s app store had 1.8 million. Additional data indicates a global presence of over 12 million registered mobile app developers.

According to Statista, global mobile data traffic is anticipated to surge sevenfold between 2017 and 2022. The increasing trend of internet usage via smartphones reflects a preference for mobile applications over mobile websites. This preference is attributed to the accessibility, user-friendliness, and high degree of customization that mobile applications offer to cater to individual preferences.

Step-by-Step Instructional Manual

Whether you are a company aiming to develop a mobile application to engage with your target audience, a professional mobile app developer working on an app for a client, or an individual exploring mobile app development out of curiosity, presented here is a detailed and structured step-by-step guide to navigate you through the process of mobile application development.

Do you have an App Concept?

Businesses of various scales, ranging from sole proprietorships to large corporations, can reap the rewards of creating applications that cater to diverse products and services. Whether you operate in retail, banking and finance, or the education sector, all it takes to initiate the development of a mobile application is a solid idea.

It is essential to engage in brainstorming sessions with your team or mentors to generate multiple app concepts. Each idea should undergo thorough research to assess its feasibility, viability, and alignment with the target market.

Selecting Device Platforms

As previously mentioned, mobile applications predominantly target two key platforms – Android and iOS. The choice of platform should be guided by your business objectives and the preferences of your target audience.

Android holds a larger market share compared to iOS, attributed to Google’s facilitation for companies launching their own mobile devices. In contrast, iOS is exclusive to Apple’s proprietary devices.

The iOS platform is renowned for its robust security measures and premium image, prompting many businesses to prioritize debuting their apps on the Apple App Store. Nevertheless, developing iOS apps entails higher entry barriers in terms of entry costs and the necessity of expensive Mac devices for application development.

Developing for Both Android and iOS

It is indeed feasible to create applications for both Android and iOS platforms. If your clientele utilizes both Android and iOS devices, it is essential to develop applications for both platforms. When embarking on development for both platforms, strategic planning is crucial to adopt an approach that facilitates code reuse, thereby optimizing time and resources.

Selecting a Programming Language

Following the determination of the platforms for app development, the subsequent step involves selecting a programming language. The key factor to consider when choosing a programming language is the nature of the app you intend to create – whether it falls under native, hybrid, cross-platform, or progressive web apps.

Here are some prevalent languages utilized in mobile app development:
– Swift and Objective-C for iOS native apps
– Java and Kotlin for Android native apps
– Xamarin, Flutter, React Native, and others for cross-platform apps

Apart from the app type, it is crucial to assess your current skill set and identify areas for swift enhancement. Opting to leverage existing skills rather than embarking on learning a new language from scratch is a prudent approach.

When deciding on a language, take into account the app’s functionalities as certain languages may be better suited for specific features. Evaluate the array of in-built and third-party libraries available to determine the most suitable choice for your project.

Each programming language comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks, hence it is imperative to carefully consider these factors before finalizing a language for app development. For example, if you prefer streamlined code over verbosity, Kotlin may be a more favorable option compared to Java. If you seek enhanced control over coding in your cross-platform app, TypeScript’s static typing could prove more advantageous than JavaScript.

Exercise patience in evaluating each language option thoroughly. Weigh the merits and demerits of each language before arriving at a decision.

Alternatives for Mobile App Development

Prior to commencing the development phase, critical decisions must be made regarding the mobile app. The initial choice often pertains to selecting the app development platform. Subsequently, you have the opportunity to explore four distinct approaches for creating mobile apps, each of which is outlined briefly below.

1. Native Mobile Applications

Native mobile apps leverage the operating system and frameworks provided by the platform. Key attributes of native apps include:
– Accelerated development timelines
– Capacity to develop robust applications
– Access to platform-specific features
– Enhanced development environment

2. Cross-Platform Native Mobile Applications

An alternative approach involves developing apps using a single language and then adapting the codebase for multiple platforms. These apps are constructed using standard frameworks compatible with both Android and iOS platforms. Cross-platform mobile apps are compiled into native applications that seamlessly operate on the device’s operating system.

3. Hybrid Mobile Applications

Similar to cross-platform apps, hybrid mobile applications are built using frameworks that function effectively across various platforms. Instead of being compiled into native apps, they are installed as bundles operating within web containers upon user initiation.

4. Progressive Web Applications

In contrast to traditional mobile apps, progressive web apps are not specifically designed for mobile devices. Rather, they are web applications that provide a mobile app-like experience when accessed on smartphones. Progressive web apps are not distributed through app stores but can be accessed directly through web browsers.

Comparing Native Apps vs. Hybrid Mobile Applications

When you have an app concept but are uncertain whether to develop separate native apps for each platform or opt for a hybrid solution, understanding your target audience’s expectations is crucial in determining between native and hybrid mobile app development.

Let’s explore the distinctions between them, as outlined in the comparison table below:

Native app Hybrid app
Best runtime performance Unable to access native APIs, reducing runtime performance
Best runtime performance Accesses device hardware plugins and native modules, which restricts the performance
Separate codebases for each platform need to be maintained. Single codebase that runs on each platform.
Uses platform frameworks Uses web frameworks
Higher app building cost Less cost as compared to native application development

If you lean towards native apps, you can concentrate on one platform initially and then adapt the code for the other platform. However, be prepared to redesign the interface due to differences in rendering the app on users’ screens between the two platforms. Alternatively, with careful selection of language and framework, code reuse can be maximized.

