How to Launch an App: The Definitive Guide

Inspire Visual By Inspire Visual
Updated October 2020

Welcome to the complete guide on how to launch an app successfully.

The strategies in this article will teach you how to launch an app with more confidence and more likelihood for successful outcomes.

We have a lot of ground to cover and insights to share, so let’s get started…

How to Launch an App: The Definitive Guide

Inspire Visual By Inspire Visual
Updated October 2020

Welcome to the complete guide on how to launch an app successfully.

The strategies in this article will teach you how to launch an app with more confidence and more likelihood for successful outcomes.

We have a lot of ground to cover and insights to share, so let’s get started…

Chapter 1 Build Your App Strategy

With over 2.5 million apps on Google Play and 1.85 million apps on iOS, you are competing for the spotlight.

Doing thorough market research is going to make a big difference.

A big part of knowing how to launch an app that can be successful starts here, so ask yourself these questions to help focus your market research efforts:

  1. What problems are you solving that are not already solved by your competition?
  2. Who is your target audience?
  3. What are the current leading app’s strengths and weaknesses?
Chapter 1: Build Your App Strategy

1: What problems are you solving that are not already solved by your competition?

Having a core feature not included in your competitor’s app can really set you apart. Or maybe it’s a combination of two or more competitors’ apps who have existing features, but they are not offered in a single app.

Find out what problems exist that your app will solve for users. How will your app be special, stand out and engage users better than other similar apps?

Be sure you have put in the research time needed to assure your app is solving key, real-world problems app users are facing.

2: Who is your target audience?

Knowing your target audience sets the tone for both your app and marketing strategy.

A simplified example: an app’s design and functionality should be very different for an 18-year old vs. a 65-year old, and your marketing strategy should be, too.

Your marketing strategy defines marketing language, imagery, social channels and in short, your entire marketing campaign.

We’ll go more in-depth on how to use this information in Chapter 3: Market Your App.

3: What are the current leading app’s strengths and weaknesses?

There is a wealth of information you can get for free here. Look at the reviews of top apps, where users explain what they like and don’t like about the app.

If users say apps are missing features or are emphasizing the usefulness of other features, make note of that; for example: is the UI is confusing to navigate, do they wish there was tablet support, etc.

App Reviews
App Reviews Mobile

Do your own free competitor research to find wanted features and complaints.

Detailed market research tools are also available. They organize your competition into categories and can show what markets are experiencing the largest growth, which keyword strategies your competitors are using, and much more. All of this can help you tailor your app marketing strategy.

Some free options are Flurry, SimilarWeb (paid plans also available) and Apple Analytics (iOS only).

Some paid options are AppAnnie, SensorTower and AppTopia.

App Research Tools
App Research Tools Mobile

Paid platforms often offer complex analysis tools.

Chapter 2 Define Your App Goals

Is your app going to be used for B2C, B2B or stand-alone app monetization?

There are significant differences, but don’t worry — we’ll walk you through each strategy.

Chapter 2: Define Your App Goals Illustration

B2C (Business-to-Consumer) Apps

Some popular apps in this category are Amazon, Starbucks and Netflix. These apps support already established companies’ sales channels.

They are free to use, since they are created solely to make it easier for consumers to purchase a product or service.

B2B (Business-to-Business) Apps

There are two kinds of B2B apps: those available on an App store for businesses to download, which require login credentials to enter (like digital cash registers at store fronts) and those only available to employees, which are usually not available for download by the public (like inventory control or other internal tasks).

Stand-Alone Apps (i.e. Monetize on My App)

We’ll get into this app category in more detail than B2C and B2B, because it offers so many options.

If your preference is monetization from the app itself, you have several revenue-based models to choose from. The most popular revenue-based models are:

  • Subscription
  • Free with Ads
  • One-Time Paid App
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Freemium

Once you choose an app revenue model, you are not locked in for the rest of the life of your app, but do be aware that there is an impact to your users if you change from one model to another.

For example, changing an app from free with ads to freemium with no ads will likely not receive the same negative reaction as changing a one-time payment app to a subscription-based model.

