The Benefit of Prototyping Your App Idea First

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What is Prototyping?
In mobile app development, a prototype is essentially an early simulation of the final app product. Think of it as an enriched mockup without any functionality. A prototype is a collection of UX pieces, animations, interactions and other graphic elements meant to showcase the app’s purpose and functionality.

Although it’s not required, prototyping your app idea before the actual app making process starts is one of the best decisions you could make. Prototypes are invaluable in terms of validating ideas, assessing time, and calculating the funds required to build an app.

A lot of early development problems can be entirely avoided with a prototype. Not to mention it’s an immense help for both developers and investors to get a firmer grasp on the app idea before the actual development starts. In some cases, prototyping an app can help the involved parties explore multiple concepts and make an informed decision on which one to go with. A good prototype will also provide valuable insight into the user interaction at various levels.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a thorough explanation with the biggest benefits of starting with an app prototype. It might just change your mind.

1. Concept validation

It’s always good to test an idea before investing a lot of money and time in it. Prototyping allows you to experiment with ideas and build upon the ones with a higher rate of success. You can easily add, remove or modify features as the project advances. The earlier you start implementing these new ideas, the better off you’ll be – it’s less resource-demanding (time and money-wise).

Market-testing an app reveals whether there’s a demand for a certain app on the market. Nobody wants to waste a lot of time and money on something that will never catch on.

App testing helps in collecting invaluable feedback from the users. That feedback should be used to learn how you can improve your app’s functionality, features, design, etc. The end game here is to ensure that your app meets not only your company’s or your investors’ needs but more importantly, the end user’s needs.

2. Better stakeholder engagement

Stakeholders involved in this phase of the development usually have a better understanding of what it takes to develop a mobile app. What better way to improve their engagement than with a powerful demonstration of the purpose and functionality of the app?

An early app prototype is also a valuable opportunity for clients, investors, and designers to brainstorm together about possible improvements.

3. Present your design in style

Sometimes even the best ideas do not get a green light because of the bad or unconvincing presentation. Pitching an app idea to the investor can be tricky if the only thing you have is a basic drawing of a future app. What people need is to feel how your app is going to add value to their lives. You can accomplish this effectively with a prototype that demonstrates your design concept. Chances are your idea will be okayed if you provide your clients or investors with something tangible, like a prototype.

Clients and investors aside, it’s much easier to demonstrate your concept to the team of coders if you have a prototype. They can point out potential issues and limitations of your idea early on.

4. Identify potential issues as early as possible

Bugs and glitches discovered in the latest stages of the app development process will require the app makers to operate complex modifications to the app code. This will most likely consume a lot of time, which is guaranteed to be translated into more money.

By designing a prototype, some of these bugs can be identified in the early stages of the development and fixed without adding to the expenses. Also, during the prototyping phase, you can decide if certain steps can be skipped altogether or combined in order to save some precious developing time.
Are you convinced?

A good prototype will bring your design to life and make your presentation much more effective. It also prevents overlooking important issues and leaves nothing to chance.

All in all, investors and stakeholders will surely thank you for it, as they will be able to tell if the idea is worth investing in. If a happy investor isn’t what makes you tick, prototype your app idea first to ensure that the end product is going to add value to the user.

After all, we always try on the shoes before buying them, right?

Mobile App Trends for 2017

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Given the current growth rate of the mobile app market, one might think it’s inevitably heading towards a saturation phase. However, the app economy shows no signs of slowing down.

2016 was a great year for mobile apps, and 2017 is on track to be yet another progressive year. The truth of the matter is; mobile apps are slowly eating up the market in virtually every sector. The industry is booming like never before, and the growing demand has contributed in increasing the mobile developer population.

Consumer demand has sparked a fierce competition between mobile developers, but that only helps the industry have a healthy growth. The corporate and enterprise world are now putting innovation at the top of their list, so mobile developers have no other choice but to adopt and expand on the latest trends or be replaced.

