Create a Shopping App

The ecommerce industry is booming, and mobile shopping trends dominate the overall ecommerce category. 

In fact, 73% of the total ecommerce market share worldwide comes from mobile commerce. 79% of mobile users have purchased something online from a mobile device within the past six months.

But not all mobile shopping experiences are created equally. 85% of people say they prefer mobile apps to mobile sites, and apps convert at a 157% higher rate compared to the mobile web. 

So if you want to maximize the potential of your ecommerce operation, creating a shopping app is the way to go.

This ultimate guide will walk you through the step-by-step process to create a shopping app.

How to Create a Shopping App in 9 Steps

Anyone can make a shopping app by following these simple steps:

  1. Market Research for Your Online Store
  2. Platform and Tech Stack Selection
  3. Choose Agency for Shopping App Development
  4. Identify Features for Minimum Viable Product
  5. List Additional Features for Your Store to Stand Out in the Future
  6. Create a Mockup of Your Online Store App
  7. Begin Mobile Shopping App Development Process
  8. Test Your Shopping App
  9. Launch Your Shopping App

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a complete understanding of shopping app development and how to succeed in this space. Let’s dive in!

Step 1 — Market Research for Your Online Store

Before you start building anything, you need to validate your idea with market research. This step will look a little bit different for everyone, depending on the stage of your business.

There’s a good chance you fall into one of two categories:

  • You have an existing ecommerce business and want to add a mobile app
  • You’re starting a new business from scratch and want a mobile app on day one

For those of you who are already selling products online, you probably went through the market research step when your business first launched. So some of these tasks may be a bit repetitive. 

Anyone starting a new shopping business from scratch must take the market research step very seriously. Otherwise, you could pour money into a business that the market doesn’t want or need.

Identify Customer Needs and Requirements

The first thing you need to do is identify a target customer profile. Who are you selling to?

Selling to “everyone” is not a recipe for success. You need to narrow things down to an ideal customer profile. Then you need to find out if your products actually meet a market need for your ideal customer. 

Running a SWOT analysis is the best way to start your research.

This process not only looks at your potential customers but it forces you to evaluate your internal initiatives, competitors, and overall market landscape. 

Very few new businesses offer something that’s 100% unique to the market. There’s a good chance there are other online stores and shopping apps selling something that’s almost identical to your offer. 

What makes your product unique to the market? Are you taking a broad product and targeting a niche audience? How will your value proposition stand out from the competition?

These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself and answer with confidence before you can proceed.

Business Model

Shopping apps typically fall into three different models:

  • B2C — Business selling products directly to consumers.
  • B2B — Business selling products to other businesses, sometimes at wholesale.
  • C2C — Customers selling to other customers through an online marketplace (like eBay or Etsy).

Which model are you going to use for your shopping app? 

Monetization Strategy

Next, you need to determine how you’re going to make money from your shopping app.

Compared to other mobile app categories, shopping apps are fairly straightforward. For B2C and B2B shopping apps, your primary focus should be sales revenue. I would not recommend adding ads to your shopping app, as this can ruin the customer experience.

For C2C shopping apps, you can make money by either charging sellers a fee to use the platform or by taking a commission of each sale. You could potentially charge for promoted products to appear high in the search results as well.

Step 2 — Platform and Tech Stack Selection

Once your idea has market validation, you can start to think about the technical aspects of your shopping app. 

Choose Your Platform

What platforms are you building for?

  • Android — Android apps are available for download on the Google Play Store. Android dominates the global market share, with 71.7% of smartphone users owning an Android device. 
  • iOS — iOS apps are available to download on the Apple App Store. It’s a bit more challenging to get your apps approved for the App Store, and iOS controls 53.66% of the OS market share in North America. 

If you’re strictly targeting users in countries outside of North America, it makes more sense to build for Android. But if you’re targeting North American consumers, building for both iOS and Android is the best option. 

This will make your shopping app available to the widest possible audience, and you won’t be neglecting any potential consumers. 

Native Development

Next, you need to decide on how you’re going to create a shopping app for the platform or platforms you’re targeting. 

Native app development requires low-level coding specifically for a single operating system.

So if you want to create an Android and iOS app through native development, you’d essentially be building two completely different apps—one for each operating system. 

This is the most time-consuming and most expensive path to development, and it’s typically not necessary for basic shopping apps. 

If you want to add complex features like augmented reality built into the app, then you might need to go native. But otherwise, this development path is only necessary for gaming apps, virtual reality apps, or apps that require precision and the highest possible performance. 

Cross-Platform App Development

Cross-platform app development is typically the best option for most shopping apps. This means that you can create an app for both iOS and Android with a single build and codebase. 

Cross-platform development typically saves you at least 40% on development costs and drastically reduces your development timeline. 

If you want to create a shopping app on your own without hiring a developer, you can take advantage of no-code ecommerce app makers like BuildFire. 

It’s a simple and cost-effective way to create an ecommerce app for iOS and Android without writing a single line of code. So even non-technical users can do this on their own.

Step 3 — Choose Agency for Shopping App Development

Assuming you’re not going to create the app on your own, you need to find an agency that can create a shopping app for you.

This is typically better than hiring a freelance team that hasn’t worked together before. There are lots of different roles and responsibilities in the app development process, so it’s usually best to go with an agency that has a proven track record. 

Team Composition

The exact number of developers and team members required will vary slightly depending on your project scope. But here’s a general idea of the positions required to create a shopping app:

  • Android developer
  • iOS developer
  • UX designer
  • UI designer
  • Project manager
  • Web developer
  • Quality assurance agents

Again, this is why it’s much easier to just go through an agency. Assembling a team like this on your own is challenging. Ecommerce app development agencies will have all of the resources in-house to accommodate your needs. 

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Shopping App?

The average cost to create a shopping app ranges from $30,000 to $700,000, with a median of $171,450, according to a recent survey,

But there are lots of different factors that contribute to the cost, including:

  • Development method (native vs. cross-platform)
  • Location of development team
  • App complexity
  • Features
  • Tech stack

For example, hiring a freelance developer in India to create your app will likely be cheaper than using a US-based agency. But there will likely be a significant difference in the quality of the final product between these two options as well.

Using a cross-platform development solution is one of the best ways to save money here, as you won’t need to create two separate apps for iOS and Android. You can make an app for both platforms with a single build.

Discovery Phase

The discovery phase is an important step here when you’re consulting with different agencies. You can shop around and get a quote from your top considerations to get a better understanding of the cost, timeline, and other factors.

Essentially, you just want to get a feel for the agency and see if they sound like a good partner for your shopping app development project.

BuildFire Plus is our all-inclusive app development service. 

We offer everything from pre-development strategy sessions to post-launch maintenance and support. We’ll help you run a competitive analysis to validate your idea and get started with prototypes, wireframes, and mockups before the build. 

Our expert development team can create a custom shopping app for iOS and Android faster than traditional development solutions without sacrificing quality. We’ll work with you each step of the way to ensure your app achieves its intended goals. 

Step 4 — Identify Essential Features for Your Shopping Application

Now it’s time to think about the features you want to include in your shopping app. Try not to get too carried away here with the “nice-to-have” features. First, focus on the bare minimum and essentials required for your app to run smoothly.

You can always add more features later. 

We’ll cover some examples of different essential features in greater detail below:

User Registration and Sign-In Process

The best shopping apps offer the ability for users to sign up and create an account. This gives them the ability to save key information in the app, like their name, shipping address, billing address, and payment information.

This will help increase your conversion rates as your users won’t have to manually enter these details for each purchase. They can simply add something to their shopping cart and buy it with a single click. 

Letting users create an account can also help you customize their shopping experience with recommended items based on their purchase history. 

Easy Navigation

It should be really easy for users to find what they’re looking for when they’re browsing for products in the app. A good rule of thumb is that every product page should be no more than three clicks from the home screen.

That’s why it’s so important to put your wireframes on paper before you start building anything, as this will help you design a smooth user flow. You can borrow ideas from big players like Amazon to map out your navigation. 

User Profile Editing

Give users the ability to edit their profiles with preferences. Registration should only ask for the minimum information required to create an account. But give them the option to go back and change their settings at any time for an enhanced customer experience.

For example, users shouldn’t have to enter their birthday to register. But you can ask them to add that information to their profiles later on if they want to receive special deals on their birthday. 

This is a chance for them to customize other preferences, like managing what types of push notifications they want to receive. 

Product Catalog

Obviously, you need to sync your shopping app with your product catalog. This is not only necessary for the app’s functionality, but it will also help you manage inventory and fulfillment. 

For example, if you have an existing Shopify store, you can simply sync your Shopify account to the app to import the product catalog. 

In-App Smart Search Engine

This feature is really important for any shopping app with more than a dozen or so products. 

You can’t expect users to scroll through hundreds or thousands of products to find what they’re looking for. So you need to give them the option to search for products by name or narrow down the results through a search filter. Filter options could include parameters like gender, size, color, product type, etc.

User Reviews

Roughly 95% of consumers read reviews before they buy something. 

That’s not all. According to BigCommerce, products with at least five reviews are 270% more likely to sell. 

It’s no secret that user reviews have an influence on mobile purchasing decisions. So make sure you include reviews on your product pages. 

Shopping Cart

Obviously, you need to have a shopping cart feature and payment gateway to process transactions. 

There are hundreds of options to consider here, like Stripe. In many cases, you can use the same shopping cart solution that you’re using on your website. Otherwise, you can talk to your development agency to see what they recommend.

Easy Checkout and Payment Options

The best shopping apps have a smooth checkout process. Eliminate any friction in this process and make sure that customers can add items to their cart and finalize the purchase with as few clicks as possible.

Offering as many payment options as possible is another way to keep conversions high.

The options will typically depend on the shopping cart software you’ve selected. But the best shopping carts will support:

  • All major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover)
  • Debit cards
  • PayPal
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay

This is the bare minimum that you should be accepting. But the more payment options you have, the better it will be for your conversion rates. 

Ideally, you’ll want users to buy from their profile. But having a mandatory login can be problematic, so you should still offer a guest checkout option. 

Shipping Options

You should offer some form of free shipping option, even if you require users to spend a certain amount of money to receive free shipping. Roughly 70% of consumers say they abandon shopping carts due to shipping costs. 

Offering multiple shipping options at varying costs can also boost conversions. Give your customers the option based on how quickly they want the shipment. Examples include:

  • Free standard shipping (5-7 business days)
  • $7 rush shipping (3-5 business days)
  • $25 expedited shipping (next day)

Again, it’s all about giving your customers as many options as possible to accommodate their needs.

Key Admin Panel Features for Online Shopping Apps

In addition to the customer-facing features for your shopping app, you need to consider the features that you’re going to use on the admin side to manage your application. 

  • Order Tracking
  • Inventory Management
  • Catalog App Builder for Product Management
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Customer Support Tools

This is something you need to evaluate when you’re comparing different development solutions and agencies. See what they’re going to offer you in terms of management features and how those features will impact your costs.

Step 5 — Identify Additional Features That Help Your Store Stand Out

Now you can start thinking about other features that go beyond the basic functionality mentioned above. To be clear, you do not need to add these additional features right now. 

For your first build, you should focus on simplicity and getting your app to work as it’s intended. Adding too many features at once can be messy and ultimately take away from your app’s primary purpose. 

With that said, you can start to brainstorm these ideas now and think about them for future updates. Examples include:

  • Customer wish lists
  • iBeacon
  • Maps
  • Augmented reality
  • Machine learning
  • Social media sharing options
  • Barcode scanner
  • Push notifications
  • Chatbot for improved customer service

Again, none of these features are required for your ecommerce app to work. But they are “nice-to-haves” that could ultimately help your app stand out from competitors.

For example, if you’re creating a shopping app as an extension of your brick-and-mortar retail business, adding a barcode scanner can enhance the in-person shopping experience with mobile. Users could scan a product in-store to see user reviews and save it to their wish list for a later purchase. 

But for now, you probably don’t need to worry about adding these features. Just focus on getting your app to market. 