Subscription (most popular)

According to the State of Mobile 2020 report, of the top 250 US apps by spend through in-app subscriptions, there was an overwhelming 79% on Google Play and 94% on iOS based on the subscription model.

This is by far the most popular model where you offer your product on a subscription basis. Combine it with a free trial period to entice users and prove the app’s worth, and you’ve got a strong revenue-based contender.

App Subscription
App Subscription Mobile

The subscription model is usually offered with a free trial, 1 month and annual payments.

  • Minimal up front cost to the user
  • Apps earn higher revenue than other paid models
  • Option to offer discounts to loyal users by offering discounts on longer subscription periods
  • Recurring income
  • May need to keep pushing new content and features to satisfy subscribers
  • Your customer support must be rock-solid or subscribers may not feel they get their money’s worth
  • Some app categories are not fit for this model, examples are: single purpose apps (tv-remote, calculator etc.), gaming and shopping apps

Free with Ads

Most of the major mobile ad networks offer 5 formats:

  1. Banner
    These ads are usually text and images displayed at the top or bottom of an app.
  2. Native
    Mostly perceived as the least intrusive ad. They mimic the UI of the app with a small “sponsored” text added (popular with Facebook and Instagram).
  3. Interstitial
    They are full-screen ads shown between transitions in the app (IMDB and Duolingo use this).
  4. Offer wall
    Usually placed on a separate page the user has to click to get to. It lists multiple offers with in-app rewards to each choice; for example, in-game currency for clicking an ad.
  5. Video
    These are used in the native or interstitial formats above. They draw attention and engagement, but many users find them annoying due to their intrusion.
App Free with Ads
App Free with Ads Mobile

The five most used advertisement methods in apps.

  • You can offer a premium app with all features for free
  • You can offer the option to turn off ads with a subscription or paid version
  • Ads can be seen as intrusive and take up important app screen space
  • Can negatively affect the user experience and stop users coming back to an otherwise good app

One-Time Paid App

This was at one time the most popular option: the user pays for the app one time and afterward, it’s free for life.

This model works best for certain markets with limited life cycles. For example, if you target pregnancy or education, your user-base will be refreshed organically on an ongoing basis.

  • The maintenance costs are lower as users don’t expect as much renewed content
  • Users are more engaged than with free alternatives
  • Cleaner UI with no ads
  • Marketing costs and upkeep are higher
  • You must showcase the value of your app up front. 5-star reviews, screenshots and videos are important
  • Few downloads per day compared to the other options
  • Difficult to convert to another app revenue model later — you’re likely to upset current users and need to generate new users

Affiliate Marketing

With affiliate marketing, you are offering a free app but are paid by affiliates either by a certain action or sale the user completes.

Apps offering links to discounted products are often seen in this category. SlickDeals is one of the popular apps in this category.

  • Free app with potential for a fast-growing user-base
  • Customer service costs are low or non-existent
  • Random income pattern
  • No control of products offered


The Freemium method is increasing in popularity; some popular successful Freemium apps include Fortnite and Skype.

You can use these apps for free, but to unlock the full features or services you have to pay.

  • Easier to get a large user base and get people interested
  • No cost or risk to try your product
  • Flexible because it can be converted to the other models without as much risk for backlash from your user base
  • Some users will never convert to paying customers
  • You need to offer constant value to gain revenue
  • There’s a fine balance with this paid model between offering too many vs too few features

In Summary…

If you are trying to grow your user base and reach millions of people, Freemium or Free with Ads revenue models increase the user adoption numbers the fastest.

If you are targeting a smaller niche market, the Subscription or One-Time Paid revenue models might be a better choice.

Chapter 3 Decide Native or Cross-Platform

When you’re deciding how to build an app, a key decision you need to make early on is what platform(s) you are going to build on.

You can choose to release on Android with a 47.3% market share or iOS with a 52.5% market share. But why not release on both and get a 99.8% market saturation?

You can either develop your app natively on each platform, (basically developing two apps). Or, you can build one cross-platform app to deploy on both platforms at once.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Chapter 3: Native or Cross-Platform App

Native Apps

A native app is an app build specifically for the platform it is going to run on.

You can get a performance boost by developing your app natively on Android and iOS, mostly due to code optimization and access to new features introduced by Google and Apple.

