In 2014, data predicted that less than 0.01% of mobile apps would be considered a financial success by 2018.

We don’t know how true this prediction ended up, but the data remains a stark reminder that building a successful mobile app requires a combination of expertise, dedication and innovation.

How can a company ensure their app is a worthwhile investment? For those working with an outside development agency–especially for the first time– it begins with finding the right partner.

The actual development of an app is no longer the most important stage of creating one. High-quality product development is becoming the norm.

What companies need help with, and where agencies can differentiate, is product direction and strategy–crafting innovative ideas and ensuring products’ success once they’ve been built.

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The pre-planning and post-launch stages are the two most critical times in an app’s creation–the two stages where the bulk of the product direction and strategy are required.

  • During a pre-planning or discovery stage, a customer and agency set up their relationship for success by clarifying communication, timelines, and expectations. This better ensures an idea is successful, and the development process runs smoothly.
  • Once an MVP is released, post-launch improvements and updates are necessary to attract users and stay relevant. Otherwise, you risk your app becoming outdated.

The best app development agencies are ones that promote in-depth discussion before beginning a project and ensure the success of an app or product long after launch through ongoing development and improvement.

The best app development agencies are ones that promote in-depth discussion before beginning a project and ensure the success of an app or product long after launch through ongoing development and improvement.

Companies partnering with an app development agency for the first time should ensure their chosen agency values discussion and hard work from ideation to long past the MVP’s launch.

Why is Pre-Planning Important?

When partnering with an agency, you are trusting them to fulfill your detailed expectations for a product while maintaining a high level of skill and expertise. Any moments of miscommunication can hinder an app’s success.

Clutch found that nearly 70% of app development agencies require a pre-planning or discovery stage before moving forward with a product. This number should be 100%.

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The discovery stage is critical to determining an accurate price for your partnership, as well as understanding the feasibility of your app idea.

A skilled app development partner will discuss the practicality of your project, if your desired product will actually help you meet your end goals, and how you can get what you want while staying within your budget.

During the discovery stage, the app development company may:

  • Conduct market research
  • Create prototypes
  • Schedule out a development timeline

Be wary of any app development agency that promises your dream product with little to no prior discussion.

Related Reading: 10 Skills Every Mobile Product Manager Needs

Why Is Ongoing Improvement Important?

App creators need to ensure their product can compete in an evolving marketplace and react to changing customer needs. This means that you should be improving your product long after the MVP launches.

“You should be reinvesting, maintaining, and optimizing your product, which, ultimately, means your users.” - Dominic Tancredi, CEO of Dom & Tom

“You should be reinvesting, maintaining, and optimizing your product, which, ultimately, means your users,” said Dominic Tancredi, CEO of Dom & Tom, in Clutch’s recent survey “How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App.”

When selecting an app development partner, it’s critical to approach the relationship as a potentially years-long endeavor. An agency should be on hand to provide updates and expertise for as long as you want the app to remain relevant.

Your app risks losing increasingly disinterested users if you don’t continue to update it.

App creators must implement post-launch changes to reflect users’ new design and features preferences.

Recent data found that 71% of app users churn within 90 days. By updating and offering new features, you decrease the risk of users abandoning your product.

A 2017 survey found that among 200 free apps, the median number of days between updates was 18 days.

Do not leave your app to grow old and stale. You must ensure that you’re implementing customer feedback and constantly improving.

How to Emphasize Ongoing Improvement

For businesses unfamiliar with ongoing improvement, it can feel like an overwhelming task. How can you begin the process of understanding how to improve your product over time?

Ultimately, you should be focused on an outcome, rather than output. This means thinking about what you want to get out of the product updates, as opposed to simply what quantity or type of features you want to release.

You should be focused on an outcome, rather than output.

One thought framework that helps facilitate this is the “North Star Metric.” This perspective says that you should identify the core vision of your product, as well as one key metric that reflects that vision.

For example, Spotify’s core value could be “to provide the most comprehensive online music library.” Their North Star Metric might be “time spent listening to music.” Every update Spotify releases should ultimately work toward increasing the time spent listening to music.

By focusing on the one key metric, you can better inform how you read your analytics and improve your product.

By focusing on the one key metric, you can better inform how you read your analytics and improve your product.

Ultimately, companies should spend considerable time collecting and measuring analytics to improve their product. This enables a company to iterate quickly and release product improvements based on behavioral insights and user needs.

Related Reading: The Role of Growth in Mobile Product Development

Consider the Before and After of App Development

Your app needs close attention and care before you begin development and long after the launch of your MVP.

Be sure you thoroughly discuss your goals, plans, and expectations with an app development company in the beginning. Afterward, it’s pertinent that you remain engaged with the company to continue improving and updating the app.