Step 6 — Create a Mockup of Your Online Store App

Mockups are non-functional static designs of an app. This will help you and your team understand the look and feel of your final product. 

The purpose here is to help establish things like fonts, visuals, images, content layouts, color schemes, and the overall user experience from a design standpoint. 

Wireframes, designs, mockups, and prototyping are all part of the BuildFire Plus white-glove service offering. 

This stage ensures that you’re on the same page with our design and development team before they start building your app. 

Step 7 — Begin Mobile Shopping App Development Process

By now, you should know the answer to the following questions:

  • What platform or platforms are you building on?
  • What development method are you using?
  • What app development company are you proceeding with?
  • What features do you need for an MVP (minimum viable product)?

Now you can actually start building the shopping app. If you’re outsourcing this to a development company, then there’s really not much work for you to do here.

Just make sure you have a basic understanding of the development timeline and have a rough idea of when the app will be ready. In the meantime, you can start putting together promotional materials and build some hype for your app with marketing strategies prior to the official launch.

Step 8 — Test Your Shopping App

Once the app is finished, you need to test it before making it available for real users. 

First, you need to make sure the app is bug-free. Then you need to verify that it works as intended. There are lots of different approaches for application testing, including alpha testing, beta testing, user testing, and more. 

Aside from looking at software glitches, you should use this as an opportunity to gather user feedback and conduct additional research. 

No app is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. So try not to focus on getting everything perfect prior to launch. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in development forever.

But the idea here is to put out a product that’s fast and functional without crashing. 

Step 9 — Launch Your Shopping App

Now it’s time to officially launch your shopping app!

You’ll need to get it submitted to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Each of these platforms has different requirements for approvals and submissions, so make sure you understand the guidelines thoroughly before submitting.

Examples of what you’ll need here include an app name, description, screenshots, app category, and an app icon. 

To ensure your app is highly visible in searches, check out our complete guide to app store optimization (ASO)

Make sure you’re promoting your app on your website, social media, and as many channels as possible to get the word out. Your app marketing strategy will have a direct impact on your downloads.

Conclusion

Shopping apps are superior to mobile websites in terms of revenue generation, conversions, and customer satisfaction. 

If you’re ready to get started, reach out to our team at BuildFire for a free strategy session. We can create a custom ecommerce app with all of the features you need to succeed. We’ll assist you with the pre-development steps and even handle your post-launch updates and maintenance. 

Click here to book your free consultation.

Pro Tips For Effective iOS App Testing

Pro Tips For Effective iOS App Testing

App testing is one of the most important parts of the iOS application development process. 

Each iOS device is somewhat unique. There are dozens of Apple iPhone products on the market, each with different screen sizes, iOS versions, hardware, and feature capabilities. This means that you’ll have lots to test for and potential issues to debug.

Truthfully, application testing is important for any software development project, including applications for Android devices and macOS. 

But for the purposes of this guide, we’re going to narrow that focus to Apple mobile devices and explain what you must know to effectively test your iOS apps.

What is iOS App Testing?

The term iOS app testing refers to tests run on any iPhone or iPad application. iOS app testing is the process of testing apps built for Apple devices. It involves testing for bugs, user interface issues, functionality, behavior, and any general performance problems that can impact the quality of the application.

The goal of iOS app testing is to deliver the best possible user experience. By identifying and resolving issues before the app gets in the hands of real users, you can debug and fix problems that would otherwise prevent people from downloading, accessing, or using the app.

There are lots of different ways to approach iOS app testing. Depending on your app development method, you might use a combination of different testing tools.

You can hire quality assurance agents and use real testers to see how the app performs while it’s in use. Alternatively, you can use an iOS simulator or take advantage of the built-in debugging tools in Xcode. 

Testing your app using multiple methods is the best way to ensure it performs at the highest level and runs bug-free. No app is perfect, and you’ll ultimately find more bugs and issues throughout the lifetime of your app. But getting the app to market with as few problems as possible will set you up for success in the long run. 

What to Look For When Testing iOS Apps

Before you start testing an iPhone or iPad app for the Apple App Store, there are certain factors that you must understand. You can use this checklist of pro tips and best practices for effective iOS app testing:

  • Apple has lots of different iOS devices on the market. So you need to consider different screen sizes and orientations during the testing process to ensure the app fits a range of screens.
  • Think about the different types of devices under the iOS umbrella. Consider the screen resolutions and how those devices differ from each other (like iPhone UI testing vs. iPad UI testing).
  • Find out if the app is crashing or freezing during use. If so, what is causing the issue? In some cases, it could be a similar function or in-app action that causes a crash every time. Getting to the root cause of the issue will help you debug the error. 
  • Look for potential security issues within the app. What types of vulnerabilities does your iOS app have for a breach? Is there sensitive internal data or user information that could be the target?
  • Try to identify any memory leaks, which are blocks of memory that the application no longer uses. These often cause an iOS app to crash. 
  • Make sure the app is compatible with new iOS versions. As Apple continues to release new versions of software, your app must stay up to date with those releases to ensure compatibility. 
  • Test all of your push notifications and see if the push notification permission alerts are being displayed properly. This alert should only be shown to the user one time. 
  • Use beta testing to see if real users are satisfied with the app before it gets released to the general public. 

All of these tips will make your life much easier as you’re going through the iOS app testing process.

Testing 3 Main Types of iOS Apps

As previously mentioned, there are lots of different options to test an iOS app. The best mobile app testing option for you typically depends on the type of app you’re building and your development path. So before you begin any manual testing or start running an emulator, let’s look at a quick overview of each type of iOS app:

Mobile Web Applications

Web apps are an enhanced version of a mobile website. They only require a web browser to be run and used on a user’s mobile device. Many popular web applications are built with Javascript and can be accessed with a URL. 

Native Apps

Native mobile apps are typically built using the native API for Apple’s official iOS software development kit (SDK). Native iOS apps leverage the UI components in the SDK and also leverage built-in device features like internal cameras, microphones, GPS, Bluetooth, and more.

Hybrid Apps

As the name implies, hybrid apps are a mix between web and native. They do have some native UI components and offer a native experience to the end-user. But they give app developers a bit more freedom in terms of creating the app using web technology. 

Different Ways to Go About iOS App Testing

There are lots of different approaches to iOS application testing. To simplify those options, we can break them down into simulator categories. Below we’ll compare manual testing with automated testing and emulators vs. simulators. 

Manual or Automated Testing?

Manual app test cases are done “by hand.” This process requires a real device, like an iPhone or iPad. Then the tester will run through a set of instructions and scenarios to see how the app performs. 

The goal of a manual test is to verify the functionality of the app scripts for different use cases. Many manual tests require the testers to go through different in-app flows to mimic how users would actually use the app for its intended purposes. 

Manual tests can also be used in an exploratory fashion, helping to determine what other types of tests can be run moving forward.

The downside of manual testing is the time and effort required. Each time a change is made, having to go back to retest the entire app functionality isn’t always realistic. That’s when manual testing comes into play. 

You can use different automation frameworks and tools to help you through this process. But for the most part, automated tests can be segmented into two categories:

  • Unit Testing — Unit tests use code to focus on one component of the iOS application in isolation. These tests take that single component through different variables to see if it responds with the correct values. Unit tests are ideal for identifying and fixing bugs in the early stages of development. This will ultimately save time and money if you can fix these issues early, as opposed to after the UI design has been implemented. 
  • End-to-End Testing — End-to-end tests are intended to simulate a real user experience. Testers will use the entire application stack, including network requests and backend server functions to see how everything responds to the simulation. 

Both of these types of automated tests are important to run as you’re testing iOS apps.

Emulators or Simulators?

The terms emulator and simulator are often confused with each other, but the two tools are not interchangeable. 

App simulators are designed to create an environment that mimics the behavior and configurations of an actual iOS device. Emulators duplicate all of the hardware and software features of a real device. 

In short, simulators provide basic device behaviors, and emulators duplicate the exact thing as the iPhone or iPad would exist in the real world.

Many iOS app emulators and simulators are web-based, meaning you can use them from a web browser like Safari or Chrome. But neither is a true replacement for testing on a real device. 

Can You Test iOS Apps On Windows?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have an iPhone or even Mac to test an iOS app. There are plenty of platforms out there that let you conduct iOS app testing from a Windows machine. Many of these tools double as a solution to test Android apps as well. 

We have a complete guide on the best iOS simulators for Windows. The list includes Appetize, iPadian, Smartface, AIR iPhone, and Remoted iOS Simulator for Windows PC.

You can refer to that guide to compare the pros, cons, and pricing of each tool. From there, you can determine which one is best for your unique scenario.

With that said, testing iOS apps on Windows is somewhat rare. Most iOS apps should be tested from an Apple device. But if you’re in a pinch and don’t have one at your disposal, you can still run effective iOS app tests from a Windows computer. 

Conclusion

Running tests on your iOS application is important. Getting these tests done throughout the development process will make your life much easier in the long run.

The key idea here is to identify and fix as many issues as possible before the app gets into the hands of real users. People just won’t put up with an app that’s constantly crashing, has bugs, and doesn’t work as advertised. 

It’s also worth noting that perfection is near impossible. Even the best and most popular apps in the world have bugs and crash when they’re being run on an iOS device. So don’t get discouraged if your code has some issues. You can always fix minor issues with new releases of the app as problems arise down the road. 

With so many things to test for, developers and quality assurance agents must pick a testing method that makes the most sense for their application. 

If you’re still in the preliminary stages of app development and haven’t started building anything just yet, BuildFire can save you a ton of time and money. BuildFire’s no-code app development platform makes it easy for anyone to create an app, and all of the technical requirements on the backend are handled for you.

You can also leave the entire development process, including tests and updates, to the professionals. With BuildFire Plus, our expert development and design team will create a custom app for you and manage it post-launch. So you’ll never have to worry about testing or debugging. 

Sign up for a 14-day free trial or request a free app strategy session to get started.

App Security: How to Build Secure Mobile Apps

Security always needs to be a top-of-mind concern for businesses. This is especially true for companies with mobile apps.

A data breach or hack can cause significant damage to your organization. Security breaches are not only expensive, but they can also crush your reputation.

To ensure security for your business and customers, you must take app security seriously.

That’s why I created this guide. First, I’ll explain some common mobile security flaws and vulnerabilities for mobile devices. Then I’ll show you how to build secure mobile apps.

Mobile App Security Threats

Most businesses understand the importance of securing websites, databases, and cloud storage systems. But mobile app security is just as important, if not more important than these other categories.

Think about the scale of your mobile deployment. It might be installed on tens of thousands of mobile devices—maybe more. 

Mobile app security issues are more prominent than you might realize. In fact, 70% of all internet fraud can be traced to mobile devices. One in five hacks come from rogue mobile apps, and there’s a high-risk mobile app installed on one in 36 mobile devices.

Let’s talk about some common application security threats and mobile app security vulnerabilities you need to be aware of.

Data Leakage

According to a recent study, 85% of mobile apps have little to no security protection. Hackers and cybercriminals have realized this and have increased the frequency in which they target mobile infrastructures.

When a user downloads an app, they generally grant the app certain permissions to other data on the device. So if a hacker can penetrate the app, they’ll gain access to sensitive data beyond the primary use-case of the app.

This could include digital wallets and passwords. If it’s an internal app for employees, the hackers can get their hands on sensitive corporate data as well.

Malware and Spyware

Like computers, mobile apps are also susceptible to malware. 

Some devices are more susceptible to malware threats than others. In fact, a new study found that Android devices are 47 times more likely to carry malware than Apple devices. 

That’s because Androids support third-party app stores more than iOS. It’s easier for an Android user to download apps from somewhere other than the Google Play Store. 
Nearly one in four people think it’s safe to download third-party mobile apps as long as those apps aren’t accessing corporate data.

This is something that Android developers really need to be aware of. Once a malicious app has been installed on a user’s device, it could compromise the other apps on their device as well—even the ones downloaded from legitimate sources. 

Compromised Passwords

Our society has a huge problem with passwords right now. Since so many different tools, accounts, and subscriptions require a password, people just reuse the same passwords across multiple accounts.