A fast reacting app is very important since users will delete it if it’s unresponsive or slow.

On iOS, the programming language is called Swift while Android has a plethora of different options such as Java, Kotlin, C/C++, just to name a few.

As for user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), there are differences between Android and iOS: gestures and visual components, like radio buttons, are some examples.

Over the last few years, apps have moved to a unified experience on both platforms making similar or identical UIs.

Native Apps
Native Apps Mobile

More and more apps define their own UI/UX experiences and make them identical on both platforms.

  • Faster implementation of new features after Android and iOS releases new OS versions
  • Stable app with less risk of crashes
  • Better positioning on app stores due to high performance and user experience
  • Costs more to develop
  • Missed market share if there is only budget for iOS or Android app

Cross-Platform Apps

A cross-platform app is one app built to work on both platforms. The biggest advantages to building this kind of app are cost savings, faster development time and a seamless experience between Android and iOS.

If you design smart, there will be few or no noticeable differences between the Android and iOS UI.

Even though Android has its Material Design language, while iOS has its Human Interface guideline, the best way to design is not adhering strictly to either.

Instead, make a UI that works on both platforms. Some apps already doing this are Instagram, YouTube and AirBnB.

There are numerous cross-platform development kits to choose from, but there are 3 stand-outs due to availability of features and support.

We go into more detail about these in our guest blog post on UpCity, “Best Mobile App Technologies: The Definitive Guide,” but here’s a quick rundown below.

Top 3 Cross-Platform Development Kits
  • Larger user base with less effort
  • Quicker development time if targeting both platforms
  • Cost savings
  • Larger app size
  • Compatibility issues with third-party libraries and tools
  • Stability issues

What’s the Best Option?

It depends on what your most important value parameters are.

With a native app, you get faster access to new features, whereas with a cross-platform app, you have to wait until the features are implemented in the development kits.

Cross-platform’s biggest strength is that your app’s potential user base is much larger and if you want to develop for both Android and iOS there are cost and time savings involved in development as well as future app updates by using one code-base only.

If you are still unsure, you may need to do more in-depth analysis of your app requirements to determine which option is best for you – or get professional advice.

Chapter 4 Select the Right App Developer

Once you’re ready to start the exciting process of kicking off your app project, you’ll need to determine what type of help to enlist with your project.

How do you know whether you should attempt to go it alone and build your own team or enlist the help of a skilled app development company?

Your budget, timeline and skill level of in-house resources will help you determine the right level of support.

Chapter 4: Selecting the Right App Developer

How Much Does It Cost?

Our most frequently asked question is “how much does it cost to develop an app?” Well, it all depends.

How many features and screens will there be? What is the complexity of the features? Is backend integration needed? Does the app need to work on both mobile and tablet? What about Android and iOS? How about portrait vs landscape? And so on.

Before you can get a realistic price, you need to build the requirements document, which details every feature and functionality. App companies can also create this for you, but at a cost.

A survey of 12 mobile application development companies found that an app takes on average 7 months to complete and with an average cost of $171,450.

Examples of App development costs based on level of complexity

Remember these numbers are the initial cost for developing the app. There are also ongoing maintenance costs and updates the app requires, so you need to budget that in as well.

Build Your Own Team

If you have a small budget the most realistic option might be to hire freelancers.

Depending on your budget, you may have to consider working with individuals in India, China or Eastern Europe. Popular sites for finding freelance help are Fiver, Peopleperhour and Upworks.

Be aware of the pitfalls in this category. There is a high likelihood of resources over-promising and under-delivering.

The overhead for managing these resources can be very time consuming and the quality of the output low, with often very junior people promising to be able to perform just about any task under the sun and on unrealistic timelines.

Be critical when you read reviews of the freelancers on the sites. It’s a common tactic for some freelancers to pressure their clients into leaving good reviews before they’ll deliver source code.

This is also true even if you have a contract that outlines your requirements and legal agreements. Many developers in far-away locations do not fear litigation if they break a contract.

Unless you are an experienced project manager with in-depth app development experience, it might also be difficult to do quality assurance and sign-off on best practices.

Questions to ask app developer

Some common terminology you need to know when developing an app.

