7 Stages of App Development Explained (+Best Practices)
- Updated on 6 Jan 2024
- 17 min
Building a mobile app from scratch is challenging. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces that need to come together for an app to be successful.
From initial conception to launch and beyond, app development is a complex process with distinct stages.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the 7 main stages of mobile app development so you have a high-level understanding of what’s involved at each step.
We’ll also provide some tips and best practices to keep in mind during the process to help set your app up for success.
Let’s dive in!
7 Stages of App Development
Spoiler alert, the app development process does not begin from the developing stage.
There are several prerequisites in the form of a business-oriented mobile app development process.
As a beginner, founder, or a new entrant in the world of startups, it is essential to understand the mobile app dev process.
Always remember that application phases and sprints are not linear.
There are some requirements before you choose a design/development team and before you start the actual process.
The preliminary steps involve:
Once you have zeroed in on your plan, begin choosing the design/development team followed by the core steps of developing an app.
There are four phases of developing an app:
- Discovery Stage
- User Testing
Let’s talk about them one by one and understand what comprises the whole process.
Stage 0: Preparing to Assemble Your Team
This is the part where you transform from a thinker to a doer by first structuring your idea and then validating it.
The initial structure will enable you to validate faster. The early and initial validation is essential to any app’s success.
Is idea validation a part of the steps taken for the successful development of an app? Isn’t it like diverting from the path?
Your mobile app business plan is not just a concept or a method to earn. It is a business model, and you should have a clear understanding of your business model.
That is why it is essential to follow the right path with these steps.
Ideas find success when they provide solutions to problems. Having a vision, a clear set of concepts, backed up with solid research and data is a solid recipe for success.
For example, Uber’s founder created the app because he could not find a cab on-demand.
His vision was to see a world where the problem didn’t exist.
Look where Uber stands today. It’s a great example of solid validation.
Postmates is another example. The founders created the app in 2011 to eat a hotdog and there was no delivery service for hotdogs.
These founders saw a problem, and they gave a solution.
They understood the importance of this part in the process, but it was not easy for them.
Of course, they had to go through a long journey filled with unprecedented trials.
The best part about going through our take on the steps of developing an amazing app is that you can save yourself from all that trouble.
Because it is not about how hard you hit, but you have to hit right to make it work.
Ideation is at the beginning of the steps of developing an app.
You have an innovative idea, but it is essential to give it the right shape.
Keep two things in mind with ideation:
- Your customers (who need a solution)
- Your product (the actual solution)
The customers come first because your product should adapt to their needs and not the other way around.
In this part, we recommend you first learn about the user’s needs.
Get their feedback vis-à-vis your vision and change to optimize the final product as per the customer’s preferences.
Yes, this will involve creating a draft of your idea, dropping it, changing a few things, or even starting everything from scratch.
But you cannot and you should not rush with this part of the process.
Because everything that you do ahead of the application-oriented development phases in the following steps is connected to this one thing.
To make your concepts clear about startups, being an entrepreneur or dreaming to be one has its risks.
Everything in the mobile app development process begins with a clear concept and a clear vision.
The clarity in the concepts will help you create solutions that strong enough to disrupt industries.
That is why while forming your strategy, take care of a few things:
- Choose the people to share your plan with wisely.
- Don’t overdo yourself and get carried away.
2. Idea Validation
Ideation is all about getting the right idea. The next phase is the actual app development process.
But validation is all about checking the viability of the idea or solution.
Here you need to ask and find valid proof regarding your solution.
Until now, you only have a probable solution.
But with validation, you will have a product.
And that is why it is important to cover these steps in the mobile app development process.
These stage-wise steps will help you answer two major app-related questions:
- Whether the product has value and the right market?
- Will you be able to sell the product?
You cannot expect everyone to buy your product, and you also cannot make a product that is good for everyone.
There is always a perfect customer for whom your product will be a great asset and he/she won’t think twice before paying for it.
Why do you think OTT platforms have seen such brilliant success?
Because they deliver a service which people need.
They are providing content when and where they need it and they are ready to pay for it.
It is not only about access, but the way of accessing the service. Their freedom and a will to get what they want.
This completes the coding part of the mobile app development process.
But this was only an overview. This segment of the steps of making or developing an app has a lot more you can learn from. (Follow our guide on how to start a startup from scratch to know more)
Ok, now that you have your plan, go find a team and continue with the rest of the part of the guide.
After selecting the team to work on the steps or aspects of developing an app, we will move on to product discovery.
