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Prepare for Takeoff: 5 Steps for Planning Your Mobile App Project

So you have an idea for a mobile app but don’t know how or where to get started? The good news is that you have the most challenging part done! Coming up with a unique app idea is the most challenging part of the entire development process.

Understanding the Mobile App Development Process

Now that the hardest part is out of the way, what comes next? We put this guide together to help you plan your mobile app development process. No code has made it fast and fun to turn ideas into apps. But before you drag that first element onto the screen, you need to firmly plan your development process to get your project across the finish line. The good news? We’re here to help you do just that!

Here are the five key areas you should focus on before starting your mobile app development project.

thunkable mobile app development process graphic

 

1. Clearly Define Your App Idea

Not all apps need to be new or novel to solve a problem. That is the beauty of citizen development! Creators from all around the world can create solutions to specific or niche issues that would be otherwise unaddressed by existing alternatives. But just having an idea does not mean you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. It would help if you took the time to clearly define the problem your app will solve, your ideal users, existing alternatives, and the value proposition of your invention. Tools like Lean Canvas are a great way to create a simplified business or project plan.

Once you have clearly defined the problem and your target users, you will firmly know who this app is for and be ready to move forward in your preparation.

user flow process map graphic thunkable

2. Map Out User Flows

When a gratifying idea is fresh in your mind, it is tempting to get going as quickly as possible. However, the issue soon arises: developers have a “feeling” of how their mobile app will come together and skip the simple step of detailing the user flow. Skipping this initial step in your mobile app development process could cost you more time and frustration down the line.

Now that you have clearly articulated your mobile app idea and your ideal users, you should put yourself in their shoes. Walk through each step of the app, from splash screen to process completion. Use post-it notes, tools like Miro, or even GoogleSlides to map out your user flow. Create a new sticky note or slide for each screen needed and include the functionality required. Then, link the actions between screens to the next logical screen(s) on your user flow.

For example, if you build a social messaging app, your first screen will require login fields. After logging in, you will take your user to the home screen, which may link to your mobile app’s multiple destinations, such as the user profile, individual conversations, or search. Sketch out this low-fidelity flow to get a sense of everything that needs to be included.

3. Draft Requirements

A requirements document will be essential to resource planning and development timelines. This document will act as the starting point for your product development. It is crucial material that can be shared with your team to align everyone to the app’s purpose. A requirements doc will act as your north star, even if you are a solo developer.

This document should take the core requirements and desired user flows from Step 2 to Lo-Fi Mockup and add details about expectations. These details include user personas, page descriptions, key integrations, future iterations, and known risks.

From here, you will know exactly what needs to be done, and you can move forward accordingly.

4. Gathering Your Resources

No code has made mobile app development a one-person possibility, but even the best no-coders sometimes rely on external resources. These resources can be a UI designer, a freelance developer, an outsourced development team, or an internal team. With your requirements clearly defined, you can determine what help is needed and from whom. Whether you decide to find resources or do it yourself, you should spend approximately 10% of your estimated mobile app development time planning.

To accompany your requirements document, you should clearly define how much time you or your team, will spend on each screen, feature, and function. Even if these are rough estimates, this will give you a benchmark to aim toward to determine if you are making progress. Of course, you can regularly adjust estimates, but too many mobile app developers lose their drive as soon as they face their first challenge. As a result, they don’t know if they are making progress or understand what comes next after solving their problem. A sequenced and organized project plan with resources and time assignments will help you stay on track.

5. Create A High Fidelity Design

At this point, you are ready to get going on mobile app development. We strongly recommend that you begin your design process as the first step of your development process. Here at Thunkable, we tell all creators that we work with to think of their project in three phases:

  1. Design
  2. Development
  3. Deployment

The reason for this is that Design Thinking is the modern approach to creating software products of all sizes. You can also think of it this way — you need to know the size of the airplane before you plan how many cup holders you will need to add.

You should entirely craft the app’s user interface (UI) before you start adding logic, features, functions, and integrations. Build a fully formed UI in the no code native app builder, or use a design-specific tool, such as Figma, to import design directly to your project. Once the design is complete, you will have to be very intentional about the user-flows that you defined earlier. It isn’t easy to jam in new features or functions if you have already determined the desired flow.

Final Thoughts

There is so much that goes into no code mobile app development before you ever start adding blocks, components, or pressing the publish button. If you are serious about getting your project across the finish line, it is crucial to be intentional about this planning process to set yourself up for success. It may seem like a significant amount of work, but it will save you so much time during development. The more refined you can make your idea, user flows, requirements document, and user interface, the faster you can move.

At Thunkable, our motto is, "Perfect is the enemy of done." The first version of your no code mobile app may not have everything you want, but remember, your app will continue to change after being published. It will continue to improve as you see fit and based on the responses received from your users.

Thunkable has helped individuals and small teams create 100+ screen apps in a matter of weeks. We will work with you and set you up with a plan and development framework to turn your business idea into a no code mobile app.

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