12 Steps to Mobile App Development

Mobile Analytics

A gut instinct or killer idea often inspires the creation of a mobile app. But once you have a beta, it’s time to use data to refine your product. With today’s abundance of mobile app analytics providers, there’s no reason to guess at what’s making your business succeed when you can know.

The tools you can test out are many and varied (see the charts below), but they all require pre-planning your analytics strategy. Take time to figure out which app usage data to target (check out the free whitepaper: “6 Essential Analytics Your App Needs” for more on that) and how to intelligently sift through and interpret the numbers.

But building your product development roadmap based on analytics means more than just building a rich data platform. You need to internally align your thinking, your conversations and your planning around data. Whether you’re building your first app, or looking for a new approach to your existing process, below are 12 steps you can take to make data the driver of your app decisions.

First step of data-driven mobile app development is to collect smart data

Every data point should go towards answering a question today or in the future. Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean you must – or that the data will have significant meaning to your decision process.

Focus on specific questions that will produce hard numbers you can act upon, such as “What percentage of users come back tomorrow?” or “How many transactions did we have in Canada last October?”

Second step of data-driven mobile app development is to measure success against benchmark

Focus on company-wide KPIs (key performance indicators) and constantly ask how your app contributes to them.

You won’t know how your product is doing if you don’t have a measuring stick to hold against your results. While each KPI you select should be based off your individual company’s needs, analytics like conversion rate, click through-rate, product page view, and time spent in app are all helpful to start.

The third step of data-driven mobile app development is to always start with questions

Work backwards to determine what needs to be tracked – and how to track the data to give actionable insights later.

This method of asking questions first will make sure you start on the right foot and keep moving in the right direction. Try collecting questions from your entire team to ensure different sets of perspectives are taken into account.

Fourth step of data-driven mobile app development is to provide actionable data to everyone in your company

Instead of restricting access to “sensitive” data, put it out there in your company – you never know who will ask an insightful question or have the next great idea.

Ideas can come from anywhere, and a free flow of information will keep the analytics stream fresh and open to change for the better.

Fifth step of data-driven mobile app development is to not waste all your time on manually pulling reports

Reports should be set up once and refreshed as necessary, with analysis time focused instead on answering questions.

Manually and individually pulling reports will eat up a lot of time that could be better spent elsewhere, which makes properly selecting your key analytics at the beginning even more important.

Sixth step of data-driven mobile app development is to leave room for serendipity

Allow your analyst 20% of his/her time (pick one day/week) to explore the data without expectation. The new insights will surprise you.

Like Google’s 80/20 rule for employees, giving your analytics analyst some free rein takes the pressure off, keeps the work from becoming too mechanical, and could lead to exciting data discoveries.

Seventh step of data-driven mobile app development is to be proactive rather than reactive

Organizations have to get out of the habit of looking at potholes in the rear-view mirror. Instead, think about fixing the road ahead.

When you have a constantly incoming stream of data, staying organized is key or you risk getting overwhelmed and scrambling to stay on top of everything.

Eighth step of data-driven mobile app development is to mark your milestones

Share your results throughout your company, and celebrate your successes. Decide on significant metrics you want to make public, and share them with your users (along with a thank you) and with relevant media.

This holds you accountable to your goals, celebrates your growth, and makes your users feel more involved (and your competition nervous).

Ninth step of data-driven mobile app development is to quantify customer sentiment

Monitor your reviews and incoming emails for clues about data to analyze for usability improvements.

Numbers don’t lie but they can easily be misunderstood. If you have a question that’s left you scratching your head, sometimes words can help you connect the dots and figure out what’s missing.

Tenth step of data-driven mobile app development is to learn from your mistakes

Create a centralized location for test results and findings that all team members can access.

Keeping a visible, updated log of what works and what doesn’t is crucial for tracking progress and not making the same mistake twice.

Eleventh step of data-driven mobile app development is to keep an eye on the long view

Daily reporting and incremental changes allow you to zoom in. But remember to zoom out and look at longer timeframes and see bigger trends.

Holding monthly meetings which reflect where you stand in regards to meeting your long-term goals can help your team stay motivated and acutely aware of changes in your business and the behavior of your users.

Twelfth step of data-driven mobile app development is to measure relevant sample sizes

Make sure you’re looking at a statistically significant data set – both the number of users and the length of time. This will vary by app and feature tested, but bigger is better when it comes to user cohorts.

Creating an app from start to finish is a time-and-resource-heavy process, so when you do get to the launching stage, you want your product to have the most effective guidance possible. Gathering and analyzing the right data is a big step to ensuring a successful future for your app. Tracking and evaluating your app’s performance is critical as you use this information to continually iterate your product until it reaches maximum optimization.

For even more information on how to use data to drive your company’s decisions, check out our whitepaper on building an analytics platform.

A whitepaper for mobile analytics in order to maximize mobile app success
Piotr Gajos, Chief Innovation Officer

Piotr is Sourcebits Chief Innovation Officer. A 2006 Apple Design Award winner, Piotr draws much of his inspiration from film and music, and focuses on leading our Innovation Strategy Workshops, generating new ideas for Sourcebits, and consulting on projects.