Stage 1: Designing and Developing
The next stage is the actual design and development. It is the core of the process of developing an app. This is more of a design stage than a development phase.
Stage 1 starts with the discovery, we will end this part of the steps of developing or making an app with user testing.
In this part of the phases of developing an app, you need to:
- Define what you want with reference to your app
- What sort of product do you want to create?
- For whom is this solution?
- Why do you want to make it?
Product discovery is your chance to know, formulate, and envision everything you need or can about your product.
With this exercise, you must be able to get answers to:
- Your target audience and build the customer persona based on the buyer’s journey.
- What is the core problem and how your product can solve it? (This will become your USP too and omnipresent in the pitch deck.)
- Describe the user experience
- Make a list of every feature while prioritizing them
- Plan out the minimum viable product (MVP).
The product discovery phase is divided into four parts.
You will find some examples of SRS and prototypes in our product discovery guide.
Creation of SRS
The SRS or Software Requirements Specification is a formal document describing what the solution will do. We need to create this before developing the app as it helps share common ideas with the developers.
An SRS document is good to find out the;
- Purpose of development
- Getting an overview of the product
- Specific requirements of the software
More important, before moving ahead with the steps of developing an efficient app, it is better to know how it will interact within and outside the environment.
Prototyping – creating a Prototype is one of the most important steps of developing an app. It is essential to understand what the app will look like. The UI Design and prototyping matter.
To complete the design-related stages of app development, you can use ready-to-use design software.
These design platforms are also easier to use.
Not only for the visuals, but the prototype also help with;
- Creation of User journey maps – often referred to as UX (User Experience)
- Gives a headway for wireframes
- Helps create better designs (UI)
So, while working on the pre-coding phases, it is essential to take care of these aspects.
Also, you should take care of creating the ios and android version of your app. These are the two biggest Operating Systems for mobile apps and you should plan for both of them.
The importance of user maps or UX (user experience) journeys is realized when someone is able to finish the task with fewer steps.
Why do you think that apps provide one-click signup?
To make things easier for the users.
Also, have you noticed that some apps place the main or most used option within the thumb’s approach?
This enables one-hand operation.
So, while creating prototypes, take care of these aspects in the process.
The motive of these analytical steps in the mobile app development phases is to produce a better user experience with an attractive UI.
UI/UX Design User Interface and UX design, as the name suggests, is the visual side of any app. It is all about how the solution looks to the users.
We have earlier talked about identifying your core customers within the app development phases.
The motive of such exercise is to find the ideal customer.
Once you have a customer segment, it is time to create a solution that conforms to their perspectives.
To deliver an appealing solution, work UI design.
Include aspects like;
- Style guide
- Motion design
Designing is only a part of the first of the four steps of developing or creating an app.
Always keep one thing in mind;
Deliver seamless and effortless user experiences.
Because as long as the users are not benefiting from their engagement with your product, they won’t continue to use it further.
Also, don’t hesitate to make changes or edits frequently.
The opportunity cost of not adhering to the best and intuitive experiences will not be in your favor.
Just like all the other steps of developing an amazing app, the product discovery phase requires iteration.
You may need to go back and forth with these development and design stages of the application.
Before we move ahead with other phases of app development, always monitor the cost of app design.
There can be multiple iterations and reworks required to get the right product.
So don’t get discouraged.
You (founder) and the design team may need to talk a lot about these aspects.
Within these, make sure not to miss out on validating the consumer experiences.
Because once everything is finalized changing all these aspects will cost you time and more money, and you may run out of your budget.
These phases of app development are not granular like coding/programming.
Here everything is connected to each other.
Like, changing the color of the homepage may lead to making changes in other pages and the typography, font, etc.
So, the goal should be to provide something new and better to the users.
Stage 2: Planning
Ok, this is the final part before moving to the coding part of the app development phases, stage 2 of the process.
Often, the development guys you will hire will be pre-decided on these things.
Remember, that this differs if you want to get your mobile application made by any app development company.
When you go with an app development company, you will be dealing with agencies, not individuals.
But, if you want to know everything about mobile app development phases, know these too.
After designing, it is the technical aspects that you need to look at.
- Tech stack
- Cost estimation/budget estimation
- Creating project milestones
There aren’t great differences among the development community when it comes to choosing the tech stack.
We will list out the tech stacks for two types of digital solutions:
- Web development
- Mobile development
Even though the article talks about mobile app development phases, talking about web development helps understand the differences.
The previous parts of the app development phases were about what to make.
