How To Create A Mobile App: Advice From Top Agency Experts On Best Practices, Expected Cost & More

App Development
How To Create A Mobile App: Advice From Top Agency Experts On Best Practices, Expected Cost & More
Article by Maria Martin
Last Updated: November 08, 2023

89 percent of mobile media time is spent on apps. Because so much consumer time is dedicated to mobile applications, your brand's presence needs to be felt on all devices and across all mediums if you want to make an impact.

But creating an app is a big endeavor. It’s not something you can just put together overnight and call it a day. It takes time, energy and resources. It takes professional talent and creative ingenuity. 

That being said, there is an exceptional number of benefits to creating a mobile app design.

Apps are efficient, easy-to-use, promote a recognizable brand identity and -- most importantly -- drive revenue. 

In fact, mobile apps achieved $88 million in revenue in 2017. That number is expected to rise in 2018.

But if you’re still a little wary, and need some guidance as to how to create a mobile app and why you should, we’ve got the information for you.

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How To Create A Successful Mobile App — Advice From The Experts


Chris White, CEO/Founder of The Sneakers Agency

1. Understand What Goal You Want to Accomplish for Your Business

Never fool yourself into building an app because everyone else has one. Do your homework. Talk to you customers and see where they struggle when trying to use your product or service. Talk to your staff if you are already in business and see where things are breaking down operationally or for customers. See what tools are already available that could help push your business forward. Once you’ve done your homework, decide on what it is your app will accomplish. Perhaps it will be the one and only way users/customers interface with your company like Instagram. Maybe it will be a utility that customers can use on the go to help reduce support calls like say the AAA app. Perhaps it will be an app that users can use fairly regularly to help with repetitive tasks like depositing checks and checking balances if you’re a bank. Regardless, make sure that the app provides a real benefit for your customers/users so that you can move the ball forward for your business.

2. Know Your “Jobs To Be Done”

When developing a mobile app, it often feels necessary early on to say yes to every potential feature. You might think that users won’t use your app because it’s lacking feature X or feature Y. Or you may look at other apps and see a ton of bells and whistles and features and think that you won’t be able to compete without those features as well. The reality is that most successful apps accomplish a handful of things really well and then over time layer on a lot of extra fluff based on user feedback and planning and road mapping. Start simple. Make sure you nail the execution on your core features and start gathering user/market feedback to tell you what to build in next. These core features are your users “Jobs To Be Done.”

3. Focus on Clean, Modern UX

Mobile app design trends definitely come and go. At this point, we’re probably on the third or fourth generation of mobile app design as an industry. That said, users trust well polished, modern looking apps. One of the easiest ways to turn off users is to have a user experience and design that is outdated or unprofessional looking. Make a solid first impression and devote as much budget as you can to UI/UX design from the get-go.

4. Choose Your Tech Stacks Wisely

An app is more than just what a user installs on their phone. While it’s not always 100% the case, most apps are just the way that users interact with and experience a larger underlying system that is a key component of your business. A system that encompasses a back-end server and database and business logic. Ensure that you hire proper technical staff who have ample experience architecting apps and their associated back-end systems to ensure the long-term health of your investment. Also, ensure that you consider how to build the app itself. There are a number of ways to do this, from pure native to hybrid web to something newer called react native. Each approach has its pros and cons that need to be considered.

5. Budget Wisely

As we say at The Sneakers Agency, you’re not building an app, you’re building a business. An app is just one component of an overall business model. Once the app is built you will definitely need money for marketing and possibly sales depending on what your business is. You will also have ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs for the app and the back-end system. Numbers can vary depending on where you have your app built, but expect to budget somewhere between 250-500k to do a proper job.

Georg Tubalev, General Manager, Exaud

1. Make sure that you know exactly how to explain your app idea. The better you are able to explain your future app, its purpose and goals, the easier it will be for a mobile developer to understand the priorities when creating it.

2. Think about the distribution strategy for your app: Will it be a free application or a paid one? And if it's free, how are you going to monetize it? There are several approaches available such as freemium, sponsorship, in-app purchase, etc. Decide what works best in your case.

3. Before you jump into the full-scale development process, consider testing your idea and getting a mobile prototype (MVP) first in order to easily identify potential problems, get early feedback from users and most importantly, save time and money at later development stages.

4. While asking development companies for an initial quote for the app don’t overlook the maintenance costs that follow after the initial release! As each app has to be regularly updated to stay compatible with consistent operating systems updates, new devices on the market, bugs reported by users and so on. Therefore even if you don’t plan to add new features, and that probably you should, the app gonna require some maintenance work that implies additional costs.

