A Complete Guide: Launch a Mobile App to Success
Successfully launching your mobile application into the marketplace is the single biggest hurdle to overcome when it comes to app success. The momentum, reputation, sharing, and hype built by a good day-one launch will introduce your platform to new users and create opportunities for it to grow for weeks and months to come.
Mobile applications have blossomed into one of the world’s largest industries. More than 100,000 apps are released every month across both app stores. Revenues now exceed $400 billion, regularly spawning entirely new marketplaces and industries within the field.
However, only a handful of the tens of thousands of apps released every month are ever reliably seen by users.
The difference between success and failure in launching a mobile app can be incredibly stark. While the size of the mobile app industry exceeds that of the aerospace industry, reaching success in the marketplace relies on hiring the right team, executing your idea well, and marketing your application to an exceptionally high standard.
Here, we take you through the hard-won lessons we’ve learned about how to launch a mobile application well. Applied with years of experience and many, many iterations of mobile apps, these keys to success are proven to be essential to app store success.
Starting with the planning and preparation through to development, marketing, testing, launch, and beyond — we take you through the things that matter when it comes to how to launch a mobile app to get it into the hands of your users.
1. Do the Research
Designers and developers are always eager to dive in and get started sketching out the early stages of a new app or big idea. For many, it’s the entire reason they got started in the field. Caution here, however, will result in a rich pay-off later.
The more time and energy you can put into research, the less will be needed during every other phase of production. Good research should provide a target to aim for, a method to deliver it, and a roadmap to guide teams to get there. If there was one single secret to launching a mobile app to success, it would be to do the research exceptionally well.
Researching How to Launch a Mobile App
Start by getting to know the audience to whom your app is launching. Find out what your users want by investigating what they are currently using to solve the same problems.
Validate your idea by finding out the needs and size of the audience. Figuring out who your market is will give you a rough guide to the success you can expect when all else goes well.
Think about what your app can do better than its competition. Consider how people use devices currently and whether or not your app can fit into this niche. Some questions to answer about where your app fits into the market might include:
- How can your app perform better than its closest competitors?
- Where have competitor apps let users down?
- What are the best parts of competing apps that are already available?
- Are users sticking to one main competitor or multiple other options?
- What elements of your competitors’ apps can you improve upon?
Know who your audience is, find out what they value most, and decide what you can offer to target these points. Thorough research can be the difference between a TikTok and a Quibi.
Allow the research you do here to define the features you target in an MVP, how you’ll market your product, and how you’ll build on successful services on top of your platform in the future.
2. Planning and Design
With your app’s idea formulated, audience validated, and value proven, technical teams can finally get on with designing an app that will engage your users.
The technical decisions made here will dictate the pace of development, the look and feel of your app, and ultimately the longevity of your product in the marketplace. Care should be taken to ensure the needs of the app dictate the tools and design chosen, rather than the tools dictating the shape of the app when it comes to future development.
A short-lived application, for example, built for a single event or a short-term prototype will need markedly different tools and designs to an app designed to be maintained, updated, and used long into the future.
Decide on the mobile platform you are targeting, the technology stack you plan to deploy, and the minimum viable product (MVP) necessary to get your app into the marketplace.
Much like research, decisions made at this early stage will have an outsized impact in future phases. Choosing the right mobile platform, for example, will result in regulations and requirements specific to each of the two major app stores. Good advice and extra time spent during this phase can deliver exceptional value for long-term projects and mobile applications.
Output of App Planning and Design
By the end of this stage, your development teams should come away with a roadmap that defines the project from initial development through to launch and beyond. Design teams should be able to create a wireframe mock-up of how the app should look and operate to begin the earliest stages of UI and UX testing.
Goals and performance metrics for your app should also be defined here. How many users will it take to sustainably support your app and its teams? How many purchases, sign-ups, or subscriptions does it need in the first 30 days? Are there additional monetization strategies to make it sustainable long-term?
With metrics for users and monetization in mind, it’s easier for teams to target the features and functionality that matter towards creating a usable MVP.
3. Mobile App Development
Finally, after endless hours of research, planning, and design — teams can begin creating assets and writing code that will contribute to making your next big idea a reality.
This phase is the longest, most challenging, and most eagerly anticipated in launching a mobile app. Few manage to accurately take into account the size and scale of the development needed to create a fully-fledged modern app. Even a moderately sized application can take between three to six months to construct from scratch.
The hard work put into hiring the right mobile developers to head up your teams will pay off here in efficiency, speed, and effectiveness when it comes to construction. The ability to see tangible results and build usable prototypes quickly are among the primary reasons that a minimum viable product is such a dominant strategy of development.
Your MVP should capture the core features and functionality necessary for your app to succeed. A good MVP will create the groundwork necessary for future features and additions to be implemented with ease.