So if one account is compromised, hackers can run wild across other accounts as well.

What would happen if one of your developers or someone on your software development team had a compromised password? Could a hacker use that password to gain app access on the backend of your software? 

If yes, that poses a huge risk to your organizational data and app users. Cybercriminals could use that access to deploy malicious links or hacks directly to all users who have your app installed.

Outdated Operating Systems and Software

Failing to keep all of your devices, software, and OS up to date is a mobile security vulnerability. 

As malware, ransomware, and other cyber attacks become more advanced, outdated software can’t detect and prevent newer attacks. But many software updates contain security patches. This holds true for mobile apps, mobile devices, and mobile security as well.

Check out these graphs Verizon’s Mobile Security Index Report:

As you can see, newer Android versions contain fewer CVEs (common vulnerabilities and exposures).Just a fraction of the newest Android releases contain high security vulnerabilities.

Now let’s look at Apple’s CVE’s by iOS version:

It’s safe to say that this graph speaks for itself.

If people are using mobile devices that haven’t been updated to the latest OS, they’re significantly more susceptible to mobile security threats. 

Social Engineering and Phishing

Social engineering is on the rise for mobile. Also known as phishing, this occurs when hackers send fake emails, text messages, or malicious ads in an effort to access passwords or private information.

We’ve all seen these before. You get an email from someone claiming to be Apple or another reputable business, telling you to reset your password or update an expired credit card.

Shockingly, nearly 60% of people say they can’t confidently identify social engineering attacks. Roughly 40% think it’s smart to reply to these attacks.

These numbers are alarming and pose a threat to mobile applications and developers. 

Encryption Gaps

End-to-end encryption is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of mobile application security. 

Any data being transmitted from one point to another should be encrypted. Whether it’s going from your users’ mobile devices to your system, from your system to cloud storage, or from you to a third-party service, encryption is a must.

If these security measures aren’t taken seriously, hackers and cybercriminals can exploit holes in data transfer and steal data while it’s in motion. 

For example, let’s say you have an internal employee messaging app. If those messages aren’t encrypted, someone could potentially access everything your staff is saying when they’re chatting via mobile. This could put sensitive data and private company information into the wrong hands.

11 App Security Best Practices

Now that you’ve seen some common mobile app security threats, it’s time to talk about properly securing your app. The following security measures must be taken into consideration before, during, and after the software development process.

Here’s how you build secure mobile apps:

1. Choose the Right Development Platform

90% of your security vulnerabilities are eliminated if you build an app on the right platform. 

The best app builders have security features built into the system. You can rest easy knowing that your app is safe on the platform’s security architecture. 

If you’re planning to code the app yourself with an in-house development team or a third-party development agency, your app’s security could be a bit more vulnerable. The app code and sensitive data are at the mercy of your development team. If they have poor app security best practices, then your app could be in trouble. 

With BuildFire, not only is your app secure on the backend, but it also comes with features to enhance user security.

You can take advantage of features like SSO and custom registration to add an extra layer of protection to your app when people are using it. This helps prevent unauthorized users from accessing the app from a compromised account.

We have cutting-edge firewalls, robust encryptions, and data policies that are constantly being monitored and updated. Developers can rest easy knowing that our platform is built on AWS, and we have redundancies across multiple servers and geographic locations to reduce the risk of data loss. 

Not only is BuildFire the most powerful no-code app builder for iOS and Android, but it’s also one of the most secure ways to build an app.

So when you’re shopping around and comparing different development options, make sure you prioritize app security. 

2. Application Security Testing

If you’re developing an app on your own or with a team of developers, application security testing needs to happen on a regular basis.

You should test apps during the development process and after the app has launched as well.

Shockingly, 40% of businesses don’t scan app code for security vulnerabilities. 

The same study discovered that organizations test less than half of the apps they build. 33% of those companies never test apps to make sure they’re secure.

Not every security flaw is glaringly obvious. Mobile testing is one of the best ways to find potential vulnerabilities.

So why aren’t businesses testing their apps?

One of the main reasons has to do with lack of planning and poor budgeting. In fact, half of companies don’t have any budget for mobile app security.

Security needs to be part of your app maintenance process. So make sure you plan accordingly for this.

Not only is this important for preventing hacks and malware. But you need to ensure your application security evolves to support regulatory changes. I’m referring to things like GDPR, CCPA, ADA, HIPAA, PCI, and other data security standards.
Check out our guide on the five hidden costs of software you need to anticipate after you launch to learn more. App security and testing is definitely an important aspect of this.

3. Put Yourself in the Shoes of an Attacker

To build secure mobile apps, you need to think like a person with malicious intent. Ask yourself questions that a hacker or cybercriminal would ask when looking at your app.

  • How can your app get hacked?
  • What vulnerabilities are easily exploitable?
  • Do you have weak points or gaps in your app security?

Ask these questions on a regular basis. You can do it during the building process but continue after the app has launched as well.

Penetration testing (also known as pen testing) is a great way to implement this strategy. This involves ethical hacks against your own software. You essentially have a team member try to penetrate your app’s security as if they’re an outsider. If that person is able to break through your security barriers, it’s a problem that needs to be resolved quickly.

4. Keep Software Up to Date

As previously mentioned, failing to update software means you won’t be able to fight off the latest mobile threats, malware, and malicious code.

Make sure you keep your operating system up to date and make it mandatory for your team to do the same. This is one of the easiest mobile application security policies that you can implement in-house.

Updating your software can help protect sensitive data and close outdated security gaps.

This is another reason why it’s so important to use the right app builder or choose the right development partner. If you’re creating an app with BuildFire, you won’t have to worry about any software updates on the backend. 

We’ll automatically update your app to support the latest versions of Android and iOS.

5. Include User Authentication

Adding login credentials to your app is an excellent way to provide an extra layer of security to users.

User credentials help prevent unauthorized account access, which is crucial if your app contains sensitive information. Let’s say you have in-app purchases enabled. You wouldn’t want an unauthorized party to access user payment information, billing address, or other data.

You can take this one step further with multi-factor authentication, 2FA, single sign-on, and more.

BuildFire makes it easy to implement user authentication for your app. 

Everything from custom registrations to OAuth, SSO, and social logins are supported on the platform. Rather than forcing app users to create a new username and password for your app, they can simply log in using their existing social credentials. This is an easy way to authenticate users. 

This eliminates friction and improves the user experience without compromising app security. It also prevents unauthorized users from getting into the app if they get their hands on lost and stolen devices.

6. Prioritize Data Encryption

We talked about data encryption earlier when discussing common mobile app security threats. So it should come as no surprise to see it again here in our mobile app security best practices.

You must have security tools in place to protect data. But when that data is encrypted, it takes your app security a step further.

Let’s say someone is able to get their hands on sensitive user data or app data. If it’s encrypted, that data is useless to them without an encryption key.

7. Apply Strict In-House Security Standards

You also need to consider the security controls for your app development team. Your app is only as secure as the weakest link.

You could implement mobile device management policies and or use MDM software to enforce internal security policies. 

For example, you don’t want your developers, designers, or anyone on your app team to be working on the app from an unsecured device. Something simple like working remotely or writing code on unsecured public WiFi could threaten your app’s security.

Even if you’re using a secure app builder, you want to make sure that anyone who has access to the app on the backend is taking steps to prevent a breach.

If someone on your team is using weak passwords like qwerty or password to access your app, anyone could potentially hack their account and make changes to your app without your knowledge. 

Apply the principle of least privilege to your app team. This means that everyone on your team should only have access to parts of your app that are strictly necessary for their job or task.
I found an excellent graphic from Heimdal Security that showcases the POLP in practice:

In this example, a programmer would have access to write application code—as it directly relates to their job. But they wouldn’t have a reason to access a payroll database. 

Not every team member who works on your app needs to have admin privileges or access to make live changes.

8. Educate Your Team on Mobile Security

Creating and enforcing internal policies is just one aspect of in-house security. You also need to educate your team on application security best practices and the importance of mobile security.

Explain the dangers of using the same passwords on multiple accounts. Tell them why they need to update the software on their personal devices. 

Show them statistics, studies, infographics, and useful resources on mobile security. You can send them this blog that you’re reading right now! 

If you make it clear to your team that you’re taking this seriously, they’ll follow your lead. But if you have a haphazard approach and you’re not reinforcing these app security best practices, you can’t expect your team to care. You can even consult with your in-house security team on a plan for employee education.

9. Eliminate Unnecessary Permissions

What kind of permissions are you trying to access from mobile users?

Try not to collect confidential data or anything that’s not necessary for the direct purpose of your app. Does your app really need to access someone’s camera, pictures, or contacts? If not, then don’t ask for it.

The more permissions you collect, the more risk you’re putting on your company. 

Every additional permission or connection poses extra vulnerabilities. So use a zero-trust approach when you’re building secure mobile apps.

If a permission isn’t related to the app’s key features, don’t bother with it.

10. Be Careful With Third-Party Code

Many Android apps, iPhone apps, and apps available from the official app stores have similar code. So it’s not uncommon for developers to take shortcuts and take code from third-party sources.

Sometimes you can find pre-written code available for free. Other times they’re on paid platforms.

But you can’t assume the code you’re taking from a third-party source is safe. Hackers leverage these code-sharing platforms as a way to inject malicious code into software. If you’re simply copying and pasting someone else’s open-source code into your app, you could be unknowingly opening the door to new security vulnerabilities.

That’s another reason why it’s so much better to create an app with BuildFire. You won’t have to worry about writing a single line of code, so you know everything is secure.

11. Stay Informed on the Latest Mobile Trends

Your mobile app doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You need to keep your finger on the pulse and see what’s happening in the mobile apps industry.

Are there new emerging threats? Have there been any high-profile data leaks? How are hackers exploiting mobile data breaches?

I’m not saying you need to do this every day. But find a trusted source of mobile trends and information, and check on it at least once a month.

Mobile App Security Checklist

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for you to reference as you’re building a secure mobile app:

  • Find a secure platform for app development
  • Encrypt your data
  • Keep all software up to date
  • Run app security tests
  • Create an internal policy for mobile security
  • Educate your team on app security best practices
  • Don’t request permission to data you don’t need
  • Limit your data exposure
  • Avoid unsafe code from untrusted sources or third party libraries
  • Follow mobile security trends
  • Implement a strong password policy
  • Authenticate users

All of these tips and app security best practices will help you create an app that’s safe and secure.

Final Thoughts on App Security

If you’re coding an app from scratch with a traditional development team, your security vulnerabilities are significantly higher. There is just so much that needs to be protected and taken into consideration.

Using a no-code app builder like BuildFire to create an app is a safer alternative. Not only is this faster, easier, and cheaper than traditional development, but it also alleviates nearly all of your application security concerns.

You don’t have to worry about applying advanced mobile security policies to the app. BuildFire handles everything on the backend. All you need to do is apply basic password protection to your account and be careful who you grant admin privileges to on your team.

BuildFire comes with built-in security, user authentication, automatic updates, and more. It’s everything you could possibly need to create a secure mobile app from scratch. For DIY apps, enterprise apps, business apps, internal employee apps, and more, BuildFire has app security covered.

If you decide to code an app on your own, that’s fine too. Handling the security aspects will be a bit more of a daunting task. But your life will be easier if you follow the tips and best practices explained in this guide.

Getting Started: Coding an App

You have a great idea for an app. Now what?

While it might be a great premise, you need to figure out how you’ll get it to market. Building apps takes more than just an idea.

So, what’s the first step in mobile app development? It depends.

Some of you might want to create your first app alone. But you don’t know how to code an app or have any programming skills, for that matter. Is it even possible to create apps if you lack the basics of coding language? Do you need to start with an app for beginners?

Here’s the honest truth.

If you want to learn how to code an app, it’s going to be hard. But you can definitely learn to code your first app in less than 30 days.

You can use these skills to create your own app and even other apps down the road. Like most things worth learning, the more you dedicate yourself, the faster your results will be.

What is Mobile App Development?

Mobile app development is the process of creating software applications for mobile devices. 