Rafael Marin, Associate Design Director at Work & Co

1. Focus And Simplify Your App Strategy From The Start  

When it comes to mobile apps, success isn’t measured by doing more. On the contrary, winning apps are incredibly focused, executing a couple things really well.

Whether you are creating your first app or redesigning your current one, having a clear point of view of why the app exists and its core functionality is critical. When we worked on an airline app a few years ago, the goal was to pare the experience down to do two things: Help users book a trip in 60 seconds or less, and then check on using the app. Then, when redesigning a food ordering app for a major restaurant chain, our research showed that reordering from past orders was the number one priority for customers, so we spent the most time on that flow. Optimizing for what really matters to users also leads to higher conversion.

The bottom line? Simplicity is hard to achieve. Invest your time in getting the critical user journey right, so when users open your app, they’ll know where to go and what to do.

2. Design For A Highly Personalized Experience

Our phones not only command an unprecedented amount of our attention (for the average American it’s three hours a day, much of that time in-app versus browsing on the mobile). Phones are also deeply personal; it's the one piece of technology people carry around with them all day.

Because apps are by nature an opt-in experience, brands are one step ahead when it comes to brand engagement. Making an effort to customize should be a priority. From remembering preferences to making tailored suggestions, apps should always endeavor to reward users with personalized experiences.

Customizing isn’t necessarily about offering more options either. The rise of contextual interfaces means that apps can actually know their customers' behaviors so well that screens can automatically adjust depending on geo-targeting or time of day.

3. Test Early With Real Users

Strategy and research can provide valuable initial insights, but you’ll only truly know what works and what doesn’t in your app once real users have a chance to try it.

One of the biggest pitfalls in designing and building digital products historically has been a waterfall process that doesn’t get products in front of people till the very end, after the big investments have been made and the strategy is already baked.

What makes sense on paper doesn’t always meet real users’ expectations, so instead involve a diverse representation of real users --newcomers, loyalists, people in a range of countries, different age demos-- early and frequently into the design process. And most importantly: don’t show them static comps, give them prototypes they can play with to learn and iterate from their observations.

4. Look At Launch As The Beginning, Not The End

After months of hard work and anticipation, launching your app and seeing it downloaded thousands and millions of times on iOS and Android is incredibly exciting. But it should never mean that the process is done.

Even the best digital products -- and this goes for mobile apps, websites, kiosks or chatbots -- are ripe for continuous iteration. Always look for opportunities for ongoing improvements and new features you can add along the way to better serve users. It’ll lead to stronger reviews, more engagement, and happier customers.

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The best mobile applications are, first and foremost, built with the customer in mind.

Mobile App Design Best Practices

1. Put The User Experience First

The first thing you and your team should take into consideration when creating a mobile app is the user experience. You want to create an interface that is designed with their interest and their actions in mind.

This means understanding consumer behaviors and creating an app platform that works for their needs. Keep it personalized to your audience and give them the features and functionalities that will draw them in and keep them interested.

You don’t want to create a basic, boring and bland app. Instead, create one that shines and excites users. You can do that by keeping your design user-centric throughout the process.

2. Keep It Clean

Another key best practice to follow is in relation to the design aesthetics itself. You don’t want a disorganized, cluttered and dysfunctional app. You want a smooth and clean interface that is open, airy and captivating.

A simple, clean aesthetic is a great way to ensure that you can provide your audience with the features and tools that they want with ease. Ultimately, it betters user experience.

Similarly, make sure the imagery in your app is bold, exciting and enchanting. App icons are important too — 21 percent of users will delete apps if they don’t look appealing on their home screen.

3. Streamline Navigation

62 percent of users will delete an app that doesn’t work well. In fact, a common problem that consumers have with apps is that their navigation systems are messy or disorganized. This makes it difficult for consumers to use the app and find the information they need.

Subpar design and navigation turns users off and pushes them to look elsewhere for products, services, data and interactions. 

So, you need to ensure that you have a clear system in place for people to get from point A to point B.

Navigation is important in design. It’s what lays down the framework for your app. If you aren’t considering the user’s journey throughout the process, you’ll end up with an app that doesn’t connect the way it should with your audience.

4. Consider Omnichannel Initiatives

Omnichannel marketing is the art of creating a seamless sales experience across multiple channels -- such as website, social media, paid media and, yes, mobile apps. What's better, companies that integrate omnichannel marketing strategies tend to retain more consumers long-term.

In fact, brands that utilize omnichannel strategies achieve 91 percent greater customer retention rates year-over-year, proving that investing in omnichannel is beneficial. 