Hire an App Development Agency

For the least worry and work on your part, you’ll want to hire an experienced app development agency.

They will assign a project team to you, which should (at the very least) consist of a project manager, UI/UX designer, developer(s) and QA professional.

An experienced mobile app development agency will know how to launch an app by experience. They will have a good handle on the whole process and will reduce your time and effort in trying to produce and launch your app.

For example, when we take on a new app project at Inspire Visual, we manage all phases of the work that our clients need help with. Just a few examples include:

  • Providing strategic guidance based on real-world experience
  • helping define and solidify requirements
  • defining best practices in design and development and assuring these are adhered to throughout the project
  • guaranteeing the work is high quality at each and every phase

Be aware when you look at app development companies online that a lot of seemingly US-based companies are only store-fronts for entirely foreign-based companies, for example groups working out of India who have seemingly legitimate US addresses and phone numbers (but that ultimately direct your call overseas).

Unless you do some detective work online, you might not find out until you have already started the process.

If you hire an app development agency based in the US, you will be operating under US law, and even if they outsource to save you money, they are still liable for the contract requirements.

If your budget is flexible and you aren’t sure what size of agency will work best for you, check out our article “What do small agencies offer that the big guys can’t.

Chapter 5 Market Your App

Even though you’re going to have the best app ever since sliced bread, it doesn’t help if no one ever hears about it.

That’s why it’s so important to build a strong marketing strategy.

There are several aspects key to this which we will get into below.

Chapter 5: Market Your App

Understand Your Customers

We touched a bit on this topic in the first chapter. You need to create strong user personas for your marketing strategy to work its best.

A user persona is a fictional person based on your average user.

For an app it includes demographics such as name, age, occupation, bio, likes/dislikes, technical skill and interests.

Illustration of Understanding Your Customer

Create user personas to frame your app strategy.

Let’s look at one of the parameters: age.

In a study, Instagram is shown to have a 75% engagement from 18- to 24-year olds, but only 8% engagement from 65+ group.

At the same time, Facebook see a 76% engagement from 18- to 24-year olds and a much larger 46% engagement by the 65+ group.

If your target demographic’s age group is the young audience, there is not much difference between Instagram and Facebook, but if you are targeting seniors you can expect to reach more users on Facebook.

Include all the other parameters from your top user personas, and you can really customize your marketing strategy to maximize results.

The Most Popular Social Media Platforms

Most Popular Social Media Platforms

Facebook, YouTube continue to be the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults

Use of Different Online Platforms by Demographic Groups

Understand Your Customers Chart 2

Knowing social media demographics can optimize your marketing spend.

Create a Landing Page for Your App

Once you have your user persona work completed, you can start developing your app’s presence on the web.

You need a landing page to show detailed information about your mobile app. This should be available both pre- and post-launch.

Feature key highlights, screenshots and videos as soon as they become available. Include a simple sign-up form and encourage users to receive an alert with download links once your app is launched.

If you need help figuring out how to build your new website, check out our article “Consider your future needs when deciding how to build your website.

Promote Your App on Social Media

You don’t need to be represented on every platform available. Focus on the ones with the highest engagement from your key audience.

Post tailored and exciting updates regularly during development. Display features that will generate interest and encourage users to share with their network.

Unless you are trying to beat a competitor to market, also share screenshots and ask for feedback. Think of it as access to free focus groups with an interest in your app.

Similar to your landing page, have people do early sign-ups here, too.

Social Media Icons

Target select social media platforms with highest engagement.

Spread the Word

Create a press kit using materials from your landing page and social app campaign.

Your press kit should include a logo, screenshots, feature highlights, short app description, links to landing page and social channels and your contact information. If you have any videos showcasing the app, it’s the icing on the cake.

When everything is ready, send it to mobile and industry journalists and bloggers. Let them know you are available for any questions/interviews and feedback.

Keep in mind, it’s good to generate buzz as early as possible to increase reach, but you have to be able to keep the interest up until launch. Otherwise it’s a wasted effort. So, plan your timing carefully.

Chapter 6App Launch – Lift Off!

You have built your app strategy, defined your app goals, developed and marketed your app. Now it’s time for the final step. Launching your app to the market place!