The roots of application development stem from traditional software development (like software for computers). But apps for smartphones and tablets are made to utilize the built-in features and hardware of mobile devices. This includes cameras, GPS, Bluetooth, and more.

In terms of programming language, creating an app for users on mobile is different from creating software for computers. With that said, a web development background can make it easier to code a mobile app.

The mobile app industry is booming, and apps are expected to generate over $935 billion in revenue by 2023. The fast-growing mobile trends have made it attractive for businesses and entrepreneurs to build apps for such a wide range of use cases.

Can You Code an App Yourself?

You can definitely code an app yourself. In fact, you can do this without any required professional learning. Lots of people self-teach themselves to code and get a solid foundation in programming from open source projects. 

With that said, it all depends on your goal. If you want to learn to code, then going through active development steps, testing a list of functions, and getting your feet wet with a new programming environment is fine.

But if you want to create an app for real users, using an app maker or DIY app builder is the recommended route. These make it possible to build an app without learning Python, C++, or other languages. 

App makers make it easier for anyone to create an app from scratch—no coding or app development skills are required. 

Coding an App For iOS

iOS apps are for Apple stores. 

Xcode is the original IDE (integrated development environment) for iOS and Mac applications. Swift is Apple’s newest programming language, and you can use it to code an iOS app in Xcode. But both of these were developed by Apple, and each one holds the same core fundamentals of coding an app for iOS.  

Coding an App For Android

Android development is a completely separate process from iOS development. So if you want to create an app for both platforms, you need to code two apps from scratch (unless you’re using a no-code app maker).

Android has fewer restrictions than Apple for coding. But it’s still very technical. To code an app for Android, you’ll need to use Android Studio—the official IDE for Android development. 

The Best Tools To Help You Code an App

Using an app-building tool speeds up the coding process. It lowers the barrier to entry into app development, and beginners won’t need to learn a programming language. Here are some options to consider:

BuildFire

BuildFire is the most powerful app maker for iOS and Android. It doesn’t require any advanced concepts, coding skills, or technical knowledge.

You can use BuildFire to create an app from scratch without writing a single line of code. Everything is managed in a web-based dashboard that’s really easy to use. Just start with a template, add your features, and customize the content. 

What makes BuildFire unique compared to other app builders is its limitless functionality. If there’s a custom function you want that isn’t available in the feature marketplace, the BuildFire team can create it for you.

Try it for free with a 14-day trial.

React Native

React Native is an open source Javascript framework. The tool is made for creating web apps, iOS apps, Android apps, Windows applications, TV applications, and more. 

This is technically a hybrid platform, meaning you can create an application using the same language and source code for multiple deployments. But it does have lots of native features (hence the name).

Unlike an app builder, React Native does require coding skills and programming knowledge. You can potentially re-use a block of code or helper functions to speed up the learning process, but you still need to learn how to code.

Xamarin

Xamarin is another open-source application building platform. The company is owned by Microsoft, and it allows developers to leverage the .NET body of functions to create apps for Android, iOS, smart TVs, wearables, and more. 

Similar to React Native, Xamarin does require coding skills and programming knowledge. This means that you’ll need to learn the .NET concepts and C# language to create apps using this tool. But you won’t need to create multiple versions of your app for iOS and Android.

Sencha

Sencha is a cross-platform tool for application design and development. But unlike other tools on this list, Sencha is a better option for web apps as opposed to iOS and Android mobile apps. 

It’s also a popular choice for developers that want to test data-intensive web applications. 

6 Basics Steps to Create an App

All app projects follow the same basic path. Beginner developers can follow these app idea tips and steps below to get started. Even a single person with no coding skills can follow this formula and bring their app ideas to life if they’re using the right tools.

1. Coming Up With an Idea

Some of you might already have an app idea. Others might need to brainstorm for app ideas. 

Regardless of your situation, you need to come up with the core concepts of your mobile application before you can proceed. A blank project can be intimidating. But moving forward is much easier when you have a path to follow.

  • Are you creating a brand new app concept?
  • Is your app solving a problem or pain point?
  • Does the app improve your business or extend an existing service?

These are some good questions to ask yourself during the creative process.

2. Understanding Your Market

Your app is likely going to enter a competitive market, regardless of the app type or industry. You must take the time to identify a target market and see how you’re going to carve out a market share based on differentiation. 

Do you have massive competitors like Amazon and Walmart? Or are you competing with smaller niche apps?

Reference the app stores to see what apps in your category have the most downloads and take a look at those app reviews as well

3. Wireframes and Design

Design mockups and wireframes are crucial to the app-building process. 

There are plenty of online graphic design tools you can use for a wireframe. Balsamiq and Figma are two popular options. You can also use tools like Photoshop or Sketch. 

The first version of your wireframe can even start as a handwritten doodle on paper.

4. Prototyping Your Idea

Prototypes bring your app to life. The purpose of a prototype is to demonstrate the app’s function and design, but without any functional code. So you’re not quite putting learning into practice just yet with any coding skills.

Most prototypes are high-fidelity digital versions of the app that are clickable. This gives you a chance to see the user interfaces before the app actually gets built.

There should be a distinct difference between the wireframes and prototypes. Wireframes are the initial skeleton, while prototypes are meant to show more visual representation.

5. User Testing

Building an app with user feedback throughout the development process is crucial for success. You don’t need to wait until the app is done to start your QA process and get actual user feedback.

But before the final deployment, you need to send the app to actual users before the app goes live for download. This is the best way to identify bugs and any UX/UI issues. 

It’s in your best interest to have a large enough user testing group, so the user feedback isn’t limited to an isolated area.

6. Publishing and Marketing

The most successful applications have an app marketing plan in place prior to launch. Start promoting the app early, so users are eager to download it once it’s available.

Don’t forget to budget for marketing during the initial planning stages. Your app could be amazing, but it’s useless if nobody knows about it.

There are plenty of ways to market your app. You can run PPC campaigns, focus on app store optimization (ASO), promote on social media, drive traffic to your website, promote via forums—the list goes on and on.   

How Long Does it Take to Make an App?

Apps can be built in 30 days, three months, six months, or sometimes longer than a year. It all depends on the type of app and its complexities.

As a beginner, you can use an app maker to get to market quickly without learning a programming language, hiring app developers, or working with app designers.

But if you’re coding an app from scratch on your own, it will take a bit longer. Take advantage of app management tools for your project. This will ensure you’re meeting deadlines and keep everyone on track.

If your app is going to have user profiles, use GPS, have user messaging features, store credit card information, and things like that, then it would take longer to develop compared to a basic calculator app.

Submitting to Google Play and App Store

Pushing the app to users is the final part of your app development journey. To do this, you need to make it available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

With BuildFire, we’ll take care of the publishing process on your behalf. Just let us know when the app is done, and we’ll get it live on both stores.

This is such a valuable service because getting apps published on your own can be tricky for beginners. The Apple App Store and Google Play Store each have different publishing rules and guidelines that must be followed.

Here’s a quick overview of those requirements and nuances:

Google Play

  • Sign up for Play App Signing
  • Compress your app so the file size is 150 MB or less
  • Set proper versioning
  • Prepare promotional materials
  • Upload assets

You can view more information here about publishing on Android Studio.

App Store

  • Complete app information and metadata
  • Enable backend services
  • Review Apple’s guidelines to ensure your app complies
  • Choose a category
  • Provide an active demo

Generally speaking, Apple’s requirements are stricter than Google. So you must follow the instructions closely or you’ll risk getting rejected. Here are the full App Store Review Guidelines.

Final Thoughts

Building an app isn’t an overnight process. But app creation is a highly profitable business venture that can benefit existing companies and startups alike. 

Learning to code is a valuable skill. But it takes time. Using an app builder is a better alternative if your goal is to launch an app for real users and business purposes. Not only does this speed up the development timeline, but it also saves you money.

Sign up for BuildFire today and start your 14-day free trial—no coding required. 

How to Achieve Your Business Goals

We all set goals for ourselves and for our businesses. However, too few of us actually achieve those goals, and it’s not for lack of trying—we’re just not following the right blueprint. 

Just like everyone else, earlier in my career, I suffered from not achieving my goals. 

This goes for personal goals, business goals, and goals on a project basis; I just wasn’t making it happen. After years of struggling and trying different methods, I finally found what worked. 

Part of my success came from experimentation, but a lot of it was also from learning through other people’s experiences. I fully appreciated and leveraged all of the information that’s available on the Internet and through reading books. 

One of the books I read was written by Peter Drucker. He identified a concept called “SMART” objectives, which is something that we’ll define in greater detail later on. I’ll also teach you how to implement SMART objectives and get your team aligned with your goals. 

Let’s dive in!
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5 Tips and Best Practices to Achieve Your Business Goals

As previously mentioned, I went through a ton of trial and error when it came to achieving my goals. I can finally say that I’ve discovered a proven method for success.

I’ve broken down my methodology into five simple steps that you can follow to have success and achieve your goals as well. 

Goal setting is crucial for startups, small businesses, large organizations, and everything in between. The goal-setting process is more than just writing a business plan. Here’s what you need to do:

#1 — Clearly Identify Your Goals and Objectives

This is a common mistake that I see on a daily basis. The first thing you need to do is identify your goals and objectives—remove any confusion between the two.

Goals are the outcomes that you want. Objectives are the steps you must take to achieve those outcomes.

It’s extremely important that you’re able to identify a good goal. This may sound obvious, but trust me, not all goals are good ones. Goals must have your full attention and focus so you can really think through what a proper goal is for your business.

It’s easy to identify a bad goal because they sound something along the lines of “make more money” or “become the next Facebook” or “be on the cover of Forbes.” These are goals that everyone wants and it sort of goes without saying.

But none of these are really the actual goal of your business. 

Ask yourself, why is your company different than others? Don’t try and identify a goal through monetary reasoning, but more for the purpose your business serves. 

For example, a good goal would be something like “become the number one choice for customers in my market sector.” Now the idea is specific to a certain market.

If you’re struggling to identify the mission, vision, and goal of your company, I highly recommend that you go watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about how great leaders inspire action. 

Sinek wrote a book titled “Start With Why,” and he does an excellent job explaining that concept during this video. The book is also worth reading, but the video is a faster way to grasp this idea. 

Do yourself a favor and actually watch it to fully understand what he’s saying here. It’s a beautiful resource for understanding the soul of your company and why your company exists. I really learned a ton of useful information from this, and it inspired me to take the proper steps to achieve success.

Let’s get back to the example I used earlier about becoming the number one choice for your customer satisfaction in a specific market sector. 

What steps do you need to take in order to achieve this strategic goal? Those will be your objectives. Examples could include:

  • Increase brand trust
  • Provide 24 hour support to your customer base
  • Reduce bug debt by 50%

All of these will put you on track to ultimately reach your clearly defined goals. Now you’ve separated the difference between a goal and an objective. 

Company goals for business success must start with an action plan. 

#2 — Make Sure Your Objectives Are SMART

As I mentioned earlier, SMART objectives were defined in a book by Peter Drucker. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific: Outline a clear statement that defines what is required.
  • Measurable: A clear unit of measurement (preferably through numerical terms) that can identify progress and completion of the objective.
  • Achievable: Objectives should be challenging yet achievable. You need to be happy with the outcome, but your team must be willing to commit. 
  • Realistic: Managers should focus on outcomes and let the team focus on the initiatives to achieve those outcomes. 
  • Timely: Set a specific date of achievement that must be agreed upon and met. 

The reason why goals must be specific is because you’ll have no other way of knowing if you’ve actually achieved them or not. 

They must also be measurable, so it’s not something that’s infinite. For example, “keep customers happy” isn’t measurable. What does happy mean? “Make product better” doesn’t work either. What is better? How much is better? It can’t be measured.

It’s crucial that you allow your team to deal with the initiatives. Otherwise, the methods that we impose as managers might not be realistic, which means they can’t be achieved on time. This brings me to our last step—timely. Always set deadlines for everything so your team knows when objectives must be completed by.  

Implementing SMART objectives to achieve your goal is the best way to stay on track without losing sight of the end results. 