You can further your omnichannel marketing initiatives through mobile apps. Keep the idea of a seamless, integrated UX in your mind during the development and creation process. That way, you can embed these features into your other platforms and fuse them all together to create a clear and cohesive experience that helps grow your brand.

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How Much Does It Cost To Make An App?

App design isn’t cheap -- although you could argue that most design isn’t cheap and everything that is worthwhile for your business should be invested in. But it’s important to know how much your business could potentially shell out throughout the development of an app.

The average price for app development — from wireframe to development and launch — is between $200,000 and $500,000. However, this number could be as low as $140,000 for a version 1 application or skyrocket over $1 million for complicated interfaces. 

That’s a hefty sum. And it certainly requires a massive budget to ensure successful completion.

Depending on the features embedded in your app, the price will fluctuate — that’s what causes such a wide gap in prices. Therefore, it’s important to outline your intentions right from the start so that you can budget accordingly and find the right app design and development company to bring your vision to life. 

Effections apps can improve brand identity, encourage customers to complete desired actions, and increase engagement -- even when users are offline!

The Benefits Of Mobile App Design

1. Speed And Efficiency

Mobile apps are quicker to use and more efficient for users because they offer direct access. Their downloadable format means that users don’t have to go searching on their Safari or Chrome app. Instead, they can just download the app and start searching right inside the brand’s platform.

Efficiency is also increased because apps oftentimes include a number of exclusive offers and insights. Navigation makes it easy for users to find the part of the app that means the most to them, and they can either place an order, find an answer to a question or contact the brand directly all with just a few taps and swipes.

This is a benefit that isn’t available in a mobile-friendly website, as these are often just condensed versions of the desktop platform. Thus, there aren’t any extra incentives or perks.

But with apps, users can spend less time searching and more time getting to the content they need.

2. Personalized

Mobile apps are a more personalized version of a brand’s design and identity. They can allow users to sign up for an account and create their own adventure of sorts within the platform that offers customized offers, incentives and sometimes deals that are catered to a user’s own shopping and browsing needs.

They also use data from past experiences to offer consumers with the items that are most similar to what they’ve viewed in the past to encourage sales.

A mobile app gives consumers that personalization that they need for an even more satisfying user experience. 94 percent of marketers are focusing their data, analytics, and technologies on personalized consumer experiences.

That’s likely a trend that’s going to continue. Because the more personalized an experience is, the more a consumer will find it trustworthy and credible. And that will encourage them to interact more organically.

3. Offline Access

The best part about an app is that once it’s downloaded, it’s accessible on and offline. That means that users don’t need to be connected to a cellular network or wifi to gain access to the content and to the information within.

Mobile websites require an internet or network connection. But when you’re working with an app, all of that info and data has already been downloaded and can be brought back to the surface again with ease.

People don’t want to work, and they certainly don’t want to wait. By integrating a mobile app into your overall digital presence you’re making their interactions with you smooth and efficient.

Mobile apps eliminate the work that consumers have to do in terms of opening up their browser, searching for your website and inevitably searching through that to find the content they’re looking for.

4. Increased Interactivity

Mobile apps increase interactivity because they give users a designated platform to interact with. Instances that allow users to interact can also be embedded in the applications. Your brand can even gamify the experience and add a touch of interactivity through the use of games and challenges — like the Starbucks app, for instance.

This increases engagement and gets more people interested in your brand because it shows that you’re interested and invested in them. You don’t just want to sell your products; you want to create an entire experience. Your audience will appreciate that.

5. Boosts Brand Awareness

Mobile apps also boost awareness because they give more users access to your content. You aren’t limited to those with a desktop device. You can reach people anywhere, at any time. And you can use your app to craft an experience that is powerful, clean and inspiring.

It will encourage users to think positively about your brand. And it will allow them to see you and your business in an entirely new light.

Now that you understand why mobile apps are so important, it’s time to look at some general best practices when you decide to turn your idea into a reality.

Creating A Mobile App Requires A Lot Of Work — But It’s Worth It

These days, there is an increased number of mobile users and emerging technologies that allow brands and businesses more with apps than ever before.

But creating an app takes patience. It takes time, money and knowledge about the digital landscape. Without it, your app will flop and your brand will suffer as a result.

Keeping these expert tips and best practices in mind can help you conceptualize and build an app that reaches your target audience and drives them to action. Whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness, boost sales or acquire more users, a successful app can help you achieve your ultimate goals, and a brand management agency can help you elevate it to the next level.

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