In most cases, this phase of app development will be an iterative one. As teams and designers get closer to a working version of their app, the understanding of its bugs and challenges will change. Designs and methodologies are likely to be refined during this stage — adding complexity to processes but resulting in a better application overall.
4. Marketing and Preparation
Working parallel with the development department, your marketing teams should be preparing the resources and plans necessary to reach out and engage with your target audience.
The earliest marketing phases should be about building interest and excitement for what you’re bringing to the market. This should involve setting up a landing page for users to visit, a mailing list to sign-up to for updates, and social media accounts to follow for future interactions.
Let users know what they can expect from your app when it’s released, but take care not to over-promise what the first release will deliver. The earliest user feedback about the idea and what users want will start here. Pay close attention to how users are talking about your upcoming app — and what they’re asking for when it arrives.
The first practical step you can take is to register a domain for your app. This should include a download link when the app is released and links to all the relevant social media accounts early on.
Having a place to direct users is a great way to ensure they stay in touch with your product long before the app is ready to launch. The earlier you can capture the attention of an audience, the more of an audience you can build ahead of launch day — when good marketing and early preparation will pay off.
5. Testing Your App
Testing is an area of construction that highly rewards the time and energy invested in the lifetime of the application.
Your MVP should be rigorously and thoroughly tested to ensure it’s going to build the reputation of your brand rather than harm it. Your app should be introducing your company to your users on the best possible footing.
Even small glitches can be app-breaking if they happen to enough users and result in poor reviews. With so many manufacturers, devices, and integrations on the mobile market today, small glitches can easily sneak in.
Hiring an in-house quality assurance engineer is a smart solution for many organizations. QA ensures that an app is tested at every stage of production and nothing meets the user without guarding against the easiest to make and most obvious of mistakes. The number of apps on either store with poor QA and packed full of errors is too high already. Quality software is an excellent way to stand out as a premium option amongst the lower-quality competition.
As your app grows in size and prepares for launch, expanding tests to include user testing at alpha and beta stages can help kick up yet more usability bugs and user experience issues that should never make it to the full release.
Put simply, the earlier and more thoroughly you can test your app, the more you can save in financial costs, user losses, and reputation hit in the market.
Some questions to ask when it comes to testing the interface and user experience should include:
- Is your UX clear and intuitive to use?
- Do your users have issues when navigating and interacting?
- How long does it take for users to sign in?
The closer your user testing group is to your target audience, the more valuable the insights you get back from them will be.
6. Launch a Mobile App
With thoroughly tested code and an extensively tested application, it’s finally time to set a date to launch your app.
The date you choose should be spread far and wide through the social media channels and mailing lists built up in earlier stages. You want users to have a clear idea of what to expect from your app, when they can expect to get it, and where they should go to download it.
It may help to invite a small batch of users to a beta release ahead of time to iron out the kinks and bugs that might happen in the launch process. Nothing about launching a mobile app can be too well prepared or too well tested.
The most exciting, nerve-racking, and challenging part of launching a mobile app is release day. Getting there is an uphill battle, but once it comes you can enjoy your app finally making it onto users’ devices.
Tap into the social media channels, mailing sign-ups, and newsletters on launch day to get as much hype and traction as possible in generating downloads. It can even pay to lean on paid ads across social media platforms, the Google Play marketplace, or the iOS app store to boost visibility and gain important early momentum in the marketplace watch lists.
A good spot on the most downloaded, highly rated, or newly released lists on app stores can generate a lot of traffic for a relatively light investment.
7. Listening for User Feedback
With the launch-day dust just settling, it’s time to figure out how well things have gone and whether your app is meeting its targets and goals.
Take a look at the number of downloads, users, and purchases your app is getting as the launch-day hype dies down. Is this sustainable long-term, or do you need more marketing and features in place? What needs to be adjusted in your strategy to make the app more sustainable?
With your app finally in users’ hands, the amount of feedback you get can be a helpful boost to future research and development. Users will tell you, often clearly, exactly what they do and don’t like about your current application.
It’s often lucrative to listen closely and target future updates towards things the audience are eagerly asking for.
Look carefully at the discussion generated on social media platforms too. What are users saying about your app, and how are they comparing it to the competitors you identified in stage one? What can you do to improve this impression, and what can you add next to offer more value?
How to Launch a Mobile App to Success
Having gone through the process of hiring, researching, planning, developing, marketing, testing, and launching your mobile app — you’re likely ready to rest. The next stage, however, is to do it all over again.
With a successful MVP in place, the next step is to develop the additional features and functionality you need to continue accelerating your app to success.
The good news is that the audience, platform, and systems necessary to succeed have already been created for you. The users are already on board with your app and eagerly awaiting its next ground-breaking update.
The process of planning, developing, testing, and launching critical new features begins all over again tomorrow.
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