#3 — Identify Clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Let’s quickly recap. We’re going to focus ourselves on the objectives and let our team focus on the initiatives to achieve those objectives. To do this properly, we need to make sure that we have pre-defined measurements to track everything—preferably in numerical terms.  

This allows us to measure success and increase transparency, so we’ll know if we’re going to hit our goal or not. Better yet, we’ll know if we’re on track to hit our goals.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s refer back to an objective that I used as an example earlier—reduce our bug log by 50%. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say we have 100 bugs. 50% of that is 50 bugs. We want to achieve this objective in one month. (I know I’m throwing out lots of numbers, but stay with me).

If we get to the midway point of the month and only one-third of the bugs have been fixed, we immediately know that we’re not on track to finish on time. 

So this gives you the ability to track your progress and forecast whether or not you’ll hit those goals. You can always find ways to adjust accordingly to meet your deadlines and objectives. 

CHALLENGE: What was your previous goal? What has your new goal become? Why does your small business exist? How did you redefine your mission, vision, and goal from something like “I want to make more money” to “become a leader in my industry” based on what we’ve covered so far? 

I’m really interested in knowing how you made that change so we can all benefit from each other. So let me know in the comments section, and we can have a discussion. 

#4 — Give Your Team Ownership and Autonomy

If we’re going to delegate initiatives to our team, they need to make their own decisions to live and die by. Micromanaging is not effective, and sometimes, we as managers will get in their way. 

By increasing the level of autonomy with your staff, you’ll automatically increase their level of engagement. 

If you don’t empower your team, then you’ll restrict their potential and ultimately hinder the path to completing objectives.

In short, let everyone do their jobs the best way that they know how to. You must be able to trust your team if you want to scale your company and experience business growth.

Additionally, here’s another reason why you should avoid micromanagement. If things don’t go well, the excuse from your staff will always become, “I did what you told me to do.”

So make sure your team is autonomous and owns their initiatives. People can own multiple initiatives; that’s fine too. But they need to own something, and the success of their engagement will be tied directly to their level of ownership.

Trust your team to deliver.

If they don’t deliver, that’s another subject altogether. But give them the opportunity to succeed. 

#5 — Keep Your Team Accountable

For this to work effectively, your team must be held accountable and responsible for their role in achieving objectives. 

Let’s rewind for a minute quickly. We’ve already identified a true goal and the objectives required to achieve that goal. Now we’ve assigned our team the clear KPIs for SMART objectives that they must use to focus on their own initiatives. So the final step is holding them accountable. 

Holding your team accountable starts with something as simple as circling a date on a calendar. Invite all of your stakeholders to a meeting at the end of the pre-assigned date. Here are some helpful tips for fostering a culture of accountability:

Holding a meeting with your stakeholders gives everyone an opportunity to report on their status and check in with their objectives. This will be the time when you’ll figure out if everything has been achieved or not.

All of your managers will need to attend this meeting and report amongst each other. This also creates a friendly competition between your managers to see who achieved their goals and who did not. 

PRO TIP: If you want a B, ask for an A. So even if your team falls a bit short, you’re still getting a passing grade. But if you ask for a C, your team will most likely come back with failure. 

When you hold this meeting, make sure you do a retrospective. Understand the objectives that were met and the adjectives that weren’t met. More importantly, understand the why behind both. 

What did we do well? What did we do poorly? How can we adjust?

Then hammer own your next set of objectives for the upcoming month, quarter, year, etc. Make sure all of this is determined based on the learnings you had from the first time around, which will make it easier for you to trend toward success. 

Conclusion

Nobody wants to fall short of their goals. But in order to achieve success in a business environment, you need to follow the playbook that’s been outlined by leaders who came before you.

I wish that I had this resource when I first started out. It would have saved me so much time, money, and headaches. But I’m still grateful that I found it when I did, as I’ve been able to accomplish countless goals since then. 

Let’s quickly recap. 

First, you need to define your goals and distinguish them from your objectives. Then, make sure you have SMART goals and set KPIs to track your progress. Give your team autonomy, and hold them accountable. 

That’s it! This works for long-term goals and short-term goals alike. 

I really hope that this guide helps you achieve your goals. Keep it close by so you can continually refer back to it in the future. Let’s build great things together!

How to Manage Your Remote Teams

I’ve been dealing with remote teams for over 20 years.

Throughout this time, I have been fine-tuning my process to make sure I can manage remote teams across the globe in different time zones and countries. I’ve read books on this topic, watched many videos, and experimented with different strategies to learn what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re having problems or concerns about managing a remote team, you’ve come to the right place. I know these problems. I’ve lived these problems. And I’ve solved these problems.

With teams going remotely today, more than ever before, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share my tips, tricks, and best practices for remote team management.

YouTube video

Challenges Associated With Remote Work

Some of you may be new to remote management, while others have managed remote teams in the past but didn’t have much success. Let me take a moment to quickly identify some of the problems and worries you might be feeling.

Is your team actually working? Are they working from home? Do they have family members and other distractions?

  • Transparency — What is my team working on? How long does it take to finish a task?
  • Availability — Will they answer when I call? If they don’t, are they out exploring nature?
  • Misaligned Goals and Priorities — Are team members focusing on what I need them to focus on? Are they really working effectively?

These are all valid concerns. But in reality, these should be concerns whether your team is remote or not. If they only become concerns when you move to remote management, it means you have a flaw in your process.

Vulnerabilities in your process are self-corrected by the environment. Here’s what I mean:

In a face-to-face office environment, how do you know if one of your employees is working? You can take a peek over at their desk. If they’re at the desk, you assume they’re working. How do you know what they’re working on? Just peek over their shoulder and see the screen.

But as we all know, just because someone is sitting at their desk with some code or a spreadsheet on their screen, it doesn’t really mean that they are actually working. So it’s unfair to say that in-person management will automatically correct your concerns associated with remote employees—that’s simply not the case.

You need to figure out a process that works for your organization, whether your team is remote or not.

It Starts at the Top (With You)

In addition to the concerns you might have, take a moment to figure out the challenges your team might be facing. According to a recent survey, here are the biggest struggles of working remotely.

I get asked all of the time, “how do you manage remote teams that are thousands of miles away and make sure that they are consistently productive?” If you’ve read my blogs and watched my videos, you know that I prefer a mixture of local and remote resources. My teams are distributed on something called “the golden ratio.”

But not all of us have the luxury of employing local and remote resources. So we need to figure out a process that works for both—and it all starts with you.

Here’s some good news. If you’re reading this guide, it means you’ve already identified that this is a worthwhile cause and problem that must be addressed. Seeking information is the first step, so kudos to you.

What needs to change in your process?

Whatever that answer might be, you need to be disciplined about it. Own that initiative. Make sure it’s implemented throughout your entire organization.

It’s your job to get all managers and team members at all levels to buy-in to your new process.

Being disciplined could be as simple as making sure all meetings start on time and end on time. I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve dealt with that have a systematic problem where every meeting is late, causing all other meetings to be late, and nobody complains. It becomes part of the company culture, and it’s super frustrating.

Even small discipline levels like starting and ending meetings on time will go a long way for remote teams. If you can’t manage this properly, your problems will snowball at a higher level.

Communication

I know that this is a generic topic that everyone talks about, but it’s extremely important.

Great communication is measured by quality, not quantity. Overcommunication is a huge problem, but we’ll discuss that in greater detail shortly.

Let’s refer back to traditional office environments. Why do you think open concepts in workspaces have become so popular lately?

These floorplans encourage communication.

Even if you’re on your headphones all day and get up to grab a coffee or drink from the water cooler, you might hear your colleagues talking about something as you move past them on a shared desk. These subjects may or may not pertain to you now, but they’ll inevitably come back to you.

So all of this information gets absorbed as a community.

But you lose this concept when your team goes remote. So how do you compensate?

Hold all-hands meetings. This is a best practice for managing both local and remote teams alike. And to be clear, when I say all hands, I mean all hands on deck. Bring everyone into the team meeting. All levels of management, all resources, leaders, the CEO, and c-suite should all be attending.

What is the goal and vision of your company? What are the current objectives? How are these changing?

By discussing these at an all-hands meeting, everyone will understand what needs to happen. All departments will contribute and explain how they are striving to reach those goals and objectives. This will get your entire team rowing in the same direction to get where the whole group needs to be.

This helps your team understand the why of what they’re doing, and not just the what.

From time to time, you need to make sure that everyone is aligned and knows the north star. For remote meetings, these check-ins can happen over any digital communication method, like Google Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Zoom, or whatever communication tools you’re using.

I encourage your entire team to put an updated picture of their face on their profiles. This helps everyone look at each other as a real person. Avoid screen names; use your real name on everything. This helps everyone understand that they are real people, not just company resources.

Turn on your camera during video calls and video conferencing. Make sure your team can see you. Encourage them to turn on their cameras as well.

There is something called the 7-38-55 rule, created by Dr. Albert Mehrabian.

 

The model suggests that just 7% of communication is the words you use, and 38% is your tone. But a whopping 55% of communication is based on body language.

Whether you agree with those exact numbers or not, it’s clear that nonverbal cues are a huge part of effective communication. By turning on the cameras, everyone can see each other and fully understand these nonverbal cues.

This also forces people to get dressed up and presentable so they can be on camera. Some remote workers can feel depressed and stay in their pajamas all day. But to keep morale high, being camera-ready will make your remote team take a shower, get dressed, and take care of themselves.

The camera can ultimately become a virtual portal into the workplace.

Do NOT Overcommunicate

Overcommunication can be just as bad as no communication at all.

I’m referring to things like meetings that go on for too long, meetings that happen too frequently, excessive chatter on messaging channels, etc.

If a meeting can take 30 minutes, don’t stretch it to an hour. Otherwise, you’ll have participants zoning out and not paying attention. If someone doesn’t need to be at a meeting, don’t force them to be there.

Here’s a study that shows what people are really doing during conference calls.

In some companies I’ve worked with, I implement a mute hour throughout the day. Nobody is allowed to get on a chat channel unless it’s extremely urgent. This could be an hour, two hours, four hours, or whatever you decide per day.

I’ve even implemented policies like “no meeting Wednesdays,” where nobody can schedule meetings on a particular day of the week.

Both of these policies help people go into a deep state of work. If you have one full day without any meetings, that’s 20% of the week where everyone can dedicate to complete focus without distractions.

Process, Process, Process

I can’t emphasize this enough. You must have a process that encourages productivity, transparency, and accountability.

How do you know if your system and process are good or not? Simple—by the results.

Pick a process that works for you; you don’t work for the process. That’s how you vet out these mechanisms to see if they’re aiding your company or hindering you.

Personally, I recommend agile project management. It’s a common management methodology for software development teams.

This project management framework is meant to encourage productivity, transparency, and accountability. But it gives you the ability to stay agile and change directions, initiatives, and priorities on the fly.

I have a video on the Agile SCRUM methodology that you can check out for more details on this framework.

As with any new process that’s implemented in a business, it’s always important to ease in. Give yourself time so everyone can adjust.

The new process should include a daily standup meeting. Some people call them huddles, daily syncs, or daily check-ins (it doesn’t matter what you call it). But it happens every day, and it’s supposed to be really short—so short that people don’t feel the need to sit (hence the name).

Your team gets together, and everyone spends a couple of minutes explaining what they did yesterday and what they plan on doing today. This is an opportunity for people to express areas where they need help or assistance.

Now let’s circle back to one of our earlier talking points—change starts with you.

Make sure you’re disciplined enough to ensure this meeting is actually held every day. If you’re not around, make sure someone is doing it, like a project manager.

If the meeting is supposed to be at 9 AM, that’s 9 AM sharp—not 9:05 or 9:10.

Think of it like working out. The hardest part of working out is making it to the gym. So how do you make sure these meetings happen daily?

  • Standardize
  • Ritualize
  • Optimize

If you do a daily standup meeting every day for weeks and months, it will eventually become muscle memory. Even if you’re on vacation or get sick, the meeting will still happen because it’s a daily ritual for your team.

