How to create a native app (I): the preparatory phase
The use of applications in mobile terminals is on the rise and, due to the decrease in costs and the technical difficulty linked to their programming and the knowledge necessary for it, SMEs and the self-employed have also begun to benefit from the development of mobile applications. . If you start with a good idea and your team has the right technical level, both beginners, who can resort to design with templates, and professional developers, who do not usually need support programs, have a large number of options with which create your own app for Android or iOS.
With this first part we begin a series in which we explain in depth how to create a native app , a name that designates those mobile applications designed for a specific operating system (Android or iOS). To begin with, we detail the aspects to consider in planning prior to developing your own app.
- Create a native app: first technical reflections
- Why is it better to create a native app
- What added value does my application provide?
- The planning phase in application development
- Create your own app: do not underestimate the advantages of planning
Create a native app: first technical reflections
When you have an idea for an application, your first reflections usually revolve around the most appropriate format , a fundamental decision because it is what determines the technical characteristics of the application and defines the subsequent development process. You can choose from a large number of different formats while, in terms of applications, along with native ones, web and hybrid applications are also developed .
In the manual on application development that we started with this first part, we have focused on the programming of native applications for several reasons. In the first place, due to the great advantage represented by its ability to adapt to the device’s operating systemand, secondly, because they outperform hybrid or web apps in terms of performance and shorter response times. Other aspects that demonstrate fewer limitations than other formats include its ability to interact with files stored on the device, to access the full available memory space, and to use almost all of the native features of the device, such as the camera, GPS, or messaging.” push”. In short, when creating an application, the native format offers many more possibilities than the other two.
Add to this its easy distribution options , as both Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) have their own stores, the Google Play Store in one case and the Apple App Store in the other, where consumers have applications designed for these operating systems at your disposal. For most users, both stores represent the most common option when downloading an application. The Apple store is even the only possibility in the case of iOS applications. The only thing to decide is whether it is offered for free or not.
Another reason, no less important, for the creation of an app is the potential income that it can generate. After all, the number of transactions carried out through smartphone applications has increased reasonably in recent years. By 2021, global sales are expected to reach US$78 billion.
Why is it better to create a native app
Due to its high performance capacity, the native format is used above all for graphically very complex applications that require great computing power , although it also allows simple applications that also benefit from the high performance of this format. If the projected application should access certain native functions of the device, this format offers the greatest variety of options, allowing easy integration of components such as the camera, the microphone, the address book, the calendar, the messages, the GPS geolocation, the bluetooth, the position and movement sensors of the device, among others.
On the other hand, unlike most web applications and many hybrid ones, the native ones do not necessarily have to be connected to the Internet to run, so those applications with functions that also have to be available in offline mode are, therefore, to say it, predestined to this format. In addition, they have the lowest latency time . This ability to quickly implement commands can be key in the case of games or other types of applications in which many requests have to be made in a short period of time.
Creating a native application is also the best choice when usability and a user experience (UX) ideally adjusted to the operating system are valued , since, by using the standard frameworks of each system, the application can be perfectly adapted to its own interface. of each platform. This, in addition to the consistency in the design and behavior of menus and buttons, is what determines the best look and feel of native apps compared to others and makes their use equal to that of other programs in the same operating system. . Do not forget that many users are already familiar with the look and feel of their mobile operating system and consider the maintenance of the design and management guidelines as a quality factor,aspect that can benefit the development of native applications.
What added value does my application provide?
The first and foremost thing when creating an app is to have a good idea and to be convinced of its commercial potential, so before you start planning your development, you have to examine this idea in depth. A proven method for this is to study what the application contributes in both directions:
Added value for the user : the user will only use an application if they obtain a benefit, which can be in the form of information, entertainment, support, purchase options or communication with other users of the application.
Added value for the developer : an application always represents an investment, so it has to be profitable in some way. Again, the options here are also highly diversified, since not only the immediate benefit is an added value. Also the expansion of the clientele and the degree of awareness of the manufacturer’s brand can be part of the benefit, in the same way as the consolidation of a certain image of the manufacturer.
Only when a benefit to both the user and the manufacturer has been outlined is it time to start the planning phase. For this, it is convenient to be realistic: study the realistic objectives, if the application is technically feasible and estimate factors such as the work and financing necessary for its development.
The planning phase in application development
The more exhaustive the preparation phase and the more relevant the information obtained, the more realistic will be the forecast of the chances of success of the application and of the work and expenses involved in its development. Do not rule out sharing your idea with as many people you trust, because each honest opinion can provide you with very valuable input regarding planning and implementation.