With how things advance, the cost of adopting a mobile app will become within reach for a lot of small businesses in 2017, so we can expect a massive expansion to the mobile realm.

In any case, the upcoming period is certain to be exciting when it comes to mobile apps. The following are just a few directions the mobile app development industry is going to take:

1. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Google is putting a lot of effort into making web pages faster and more responsive for mobile. They are even creating a new Google index for search through mobile versions of websites. 
Over half of smartphone users will abandon a webpage that takes longer than three seconds to load. Speed is a big deal on mobile, and since the AMP framework has been proved to have faster loading times and better user experience, we don’t see any reason why it won’t catch on.

2. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
What happened after Pokemon Go is a clear indicator that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps are preparing to hit big.
VR and AR apps are now taking swings at a lot of other industries besides gaming – fashion, retail, real estate and health are just a few examples. Now that both Apple and Google are pouring massive resources in these emerging technologies, they will surely thrive for the next couple of years.

3. Artificial Intelligence
In 2016, all we had was Siri, Prisma, and Google Now.  But 2017 is expected to see a 300% increase in AI integration investments. Why? Many huge players like IBM, eBay or Facebook want what Google, Apple, and Amazon are already having.
Chances are, with all these new investments, mobile AI’s will become even smarter in providing users with advanced analytics and cognitive interfaces.

4. Cloud-Driven Apps
It’s good to see that cloud computing is finally playing nice with mobile apps. Powerful mobile applications are already fetching data directly from the cloud while managing to take minimum space from your internal memory.
Cloud traffic is expected to have a massive growth on mobile in 2017. Developers are embracing cloud-driven apps because the technology provides a well-rounded cross-platform structure for their apps.

5. Enterprise Apps 
As more enterprises realise that having an in-house app leads to a better organising of their business operations, more and more companies will choose invest in micro-apps development. This allows their employees to collaborate on projects and enjoy other enterprise-specific solutions.
Adding the fact that micro-apps are usually lightweight and resource efficient, it is estimated that the area of enterprise apps will become a bigger piece of the app market in the following years.

6. Market for Wearable Devices
Whether it is a smartwatch, heart rate tracker, or a virtual reality headset, wearable devices were a big phenomena in 2016, and that trend will continue in 2017. Although the wearable market is not set on booming like other markets, a recent study predicts a solid 20% increase by 2020.

7. More Mobile Apps Supporting M-Commerce
Despite some minor security setbacks, mobile commerce will continue to gather momentum in 2017. Users love the idea of purchasing items from their mobile devices because it is fast and simple.
Since both Apple and Google are set to making mobile security a top priority in 2017, the m-commerce forecasts are expected to reach $157 billion this year.

8. The Growth of Internet of Things (IoT)
A few years ago the only thing in your house connected to the internet was your computer and maybe your mobile phone. Today, dozens of devices in our homes can work online such as smart TVs, security cameras, appliances, video game consoles, and so on.
Though it might take some time for IoT apps to take off, we are already seeing an increase in demand for connected things. As Google is taking steps to increase adoption for apps like this, IoT will undoubtedly be a major trend in the upcoming years, not just 2017.

9. Beacon/ Location-Based Services
Take a moment and look at Uber’s success with location-based applications. But do it fast, since more companies are jumping into this sector, looking to reach the same level of success.
Beacons and location-based services offer a range of possibilities for personalised mobile app services. Marketers are very aware of this opportunity, so aware that over 66% of them look at location-based marketing as the biggest mobile opportunity. App entrepreneurs are already adding to this trend, as more location-based apps are hitting the shelves in 2017.

10. App Streaming
One of the main reasons why users uninstall a certain app is that it requires a lot of space. App streaming might just be the solution to this problem.
Android already has a limited selection of apps that are able to run instantly. Without the need to install, the user is more likely to try out an app. This trend is predicted to change the app industry in the future, but so far instant apps have been a rare occurrence in Google Play Store.
In any case, the app streaming technology is just beginning to unfold, so 2017 will most likely serve as a teaser for what is yet to come.

