10 steps for designing, developing, and marketing apps

The secret to a successful app? There isn’t one. It’s more of a big complex of factors. Since 2011, we have been building (often successful) mobile apps, which has given us a pretty good idea of what these factors are. If you follow the following 10 lessons for designing, developing, and marketing an app, you maximize the chances of your app becoming a success.

#1 Your app must have (some) unique selling points

What do TikTok and Tikkie have in common? They both came up with a completely new concept. The lesson: your app must be distinctive to stay afloat among the tens of thousands of new apps that appear in the app stores every day. If that distinctive factor is not the concept – as with TikTok or Tikkie – then your app should be finer or better than similar competing apps. Or, of course, you excel in smarter app marketing.

Let’s face it: we have built a lot of successful apps, and they were not all the new WhatsApps of this world. What they do have in common: they solve a problem for the user, are super user-friendly, and users can easily understand them.

#2 Don’t overload your app with features

“Feature bloat.” That’s the term for apps that are equipped with so many bells and whistles that they are no longer suitable for the core functions. It’s always tempting to put as many features as possible into the app. But an app with too many features is overwhelming and confusing for users. Is an extensive tutorial needed to use the app? That’s a red flag.

The more intuitive the app is, the greater the chance that users will use it (daily). From a cost perspective, it is also interesting to go live with only the most important few features. You can always expand later.

So it’s all about the balance of functionality versus user-friendliness. An example. When Facebook realized that it was too much to combine a newsfeed app and a messaging platform, the company created a separate app for Messenger.

#3 Think carefully about your app’s revenue model

Are you going for freemium, in-app purchases, or a paywall? Or for in-app advertising, a one-time payment upon downloading, subscription, or sponsorship? The revenue model you choose has an impact on, among other things, how easy an app is to download and how user-friendly it is.

Apart from the aforementioned revenue models, an app may also aim to save costs or increase customer loyalty, for example. Which revenue model is most suitable for your app depends on your product or service, industry, budget, and target audience, among other things. Always ask yourself the following questions first. What problem does the app solve? Will users pay for the added value of your app? Which revenue models have competing apps chosen? And how are they working out?

#4 Put yourself in the shoes of the end-user

Of course, you have all sorts of ideas and wishes about functionalities and design, but don’t forget that end-users determine the success of your app. The needs of end-users should, therefore, be reflected as much as possible in the end product.

So put yourself in the shoes of the end-user. You can use user interviews and user testing for this, both during the development process and throughout the app’s lifecycle. No matter how much you think about the interface and functionalities, end-users always seem to think just a little bit differently. The feedback you gather through user interviews and user testing helps bridge the gap between what you as a client want versus what users demand and how they think.

#5 Put enough time into the app yourself

Of course, a mobile app development agency like Pinch takes care of everything for you. However, this does not mean that you do not need to be involved yourself. On the contrary, daily (or at least very frequent) involvement is necessary. Not only to finish the app on time. But also, and especially, to ensure that the app meets all the requirements and wishes of your organization. The more involved you are, the better the app will be.

An app development agency knows a lot about building apps. You know about your product, target audience, and market. In a successful app, these two worlds come together as much as possible.


#6 Decide what works best: native or hybrid development

If you want to be in both app stores, you need to have an app built for both Android and iOS. With native development, an app is specifically developed for these platforms. In contrast, hybrid development uses a framework that allows developers to develop both an Android and an iOS app simultaneously – with one code base.

Flutter is currently the leading framework for hybrid development. Not only can Flutter apps be built faster and more cost-effectively, but the framework also offers advantages in terms of user interface, visual experience, and operating system updates. Flutter is suitable for many types of apps, but in general, native development is more suitable for hardware-intensive apps. A promising new way of developing is the combination of Kotlin Multiplatform to share code in a native way between iOS and Android and Compose Multiplatform for writing the user interface with less code.

A mobile development agency like Pinch can advise you on the best development method for your app.

#7 Make app store optimization a priority

App store optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the visibility and discoverability of an app in the app stores. The goal is to rank as high as possible in search results and maximize the click-through rate (CTR) from search results to your app page.

App name, app logo, keywords, descriptions, screenshots, videos – it’s all important for app store optimization. Best practices include:

  • Conducting keyword research
  • Making sure your metadata is easy to understand and contains keywords
  • Emphasizing the first few sentences
  • Avoiding “forbidden” keywords such as best, free, top, and new
  • Using A/B testing to find out what works best.
  • Tools like Data.ai (formerly App Annie) can be very helpful for ASO.

#8 Don’t rest on your laurels after launching

Successful apps are never finished. To make your app even more appealing to your target audience, you need to listen to – and learn from – end-users after launch. Based on this feedback, you can continue to update and develop the app.

#9 Don’t underestimate the costs

Developing an app is not cheap. Native functionalities such as camera and GPS, backend integration, purchases: these are all things that have a significant impact on costs. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the costs. A small, relatively simple app starts at around 15,000 euros per platform. Extensive or complicated apps can cost up to 100,000 euros per platform.

In practice, we see that for successful apps, an additional 50 to 100 percent of this amount is spent on app marketing.

By choosing hybrid development through a framework such as Flutter, 25 to 50 percent can be saved on development. Tools like GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT promise to make software development much more efficient. Pinch is following these developments closely.

#10 Building an app takes longer than you think

Building an app is like building a house: it always takes a little longer than you think. The average development time is twelve weeks, but larger apps can easily take four to six months. For example, if a backend system needs to be built, this will add to development time. As we said earlier, a successful app requires continuous development and is therefore never truly finished.

Pinch: apps with impact

Pinch is a mobile development agency with offices in the heart of Amsterdam and Malaga. We mainly build iOS, Android, and Flutter apps, but also many apps for tablets and wearables. Concept development, strategy, visual and interaction design, technical development, quality assurance, testing, launching, monitoring, analyzing, and continuous development: Pinch’s experts take care of all these areas. The synergy between these components results in the best apps possible.

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