The Mobile Application Development Agency Lifecycle

We’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from local businesses inquiring about mobile app development.  Not just because we rank on page 1 for almost all the local keywords (How did we do this? We use Search Engine Optimization) but probably also because mobile apps are gaining a lot more credibility as legitimate business tools for both promotion and utility.  Most of the questions are centered around the actual development process, such as the duration of the build, and what the prospective client should expect to get out of their investment.

Since mobile application development is still a young, but aggressively growing market, I thought I’d share some insight on how a mobile dev house like ours, goes through the process of developing a quality, enterprise level app.  This should provide some insight on just how much work is required to successfully build a quality app, and what it takes to keep both the agency and the client on the same page throughout the entire process.  It obviously helps to have well structured teams with defined roles, and strong Account and Project Management directives.

Please keep in mind that the following explanation is just an example of how a company like ours (a highly regarded, professional mobile app development house =) would handle a mobile project (in this case, and iPhone app) from start to finish.  Also of importance is that not all of our mobile projects will go through this exact process.  For the sake of time and cost, we may condense these steps based on the client indicated budget and expectation.

The Bid Process

The bidding process starts with the Initial Contact, either by reaching out to potential clients through our various business development efforts, or through referrals and inbound calls from our SEO efforts.  If the client is serious and has some money to put behind their concept, we will generally set up a 1st Meeting to discuss in detail what the potential client has in mind.  After we’ve gathered enough details, we can build a Proposal to demonstrate our understanding of these requirements, what we intend to deliver, how long the project is expected to take, and what we are going to charge to get all of this done.  There may be some back-and-forth with the potential client regarding certain features, additional enhancements that might not have been discussed in the meeting, or even omissions of features to reduce the cost – if these are indicated, we canModify the Proposal to assure client and agency are in mutual agreement.  Once these are all worked out, we create an a written Agreement or Statement of Work between both parties that is required to be signed before the project starts.

The Development Process

This is where the intensity goes up several notches, as we mobilize our workforce.  There are a lot of key parties involved that need to be brought up to speed on what is being built and how this is all going to be done.  Initially we may sit down with our internal teams and the new client to put together scoping documents during the Project Scoping phase to make sure we’ve identified all of the functional specifications of the build.  This can be a time consuming process, if the mobile app is robust in features (see CW Network – The Vampire Diaries App) and both parties may elect to separate the entire life cycle process into multiple phases.

 Upon completion of scoping we can start on Information Architecture and wireframes.  These “IA” docs outline, in detail, how the app is expected to perform.  Everything from the behavior of the loading screen, to what action should occur on every single click, tap or shake, is defined in this document.  We may pass this document to the client to assure that we are still on the same page with the intended functionality.  Sometimes a visual representation of the ideas helps flush out some issues that were not brought up in the scoping phase.  As soon as we’ve captured all changes, or if none are requested by the client, we can sign-off on IA and move into Creative Design and Software Development.

The Creative Design and Software Development phases may move in parallel paths, especially if there are certain back end development tasks that are independent of the UI on the mobile app.  Some Internal Discussion may be required by the various teams to assure that the development process is coming together as the client has requested.  The project manager comes in to assure that the efforts by all teams are seamless and running according to schedule.  The development process is complete when a functional build is released.

QA Process

In some cases, the Internal Alpha Testing QA process is almost as important and comprehensive as the Development Process.  If deadlines are tight (they almost always are), the project manager may impose an expedited development process to have a working demo available for the client as quickly as possible.  If such is the case, it is not uncommon for the mobile app to have glitches, bugs and other issues.  Even under the best intentions of the development team, there may be critical differences in the intended functionality vs actual, and a strong QA team can identify such issues and assure immediate rectification.  After (or oftentimes concurrently) exhaustive efforts have been made by the QA team to identify issues, the development teams can make Revisions to the code to correct outstanding problems.  The app becomes a Beta version and if needed, can be shown to the client (at this point, anxiously awaiting to see something) for their own QA.  In some cases we may decide against this and perform our own Beta Testing andRevisions to have a final release version available sooner.

App Store Process

The final release get’s sign off and Client Approval before it undergoes App Store Submission, in this case, through AppleDepending on the complexity of the app, this process could take as few as five days to as long as six weeks.  Typically, for an experienced development house such as ours, the process takes on average two to three weeks, and has a 90% approval rate.  There have been some cases where we’ve had to perform App Revisions to get the approval nod from the App Store.  Apple sends an email notification once the app has been Approved and is ready for Distribution.  A hyperlink to the available app is provided by Apple as well.  At this point the project has ended, or is ready for a second phase of enhancements, and the entire process starts over.

If the process is as comprehensive as the above, the entire process generally requires a minimum of four months until completion.  This is just a rough estimate, some projects have been completed in as little as one month (including the app store approval process) and others have taken well over a year.

If you’ve got a mobile app that you want built – look no further.  ISBX can build all types of apps for all types of clients.  There’s no better mobile app development agency in Los Angeles.  At least that’s what we think. =)