11. Progressive Web Apps
Mobile browser audience is always increasing, so it’s no wonder progressive web apps are taking off. Similar to instant apps, progressive web apps don’t need to be downloaded – the entire UI runs through any web browser.
Progressive web apps will surely gain a lot of popularity in 2017. As long as the mobile audience growth is based on mobile websites, developers will continue to push for this trend.

12. Wireless Audio
Another trend that will continue to grow in 2017 is wireless audio. The pioneer in this field was definitely Apple with the famous Air Pods, but Samsung already joined this trend with Galaxy S8. There’s definitely a trend towards cutting cords with audio.
Bottom Line

The future of mobile apps certainly looks bright, with an entire plethora of innovative possibilities. With billions of dollars at stake, 2017 will be the year of rapid business growth. Quality and user experience are set to remain the two main ingredients for success as more futuristic trends take the shape of apps in virtual stores.

Minimum Viable Product in App Development

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One might think that clients who do not know what they want are problematic, but an equally common problem that many app development agencies often come across, comes in a form of a client who actually knows what they want and knows it very well.

Oftentimes people come to us with a great idea for an app that is well thought out with a huge list of features and functional requirements. The problem comes when the prospective client hears the price. An app of that size costs a lot, but the lack of market testing/validation deters most clients from going through with it, since the return on investment is unclear.

The way to get through this barrier is a method used by startups and large enterprises alike and is known as building an MVP or Minimum Viable Product. The concept consists of creating a fully functional app, but with slightly reduced features. In other words, some of the ‘lower priority’ functions have been delayed until the next release, with the view of capturing, engaging and learning from the market in real time.

For example, think Facebook, the first version of it certainly didn’t look like the Facebook as we know it today. They started out with a friend list and news feed and built their product from there. Uber is another example. They went to market with a great product, but I assure you, their first version didn’t include all the features and functions they had originally conceptualised and documented right at the beginning.

This development approach allows you to measure the response of the market to the solution you have provided. And not the entirety of the market actually; usually you will want to target a set group of users who will be able to see the potential of your product and the way in which it solves the given problem.

After launching the MVP, if the feedback is positive you can go forward with confidence and enhance your app with new functions and features, before going into testing phase again. Repeating this build-measure-learn process reduces the risk of investing a lot of money into a project that may not engage your target audience in the first instance. The key theory of this principle is to not eat the elephant in one go, but rather, take one bite at a time. This gives you the ability to assess if there is a possibility for long-lasting, sustainable growth from your app.

Now, somebody might say that shipping an unfinished product is not a smart entrepreneurial move and they will be right, except that we are not talking about an unfinished product. The point of MVP is to look and feel like a complete product. The user should not feel like something is missing if the MVP is built properly and adding new features and functions afterwards will only serve to improve the already built positive impression. And ultimately there is rarely a thing as a ‘finished’ product in the app-economy.

While the principle of MVP is a relatively young one, it has already taken root in the tech and business world. The ability to determine if a product will succeed before shipping its final version provides an incredibly powerful tool for entrepreneurs and is spreading at a staggering rate.

The App Team is based in Brisbane, Mooloolaba and Sydney and specialises in app development for iPad, iPhone & Android. Contact us today to find out how we can bring your app vision to life! 

Be Found. App Store Optimisation (ASO)

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Before we get into any detail, let us first get on the same page regarding what App Store Optimisation (ASO) actually is. A general opinion on this matter that seems to circle the internet is that ASO and SEO are one and the same. Now, while this may be true to some extent, it’s far from covering the entire subject. The basic concept might be the same, and that is getting the public aware of your product, by making it pop out among the first result of their search. The difference however, is what happens after that. While the job of SEO ends as soon as the intended user enters your page, the job of ASO continues, as its main purpose is getting the customer to download and use your app, rather than just being aware of it.