Don’t try to fix everything on day one, or it will fall apart. Back to my gym analogy. If you try to lift too much weight on your first day, you’ll never be able to get where you want to go. Instead, you can start to optimize your process over time.

Autonomy and Accountability For Remote Work

The best remote teams are autonomous and are held accountable for their work.

When you give your team autonomy, it means that every single member has to take ownership for a particular task. They can complete it by themselves.

If you’re constantly looking over their shoulder and micromanaging, it becomes a major problem. Your team will get disconnected, and if things go wrong, they’ll give you an excuse like, “I just did what you told me to do.”

Any time you hear those words, it’s a big red flag and sign that you’re micromanaging too much.

Remote teams should be autonomous. Let them handle takes and take responsibility. Allow them to own those tasks and take pride in their work.

To hold them accountable, make sure you give them clear and measurable SMART objectives.

Make sure your requests are extremely clear. What does success look like? When is it expected? At the end of this deadline, it’s up to you to make sure your team is held accountable.

Here’s an example. Let’s say a developer is working with a product team to output a new feature that will boost sales. Once that feature is out, you must gather analytics to see if it actually increased sales or not.

Everyone needs to be held accountable for the decisions that are made.

Not so much for fear of repercussions. But more so you can know what worked well (and do more of that) and what didn’t work well (so you can do less of it). Ultimately, you can adjust accordingly so everyone gets better.

Tell the team that you win together, and lose together.

When team members find someone who is the weakest link that month, they can go and help that person. You might be the weakest link one month, but the next weak it could be me, and I’ll need your help. That’s how you build teamwork while managing remote employees.

Collaborative efforts when everyone has the autonomy to do their parts are crucial for managing successful remote teams.

Coaching and Nurturing

This is another important aspect for managing any team. But more often than not, you might forget about this (I know I’m guilty of forgetting too).

Every employee that I have (remote or not) has a very clear definition of their responsibilities.

You might ask yourself, “Shouldn’t it be obvious what a developer should do? Or a project manager? Or a designer?”

Grab any employee that isn’t doing well and ask them the definition of their job. Ask them about their responsibilities. See if their answer matches yours—it probably doesn’t.

Have a meeting and clearly explain what you expect from that employee. Give them five clear and measurable metrics that will allow them to succeed. Write them down and explain them in detail. Then on a frequent basis, score your employees on those metrics and provide feedback.

So many employees are surprised when they are let go because they weren’t given enough feedback to know they were doing poorly. They think they’re doing a good job, but they’re not—because nobody told them.

If you fire an employee and they are surprised, it’s a flaw in the management system.

Management should be able to explain problems BEFORE it’s too late. Tell them what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing well, and clearly identify your expectations. You still need to do this with remote teams to hold them accountable.

Acknowledge your team for a job well done. More than 60% of employees say that management does not recognize their achievements.

 

A simple “thank you” can go a long way.

When you recognize good work, it actually makes people more productive. In fact, 69% of employees say that they would work harder if they felt more appreciated. Another study suggests that 37% of employees consider recognition to be the most important part of management success. This ranked first on the list of responses.

Don’t be afraid to recognize team members amongst their peers or in front of the entire organization for a job well done.

Give them a shout out during the all-hands meetings (that we discussed earlier). Have an MVP, employee of the month, or whatever award works best for your company culture.

There are so many unsung heroes in tech. For example, there are countless QAs out there that make sure the products are great, but never get recognized for it.

Show your team that you understand how valuable they are. Say thank you, and give kudos on good work.

Conclusion

Remote working has become the new normal. Managers must be able to adapt accordingly to successfully manage remote teams.

At its core, remote management will encompass many of the same practices and management styles you use to manage a traditional office environment. You just need to apply those same strategies to your remote environment.

Even if it’s your first time working with a distributed team, you can still have success using my methodology for remote team members.

Trust me; as someone who has tried seemingly every remote management tactic under the sun, the tips and best practices described above actually work.

I hope this guide was helpful and gave you clear and logical steps for managing remote teams. Good luck!

How to Perform User Testing For Your App

With so many stages involved in an app development project, user testing is often overlooked.

But this step is crucial to the performance and success of your app. It’s something that you should be doing throughout the development process, as well as after your app has finally launched.

Overall, user testing helps eliminate problems, find bugs, and optimize the UX for your app.

Unless you’ve been through this process before, getting started with app user testing can feel like a daunting challenge. How do you conduct user testing for your app? When should you start user testing? What should you be testing? These are common questions that have probably crossed your mind.

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. I created this guide to explain everything you need to know about app user testing and how it works.

You’ll even find a step-by-step guide to user testing as you continue below. So regardless of your app type, industry, or experience level, this resource will steer you in the right direction for app user testing. Let’s dive in!

What is User Testing?

Before we continue, let’s start with the basics to make sure we’re all on the same page. User testing can be defined as the process of testing the interface and functions of an app, product, website, or service.

The purpose of these tests is to determine if the product in question (an app in our case) is ready for launch.

You’re essentially checking the usability of your app as real people perform specific tests in a realistic testing environment. Can your app be used naturally by a person who isn’t familiar with it? The only way to answer this question is with user testing.

As someone who has been involved throughout the development process, you can’t unbiasedly test your app’s usability on your own. Tests must be conducted by people who are neutral and don’t know how the app is supposed to work.

From a UI and UX design perspective, user testing is an absolute must. Even if you think the design and layout of your app are perfect, you’ll need to run usability tests to confirm your hypothesis.

While user testing should be conducted prior to launch, it shouldn’t stop once your app is live.

User testing is a continuous process. It’s one of the best ways to continually improve your app’s UI/UX design, especially as you come out with new updates and changes.

How to Conduct App User Testing in 6 Simple Steps

User testing isn’t really a one-size-fits-all process. But with years of experience conducting user tests, I’ve been able to narrow down the core steps to include in your testing.

Whether this is your first user test or 100th user test, the step-by-step guide outlined below will be the best way to conduct the user tests for your app. These steps are explained in a way that can be customized to fit any type of app or development project. Here’s what you need to do:

Step #1: Define Your Goals

Like any experiment, the first step to user testing is defining your goals. What exactly do you want to test? You can’t start until this question has been answered.

Your usability testing goals will change depending on where your app is in the development lifecycle. For example, some developers will run tests before the actual development phase begins. These types of tests will be centered around the discovery, exploration, and user research of your target market and what they expect in your app. Since you won’t have a functioning app yet, the goals of this type of test will look very different from a test being run just prior to an app’s launch.

Concept testing and card sorting are two popular ways to see how users will interact with the features, structure, and hierarchy of your app—even without a functioning product.

As you run tests during development, your goals should be centered on validation related to the user experience.

While things might look good and make sense on paper during the wireframing of your app, you need to test those theories from a UI/UX perspective once your design team has actually implemented those elements.

Usability testing is not about gathering generic feedback for your app. You should be using these tests to identify specific problems. So focus your goals around this concept.

For example, let’s say you’re testing an ecommerce app. To determine if your navigation is intuitive or not, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • Can a mobile user easily search for a specific product?
  • Can users easily add items to their shopping cart?
  • Can users complete the checkout process with minimal friction?

These types of questions will help you focus on specific goals for app user testing.

Step #2: Determine the Testing Method

Next, you’ll need to figure out exactly how you’re going to conduct the tests. There are lots of different ways that this can happen. But for the most part, user testing can be segmented into the following categories:

  • In-person moderated
  • In-person unmoderated
  • Remote moderated
  • Remote unmoderated

There are pros and cons to each. For starters, moderated sessions typically offer deeper insights because you’ll be able to ask questions, and get feedback, and follow-up with testers in real-time.

Here’s an example. A user might make a comment such as, “this is surprising,” and say nothing else. During a moderated session, the moderator could follow-up by asking, “what was surprising?” You won’t have this option in an unmoderated session.

The downside of a moderated session is that it’s unnatural for users. If you’re trying to emulate real-life scenarios, app users wouldn’t have any guidance or real-time communication with a third party while using the app.

In-person testing has its challenges as well. It’s more labor-intensive, and you’ll have to deal with scheduling. Some test participants feel pressure to “say the right thing” when they’re being watched in-person, whereas they’d be more candid with feedback remotely.

Unmoderated remote sessions are the easiest way to get the most possible tests done for the lowest cost. You’ll also get to test users in a more natural environment. However, you lose the ability to communicate in real-time.

So which option is the best?

There’s really no right or wrong answer here. It all comes down to your personal preferences. You may ultimately decide to conduct user testing in multiple environments with a combination of these methods mentioned above.

Step #3: Select the Participants

Now it’s time to find real users to participate in your tests. Don’t just select random people, or you won’t get accurate test results.

Hopefully, you’ve already identified a target market for your app by now. But look beyond the demographics like age, sex, marital status, and location. Behavioral targeting is much more valuable here. So look for users who are already using apps that are similar to yours.

Recruiting participants that have some interest and prior experience in what your app is trying to accomplish will have much more value than a random user who happens to be a certain age and gender.

UserTesting.com is a great platform for finding participants and conducting tests. They even have specific solutions for mobile app user testing.

The platform supports multiple testing methods. It’s a popular choice for mobile app prototypes, unreleased apps, apps already available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, AR/VR apps, home testing, “out in the wild” testing, and more.

There are plenty of other similar alternatives on the market, but UserTesting.com is definitely one of the most popular solutions for finding and testing participants in one place.

How many testers do you need for an accurate user testing experiment? According to a famous study from the Nielsen Norman Group, five is the perfect number.

The concept here is pretty simple. If you test zero users, you’ll find zero usability problems (obviously). But as you test more and more people, the number of issues you encounter will start to flatten out.

After a handful of tests, you’ll see the same thing over and over again. So there’s no reason to continue observing things that you already know.

Based on this curve, 15 users is the absolute maximum number of participants you’d need to uncover all usability issues. But most experts recommend between 5-7 participants. Some will say up to ten is ok too.

You might need to offer an incentive to recruit participants. The compensation amount should vary depending on the type of test you’re running. For example, an in-person moderated session could be valued at around $50-$100. But an unmoderated remote test might be worth closer to $15.

Step #4: Prepare the Testing Materials and Testing Environment

Once you’ve recruited testers, it’s time to prepare for the test itself.

What exactly are you going to be testing? Refer back to the goals that we established back in step #1. You’ll use the goals to create objectives for the user to complete. You’ll ultimately create a list of tasks, which is sometimes referred to as a testing script.

Set up a realistic scenario for your users. For instance, here’s an example of some objectives you could list for an ecommerce app test:

  • Search for a blue dress
  • Add a medium-sized red shirt to your shopping cart
  • Create a user profile
  • Complete a purchase that qualifies for free shipping
  • Save your billing details for future purchases
  • Complete a purchase with your card saved on-file

In these scenarios, you’re not telling the participants how to complete the tasks. Instead, you’re just telling them what you want them to do. There’s a big difference. The idea here is to give your participants clear instructions but allow them to naturally engage with your app and its usability—this will provide you with the best usability testing results.

You should also prepare follow-up questions and debriefing questions.

If you’re running tests in-person, you’ll also have to prepare a testing environment. Is the test taking place at your office? Are you going to run it in a third-party testing facility? Where will the participants be sitting? Where is the moderator sitting? You must have all of this stuff in order before the test itself. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling around during your appointments, which will ultimately impact the quality of your tests. Make sure the testing environment doesn’t interfere with the user experience.

Earlier I mentioned UserTesting.com as a platform for remote app user testing. But Lookback.io is another popular testing tool and perfect for both moderated and unmoderated app testing.

Just make sure you find a platform and finalize your testing environment before you proceed.

You’ll also want to run some practice tests before you start testing actual users. Running into problems or glitches (unrelated to the app itself) during an experiment will definitely de-rail the accuracy and effectiveness of your results. So work out all the kinks associated with your testing environment ahead of time.

Step #5: Run the Test

This step is pretty self-explanatory. After all of your hard work, it’s finally time to conduct user testing for your app!

