Breaking Down the Mobile App Development Lifecycle: A Step-by-Step Approach

July 12, 2023

The number of smartphone users has increased multifold in the past decade. 

Currently, there are over 7 billion mobile users worldwide.

With this increasing number of smartphone users and the shift towards mobile-first experiences, companies across industries are recognizing the tremendous value of reaching their customers through mobile applications. 

However, building a successful mobile app is no easy task.

The mobile app development process is complex and multifaceted, as it involves various stages, each requiring careful planning and execution. And yet, developing a mobile app can be rewarding if approached systematically. 

So, this article is all about showing how to follow a well-defined and structured approach to navigate the complexities of the mobile app development lifecycle effectively.

The Mobile App Development Lifecycle

Mobile app development means creating software applications specifically designed to run on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. 

The process involves a combination of programming languages, development frameworks, and tools to create applications for popular mobile platforms like iOS (Apple) and Android (Google).

In the mobile app development lifecycle, developers primarily consider the limitations and capabilities of mobile devices. They also consider the specific requirements of each mobile platform. This helps them build the right application to engage users.

The mobile app development lifecycle is a part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). The SDLC is a systematic approach to developing software applications, consisting of defined phases that guide the entire development process.

That said, here are the phases or steps involved in building a successful mobile application:

#1. Inception

Inception refers to the initial phase of the mobile app development cycle, where the project's objectives, scope, and feasibility are defined. During the inception phase, the project team and stakeholders collaborate to gather requirements, identify risks and constraints, and establish a shared understanding of the project's goals.

It typically involves the following activities:

  • Project Initiation: This phase foresees defining the target audience, identifying the problem the app aims to solve, and understanding the value proposition.
  • Stakeholder Analysis: This includes gathering stakeholders' feedback and input to shape the app's requirements.
  • Risk Identification and Mitigation: The inception phase also involves identifying potential risks and challenges that may impact the project's success. For instance, the project managers and developers will identify the risks related to technology, resource availability, timeline, or user adoption, and develop strategies for mitigating them.

#2. Wireframes

The next step in the mobile app development lifecycle is wireframing. 

Wireframes are visual representations or blueprints that depict the structure, layout, and functionality of an app's User Interface (UI).

They help designers, developers, and stakeholders understand the app's flow, navigation, and content placement before moving into the design and development phases.

To understand this concept better, let's consider an example of a fitness tracker SaaS mobile app. The app can have modules like the home, workout plan, goal setting, and progress tracking screens.

So, the home screen can show a logo. Likewise, it can also feature a widget that has the total distance walked, calorie count, etc. It can include buttons, clickables, content placeholders, and more.

All of these can help developers get a clear idea of what the mobile application user interface will look like.

#3. Technical Feasibility

Technical feasibility is all about assessing whether or not you have enough technical resources to develop, implement, and maintain the mobile application. 

At the same time, it analyzes whether the back-end systems can support the app's functionalities.

Some of the key areas to evaluate during technical feasibility are:

At the end of this step, you can create an efficient app development roadmap

A roadmap involves everything from programming frameworks and app features to the resources required and the time to complete each step. Technical feasibility assessments can help software developers make informed decisions to define a realistic and achievable roadmap.

#4. Prototyping

Next in the mobile app development lifecycle is to create a prototype of your application. 

Prototypes are typically created to test whether your project works in action. They're different from an MVP mobile app, which is the initial release of your project with core features and functionalities to early users.

Once your wireframes are ready, you can create interactive prototypes. Interactive prototypes simulate user interactions, allowing you to test the flow and usability of your app. Focus on creating prototypes that showcase the key functionalities and user journeys within your app.

When your prototype is ready, share it with stakeholders to show your project idea in action. Their feedback can help you identify probable issues, gather suggestions for improvement, and make necessary iterations. 

Then, iterate your prototypes based on the feedback received.

#5. Design

The design phase is one of the most crucial phases of the mobile app development lifecycle because this is where you start working on the actual app. It involves creating a visual and interactive representation of the app's user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).

Designing User Interface

User interface (UI) design creates the app's look and feel. This includes everything from the app's icons and buttons to its layout and navigation. This phase aims to create an app that is visually appealing and easy to use.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when designing a mobile app's UI:

  • Simplicity: The app should be easy to use and navigate. Users should be able to find what they're looking for quickly and easily.
  • Consistency: The app should have a consistent look and feel throughout. This means using the same fonts, colors, and icons throughout the app.
  • Accessibility: The app should be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This means using large fonts, clear text, and simple controls.
  • Responsiveness: The app should be responsive and load quickly. Users should not wait long for the app or pages to load.
  • Usability: The app should be easy to use. Users should be able to figure out how to use the app without reading many instructions.

Designing User Experience

Another part of the designing phase is building an exceptional user experience (UX). During this step, mobile app designers will work on creating a workflow that ensures a smooth transition across different UI elements of the app. This helps enhance user experience. For example, they will work on navigation patterns, gestures, transitions, and micro-interactions to ensure a smooth and engaging user experience.

Additionally, they will also follow established design guidelines and standards. For example, the designers can follow platform-specific guidelines like Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) for iOS or Material Design guidelines for Android.

This phase is critical to the app's success, as it determines how users will interact with it and how enjoyable their experience will be.

#6. Development

Once the UI and UX design is finalized, the design assets, specifications, and documentation are handed off to the development team. The development team starts working on developing the front-end and back-end coding.

The front end of the mobile app is everything that users interact with and perceive visually. The developers will write the code based on the final designs to turn them into a working app. 