These are the final steps in your app launch endeavor. First for Android and then for iOS.

Chapter 6: Need Help Developing Your App
Android App Development Logo

How to do Final Quality Assurance on Android

There are three test phases available for Android:

  1. Internal Testing
  2. Closed Test
  3. Open Test

These tests are set up in Google Play Console.

Internal Testing (limit: 100 testers)

This is usually done in a small team within your company and/or a small group of friends. They need a Google or G Suite account to join the test.

Builds in Internal Testing are not delayed by Beta reviews by Google, enabling you to push builds more quickly.

Closed Test (limit: 100,000 testers)

You increase the number of testers to a larger group, but still with a group of employees or trusted users. This phase is subject to a beta review process by Google, which fortunately usually only takes a few hours.

Open Test (limit: none)

This test is for the largest group to test the most stable version of your app. In this last test phase, your app will go public in the Play Store, so make sure your Play Store page looks finished.

Your Beta testers feedback is not public, giving you an option to get real-world use feedback with a chance to fix any last issues before official launch. Feedback does not affect your rating or reviews.

Apple App Development Logo

How to do Final Quality Assurance on iOS

Apple offers two types of tests for iOS:

  1. Internal Testing
  2. Public testing.

They are both done using TestFlight, which is Apple’s testing management tool.

Internal Testing (limit: 25 testers)

This part is usually confined to within your company or a selected group of friends. They can test on up to 30 devices each.

From TestFlight you can invite users either by using their email address or sending them a shared link.

Testers are instantly notified of any new builds and Apple does not have to review app builds every time.

Public Testing (limit: 10,000 testers)

You increase the number of testers to a larger group. You can either use your own resources or hire testers. They can be invited via email or a shared link.

When doing public testing all beta builds are subject to Apple reviews to make sure it follows the App Store Review Guidelines. It usually takes from a couple of hours to a day.

Submitting Your App

When you’re ready to submit your app, you’ll need to be sure your app follows Google Play’s Policies for Android apps and App Store Review Guidelines for iOS apps.

If you have an app development company assisting with this process, they’ll be familiar with the requirements for your app entry.

This is also your opportunity to choose your app category and include details for your audience about how your pricing works (if your app is a paid app).

You’ll also be able to provide users information on languages available, how to contact you and what your Privacy Policy entails.

Google and/or Apple will review your app to make sure it follows guidelines before they release it.

The review and approval process generally takes from 7-14 days. You’re almost done with the app release — this is an exciting time!

In Conclusion

Mobile app audiences today have come to expect professional, fully functional apps – even apps that are free or may only cost a dollar to download.

A mobile app launch is a cyclical process that requires reassessment as market demands change. App launch activities should happen long before the release date.

Your app launch strategy should include many touch points to build awareness with potential users long before the product is ready to launch.

Moreover, your mobile app may need to be updated and relaunched regularly with new updates and features; otherwise you may have a hard time keeping your users engaged.

Though you do need to put in the time and effort to do it right the first time, it’s an exciting and rewarding (and oftentimes lucrative) undertaking.

The smart device market and app sales are projected to have continual growth in the coming years.

The app market is wide open to those who have a great idea that solves a real problem for their audience – and that does so effectively.

Making informed decisions right from the beginning keeps you from spending more time, effort and money than necessary.

We hope our guide on how to launch an app has given you new knowledge and confidence to help you move forward with your app idea.

Do you still have questions about how to launch an app? If you need more help with any part of the process, reach out to Inspire Visual and our team would love to assist.

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About Inspire Visual
At Inspire Visual, we believe that compelling design, functionality and content help drive effective results. That’s why we work hard to provide innovative, visually inspiring and functionally sound solutions to address your marketing challenges and extend your brand’s reach.

We offer decades of experience helping brands worldwide with websites, mobile app development, email marketing, direct mail campaigns, brand identity design, UI/UX, graphic design, print design, tradeshow design and more. We feel privileged to be allowed into our clients’ businesses, and we strive to provide personal service and close collaboration throughout your project.

Call 407.476.1950 or email [email protected] to contact us, so we can meet you, learn more about your business and answer any questions you have. We’d love to connect with you!


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