Many people think that creating mobile apps are easier because there are less investments in materials, people, location, etc. as successful app stories show a group of friends just working in their garage about to make millions. That is not always the case. The truth is that is rarely the case.

Many people want to build the next mobile revolution that will upended how we live, buy and communicate—but one time-tested adage remains as true as ever: you get what you pay for.

In many ways, the mobile age has proven that the cost of creating a product or business hasn’t changed much at all; the infrastructure has simply shifted to a different asset class. Instead of investing in buildings, tools and machinery, capital now mostly goes into software. And just as with more traditional forms of commerce, if you want to capture the attention and wallets of customers, your mobile app—must be better and more engaging than the one your competition offers. It’s that simple.

Serious mobile apps require a strong conceptual foundation, good planning, an excellent ecosystem and top-notch talent in both the design and engineering phases. Scrimp on any of these elements and you risk the value and ROI of your finished product.

The first and perhaps most important step in creating a great app is to do your research. Once you have come up with your app concept, take the time to make sure nothing identical already exists on the market. It also helps to develop a few core use cases, taking into account the target audience and how your app will play out in both the short- and long-term.

Rounding out your upfront work is to select your creative team. While people can, in some cases, fulfill multiple roles, the strongest teams are comprised of people well versed in their particular specialty—e.g., user experience, interaction design, visual design and so on.

Once your team is in place, conceptual work begins by sketching out the key functional flows, followed by detailed wireframes and then the visual design. These steps can involve a lot of work—as much as two to three months depending on complexity. They can also require significant revision and even rethinking of the initial requirements. Many clients, for a variety of reasons, are eager to move quickly through this phase, but they often regret it downstream when costly revisions are required or a less-than-ideal end product is unveiled. It’s better to work out the kinks early, in collaboration with your design team, than pay dearly for expensive mistakes later.

A great way to make sure your app is on the right track is to get external feedback through usability testing. Lots of tools are available to build a working prototype; the best can actually stitch together screens and actions using the same transitions (in/out slides, flips and so on) and user gestures (swipes, pinches, taps, etc.) as the real thing.

Before you can actually release your app you need a cloud services provider who will not only host it, but also power and maintain the back end systems. There’s a lot of competition in the cloud services space from Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace and hundreds of smaller providers. Make sure that your provider can scale quickly as needed. Maintenance is another key consideration, both for your service provider and your development staff. Apps stores are competitive places and bad news travels fast—so make sure your team is available for bug fixes, updates, downstream version testing and so on.

It should be clear by now that building and maintaining an app is not an insignificant task. Despite what many think, it is a major investment of time, money and vision.

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