According to the Digital 2020 Report, there are 4.18 billion mobile internet users out there and mobile phones – for the first time in history – account for over half of the total time we spend online these days. What’s even more impressive is that out of every 11 minutes with mobile devices in our hands, we devote 10 minutes to using all sorts of mobile applications.
Whether you’re a newly-created startup eager to take over the digital world or an established company looking to expand, the above-mentioned figures most likely make you want to invest in mobile app development right away. The key to success, however, is to embark on this adventure only once you know what obstacles to expect and how to avoid running into them.
To prevent you from starting off on the wrong foot, we’ve compiled a list of challenges you might expect during mobile development. What’s more, believing that every challenge is an opportunity to grow, we matched each dilemma with a solution or a hint – all based on our extensive experience in the software development industry. So without further ado, let’s see what you should do (and avoid doing) if you want to build a successful mobile app!
Starting off the cuff
If you ever held a dinner party, you know that its success depends on careful preparation: compiling a guest list, asking about their food preferences, and planning a menu. In this regard, mobile development is just like a dinner party – to bear fruit, it has to be well-thought-out in a couple of ways.
Failing to identify the market need
As you were reading the title of this paragraph, 10 new startups were created. According to Moya K. Mason’s research, 137 000 businesses are born every day – but what happens to all these ventures? Unfortunately, 90 percent of them fail, all because of the lack of market need.
CB Insights report shows no market need to be the no. 1 reason why startups shut down
What do beginning entrepreneurs say about their failures? Treehouse Logic, one of the startups described in the above-mentioned analysis, is straight-forward about its biggest mistake:
Startups fail when they are not solving a market problem. We had great technology, great data on shopping behavior, great reputation as a thought leader, great expertise, great advisors, etc, but what we didn’t have was technology or business model that solved a pain point in a scalable way.
It occurs that a validated idea is a key to a startup’s success. But how do you make sure your vision will turn into a profitable business? That’s what product design workshops are for.
Workshops are the best way to start the app development process as they significantly increase the chance of building a product that not only reaches its intended business objective but is also going to be loved by its users. Their main deliverable is a prototype. Working like a reality check for a business idea, it helps you get a sneak-peek at how real people will interact with your product and allows the product design team to gather user feedback necessary to make further improvements to the first iteration of your MVP.
Packing your idea with unnecessary gimmicks
We’ve all heard that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the future of software development so it’s not surprising that many entrepreneurs feel tempted to supplement their mobile apps with these solutions. The thing is, however, just because AI and ML are all the rage these days, it doesn’t mean that they will solve all your problems.
Of course, there are projects and industries which undoubtedly benefit from advanced computer science. Just think about voice assistants like Siri and recommendation systems found on streaming platforms like Netflix. However, when getting ready to start your mobile development process, it’s worth asking yourself the following question: Is this trendy solution the one?. Being advanced solutions, AI and ML probably won’t do you any good if:
- your app doesn’t process enough data,
- you already have all the data necessary to solve a given problem,
- you expect the algorithm to be absolutely reliable and infallible. While Machine Learning can suggest certain solutions, it won’t give you a full guarantee for success.
At the end of the day, the decision of whether to implement AI and ML should be made on a case-by-case basis. However, using them in the above-mentioned scenarios for popularity’s sake only will most likely cause you to lose both money and time.
Difficulty deciding who’ll be your mobile development partner
One thing is for sure: whether you’re a startup or an established company, you won’t build a top-quality product without support from experienced IT professionals. The question remains, however, is it better to hire an in-house team or outsource?
Building your own team from scratch may sound like a great idea as it fosters a sense of trust and belonging. At the same time, hiring in-house is not only an expensive but also a lengthy process. According to various statistics, it takes approximately 41 days and 45 to 95 thousand U.S. dollars to hire a developer – and these factors alone can significantly delay your digital success.
Outsourcing, on the other hand, can be a much more cost-effective and time-efficient solution. The key is to find a versatile and reliable tech partner.
To unleash its potential, your mobile project needs to be based on a range of programming languages, frameworks, and libraries that meet your business objectives best. The same applies to design and quality assurance. Your ideal tech partner should show not only a remarkable understanding of specific technologies but also the ability to combine them creatively at every stage of your app’s development process.
