For the vast majority of apps, you will be able to use frameworks and open source components to achieve the vast majority of functionality your app needs. If there’s no immediate need to reinvent the wheel, you should stick to system frameworks and open source components. They are likely to have more functionality than you could develop on your own, and are often better tested. A word of warning, though. Make sure to conduct a full audit on each component you integrate into your system, checking on things such as how many outstanding issues there are, how many people are reporting problems and the latest date and frequency of updates.
Automated testing is key.
If you want to be able to make changes rapidly, you need to automate your test process. You can’t, and nor should you try to, fully automate your entire test suite, but you should try to move as many of the reptitive and simplistic tests into your automated test suite. Unit Tests and UI Tests will give your developers the confidence to change your codebase with ease, making fast and iterative changes a reality.
Say no to custom controls.
Designers will often come up with some ideas for custom user controls which provide unique and engaging user experiences. Although these would more than likely look great in your app, it is important for your developers to push back on such ideas in the early stages of development. Custom UI controls take a lot more time to develop compared to simply adding a built in control. You can save time here by explaining this to your design team in the early stages of development, providing them with a list of approved controls on the platform you are developing for. Sure, you can develop them later, but there are more important things to focus on in the meantime!
Build a landing page ASAP.
Before you even start developing your app, you should set up a promotional landing page form with a subscribe form for potential interested users. If you’re getting a lot of traction from your landing page, you can invite your audience to send feedback on your proposed idea, and conduct market research on the group. You can use a platform like KickoffLabs to create your landing page.
Use beta testers.
Leading on from the previous point, if you have a captive audience you can invite them to test your app as a beta tester. Beta testers will give you invaluable advice. You don’t need a huge number of testers. The Nielsen Norman Group describe Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users. In summary, “Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford”. Apple now have an open beta programme (although taking your app through the Apple review process is required), making this a lot easier than it was in the past, and it has been around for a long time on Android.
Validate that your MVP really is minimum.
When developing an app it is incredibly easy to get carried away. You often think of great features and excellent ways your app could help your users. It becomes easy for you to think that your app must contain these features in it’s first release. This may not be the case. You should validate every single feature in your app with your users before your development team starts to build it. Ask each user whether they would use the feature, or even better, ask them if they would still use the app if it did not contain that feature.
Conduct competitor analysis.
Start by identifying who your competitors are in the marketplace. Then identify every product feature that each of your competitors offer. Can you tell if users are using these features? If they aren’t being used, ask why. Are they poorly implemented or do users just not want that feature? You can then use Sensor Tower to identify which keywords your competitors are ranking for. This will not only shed some light on their USP, but will also give insight into which keywords you have the best chance at ranking highly for.
Examine user reviews
Search the app stores for similar products and read all of the user reviews possible. This is a chance for you to identify opportunities for development and features. Check out the settings and support / feedback sections in these apps. You may find complaints about particular features, bugs and improvements that your market is asking for.
Keep working while your developers are working
Don’t ever think that you can’t make any more progress until you get something back back from your app developers. There’s always something you can be doing! Whether it’s market research, setting up a landing page and capturing the details of potential users, preparing a business plan for further investment or setting goals, there’s a multitude of things you can do while your app is being developed to ensure that the launch goes as smoothly as possible and it is seen by the maximum number of potential users.
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