At Instabug, we consider ourselves really lucky to work with some of the best companies that are disrupting mobile app development worldwide, so we’ve decided to pick their brains in order to share their secret sauces with you.
Our first interview is with Savvy Apps. Put aside that they’re an awesome company building word class apps, they’re one of our very first users, so it was a no-brainer to kick off our series with them.
Today we sat down with Ken Yarmosh (Founder) and Richard Yarmosh (Managing Director), who have been managing Savvy Apps for more than eight years. Richard and Ken shared their two cents on app development and told us about the process they go through to deliver top-notch apps.
We’re on a mission to help app developers build and ship flawless apps at all times, so we hope this interview gives you valuable insights for your own app dev journey.
Q: Can you tell us more about Savvy Apps and how long you’ve been in business?
Savvy Apps has been in business since 2009, which we like to say makes us a “grandpa” in app years. Many of the Savvy Apps team members waited in line for the original iPhone, owned the original Nexus device, and have been working on Apple and Google’s platforms from day one.
We are extremely selective with who we hire and who we work with. We take pride in the fact that we have had no team members leave the company in over two years. We also have had no customers leave us in the same period of time. It’s our deep expertise across disciplines, a desire to the best in the business, care for one another, and other guiding principles that continue to help ground us while we grow in our constantly changing industry.
Q: From your extensive experience, what do you think makes an app great?
A catchy name and fancy animations could help, but real quality comes from how well the app addresses these elements: purpose, audience, stability, and polish.
The app has to be designed to do one thing well. You should know your audience really well. It should be stable and fast. And for sure, should be polished.
A great app is focused, intuitive, fast, and a pleasure to use. You should regularly explore apps featured on the app stores and those that receive awards from Apple and Google. By focusing on fulfilling the four criteria above, you’ll have a greater chance at making it on those “top app” lists.
Q: On average, how long does it take to develop a mobile app?
While it varies greatly, the general answer we provide to people asking us how long it takes to build an app is four to six months. That does not mean the first version of an app—a v1.0 app—can’t be built faster than four months or that it won’t take longer than six months. We’ve done both at Savvy Apps. As with any creative undertaking, though, there are many factors that can influence this timeline.
Some general notes that we’ve shared before:
A v1.0 app takes about four to six months to build, usually.
Quality takes time. Apps vary from two-week throwaways to years-long masterpieces.
Apps that target many features require more time to build than apps with a narrow scope.
The budget will determine the timeline. Yet a large budget carries its own dangers.
A team of cross-discipline experts results in a tighter build time.
The right skills, mentality, and process translate into a more efficient timeline.
Q: Can you walk us through your development cycle, how is it divided, and what do you start with?
We consider the development process to actually start with strategy and design. We spend considerable time understanding where an app will fit in the marketplace, assessing competitors, identifying audiences, and comparable items. We recently explained this part of our process in a blog post outlining the app discovery process for a better UX design.
Before we move into what traditionally is considered “development”, we have the product, user experience, and visual design team members do a proper handoff and transition to the lead developer of the app. This step ensures full context is provided and allows questions to be addressed upfront.
Our lead developer will begin setting up the project using the appropriate project skeleton for the platform. We have ones that are distinct for iOS versus Android. They will then begin spiking on what might be the more challenging parts of the project. In parallel, the product lead will ticket out all development tasks, ensuring there’s enough detail on each ticket, which may include linking to the relevant screen. Once that is finished, the lead developer will estimate each task, so we have visibility into the total level of effort. We also add in tickets that account for feedback, polish, testing, and similar items.
Although it depends on the scope of the app, we usually begin delivering weekly builds to our customers four to six weeks into the development cycle. We expand out who is testing and using the app over time. As we approach the target ship date, we move to actual users being part of the testing cycles. We also have a detailed checklist on what we review for an app, especially when getting ready to submit to the app stores for production. There’s more to our process but this provides some of the highlights.
Q: What tools are you using for development?
For development specifically, the tools we use include:
Zeplin for collaboration between UI designers and front-end developers
Pivotal Tracker for issue tracking and team management
GitHub for code collaboration
Travis CI for continuous integration and testing
Instabug for user feedback and crash reporting
Q: Great stack! How does Instabug help in your development cycle?
We were a very early user of Instabug going back to 2013 and we implement the SDK very early on in our process. The product team will use it internally to push issues to the development team. It’s also always ready to go when we provide our customer with their first of many in-progress builds.
Instabug has made it incredibly easier to pass thoughts, ideas, bugs, and similar items directly from our customers to our developers. We’re able to quickly obtain feedback and apply updates to our next weekly release. We’re big fans of Instabug’s shake-to-send-feedback feature, as this makes it easier for testers to record and send their feedback. The ability for testers to annotate a screenshot to further identify and explain their feedback is very useful as is the diagnostic information that is automatically sent with the feedback. While we haven’t used all of the new features extensively yet, we are excited by recent advancements like video recording and support for the web.
Q: Summing it up, what tips could you share with fellow app developers to ship better apps?
It’s a business, not an app. Prepare to deal with marketing, financials, legal issues, customer support, not just development.
Keep to your timeline. Don’t fall to the allure of “more is better” and never ship your app.
Create a roadmap, collect feedback and data so you don’t lose touch with what’s important to normal users.
Dedicate 20% of your dev timeline to beta testing a near-production version of your app.
Plan for it to take at least a year to prove out your idea.
With the right information and tools, it’ll be easier and faster to ship a top-rated app. Check out what makes an app great according to our brilliant friends at Savvy Apps and explore how Instabug can help you build stronger, better iterations.