If you end up outsourcing mobile app development, we recommend picking a software house that values transparency above all. Transparent processes, regular client-team cooperation, readiness to take ownership of the project, publicly available customer reviews – all of that serves as a proof for your prospective tech partner is really worth your trust.
Choosing the right mobile development path
Once you lay the groundwork by validating your initial app idea, it’s time to get down to business. The next mobile development challenges awaiting your concern choosing a relevant tech stack – which always comes with more or less profound consequences.
Making your app work across operating systems...
With Android and iOS accounting for 98% of the total mobile OS market share, the question no longer is which platform to choose but rather what approach to building an app available on multiple platforms to adopt and there are three main options available: native, cross-platform, and hybrid. At this point, it’s important to underline that there are no right or wrong choices since each of the above-mentioned development paths has its pros and cons.
- If the seamless user experience is your thing, go for native mobile development. Basing your application on Java, Kotlin, Swift, or Objective C, you’ll not only grant it full access to the user’s device functionalities (e.g. calendar, contacts, geofencing) but also ensure greater speed and security (more on that later). The thing is, however, you’ll need to build a separate app for every OS.
- If you care about reaching a larger audience while simultaneously reducing workload, shortening time to market, and saving money, you’ll find cross-platform mobile development appealing. Top-notch solutions like React Native or Flutter offer near-native performance and a rather consistent design throughout operating systems. In some cases, however, cross-platform apps may have limited access to OS-specific functionalities.
- If shortened time to market and access to a large developer talent pool is a deal-breaker for you, you might want to consider taking a closer look at hybrid app development. Being based on web technologies wrapped into a native app, it ensures compatibility with many operating systems at once – which, unfortunately, comes at a performance price.
There’s also an in-between option: Progressive Web Apps which are basically websites that imitate mobile applications. They are quick to develop and launch, require no installation (which means they take less storage space), and are easy to find on the web. On the cons side, however, they are limited in functionalities, responsiveness, and security. They tend to drain the device’s battery faster as well.
… and across different devices
As of 2019, Android is said to power over 2.5 billion devices, including smartphones, tablets, wearables, etc. Apple’s statistics may be a bit less impressive – 1.5 billion active devices running on iPhone, Mac, iPad, Apple TV, and the like – but the indisputable fact is that when engaging in any type of mobile development, be it native or cross-platform, we need to bear device fragmentation in mind. Measuring up to this challenge involves running multiple tests, such as stability testing, UI testing, and resolution testing, just to name a few. All to ensure your app will run smoothly across different screen sizes and formats.
Another aspect of this issue is that of operating system fragmentation, pertaining to the number of different OS versions on which users are running a given application. This factor poses a serious challenge to all entrepreneurs and their tech partners wishing to provide all customers with consistent user experience – regardless of functionality changes introduced by respective OS updates.
Android operating system fragmentation as of May 2019
Preventing and counteracting security issues
According to a 2019 study conducted by IBM, the average total cost of a data breach amounts to $3.92 million. As a freshly-minted entrepreneur, you probably (and hopefully) won’t have to deal with such an enormous crisis right away. This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t hold the security of your app’s users close to your heart from the very beginning of the mobile app development process.
Ensuring full app security is by no means easy since vulnerabilities and threats can lurk in two places: on the part of the application (the client-side) as is the case for instance with insecure data storage and on the part of the server, for instance in the case of insufficient authorization.
The safety of your mobile customers depends to a large extent on the mobile development path you choose to take. The native apps prove to do best in this respect due to employing platform-specific provisions. Similar is the case with cross-platform solutions that, most of the time, are just as effective as their native counterparts. As you’ve probably guessed by now, hybrid applications are the most vulnerable ones. It all boils down to them being based on web technologies which make hybrid apps vulnerable not only to injection attacks but also to unauthorized access to users’ sensitive data like passwords or biometric details.
Delivering outstanding performance
Consistency across devices data and security measures are important, that’s a fact. However, unless your application runs smoothly with no frequent crashes or bugs, it will fail to keep users’ long enough for them to appreciate consistency and safety in the first place.