The points that we explain below are fundamental elements to consider in this phase, which you should capture in a written concept . To do this, you can help yourself with a so-called wireframe , a page layout or plan used in web design and which is nothing more than a schematic illustration of your application, with the primary objective of showing the user experience and making it understandable. This type of sketch later facilitates the technical implementation, but not only, because if you delegate the programming of the application to an expert, it can be of great help when it comes to making the idea understandable. The written concept, as in the case of any other project, is also an obligatory step when looking for investors.
Study the competition
Find out if there are other manufacturers that have also developed a similar application and, if so, how they have done it. If there is no mobile application of this type yet, you can count on an innovative potential for your project, although it could also mean that it has been developed in another way (on a website) or that it is simply impractical. This makes it necessary to also investigate your competitors outside the field of applications, because the analysis of competitors and similar business models not only provides the keys to the current situation in the market but also provides stimuli to reflect on the implementation. of your own app.
If your project already exists in a similar form , then the analysis of the competition is unavoidable , because through it you obtain valuable information about the assumptions that have worked so far and those that have not. The positive results serve as an orientation and guide, while the negative ones, for their part, show which strategies and procedures it would be better to give up, as well as in which aspects there is potential for improvement and could be integrated into your application.
In the case of wanting to optimize an existing concept or wanting to modify it to apply it in another area, it is equally advisable to analyze in detail the already existing projects in this sector. Not all applications have to discover the Mediterranean: small improvements, additional functions or the transfer of an idea to another sector have also favored the success of various applications (and their creators).
Define your target audience
Defining the market of the application, aspects such as its functionality, its design, its price, etc. are specified at the same time. To do this, do not just rely on your intuition, but on statistical data .
If you manage a web page with a similar theme, using web analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Piwik can be of great help to get to know your users in depth, revealing, for example, how many users have accessed the page through their mobile device and with which operating system, allowing you to determine which platforms are best suited for your native application. It also provides information on the behavior of visits, which serves to determine which functions are most requested and should therefore not be missing from the application.
Surveys , interviews , and market research are another way to gather information about your audience. This is how it is discovered, for example, that the largest group of application users in Spain is made up of the young population (between 25 and 34 years old) by 39%, so a mobile application for the elderly would represent a niche product.
Go for a platform
In which operating system do you want to offer your application? Sometimes audience segmentation already provides the answer, as would happen in the case of wanting to exclusively target Android or Apple customers. If the application is linked to a certain software that only exists on one platform, it will not be necessary to spend much time on this question.
Now, if you are not tied to any particular operating system, then you do have to consider for which platforms we want to create the application or if we want to integrate both (Android, iOS) in the project, taking into account that each of the Operating systems have their own programming language. This means that you have to develop and maintain the application for each of the two systems separately , although if the application arouses great interest, the increased expense and work may be worth it. It is important to remember that Android and iOS occupy almost the entire Spanish mobile device market (Android is in the lead with a large margin of advantage), with the percentage of other platforms such as Windows 10 Mobile orExtremely low BlackBerry 10 OS . The development of applications for these last two systems would not be very profitable, except for a few cases .
Limit the number of benefits
During programming, many developers follow the principle of reducing the feature palette to the bare essentials because an app, in most cases, has a certain goal or at least concentrates on one main feature. However, in this preparation phase it is possible to set all the features that seem most important, although after a certain number it is necessary to differentiate between those that are essential and those that are not so necessary. Most likely, the final application will not have all of them.
Most users expect the use of an application to be intuitive and easy to understand , so you are doing well if you take care in planning that the design of the application itself and its features is not too complex. Making sketches of each menu screen , where you can also include the navigation menu and its display on different screen sizes, is a good way to make the idea palpable. In this way, everyone involved in the development of your app obtains a truer impression of its final appearance and how it works.
Secure funding and define revenue model
Financing supports or makes a project fall. When your own means do not allow you to meet the expenses involved in the development and maintenance of the application, you have to think about contacting investors, sponsors and other sources of income. This requires cost planning . However, even if you have your own financing, you should plan your budget as accurately as possible. It must be considered that, in the case of most native applications, in addition to development costs, maintenance costs must also be considered.