While there are numerous methods to increasing your visibility in the App Store, all of them can be roughly summarised in two groups; keyword optimisation and conversion rate optimisation. The key difference here is where the method is used.

Keyword Optimisation

Keyword optimisation is a process used to get your app to be shown among the top results of a search. This, as its name suggests, is done by extensive tweaking to your apps keywords. The first thing that needs to be done is to research the keywords you are going to use. Ultimately, you want to find the best balance between the relevance of the keyword and the amount of competition for said keyword. You can do the research using one of many tools designed to do so. One of the best tools for this is Google Keywords Planner (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner), as it provides you possible keyword phrases for the keyword you input, as well as the amount of searches using said keyword in Google. This is to be used as a guide only, but is a great indicator.

App Title & Description 

After you’ve done your research it is time to put the keywords to good use. One of the best and yet very scarcely utilised practices is using keywords in the title of your app. According to recent research only 16% of the apps use keywords in their title, which is strange given the information that this method alone can boost the rankings by up to 10%. The second use for keywords is the description. The tricky part here is to achieve good keyword density, without overstuffing the description. Keep in mind that humans will have to read your app’s description and you want to attract them to download it by providing relevant information rather than just spamming keyword for better ranking. Even if you are ranked first in searches, it will do you no good if users do not download your app.

Language & Localisation 

This covers your needs regarding optimisation for a single language. If you are looking to increase your overall relevance and ranking it is smart to perform what is known as ‘localisation’. This means that you should look for specific keywords for every language that your app is available in. Oftentimes one keyword that ranks good in one language can be irrelevant in others. Another important factor here is that you do not leave the translation of keywords to just anybody. Worst case scenario would be using mechanical translation, as it can often provide words that are not generally used in everyday spoken language. You need to get into the head of your users and realise what terms they will use to look for a particular thing they need. Ideally, you will find a native speaker to assist you with this part, as they will be aware of the words and phrases commonly used in their language.

Icon & Screenshots 

When you have finished taking care of your keywords there is still the matter of tweaking the look of your app page to make the person who landed on it, actually download your app. The best start in this case is looking at your screenshots. Many developers will just throw a bunch of random in-app screenshots here and be done with. There are many reasons why this won’t work well, but the most important one is creating a good first impression. The app store has given you a way to present your app in the best possible light, wasting it on boring in-app shots is a just waste of good advertising potential. Instead look to create a nice, attention-catching banner or try to present a story that will make the user want to download your app just by looking at it. Similar principle works with app icon as well. Your icon is the first thing that the user will see, meaning that you have to pull all stops to make sure that it is not the last thing as well.

App Category 

One other thing you will be prompted for is the category for your app. You should apply similar analytics to this part as you did with keywords. You want to balance out the relevance with the amount of competition for the category. If you end up within the category with big-name competitors it is likely that your app will not get as much exposure as it should, even though it is a well-made one. The other end of the spectrum is posting your app in a category that is completely irrelevant to what it does; this is sure to reduce your download rate greatly and should be avoided.

App Ratings & Feedback

Lastly and probably most importantly is the rating of your app. There is strong correlation between your rating, ranking and download percent. You will want to highlight your good reviews and respond to negative ones as soon as they appear. One thing you must stay away from is so called ‘black hat’ ASO. This means that you should avoid faking reviews as app stores have ways to recognise them and you will end up banned in most cases. Instead create a solid app and always look to improve it according to user feedback as word of mouth is the second best advertising method, right after search ranking.

Constant Evolution 

And you should always check up on your ranking and adjust the above-mentioned parameters accordingly. If you see your ranking dropping drastically it might be due to the change in the search algorithm and you should apply changes as soon as possible to avoid loosing downloads. The search optimisation business is a constantly evolving one and it can be hard at times to keep up with all of the trends, but if you wish to stay on top, time and effort are always necessary.

The App Team is based in Brisbane, Mooloolaba and Sydney and specialises in app development for iPad, iPhone & Android. Contact us today to find out how we can bring your app vision to life!