how to build iOS app when working with an agency?

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So, you have a brilliant idea and wish to make an app? You might have already researched a gap found in the market, or simply want something automated to make life easier.

Luckily, there’s never been an easier time to bring your ideas to life. If you are thinking of creating an iOS app, these are the 9-step process to consider.

The steps outlined do not have to be sequential and can be done in parallel, but they affect each other and the final product. Therefore, it is important to get it right at every stage by developing a proper feedback loop.

1. Outlining initial scope of work and estimation

This is where you (as the client) determine the why, what, how, who and when of your app. Do extensive research or refer to readily available data, and connect it with your branding and identity of your company. It is highly advisable to give as much info as possible, as it is crucial to determine the amount of work needed and the tasks required. This helps to roughly estimate the budget, resources and timeline.

As a development partner, we try and obtain the following information from potential clients:

  • The product’s unique selling point – what makes the app different?
  • Target user/customer and any geographical target if available
  • The structure and functions which are essential to satisfy the target user, basically the vital elements which customers expect to see.
  • The visual features preferred by your target users including color palette, general style, special features, sync with other products, etc.
  • The potential technologies, devices, and surfaces where the app will be used
  • Data processing and server-side requirements, and additional technologies
  • Understand clients identity – consistent branding throughout the product helps set your company apart

During such creative process when things are not set in stone, it is often difficult to come up with an exact cost. Usually, the requirements tend to change or evolve during development and it is essential to understand how your requirements affect your final cost. Therefore, it is advisable to rope in experts in the beginning as their insights can be valuable.

Understanding the audience for your mobile app

2. Explore your market including competitors

Get to know your target users and market in-depth. Understand the users’ preferences in design and color, their psychological peculiarities, and emotional needs. Study the influence of colors, style, interaction and user experience which helps to engage and excite your users.

Lastly, look at your competitors. Why do people choose them and what are they doing well? Are there areas where you can improve on, or niches which are missing in the market? Once you have all this information, feel free to share it with us.

3. Wire-framing

When you’re building a house, you tend to think about the physical appearance of the building rather than the minute details found in drawings and documents. During this stage, the overall blueprint of your app will be drafted based on your user research, and the analysis of all data provided. This creates your navigation flow and maps out functional space on each level of your app.

understanding wireframes when working with an agency

4. Prototyping

It’s essential to understand a prototype is not a miniature version of the final product. The primary aim of prototyping is so you (and users) can check the correctness and appropriateness of the design solution. It is not meant to be exactly like your final product.

Prototyping is more efficient and useful as a step between UX design and user interaction (UI) design. The prototypes of a UI stage are useful for the general look and feel, rather than for testing and improving features. This is a common trap in mobile development. You shouldn’t spend a lot of time perfecting the UI prototype with little details but improve it during the coding phase of a demo version, which is faster and cheaper.

creating iOS mobile app prototypes

5. UI Designing (and animation)

The UX stage is about how the product works while the UI stage is about how the product will look and feel. Both stages rely on successful feedback between them. During the UI design process, elements such as sound, touch, pictures and animation that affect the users’ emotions will be analyzed and optimized. This is when the product gets its color scheme, forms and features of the layout details, styles, and animated elements.

Your product’s animation is a functional element, not a décor piece. Animation helps move the user’s journey along and increase the usability and desirability of the product. Designers will analyze and optimize so that the best decisions are made. By using it interactively, the designers can see whether an animated element has more benefits than drawbacks.

6. Software Architecture Planning

The main goal of architecture planning is to create a constructive and integral plan for the app which involves the front-end and back-end. You need to consider the scalability of the app when planning the architecture because a mobile app will grow over time as more users come on board or more features are added. There are various factors to consider in this stage including the data processed, the product’s nature, the complexity of designs, and back-up and log-in functionalities.

7. iOS Development

This is where the magic happens. Planning the workflow and resources in this stage depends on the complexity and urgency of the project. One iOS developer is usually sufficient to create all components of the software architecture, while a couple more are needed for more complex multilayered projects.

The main goal of this stage is to create a fully working app which is scalable and integrated to the server side, such as the database, APIs, and other infrastructure components required.

There’s always an option to use a Backend-As-A-Service (BaaS) for your server side needs if you are not ready to build the infrastructure. However, a BaaS is not a complete solution or turnkey as it doesn’t provide in-depth analytics so you need a developer who understands back-end integration.

The two most popular programming languages are Objective-C and Swift. With the latter considered easier to learn and master. By using Xcode, an integrated developer environment, developers can code and implement the functionalities, debug, and export to the App Store. Writing unit tests and running integration tests can be done concurrently at this stage.

working on Xcode for iOS Mobile app

8. Testing

This is a crucial phase to detect and fix any bugs before submitting to the App Store. It is also a good time to test user interaction and improve its usability and appeal. Currently, a lot of developers are choosing automated testing with tools such as Appium, Frank, and Calabash. Please note that testing at every stage is recommended to keep small bugs from turning into major issues.

The app should also be tested across multiple devices such as an iPhone, iPad, and iWatch in multiple settings. Below are some of the areas of testing:

  • Functional testing – Does everything work the way they are supposed to?
  • UX testing – How easy is the app to use?
  • Performance testing – how much time app takes to load?
  • Memory testing – Is the app using optimum memory or is it consuming extra memory?
  • Interruption testing – how does the app work when interrupted or used intermittently?
  • Security testing- how secure is the app?

These are just some of the questions, you want to answer before you submit it to Apple store for consumers.

9. Product Release

Once submitted, Apple will review and approve it before going live. You should allocate a minimum of one week for this to happen. If the app is meant for commercial purposes, there are additional steps in a separate approval process, which usually takes a day.

The actual release requires a configuring the code, creating a profile and listing, and then submitting through Xcode for certification. This process may require several fixes and resubmissions depending on how polished your app is.

10. Doing Updates

Congratulations, you’ve just released your app. However, this is not a set and forget process. A great app requires constant updates and bug fixes to continue delighting and engaging users.