However, the front end alone is not enough, as it also relies on the back end to enable proper functionality and bridge the gap between the user interface and the underlying system.

In this sense, back-end development plays a critical role in the mobile app development lifecycle. Without the back end, the user's interactions with the app will have no result. 

Specifically, the developers will work on various tasks, including data storage, server-side logic, versioning, data integration, and user management as a part of back-end development.

#7. Stabilization

Stabilization is a crucial mobile app development lifecycle phase that addresses bugs. It involves working on all functionality, usability, and performance issues.

It is essential to initiate stabilization early to rectify bugs before they escalate into costly problems. Generally, applications progress through various stages in this phase, including Alpha, Beta, and Release Candidate.

  • Alpha: Core functionality is typically code-complete, meaning it has been built but not thoroughly tested. The application in the alpha stage may have major bugs and the features won’t be fully developed yet.
  • Beta: Most of the functionality is complete and has undergone some testing and bug fixing. However, significant known issues may remain.
  • Release Candidate: All functionality has been finalized and thoroughly tested. Barring discovering new bugs, the app is considered a candidate for release to the public.

It is advisable to commence testing an application as early as possible. For instance, in the alpha stage, detecting performance issues provides an opportunity to adjust the underlying architecture before a significant amount of code is built upon flawed assumptions.

Overall, prioritizing stabilization and incorporating testing and feedback from the earliest stages of development can greatly enhance an application's quality, performance, and usability.

#8. Deployment

Once the stabilization phase is complete, your app will be ready for deployment. There are different channels to deploy and distribute your custom software. Here are some of the distribution channels available:

  • App Stores: App stores are the primary distribution channels for mobile applications. They are digital marketplaces where users can discover, download, and update apps for their devices. The two major app stores are:
  • Apple App Store: Exclusive to iOS devices, the Apple App Store is the official marketplace for iPhone, iPad, and other Apple devices. Developers must adhere to Apple's guidelines and submit their apps for review before publishing in the store.
  • Google Play Store: The Google Play Store is the official app store for Android devices. It allows developers to publish their apps after adhering to Google's guidelines. Android offers more flexibility in app distribution, allowing apps to be installed from third-party sources.
  • Third-Party App Stores: In addition to the official app stores, several third-party app stores are available. These platforms may have different rules, policies, and target markets. Examples include Amazon Appstore, Samsung Galaxy Store, and GetJar. Third-party app stores can provide additional exposure for developers and reach users who may not have access to official app stores.
  • Over-the-Air (OTA) Installation: OTA installation allows users to download and install apps directly on their devices without going through an app store. This method is often used for beta testing or distributing apps to a limited number of users. Users can receive installation links via email, SMS, or website downloads and then install the app by following the instructions.

#9. Post-Launch Support and Maintenance

The post-launch support and maintenance phase of the mobile app development lifecycle ensures that the mobile app continues to function properly after being released to the public.

This phase includes fixing any remaining bugs, adding new features, and improving performance. Besides, it also involves releasing security updates and offering customer support.

How Long Does It Take to Make a Mobile App?

Making a mobile app can take anywhere between 18 to 27 weeks. 

However, the time it takes can vary significantly based on several factors. Some of these factors are the app's complexity, the platforms it's being developed for, the development team size, the level of experience and expertise of the developers involved, etc.

Here's a rough estimate of the time required for each stage:

  • Inception: 1-2 weeks
  • Wireframes: 1-2 weeks
  • Technical Feasibility: 1 week
  • Prototyping: 2-3 weeks
  • Design: 3-5 weeks
  • Development: 7-10 weeks
  • Stabilization: 2-3 weeks
  • Deployment: 1 week
  • Post-Launch Support and Maintenance: It is an ongoing task

4 Considerations for Mobile App Development

Developing mobile applications poses unique considerations compared to traditional web/desktop development. Here are some key points to be aware of:

  1. Multitasking: Mobile devices have limited screen space, allowing only one app to be in the foreground at a time. Hence, you must wisely decide whether to allow multitasking in your mobile app. For instance, Netflix and other streaming platforms use picture-in-picture (PIP) to run videos in small sizes when the user goes to the home screen - this is a form of multitasking. 
  2. Form Factor: Mobile devices, including phones and tablets, have smaller screen sizes than laptops. Designing applications for these form factors requires optimizing UI controls to effectively use smaller screens.
  3. Device and Operating System Fragmentation: Varying hardware, features, screen ratios, sizes, and resolutions across devices must be considered during the conceptualization, planning, design, development, and testing phases. Application functionality should adapt to different device capabilities and configurations.
  4. Limited Resources: Despite increasing power, mobile devices still have limited capabilities compared to desktop or notebook computers. Developers must be mindful of resource consumption, such as memory usage and CPU performance, to ensure optimal responsiveness and user experience.

By keeping these considerations in mind and adopting smart coding practices, developers can create successful mobile applications and validate their performance on actual devices early in the development cycle.


Building mobile applications has become necessary to thrive in today's mobile-driven market. 

But the mobile app development lifecycle is a critical process that requires a comprehensive and step-by-step approach.

By breaking down the development process into various stages, businesses can ensure the successful creation and deployment of their mobile apps.

However, navigating the complexities of mobile app development requires expertise and experience. By marketing with a mobile application development company like MakeITSimple, which understands the challenges and requirements of creating custom mobile apps for SaaS businesses, you can make that happen for your company. 

Contact our experts today to learn how we can help you take your business to the next level with mobile app development.

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