If you want to know how big the industry like mobile app development is, just think about how many apps you use every day. Is it 10, 30, or over 50, maybe? Now, think about every person that does that, too. In 2020, users downloaded 218 billion apps, compared with 204 billion downloads in 2019 — and partially because of the competition, difficulties in this industry for startups are inevitable. Here are the top four challenges you should resolve when developing an app; this article will use a healthcare app as an example.
1. To Choose Development Approach
The first thing you need to come up with is an app development approach. Here are the most popular approaches in 2020:
- Native app development. This kind of development provides you with the best UI/UX experience for users and makes an app run faster. For iOS apps, you need to hire Objective C or Swift developers, and for Android — Java or Kotlin programmers. Developers write two different apps in two different languages.
- Cross-platform app development. Using this approach, developers use technologies like NativeScript, React Native, Titanium, Flutter, and Xamarin: they allow utilizing both native components and web technologies during app development. Developers, too, create an app for every platform from one codebase and add native components through ready-to-use libraries and UI models offered by the tech kit of their choice.
- Platform-based app development. This approach is suitable if your app operates within its ecosystem.
You need to take your time, analyze what you want and what you need, and choose a suitable development approach. Here, the choice is usually informed by the speed of development you want to have, the skill your team already has and your budget — and it’s the same for healthcare apps. Hybrid and cross-platform options are also remarkable if you want to build an app to test your business hypothesis (because it’s quick) or to run a marketing campaign (because, again, it’s quick.)
2. Device Compatibility Factor
Another challenge of mobile app development is that building for mobile means building for different versions of mobile operating systems — and for different models of devices. iPhones were steadily increasing in size during the last years and it meant — still means — that app developers have to consider how the interface of their app has to change if that happens. The plan for agile adaptation to whatever happens has to be laid out in the software architecture at the very beginning of programming. If you wish to check how compatible your app is, you can run a device compatibility test. It will show how well your app works on different devices, and what you can improve.
In that context, there are also considerations of support — companies often stop maintaining their apps for older versions of operating systems, which is bad news for people that are still using old devices and cannot update their OS.
In healthcare, a compatibility question comes with security concerns: versions of operating systems that aren’t supported anymore have a lot of vulnerabilities which means apps that are installed within these systems are in danger of being hacked. At the same time, accessibility is increasingly important for the industry — elderly people struggle with new devices and with updating the OS, and people, generally, often cannot afford one. Digital health businesses can solve this challenge via different approaches: for instance, via installing extra-layers of protection on servers where patients’ data are kept or, which is more reliable, via creating a web- or desktop version of the app. (These still have lots of limitations; the only sustainable solution here is to have a cybersecurity team on watch, but not many mHealth businesses can afford that.)
Now, let’s talk about the budget you need to develop and launch your mobile app. The cost of mobile app development is influenced by several factors: mobile app’s complexity, its type, and who develops an app.
To understand how it works, take a look at the example below. Let’s imagine that you want to develop a healthcare application. What kind of budget do you require to do this? Here are some general calculations for you to keep in mind — all numbers below are average costs on the app development market in 2021:
- App complexity
A mHealth app may have a set of functionalities that let a user monitor their body, collect this data, send it to the doctors, and contact this doctor — it means that it should support good video quality and get access to wearable devices (e.g. smartwatches). Or, an app can simply remind a patient to take medicine — nothing more sophisticated than this. The complexity of an app affects its development price and time required to create it: a basic app with minimum functions may take up to three months and $15.000 to develop, a complex app — up to two years, with a price going further than $120.000.
- A development team
When it comes to hiring a development team, you have several options: hire freelancers, create a team of in-house developers, or hire third-party outside software company’s developers. Here is a comparison of these options for you to take a look at:
|Freelancers||In-house developers||Third-party company’s developers|
|Time required to start the development process||The time to go through the recruitment of freelancers (from one to four weeks)||The time to hire enough people, and finish their training (from one to ten weeks)||The time to find a suitable company and sign a contract (from one to three weeks)|
|Cost (comparison of the options presented in the table)||The cheapest option (no training and workspace)||The most expensive option (training and workplace are required)||The medium-price option, which is discussed during the negotiations|
Taking into account this information, you can choose an option, which suits your needs and budget the most. However, remember that this decision is not final. You can always change the team if you feel that the results of a current one don’t satisfy your needs and wishes.
For healthcare app development, there are some additional considerations to go through when choosing a team — e.g., when you don’t have domain expertise in the industry or aren’t sure about your security skills, it’s often a good idea to find a partner who has all that.
4. App Performance
App has to have good performance and to ensure it does, you need to run a set of tests. These often include device performance check (the battery consumption, launch time, etc.), network performance (a speed and amount of network consumption), and server performance (transfer of data to and from server).
Ideally, your app has to perform well in the worst network conditions on a low battery — it’s very challenging to achieve that and if you’ve chosen hybrid or cross-platform development, this will require an extra chunk of time you have to account for. Good performance in bad conditions is vital for mHealth apps, as lots of people live in areas with slow Internet speed or—yes, again—have old mobile devices.
Summing up, here are some extra points for you to remember:
- Develop a plan. It will help you understand exactly what and when should be done. Prioritize the development of features that are informed by your value proposition.
- Don’t forget about risks and prepare more money than you think you’ll need and more time than you estimate will be enough.
If you do build a healthcare app, don’t forget about security and accessibility considerations and try not to fall into the trap of the silicon-valley-y build fast, break things approach; it doesn’t have a place in this industry.