A Developer’s Guide To Planning Mobile App Development

You – or maybe your company – has made the decision to build a mobile app! Great, so you should be able to start coding immediately, right? Wrong. Probably the most important step in getting an app to the App store or Google Play is this initial plan which gets enacted long before your app ever appears in the market.

First, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to build it for Microsoft Phone, Apple’s iOS 7, Google’s Android or a combination of the three. Once your OS is selected, our Mobile App Developers recommend creating a plan that should include at least four main phases.  We’ll review them below.

Requirements and Information Gathering

This preliminary phase is something that all too often is neglected, and later the lack of planning can be seen as the root cause of project failures, delays, and delivery of applications.

It takes time to fully grasp intricate details including what the application should do, who will use it, what the expectations are, and discerning the current system (if one is even in place).  Be sure to thoroughly analyze all possibilities to identify your main priorities prior to building.

For developers more accustomed to primarily making in-house apps, this might not be a process most are accustomed with.  However, whether developing for an inside or outside entity, it’s crucial to ask as many questions as possible and analyze every possible angle and facet of the proposed app.  An architect needs to draw out the blueprint before a builder can build a house.  The same applies in app development – you need a plan before you can do effective mobile app development.

Design and Architecture

Once you’ve established a clear idea of the app’s criteria, it’s time to hit the drawing board. Wireframes, views, navigation of the app, functionality, and all other design decisions need thoughtful consideration.

Use a Gantt Chart to keep your app development timelines on track

Use a Gantt Chart to keep your app development timelines on track

An ongoing process to keep adopt as your own is to continually ask questions.  It’s important to verify with your client/target audience that this app is something that the target market will embrace.  A show and tell meeting is good to schedule periodically – our mobile app team  recommends launching a prototype before beginning implementation to determine customer feedback and to “test the market”.


The phase that gets the most love and attention from developers: implementation! It’s a programmer’s time to shine, a chance to get down to the nitty gritty. Delving straight into code is all fine and dandy, but without executing the previous two phases, your app will likelyy miss the mark or have a lot of bugs to resolve.

Use crisp and elegant architecture to create your app to ensure a clean User Interface. If the first two phases are done correctly, implementation should be easy as all the hard work and preparation finally begins to take form in your code.

Testing. Testing. Testing.

Testing is a critical aspect during the project plan because it allows you to see how users interact with your app. Testing sometimes is left as an afterthought or a “do it if time permits” mentality (that is of course excluding Test Driven Development TDD methodologies). A good plan factors in a good amount of testing time, which depending on the complexity of an application, should range from half to the full time of implementation.

Unit testing, quality assurance, user acceptance testing, and the like are essential to guaranteeing a successful and well received app. A well received app is the ultimate goal as this will lead to future requests and the culmination of a successful project/venture.

Additional Considerations

The project plan is the crux to ensuring development of a successful app. Tools to use vary per project, but at the bare minimum, a Gantt chart should be made clearly delineating the time line of the project. Also include available resources (such as team members) with their specific tasks and subtasks assigned.

Documents detailing the results of phases, requirements, design and architecture are critical. A few of the documents should be living documents that get updated continually – these living documents are the clearest indicator of whether your project is on track or is in danger of veering off.

Final Thoughts

Finally, ensure that all of your estimates are realistic. This can be accomplished with prior experience taken into account, current conditions, team size, project difficulty, and project targets. Don’t over-promise and then under-deliver.  That will reflect poorly on you and your team, and could come back to haunt you as you seek repeat business.  Of course the client wants the app built rapidly, but it is up to you develop a realistic timeline.

Do you have specific questions or thoughts about building a mobile app?  Feel free to share any tips/experiences as well.  Comment below!


  1. […] it can be downright intimidating to navigate this new space. Where does a developer start to plan for mobile app development? It’s not easy, but once you begin to research the languages used in a mobile platform, […]

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  3. sonatypejd

    Don’t forget about security! Users expect developers to keep their data safe. And in the rush to get your app out the door don’t let security concerns fall by the wayside. A little extra work now can save you an immense amount of headaches down the road.

  4. […] is one of the most important aspects during your app’s build because it allows you to see how users interact with your app. For Android developers, […]

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