Another aspect to consider at this point is the definition of the application ‘s business model , that is, how and to what extent benefits are obtained from it. An application for an online store needs no explanation in this regard, but if, on the contrary, an application is projected outside eCommerce or the marketing of a company’s main business, then one of these three variants can be chosen:
pay per download: In this case, users pay a fixed price for downloading an application. However, users generally find it difficult to pay to download an application, when most, in the case of Android, are free. Apple users are considered a more willing clientele to pay, but even if your audience is willing to pay, do not underestimate the high competition in the application market. The success of a paid application is not only determined by the content, but also by its good reputation and degree of popularity. To give users the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the contents of the app, you can choose to offer it free at first – in its so-called “lite” version. Once convinced of its usefulness, after a certain period of time,
In-app purchase : This monetization model allows the purchase of additional functionalities or, for example, the blocking of advertising within the application. The so-called Freemium apps are also based on this model, offering the app in its basic form for free, but not the extensions or the full version. In this model, it is essential to design a balanced price policy: very high prices or those that grow continuously or disproportionately scare users away rather than attract them.
In-app advertisement : This is precisely the most popular method among Android systems, as it is also possible to generate income with advertising banners and other mobile marketing formats . Here it is important not to damage the user experience with advertising, because abusing it or making it annoying in the eyes of the user can harm the perception of the application. Also included in this business model is affiliate marketing , a cooperative program whereby a link to a merchant’s website is inserted into the application. When a user follows the link and purchases a product or service there, the application manager receives a commission.
However, when creating an app, monetization is not always the main objective. When the provider’s capital income comes from other services, the applications can serve as a mere marketing tool or to improve the reputation of the manufacturer. Many companies and organizations use apps as a way to market their core business . To do this, online stores use shopping apps, but digital newspapers that produce articles for their own application represent another example of this. Companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox or Spotify also use the applications to monetize services that already existed before their introduction and have their own business model.
Do not forget the legal framework
The creation and marketing of a mobile application is also linked to directives. As soon as an app collects, processes and stores personal data of users , the manufacturer is obliged, already before the collection of the data itself, to provide comprehensive and intelligible information ( Data Protection Declaration ) about the data it collects. will be stored and for what purpose.
As stated by the Spanish Agency for Data Protection , “ the legal framework applicable to any app aimed at European users is the Data Protection Directive 95/46 , in combination with the Directive 2002/58/EC on Privacy and Electronic Communications . In particular, it underlines the need to obtain the informed and prior consent of the user. This regulatory framework is applicable regardless of where the developer of the application or the store that sells it is located, because these programs use means located in the European Union, such as the users’ own terminals ”.
Mobile applications must also be prepared in terms of data privacy protection. In the first place, they have the duty to inform users, already at the time of download, of the data that will be collected and for what purpose, as well as the native applications of the device to which the new application will have access. , giving the option to deny the installation. Secondly, the purpose of data processing must be explained in a simple and understandable way, as well as avoiding the collection of unnecessary data for the operation of the application or for a use other than that described. The manufacturer, thirdly, must inform the subscribers of the application about their identity, about the place where the data will be stored and how it will be done and about the ways in which they can exercise their rights called ARCO ( access, rectification, cancellation and opposition ).
There are several reliable sources on the Internet where you can get detailed information. On the page of the expert data protection consultancy Atico34, for example, you will find a detailed explanation of the legal obligations of mobile application developers . If you prefer, you can access the regulations of the LOPD on its own website or on the EUR-Lex database, where free access to the Data Protection Directive 95/46 and Directive 2002/58 is offered. /CE of Privacy and Electronic Communications.
Finally, although it sounds obvious, we must take into account not to breach trademark law when giving the application a name, as well as other legal factors in the case of managing an online store. An expert can inform you in depth about it.
Create your own app: do not underestimate the advantages of planning
Creating an application can become a demanding task, because, along with internal aspects of content , you also have to deal with economic or legal aspects of central importance. However, thorough planning is worth the time you put into it, because otherwise you risk missing important points that could lead to a poorly crafted or unrealizable concept.
Once this preparatory phase has been completed and the financing of the project has been secured, all that remains is to put it into practice . Taking this step usually imposes respect, especially when you are inexperienced in the sector, when, in reality, there is nothing to fear, because more important than the know-how necessary for its programming, which collaborators and a specialized agency can provide, is have a good idea.
In the second part of our series we illustrate how to create an app and present different possibilities when moving on to the realization of the project. Among other things, you will understand in which cases it is convenient to use templates and in which others you should leave the programming in expert hands