12 common mobile app development mistakes to avoid

Creating mobile apps can be a minefield – we know that more than most at Apadmi, with over 20 years of experience developing for mobile platforms. 

Our founders worked on some of the very first mobile apps, and since then we’ve created world-class mobile solutions for global brands including SailGP, the NHS, Argos and Chelsea FC.

All of that experience has helped us develop a pretty extensive playbook when it comes to avoiding mistakes in the world of apps. We’d like to run through the top 12 most common app mistakes that we see many first-time and amateur developers making, and how to avoid them. 

12) Mobile app plagiarism 

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the world of apps it rarely pays off. Copying the design or, worse, the functionality of a pre-existing app is a surefire way to decrease your chances of success within the market. 

In a best-case scenario, you’ll be launching against a competitor who’s offering everything you do and with a more established user base. Plus, in a worst-case scenario, the app you’re copying will have upgraded by the time you finish building your version, and will now have the ability to do everything your app can do and more. 

How to avoid: The easiest way to avoid this is by going through a full Define and Design process, creating an app from the ground up that meets the precise needs of your customers. If an app has inspired you, deconstruct what about it has inspired you and look at how you can replicate it uniquely. There are plenty of good apps out there – make sure yours stands apart. 

11) Neglecting due diligence and market research

According to Business of Apps, 42% of apps that fail to perform in the market blame their failure on a lack of market research. 

It’s impossible to create a successful app without market research, the app market is constantly changing and the needs of customers can fluctuate wildly year on year. We’ve seen several great apps fail to hit the needs of the market and fall flat over the last decade – and in most cases, it’s been due to a company’s insistence on building for what they think their users will want, instead of what they know their users want. 

How to avoid: You must look at the current app market and find out what your competitors are currently offering. Talk to your current customers and find out what features they want and, most importantly, what features they can’t find in the market at the moment. Fulfil a gap in the market and you’ll find yourself a lot closer to development success.

10) Poor budget management

Apps cost – in many cases, they cost a lot more than companies predict. App development is a misleading term. Most apps go through four core stages (which we call Define, Design, Develop and Drive at Apadmi), and each stage has its own associated costs. Many businesses often focus on the development stage of the project without accounting for the other aspects of the process, leaving them spent up on one-quarter of the overall project.

Looking at Business of Apps, budgets for app development can range from $40k to $120k – a massive variation, all dependant on the size and complexity of the app.

How to avoid: The key here is experience. Understanding the different costs behind each stage of the process and ensuring that resources are allocated in the right areas for the type of app you want to build. This is where an agency can be a major asset, often saving inexperienced businesses huge amounts of time and money. 

9) Partnering with the wrong app development service

Partnering with the wrong app development service can be extremely costly for an inexperienced business. The worst examples have cost companies thousands of pounds as they end up shovelling in money to build an app that’s ultimately bloated and unsuitable for their users.

How to avoid: Make your app development service work for you. Ask them why they’re making the choices they’re making, and if they begin to deviate from your original brief, challenge them. If you’re becoming particularly uncertain about the work being done, ask another app development agency to review your supplier’s work; many companies will do this for a negligible fee, and it can be enough to keep your current team working towards the most efficient outcome. 

8) Neglecting to develop a minimal viable product

There will always be setbacks in any development process, especially if you’re creating something for the first time. This can cause corners to be cut and a finished product to be forced out without the features most important to the company that created it. This happens when there’s no minimum viable product.

How to avoid: When designing your app, access the absolute minimum features you could launch with; this version of your app is known as the minimal viable product. Decide what’s business-critical and what’s something that it would be nice to have. By doing this you can ensure that your product fulfils its business case when it launches, and then you can support it with the features that would be “nice to have” via updates. 

7) Neglecting usability testing

Like market research, usability testing is a key aspect of ensuring the success of your app. As much as you need to know what your competitors are doing and what your users want, you also need to know that your finished product will resonate with your target market. Some companies neglect usability testing due to cost or time constraints, but this just increases the chances of an app failing to deliver when it hits the market. 

How to avoid: Ensure that, once your designers have created a prototype, they test it with your users. At Apadmi, we have a usability testing facility, the Curiosity Lab, where we can monitor users in several different ways to assess which features of an app are working well for them and which aren’t. 

6) Bad mobile app UI design

User interface design is one of the trickiest parts of app development, as it’s a delicate balance between functionality, minimalism and branding that can easily tip the wrong way. A bad UI can ruin the experience for most users and is one of the most common reasons for a bad review. 

How to avoid: An experienced design team will go a long way towards avoiding bad UI, but the only guaranteed method for success is real user feedback from as many users as possible. If you start getting comments like ‘it just feels bad’ or ‘I don’t know where I’m supposed to go’, then it’s time to start examining your UI.

5) Feature overload: bad mobile app UX design

While it might be easy to think that the more features your app can offer the better it will perform, that isn’t the case. A cluttered app can offer a terrible and confusing user experience where the user feels overwhelmed by just opening the app. This can be the death of many apps and can be difficult to resolve.

How to avoid: Mapping every journey a customer can take through your app and assessing how their options are presented to them will make a world of difference when it comes to user experience. Designers are particularly good at this and will often help by making each option clear and more distinct through subtle visual cues. 

4) Creating an app to look like a website

Some companies will use their in-house web development team to build their app, often resulting in an app that looks more like a website. Unfortunately, many of the core principles of web design and development simply don’t translate to apps and vice versa. Customers opening your app and finding a website design will often struggle to find things and ultimately have a bad user experience.

How to avoid: Make use of dedicated app designers and developers, either hire them separately or bring an agency on-board. Dedicated app teams will start their process from the core principles of app design, instead of allowing the old adages of web design to creep in.

3) Not preparing for updates to adapt to market change 

One of the most common mistakes companies make is in thinking that once their app is built it’s finished. Apps are fluid things and as the market changes it’s important that your offering adapts to keep up. Google and Apple both track the regularity with which apps are updated, and will use it as a metric within their app store optimisation algorithms. Even the most well-designed apps will only see a few months of high traffic without regular updates.

How to avoid: Make use of a dedicated app team. Ideally, you need a team capable of monitoring the market as a whole and then reacting with development sprints to keep your solutions up to date. At Apadmi, we’ve solved this with our Drive team, who are dedicated to supporting all of our client’s solutions through Launch & Beyond.

2) Huge file sizes and too much animation

Just because you can make your app do backflips across your user’s screen doesn’t mean you should. Large images and animations can create an app that’s far too big for users to bother downloading. Mobile storage is finite and you need to minimise the amount of hassle that downloading your app creates for the user – if it’s too much they’ll just go to one of your competitors.

How to avoid: This requires thought at every step of the process and some creativity to maximise the use of data where it will have the most impact. A joint effort between a Design and Develop team will be a big step towards success.

1) Neglecting App Store Optimisation 

A growing field of app marketing, App Store Optimisation (or ASO) is the process of ensuring that your app appears as high as possible in as many searches within each app store as possible. It’s difficult to master and without it, you’ll find that your app becomes buried under a slew of your competitors with a better grasp on it – even for terms directly linked to your business. 

How to avoid: Making use of an ASO specialist is the best way to guarantee success in this area. Remember, this is a growth area, and there are a lot of marketing execs looking to move into it who might not have much experience. Look for ASO specialists with good track records of success, like Apadmi’s Drive Team

If you would like to learn more about app development and how Apadmi can help you with your next mobile project, get in touch below.

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