Surprisingly, this is the easiest step in the process. If you followed everything else I’ve explained to this point, there’s really not much for you to do here. Your participants will already be recruited and have the testing materials to complete your desired objectives.

With moderated testing, you might need to remind participants to think out loud as they complete tasks.

For example, a participant might furrow their brow or tighten their lips throughout the process. In many cases, these actions could indicate some type of frustration or pain point. But it’s better for the user to verbally express those challenges, instead of forcing you to play a guessing game.

Every test should end with debriefing and follow-up questions. Even if the test is remote and unmoderated, you can get those questions over your participants via email or through the testing platform. This is an important part of the design process that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Follow-up questions and feedback need to be completed immediately after the test, while everything is still fresh in the participant’s mind. If they answer these questions at another time, the results will be skewed and not as accurate.

Step #6: Analyze and Adjust

The experiment isn’t over after the test is complete. You still need to go back and analyze the results.

What similar problems did testers encounter? What friction or pain points were associated with your objectives?

Aside from the direct feedback from your participants, you should also go back and observe measurable data. For example, how long did it take them to complete one step of a particular task? The length of time it takes someone to complete an action is a good indication of how difficult it was. In some instances, the amount of time completing a task could also be an indication of how engaged a participant was with your app. These metrics are always helpful.

Once these observations have been clearly identified, it’s time to create an action plan with your team to improve the app. You’ll likely need to make some UI/UX design adjustments to enhance your app.

App Usability Testing Tips and Best Practices

As someone who has conducted countless user testing experiments, I’ve learned quite a bit of useful information over the years. While you’re following the steps above, make sure to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always record your tests (even for moderated sessions), so you can go back and watch
  • Don’t make assumptions; provide your participants with SPECIFIC instructions
  • Ask mobile users what type of experience, features, and functionality they expect
  • Don’t make tasks too complicated (not all participants are tech-savvy)
  • Avoid technical terms in your testing script (most people won’t know terms like hamburger menu, UI/UX, etc.). So use common language.
  • There is always room for improvement (even if you have a great UX designer)
  • Moderators should remain neutral (no positive reinforcement or critiquing during the test)
  • Moderators should say as little as possible (to mirror real-life scenarios)
  • Run tests on multiple platforms (iOS and Android)
  • Participants provide better feedback when presented with comparable options
  • Always note visual cues (furrowed brow, smiles, hand to chin, facial expressions etc.)
  • Continue conducting user tests for different goals (this is an ongoing process)

If you’re having participants perform tasks that involve transactions, you should always use real money. Fake or monopoly money won’t give you the same results. When real money is at stake, users will take the time to shop around and get the best deal (like they would in the real world)

Following these tips will improve the accuracy and results of your mobile app user testing.

Conclusion

User testing is crucial to the success of any app. It’s one of the most important steps in the design phase of your app as well.

Don’t underestimate the value of user testing. Whether you’re still prototyping or getting ready for launch, you’d be surprised at how helpful these insights will be to the UX of your mobile application.

If you’re struggling with the concept of user testing and don’t know where to start, just follow the step-by-step process outlined in this guide. For those of you who still have questions, feel free to drop a comment or reach out to our Pro Services team here at BuildFire. Good luck and happy testing!

How to Develop Your Mobile App Idea

Do you have a tech startup idea that’s been rattling around in your brain for a while?

Are you having problems explaining it to people? Or maybe when you discuss it with others, they just don’t understand what you’re talking about. Maybe you feel like you have an idea, but it’s not quite all there yet.

If you need help to validate your business idea, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been in the tech industry for more than two decades and have five successful startups under my belt. I’m sure you can imagine what the conversations are like whenever I’m at a dinner party.

Someone always tells me that they have a great idea they want to share with me. So for the next hour, I have to entertain that idea and tell them how great it is (even if it’s not that unique). We talk (they do most of the talking), have a couple of drinks, and say we’ll be 50/50 partners on the idea. For me, dinner parties like this can sometimes be a drag.

But it still begs the question—how do you develop and validate your business idea?

It’s an age-old question that has been addressed in many different schools of thought. Countless speakers have shared their opinions on the subject. Stanford has the NABC method (Need, Approach, Benefit, Competition).

In this guide, I’m going to give you six tips to validate your business idea in a way that’s specifically catered to tech companies and raising money for your startup.

These best practices are based on my first-hand experience in software development. It’s worked for me and it’s worked for my clients who have had success in this space.

YouTube video

Business Validation Tip #1: Explain the Problem and Opportunity

This is always the first thing that you need to do. You must be able to clearly articulate the problem that you’re trying to solve as well as the opportunity at hand.

The number one reason why startups fail is because the market doesn’t need what they’re offering.

You must be able to clearly identify the problem and opportunity in the market. If you can’t do that, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and create a new business plan for your software development venture.

Conduct market research. Get your market validation. What is the market looking for? Is there an existing need that you’re trying to fill? Or are you creating a new need?

If you’re addressing an existing need, this can be split up into two categories—needs that you have and needs that others have.

If you don’t feel the need yourself, the product might suffer a little bit. That’s because the information you’re getting is always one step removed.

The other side of this concept is creating a completely new demand. This is extremely difficult but highly profitable.

Smartphones are the perfect example to explain what I mean.

If you’re old enough to remember, think about the days when nobody had smartphones. We were all just fine. Life continued and operated with no problems.

But now I dare you to put your smartphone down and walk to the end of the block. See what happens. You’ll get anxious, and the addiction to your phone will start to kick in. You need to be with your phone at all times.

This type of need didn’t exist prior to the invention of the smartphone. But once it was created, the need was established.

So if a product can create a new need or functionality, you have the opportunity for limitless profits, but it’s extremely risky.

The next thing that you need to ask yourself is whether your business idea is a “must-have” or “nice to have” product. Is it a consumer luxury item? Or can people do without it?

The loyalty of your customers will differ based on whether or not this is a need or a want.

Business Validation Tip #2: Competitive Advantage Analysis

Once you’ve identified the market need, you must be able to properly articulate your competitive advantage.

If you’re entering an existing market that has competitors, why should the target audience pick you over the competition? There must be a differentiator in your product that improves the user experience.

What is your competitive advantage? If you’re just another “me too” business, then you’re not different.

Your idea must be different enough to stand out from the crowd. Give people a reason to choose you over the other players in the market.

You need to develop a strategy for how you’re going to beat your competitors. Play to win.

The strategy must explain how you’re going to gain ground on the competition. They’ve already been in business for months, years, or potentially decades before you. So you have lots of ground to cover just to catch up; then you can beat them from there.

Business Validation Tip #3: Is Your Idea Defendable?

If you don’t have any competitors, and you’re creating something new, then you need to ask yourself this—”is my idea defendable?”

Here’s what I mean by defendable. Does your product have intellectual property that you can patent to defend against other competitors?

In software, a patent is super easy to obtain and extremely difficult to defend.

This is a common question that I hear from all of my clients. It’s such a common occurrence that I’ll probably write a complete guide on the topic soon. With software, everyone asks, “Can I patent it?”

The answer is yes. But the real question should be, can you defend it? And the answer—you probably can’t. All someone else needs to do is change 20% of your patent, and it’s considered to be different software by law.

It’s much easier to defend a utility patent if you’re an electrical engineer or something like that. But when you’re dealing with software, intellectual property is extremely hard to defend.

So there could be other app developers or app development companies out there creating solutions for the app store with the same functionality as your software.

Think about the electric scooters that we see popping up in all major cities right now. It’s a really good idea, and it’s already out there. However, it’s so difficult to defend. Within months there are three or four other competitors coming to join the party.

Delivery apps available for iOS and Android apps are another example. A mobile app development company or freelancer could create a successful app without another app business in the delivery space getting in their way.

There are just two examples of great application ideas that are tough to defend.

Business Validation Tip #4: Go to Market Strategy

In terms of business validation for your tech startup idea, you must have a very specific go-to-market strategy. What do I mean by this?

When you develop a product or a business, and you’re ready to open up your doors, start selling, taking subscriptions, or whatever else you’re offering—how does the world know that you exist? How are you going to start gaining customers?

If you’re a brick and mortar company, you can do this through guerilla marketing. Make some posters and take out local ads. Maybe you’re in a high traffic area, and people will just randomly see you.

That’s fine for brick and mortar, but technology is a bit different.

You could have the best idea and the wold that nobody has heard about. So you need to have a marketing strategy. Always reserve some of your funds to make sure you have some sort of digital marketing presence.

You might start by creating an MVP (minimum viable product) for your mobile application and promote it via social media.

Consider offering some type of freemium model. Allow people to try your product before they actually purchase anything. Free trials for subscription businesses have a historically high conversion rate.

Lots of times, this strategy will be much cheaper than a full-blown marketing plan. You’ll still need to have some marketing to let people know that there’s a free tier, but it won’t be as involved.

When it comes to your go-to-market strategy, there are lots of different ways to approach this. There is an age-old question for a scenario that shows two different schools of thought.

Let’s say there is a town with two successful Italian restaurants. People love Italian food in this town, and everyone goes to both. You decide to open up a brand new restaurant. Do you open an Italian one? Or something else?

One school of thought says that you already know how much people love Italian food here. If you can do a better job than the others, you’ll be successful.

The other school of thought says that this town is already saturated with Italian food. But obviously, people enjoy going out to eat. You can open up a restaurant offering a different type of cuisine to be successful.

Which method is correct? Drop a comment and let me know what you think.

Business Validation Tip #5: Financial Forecast and Security

You need a very clear financial statement and forecast of how your company is going to operate when it’s losing money in the beginning.

When you first start, you’ve spent lots of money and don’t have any customers.

You need to figure out when you’re going to go from red to black, which is your breakeven point. Then figure out when you’re going to turn profitable and get into the green.

How is this going to happen? How long will it take?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you won’t know how much cash you need in your reserves. How much funding will you need to survive the storm?

So many businesses fail, not because the idea was bad—they just ran out of fuel. They didn’t calculate how long they needed to stay in the market to gather enough critical mass to become profitable.

Remember the graph I showed you earlier about the top reasons why startups fail? I already highlighted the fact that “no market need” ranked first on that list. But let’s look at it again and see some of the other reasons.

Running out of cash is the second most common reason why startups fail.

If you’re in the technology field, you hear about lots of companies operating at a loss on a massive scale until they become profitable.

Think of companies like Amazon. They didn’t make money for the longest time until they dominated the entire market. Think of companies like Twitter or LinkedIn. They lost money for years, and some are still losing money and not profitable.

You need to address these types of scenarios. What type of company are you going to be?

All development costs must be taken into consideration for your new app.

There’s a different strategy from user adoption to profitability that needs to be played out on paper before your company goes live. What’s your monetization strategy? Outline a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C, so you have some contingencies in order.

The financial aspects of your project will be crucial if you’re trying to raise money from potential investors beyond crowdfunding.

Business Validation Tip #6: Does Your Business Scale?

You must be able to explain how your company and idea can scale.

If your company is relying on you and your skillset—you don’t scale. There are only 24 hours in a day. No matter what happens, you can’t add a 25th hour.

Do your costs decrease over time and volume? Do your costs plateau? Do your costs increase?

Some business models are fundamentally flawed from the beginning because they are assuming a fixed cost structure, which is not correct.

At scale, your company will have different logistics. Sometimes one employee can wear several different hats. But at scale, you’ll still need multiple employees. Your costs will go up.

If you’re housing all of your products locally at your office, that’s fine for now. But what happens when you scale and need to rent or buy a warehouse? Your costs will go up. Make sure you play out different scenarios to understand how the idea works at scale.

You also need to identify whether your product and company can cross demographics and markets. If you saturate a particular market, is there a lateral move you can make to gain more customer adoption?

BONUS Tip for Business Validation: Versatility and Resilience

This is more of a long term plan and strategy, but you should be thinking about it from the beginning. Is your company versatile and resilient?

Think of companies like Borders and Barnes & Noble. They’ve become completely obsolete. They had the opportunity to potentially go digital with selling books, but their efforts were too little and too late.