The planning mobile app development phase talks about how to make it.
Followed by the tech stack, it is better to get down to cost and budget estimation.
Yes, there is no direct answer to this question.
We cannot decide the cost of app development based on the limited information provided by the app development phase.
The cost of app development depends on the integrated aspects of all the steps.
For instance, the design and development costs will depend on features and complexity.
Furthermore, before designing, the time is taken for validation and the post-development testing also matters.
There are a lot of variables in this stage of the app development phases.
The cost of developing an app also depends on the team you choose to work on the project.
A developer from the US will charge more than $125 per hour and the same from Ukraine will charge $35 per hour.
This is where you can make a real difference.
Hiring a developer from the US to work for 880 hours will cost you $110,000.
However, if you hire one from Ukraine, the cost will be $30,800.
See the difference? (You can try to calculate it yourself with our outsourcing calculator)
So, hire the developers and other requisite professionals for other mobile app development phases with this approach in mind.
The last steps of the process in planning are setting milestones and a deadline.
Ask the developers and designers to give you a timeline for project completion.
This will help you draft the post-development strategy and get working on other aspects.
With this, we complete the second pre-development app development stage.
Stage 3: Building – The Actual App Development Process
Isn’t this what you were waiting for in the phases of building or developing an app?
This is where you transform your product from paper to practice.
Until now, we have gathered the ammunition.
You have the team, development tools, target audience, idea, and feasibility reports.
In this stage of the app development phase, we will talk about the different steps in brief.
If you are new to the development, then you should know about the development sprints.
This is related to the agile development methodology.
The developers basically divide the development part into different steps.
There is no doubt that these are the vital mobile app development sprints.
As a client, ask for complete transparency while the work is going on.
It is important for you to know what is going on in each of these steps of app development.
If the development team has a project manager, ask them to give you regular updates.
There are two main aspects of coding:
The front end or client-side is the part where the developers build the interface.
They are supposed to add visual elements and make it more attractive.
The backend is the support structure of the application. There are three parts of backend operations;
This involves writing the codes of APIs, databases, and creating libraries.
All these processes are conducted on their specific technologies.
Refer to the tech stack we have covered above in the phases of developing an efficient app.
Out of the two types of backend app development language, go for the functional languages.
The functional languages are action-based.
These languages are declarative implying that the codes and statements can be executed in any order.
FrontendThe frontend is the client-side structure and involves functions that directly relate to how a user sees your application. The front-end development is where you need to be selective.
With different mobile platforms, you need to choose different technologies.
You can refer to the technology stack given above.
Out of all the app development phases, you will find that both backend and frontend take the most time.
Hence, they take up the highest share of the cost too.
Along with this, the developers need to use SDKs (software development kits) to optimize the work.
If you need expert guidance in building your app, get in touch with our app development consultants.
Creating designs on paper or online tools is a part of the design and comes under UI/UX.
But in this segment of phases of app development, those designs are created from scratch.
Some online tools provide easy handoff that further helps the developers produce the design exactly.
The relationship between frontend and backend is rather important.
These two aspects of app development phases are the aspect where you can incite a big difference in the cost.
We recommend that you work with the agile app development processes.
There are four major benefits of agile methodology in all the steps of developing an app:
- Flexibility in planning
- Progressive app development
- Efficient and quick deployment
- Constant and continuous improvements
Based on these aspects, we can slide to the last phases of application development, testing.
Stage 4: Testing
The reason behind hiring a quality assurance team and testing the app is manifold.
Think about it.
Would anyone like to use an app full of bugs?
Why would the users engage with your product when you are not providing an excellent product?
So, the Quality assurance and testing teams make sure that the application:
- Is running properly
- Does not lag
- Does not have any bugs
- Has an intuitive interface
- Has no drawbacks
Bugs in your app will mean a bad UX, ultimately resulting in failure.
There are two testing phases of app development:
- Core Testing
- On-Demand Testing
Testing, without a doubt, is one of the most important steps of developing an app. Beta testing gives you a look at the flaws that the current version of your app has.
Also, it is better to test early.
Postponing the tests and the testing costs are proportional to each other.
The more you delay, the higher will be the cost of the exercise.
Within this quality assurance and testing mobile app development stage, there are five exercises.
A Brief Look at Core Testing
Mobile app testing is much more intricate and diversified than web app testing. There are several kinds of mobile devices and their hardware plus firmware is updated regularly.
In device testing, the professionals check the compatibility of your app with the different versions of mobile devices’ OS and hardware.