How do Hybrid/Cross-platform Frameworks Operate?
Non-native applications lack direct access to device hardware or software. Hybrid or cross-platform apps are crafted using universal languages like JavaScript, CSS, or HTML that can run seamlessly across all platforms. These applications operate within a container upon user launch, enabling them to mimic native app behavior. If you already have a web app, a significant portion of the code can be repurposed for mobile app development.

There are two primary approaches to developing cross-platform apps:
1. Utilize platforms like ReactJS and NativeJS offering native modules.
2. Leverage platforms such as Flutter and Xamarin that compile code into native code.

Hybrid apps are most suitable for smaller applications with modest resource requirements.

Mobile Application Development Lifecycle.

The mobile application lifecycle closely mirrors that of software or web applications. It commences with an idea that necessitates thorough research to ascertain its viability in the current market landscape. Once confident that your app addresses a user need, you can proceed with the development phase.

Wireframes and Prototyping.

Prior to diving into the coding phase, meticulous planning is essential to determine the app’s value proposition to users. Wireframes serve as a valuable tool to conceptualize the app’s functionality without incorporating design elements. Key information to include in wireframes encompasses:
– How the app benefits users
– User journey within the app
– Anticipated challenges
– Layout of essential menus, navigation, content areas, and other components

Wireframes offer a two-dimensional visualization of your app. Following the creation of wireframes, design elements should be integrated to produce a clickable prototype for the app. Prototyping affords a preview of how users will interact with the application, featuring clickable buttons that simulate navigation through various screens, mirroring the real user experience.

Defining the Frontend and Backend

So, you’ve got your prototype all set up, and now it’s time to dive into the exciting world of defining the frontend and backend for your app. Back in the day, mobile apps were like lone wolves, doing their thing on users’ phones without bothering to connect with the outside world. But hey, as internet data became more abundant, some of that data and functionality decided to take a trip to the cloud for a change of scenery.

Why the sudden change of heart, you ask? Well, smartphones are like the younger siblings of web apps – they have fewer resources and often get the shorter end of the stick. But lo and behold, with the magic of cloud storage and the internet spreading its wings, a fully-loaded mobile app dream became a reality. Developers, always looking to up their efficiency game, started shipping tasks off to the cloud as part of the backend crew.

Mobile Application Front-End
Ah, the front end – the charming face of your mobile app. It’s all about crafting that user interface, sprinkling it with awesome visuals and interactive goodies to create a delightful user experience. When a user hits that download button, it’s the front end that waltzes into their mobile device, ready to be unveiled with a tap on the screen.

Curious about the Front-end Development Workflow?

Well, it’s like a party – the number of guests depends on how big your app bash is. For a tiny app shindig, one or two developers might handle everything. But for those grand enterprise-scale soirees, you’ll likely see dedicated teams taking charge at each stage of the workflow dance.

Mobile Application Back-End

When it comes to the back end of a mobile application, you have the option of keeping it in-house with the app owners or outsourcing it to a third-party cloud service provider. In this era of lean and agile methodologies, developers often lean towards the latter, entrusting the backend responsibilities to external service providers who handle the infrastructure setup and maintenance.

Integration of Mobile Apps with the Backend

The front end typically relies on APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to establish connections with the backend. These APIs can be furnished by the backend service provider or developed internally. However, in-house development is becoming increasingly rare as readily available, fully customizable Software Development Kits (SDKs) are gaining popularity. With a plethora of APIs at your disposal, there are numerous ways to access and utilize them.

Interaction with Backend Data

Backend data is typically stored in the cloud rather than on the device itself, making the app more lightweight. However, this setup can lead to increased latency between user requests and responses. It’s crucial for developers to program the APIs effectively to minimize any perceived delays caused by the data being located away from the user’s device.


Testing on Local and Global Scales

In the dynamic landscape of mobile applications, where apps extend beyond users’ devices, developers are required to conduct comprehensive testing at both local and global levels. Local testing ensures the smooth operation of local servers and guarantees users receive the exceptional experience intended for the app. It also validates the functionality of the APIs responsible for integrating the front end. Global testing is particularly crucial for applications that leverage cloud-based backends, a prevalent practice in contemporary mobile app development.

Submitting Your App to the App Store

In order to submit your app to the app store, you need to enroll in the App Store’s developer program. Upon enrollment, you gain access to native APIs, beta releases, and exclusive frameworks. Adhere to the store’s guidelines and standards to create high-quality applications.

Joining the Android developer program is straightforward if you already have a Google account. The Google Play Store has more flexibility regarding app distribution. You have the option to distribute apps outside the store, allowing users to download and use them directly.

Throughout our interactions, we have covered various topics related to mobile application development, including defining the front-end and back-end, selecting programming languages, comparing native apps vs. hybrid mobile applications, understanding the mobile application development lifecycle, and testing locally and globally. We also discussed aspects like choosing device platforms, developing for both Android and iOS, and publishing apps to the app stores.

In conclusion,

mobile application development involves a series of crucial steps such as ideation, wireframing, prototyping, backend development, testing, and deployment. It’s essential to consider factors like platform selection, programming language choice, front-end design, backend integration, and thorough testing to ensure the successful creation and launch of high-quality mobile applications. Each stage requires attention to detail, adherence to guidelines, and consideration of user experience to deliver functional and engaging mobile apps to users.