Another great example is car alarm companies. The car alarm itself hasn’t become obsolete. But now all of the car manufacturers build them directly into vehicles. So consumers don’t need to buy an after-market alarm. All of those businesses that opened up to sell car alarms are now obsolete.

Think about accessories for iPhones. Each accessory is so specific for adaptors. Once Apple changes the adaptors for new iPhones, all of your inventory becomes worthless. This is a serious problem if you have a large warehouse full of accessories that can’t be used.

So the question becomes when (not if) something hits your market, are you versatile enough to adjust and shift? Do you have the foresight to make adjustments ahead of time? Can you adapt to ever-changing markets?

Conclusion

Take all of these tips that I’ve explained above and use them to develop your business idea. Be as truthful with yourself as possible.

Maybe vet your best app idea out with some friends. See if there’s anything you forgot or missed. It’s always helpful to get another perspective on things that you might not see on your own.

It’s extremely important to adjust now so your business can see success. Just because you find a hurdle, it doesn’t mean that you have a bad idea.

Sometimes you just need to reshape that idea or rethink your strategy to be successful.  It’s much cheaper to make these adjustments now compared to after you build your company.

I hope this guide was helpful in explaining how to validate your business idea. Now you can hit the market and be successful at everything that you do.

How to Hire a Mobile App Developer (A Definitive Guide)

You want to build a mobile application.

Where do you start?

If you don’t know how to code, you’re going to need to hire someone to do it for you.

So the search begins to find an app developer.

Even if you built an app in the past, you may not have had the best experience with your developer.

This guide is perfect for you as well.

I’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to find a developer that’s going to give you the app that you’re looking for.

But let me perfectly honest with you, it’s not easy.

There are lots of factors that go into hiring a developer.

So just make sure that you don’t skip any of the steps, and you’re very thorough.

You’re going to be working with this person for a long time and giving them lots of money.

The last thing you want to happen is to get halfway through the development process and realize you chose the wrong person.

Or even worse, they develop a final product that you’re not happy with.

Believe me, I’ve seen this happen countless times.

All of this can be avoided if you hire the right person.

Here’s what you need to know.

Continue reading “How to Hire a Mobile App Developer (A Definitive Guide)”

How to Become a Mobile App Developer (Beginner’s Guide to App Development)

Everyone wants to make the next great mobile application.

It can be an extremely profitable way to make some money if you know what you’re doing.

If you’ve got a great mobile app idea and decided to consult with a developer or an app development company, you may have been surprised to hear how costly it is to outsource development.

So that’s when the thought hit you, “I can just do learn to do this myself.”

I can relate.

It’s the reason why I studied code and started building mobile apps.

But where do you start?

Depending on your current situation and intentions, there are a few different routes you can go.

I’ll make sure to cover all of these scenarios throughout this complete beginner guide to mobile app development.

We’ll even cover topics like how to estimate the cost of building mobile apps.

While the development process for building mobile and web apps may sound intimidating, it’s really just like anything else. If you practice and put the time in, it will get much easier.

Plus, it helps to have some guidance from an expert in the field (that’s where I come in).

Here’s everything you need to know.

So…why do you want to become a mobile app developer?

OK. So you’re probably aware of how popular mobile apps are.

But just how many apps are there?

Let’s take a look at some information from Statista.

Apps numbers

Don’t be intimidated by the number of apps available across different mobile platforms.

Sure, you’ll have some competition, but the majority of these likely won’t be in your industry.

Plus, lots of apps out there are complete duds.

You won’t have to worry about competing against those either.

With that said, it’s important that you have a clear goal before you become a developer.

Here are a few common scenarios:

  • You want to build your own startup company
  • You’re trying to be a freelancer or run a mobile app development shop (mobile development services are in high demand)
  • You are a business owner that doesn’t have the funds to outsource app development

Chances are, you fall somewhere within these three examples. Regardless of your scenario, it’s worth noting that mobile app developers come in all different shapes and sizes. Throughout the app development world, there is a need for Android development, iOS app development, and development needs for multiple platforms, including hybrid mobile apps. There are Android developers who double as web developers. If you follow this path, you can learn to build a web app and Android apps simultaneously.

Let’s say you have the next big idea.

You want to take that concept and build an app to become the next Snapchat or Instagram.

If you fall into this category, I sincerely admire your ambition.

This won’t be an easy route, but if you’re successful, it could potentially be the most profitable.

In this case, you’ll need to learn how to do everything from scratch.

You’ll also want to consider how you plan to make money from your app.

Relying on paid downloads might not be your best option.

In fact, the majority of mobile applications are available for free.

free vs paid apps

So before you dive in head first, make sure you think about your strategy for generating a profit.

For those of you that want to be a freelance app builder or start your own app store, this isn’t something you need to worry about.

You’ll make money by charging clients to build apps for them.

If you’ve got the marketing skills as well, you can double as a consultant and charge more for your services.

In this case, it’s probably not the worst idea for you to know some different strategies to make money.

Or you can just stick to familiarizing yourself with the best tools for mobile app designers.

Let’s talk about the business owners who want to build an app as an extension of their current brand, business, or website.

What’s your budget?

The majority businesses plan to budget between $250,000 and $500,000 over the next 12 to 18 months.

app budget allocation

Does this sound too high to you?

It’s not.

Your location is relevant to how much it’s going to cost to develop your app.

If you’re located in North America, expect to pay roughly $150 per hour if you’re planning to hire someone to build your iOS mobile app.

median cost of iOS apps

So unless you’re planning to take a trip to Indonesia, it won’t be inexpensive.

On average, an app will take about 7-9 months to build and cost you about $270,000.

That’s an unrealistic number for some businesses.

Your company may not even be able to secure a $200,000 line of credit, never mind pay over $250,000 for an app.

So what’s the solution?

Follow my guide, and I’ll show you the most cost effective ways to develop your own app if you don’t have the funds to pay someone else to do it.

Option #1: Just learn how to code everything

If you want to become a mobile app developer, learning to code is your first option.

It’s not required for everyone, but for some of you, this will be the best route.

I’m speaking to those of you who want to build the next Instagram or Snapchat.

Here’s the good news, you don’t need to go back to school to learn code.

There are some great resources online that teach you how to code for free.

I’ll show you my favorite ones.

Team Treehouse offers a free trial for a week to new users.

So you can learn to code from your own computer, anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

Here’s how their system works.

They have thousands of videos to teach users the basics of coding.

After you watch the videos, you’ll take quizzes to test your knowledge.

Then, Team Treehouse gives you the tools needed to practice coding with interactive challenges.

The platform is super clean and really easy to use, especially for beginners.

Code Academy is another one of my favorites.

code academy

Their platform also has interactive tools that will teach you the coding basics for your mobile application.

Let’s take a step back for a minute.

Before you commit the time and teach yourself how to code, you should learn the basics of developing a minimum viable product (MVP).

Are you familiar with the lean startup methodology?

It’s a solution for shortening the cycles of product development.

Why should you consider this?

In short, it can save you money in the big picture.

Here’s a scenario.

A company has a great idea for a product, or in your case, a mobile application.

You could spend months or potentially years perfecting the app and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop it.

Then your big moment comes – it’s finally launch day.

All your hard work is about to pay off, right?

Not necessarily.

The consumer market could reject the idea, and your startup fails.

So, rather than asking yourself, “Can I build this app?” ask, “Should I build this app?”

Here’s a visual representation of this cycle.

app building cycle

You’ll constantly conduct research and get customer feedback throughout the process.

That way you can make the necessary changes along the way to minimize any inefficiency before a large-scale release.

Using the learn startup methodology will also let you know early on if you should continue developing your app or just cut your losses and avoid major failure.

  1. Build
  2. Measure
  3. Learn

If you can do these three things continuously, it’s worth it to learn how to code for your startup company.

Option #2: Use app builders

App builders are perfect for existing business owners who want to use a mobile application to enhance their company.

You may not have the budget to pay over $200,000 for someone else to build it for you.

Learning how to code probably isn’t an option either due to the time constraints of running a company.

App builders are also ideal for entrepreneurs and freelancers who want to make some money building apps for other businesses.

Both of these scenarios require zero coding skills if you find the right app builder.

So where do you start?

Look for existing templates and examples of generic applications.

I know I’m biased (obviously) but BuildFire has tons of great templates to fit your business.

buildfire

Regardless of your business type or industry, you’ll be able to find a template to get you started.

You could always design a template from scratch, but personally, I think it’s much easier to work off of an existing design.

So what space is your company in?

  • Ecommerce
  • Restaurant
  • Entertainment
  • Real Estate
  • Small Business
  • Non profit

The options go on and on.

For those of you who want to build apps for other businesses, app building tools like this give you the option to work with multiple templates all on the same platform.

It’s easy.

So you won’t need to learn how to code, you’ll just have to get good at navigating through the website and figure out what works best for your clients.

Then you can just white label the app to make money by selling it to the businesses you’re working with.

Let’s take this one step further.

What if your clients want customized features that aren’t in the generic templates?

Not a problem.

Take advantage of BuildFire’s pro services team.

buildfire pro service

Reach out directly to our experts.

We’ll spend one on one time with you to figure out exactly what you’re looking for.

Once everything is decided on, we build the app for you.

Then you can just resell it to your clients make a profit without having to do the bulk of the work.

This is ideal for people who have a large list of clients.

If you have to do all of the work yourself, it’s nearly impossible to scale.

So here’s your solution.

Use the BuildFire white labeling service.

Buildfire white label service

We build the apps, and you can sell it branded as your own.

That way you can spend the majority of your time and effort to get new customers.

You might make fewer margins, but this system is much more scalable.

Over time, this model is sustainable and will generate long-term profitability.

Option #3: Use app builders and some coding (using BF SDK)

The third choice for becoming a mobile app developer involves a combination of our last two options.

You can use an app building service and use some coding.

I’m referring to the BuildFire software development kit.

Instead of having our team build the app for you, this kit can teach you how to build it yourself.

Once you learn how to add custom features for your clients, you’ll be able to generate more profit.

Now, this will take more time and effort compared to our last option, but it all depends on your personal preference.

You may not be able to work with as many clients, but you’ll have higher margins on each project.

Using app builders and coding like the BuildFire SDK will also give you the opportunity to build plugins.

What’s a plugin?

It’s an added extension to an existing application.

They add more functionality to the user experience and can help generate more profits.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you have an ecommerce business and want to develop a mobile app for your company.

You can use the Shopify plugin to add features to your store.

shopify integration

You’ll have different options while navigating the SDK.

You can add:

  • 3rd party developer plugins
  • Plugins created by BuildFire
  • Customized plugins built on your own

If you’re going to take the time to learn some code through an app builder, you should consider including a plugin with your designs.

Conclusion

Becoming a mobile app developer is much easier than it sounds.

Depending on your situation, you’ve got lots of options to choose from.

Learning how to build mobile apps are ideal for people who:

  • Want to build their own startup company
  • Are trying to create apps for other businesses
  • Own a business and can’t afford to outsource development

Virtually everyone today has their mobile devices within an arm’s reach. Most of us sleep with a mobile device next to our head every night.

How do people spend time on their phone?

time spent on apps

They’re using mobile apps. This graphic reinforces how important it is for you to get involved in this space.

There’s a tremendous opportunity for profit in the mobile app development field.

If you’re trying to launch a startup company, it’s in your best interest to learn how to code everything from scratch.

That’s not necessarily the easiest route, but it’s the most realistic.

Fortunately, you won’t have to go back to school to do this.

There are plenty of online tools like the options that we discussed earlier that can teach you how to code from your own computer.

App builders are perfect for business owners who don’t have the funds to pay a developer.

Just look for a generic template based on your industry and add the features you need.

For a more customized experience, you can work with the BuildFire pro services team directly.

If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to make money by selling apps to other businesses, take advantage of the white labeling services.

We’ll build your app.

All you have to do is brand it yourself and sell it to your clients.

This will give you a chance to grow your client list and scale your revenue stream.

But, if you want to learn the app development process from an app builder, just download the software development kit.

You can also learn how to add plugins to generate more profits.

Which option will you choose on your path to becoming a mobile app developer?