For Android devices, we can use Over the Air installs.
For iOS devices we use TestFlight.
Usability testing, as the name suggests, is how the app works. In this segment of phases of successful app development, users are assigned to engage with the app and record their experiences.
There are two major reasons for usability testing;
- Check the user-friendliness of the solution
- Understand whether the application can support the brand’s marketing objectives
The testing team ensures that the solution is adding value to your business and meets the end-user expectations.
Usability and functionality are not similar. All throughout the process of all development, we inculcate the principles of functionality.
Usability checks whether the app is working as per the user’s expectation.
But app’s functionality testing is to check whether the app is working as it should.
There is a thin line difference between them.
While conducting the functionality tests create real end-user conditions.
In simple terms, this will be a raincheck of every mobile app development stage discussed above.
If a button is intended to open the login, it should open the login page.
A Brief Look at On-Demand Testing
This test is all about knowing how the app performs holistically. Where other tests are inclined towards the user’s perspective.
The performance test sequence checks the overall application aspects.
- Response to user requests
- Screen load time
- Battery usage and optimization
- Bandwidth usage
- Size of the application
- Load time with concurrent users
- API functions
This test is about checking the tenacity of every minor to a major aspect of the application.
The servers, network requirements, software and hardware compatibility, etc.
At the end of the functionality testing stage of developing an app, check that the product loads and performs even when the consumer demand spikes.
You cannot skip this part of the app development process. Security of the product is vital because any inefficiencies have a direct impact on the end-user and your brand’s reputation.
It is not optional.
To speed up the process, use automated tools.
The automated security systems plug directly into the CI/CD toolchain of the application.
While creating the application, always take care of the guidelines set by the authorities.
Stage 5: Deploying and Maintaining
After completing the testing process of developing an app, the app is ready to be published.
Depending on the store where you will deploy the application, run some final checks.
The process to upload the application on Google Play Store and App Store is different.
In this part of the process of mobile app development, we will briefly talk about the process to deploy on each platform.
Google Play focuses more on the promotional material for your application. Google Play Store asks for pictures, videos, and other promotional material.
Added to this, you need to set the configuration options and provide privacy policies.
Then you have to set the access rights and pricing.
In the last steps, go for continuous configuration and publishing the stable version of the app.
We can easily say that the Google play store is more customizable.
iOS – App Store
With the App store, you need to submit the app build with Xcode.
It is an inbuilt system with the App Store that will test the product with Testflight.
Due to the closed environment followed by Apple, the company employees will test your app before making it live on the platform.
Now that we are reaching the end of the app development process, one thing is left to be discussed.
This involves working on the code after launching the MVP and working on the other business aspects of the startup.
Stage 6: Post-Launch of Minimum Viable Product
This is what you must do after completing all the mobile app development processes. This is the final stage of the process.
Post the launch, your Minimum Viable Product, or a full-scaled app will undergo the ultimate test, the users.
They will send feedback or share their experiences.
Do not ignore them.
Irrespective of the type of review, read it carefully and observe what the customers like and what they are not very fond of.
Identify these aspects and implement them in your final release.
This is what you can call post-development iterations.
Even though these steps come after completing the processes of Android or iOS app development, it is good to mention them briefly.
Because as a founder, you need to scale your app.
The MVP version of the app is the most basic functional configuration.
With the MVP app development stages, we tend not to focus too much on advanced functionalities.
But once your MVP version has got enough attention, it is time to take it to the next level.
Stage 7: Marketing
There are two key areas when you need to resort to startup marketing.
Once during the initial stages of creating or developing an app (planning).
The marketing strategies and efforts during the planning phases of app development are more about identifying the product/market fitness and researching the end users.
The post-development efforts of your marketing department are about making sure users get to know about your product.
Marketing involves working on PPC campaigns, blogs, PRs, social media advertisements, and so on.
Here, remember to include only those platforms which are used by your users.
The earlier cost discussion was only about the core stages of developing an app.
But, if we include every iteration and other business processes, the final cost can increase further.
So, we need to find how much does it cost to build an app inclusive of all the aspects.
Ready to Build Your Own App?
After going through the key stages of app development, you likely have a better sense of the moving pieces required to build a successful app.
But you don’t have to figure it out alone.
With years of experience taking apps from idea to launch, SpdLoad can guide you through every phase – from planning and design to development, testing, and deployment.
Interested in bringing your app idea to life?
Contact us today to discuss how we can help you bring your idea to life.