Once again, performance is a complex issue and it’s an outcome of a couple of different factors. One of them is the mobile app design. For example, if it contains plenty of animations, they will be displayed most smoothly by native and Flutter-based solutions while hybrid apps may cause them to freeze. Another factor is that of battery and memory use, both of which will be higher in the case of hybrid applications.
Sticking to the deadline and budget
You might have heard that ideas are like babies. Come to think of it, this metaphor is pretty accurate, especially from a business perspective. Many entrepreneurs develop an emotional connection with their vision and feel the need to perfect it before it sees the light of day. But just like with children, at some point, you just need to let go of your idea – if only not to spend significantly too much time and money on mobile app development. That’s when MVP steps in.
Minimum Viable Product is the preliminary version of your product showing nothing more but its core functionalities. You may be tempted to keep enriching your concept with new features which, at the end of the day, make it unbearable for any user but yourself – not to mention how much they extend the development time. Adopting the MVP approach, on the other hand, forces you to prioritize the product requirements without getting fixated on a pixel-perfect digital gem. Even more importantly, it puts your team’s full attention to building one or two core functionalities, which contributes to faster release.
Regardless of whether you’re building an MVP or a full-blown complex product, the choice of the mobile development approach is capable of shortening the time to market as well. In this respect, native development is the most time-consuming as it means hiring two developer teams who’ll build two separate apps. Cross-platform comes second. Although it presupposed the creation of a single codebase, in the absence of the relevant SDK, it calls for some extra platform-specific additions. Hybrid development, on the other hand, wins this time as it relies on a single codebase that can be compiled by a smaller developer team.
As time is money, all of the above factors will influence the total amount of money spent on your project as well. In most cases, the shorter the mobile app development process gets, the less it costs you.
Predicting the future
We get it, looking into a business crystal ball is hard. Nonetheless, when embarking on a mobile development journey, you should be able to see a bigger picture and tell in which direction your product will be heading in the next couple of years.
If you’re about to build a transient product, e.g. a festival app that will be in operation for a couple of days only, hybrid and cross-platform solutions may turn out to be just the thing you need. They will give you easy access to a wider audience and will call for an adequate amount of resources. Long-lived projects are more complex, though. The more functionalities they employ, the harder it gets to implement them with hybrid solutions. In such a scenario, it’s advisable to go cross-platform or even consider building two native applications – the former solution being the most suitable if we worry about keeping up with Android or iOS-specific updates and bridging the gaps in native functionalities.
Ready, steady, go
Bringing your disruptive digital product idea is one thing but making it conquer the world is a completely different story. That’s why the remaining two mobile development challenges are related to aligning your and the market’s visions of the app you’re creating.
Complying with app marketplace requirements
Before it goes live, every application needs to be reviewed by a relevant app marketplace. Whether it’s Apple Store or Google Play Store we’re talking about, the store’s employees always review new products for bugs, performance issues, incomplete information, etc. As the approval process doesn’t take place automatically (and thus instantly), you shouldn’t risk delays caused by last-minute app store submission.
Counteracting customer turnover
Remember how we praised Minimum Viable Products for speeding time to market? There is at least one more major benefit of adopting the MVP that’s worth mentioning. Once you introduce it to the public, you’ll receive the most valuable investment any entrepreneur can dream of: user feedback.
Seeing how the target audience interacts with your product serves as a reality check that shows if your vision makes sense as well as helps you determine which features are redundant and which ones you should add next. Knowing that you can avoid taking unnecessary software development steps which would be time-consuming and ineffective. The essential thing is to carefully analyze the received feedback and use it to go after the right opportunities.
So is it worth embarking on the mobile development adventure at all?
Of course, it is! We won’t deny that to succeed in mobile app development, you need a detailed – and ideally long-term – plan that takes into account all, even the smallest potential obstacles, such as failing to identify users’ needs or comply with the marketplace regulations. However, if you put your heart and soul into it, and do not hesitate to ask a tech partner for help, your efforts will most likely pay off. After all, as Theodor Roosevelt once said, |nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty”.
Looking to hit the mobile market with a bang? See how we can take your mobile app development to the next level!