14 Mistakes to avoid when developing your app

17 min read
December 18, 2020

No doubt, software apps have been gaining a lot of attention and traffic in recent years. In fact, because of the high revenue they generate, many now consider them a goldmine.

However, a closer look at the mobile development industry reveals that a surprisingly high percentage of apps are discarded after first use. The sheer competitiveness of the digital market is mainly responsible for this.

But beyond competition, there are a lot of mistakes mobile app developers make that deter the success of their apps. 

By avoiding these common errors during development, you can successfully position your app to become the reliable source of revenue you’ve always dreamed of.

After years of working with many developers and studying the industry, we’ve pinpointed 14 of these mistakes. 

Let’s take a look at them!

1. Failing to Understand What Your Users Want

Every successful software application is built on intense user research. Especially at the initial stages of development, it’s common for developers to think that their app will be a user favorite.

However, if you neglect to validate this idea by a deep understanding of your target audience, your project may just be headed for the rocks.


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The two most important aspects of bringing an app to the market (development and marketing) rely extensively on user research for success. This is why you cannot afford to make assumptions about your prospective users’ needs and behaviors.

Apart from just conducting market research, you must ensure that your findings are accurate enough. 

Here are some findings from Apps Flyers research:

bar chart for mobile app installs per category 2019 vs 2020 new

Successful user research must provide insight into specific user personas, demographics, motivations, and behavioral patterns. 

You must also understand what the competition is already doing and set clear goals and targets for creating a unique solution.

To create an app that will be popular among your users, you need to find answers to the following questions:

  • How valuable and sustainable are the solutions your app is proposing?
  • Is the app design adapted to recent market trends?
  • Are your app features well-executed? Will they overwhelm the users?
  • How original is the app? App stores are already oversaturated with lots of similar products.

Audience research is by far the most important way to give your project a head start. When you validate your ideas and assumptions before setting things in motion, you get to save yourself a lot of time and energy.

2. Involving Too Many Stakeholders

Decision-making is a crucial part of any software development project. While having multiple project stakeholders can be an asset, the failure to manage them effectively is conversely a major ingredient for disaster.

Generally, project stakeholders often fight for their opinions to be prioritized. 

Your job as a developer is to strike a balance between meeting each party’s expectations and adhering to set industry standards in due time.

To achieve this, project managers must employ an effective strategy for achieving all the project goals.

A typical project management strategy should focus on identifying all the important stakeholders and their roles in the development process. While doing this, you should also assign different priority levels to each stakeholder’s interests. 

This should depend on how critical their role is to the completion of the project.

Stakeholder hierarchies could include assigned roles such as decision-makers, feedback providers, and recommendation givers.

However, regardless of their role, do your best to maintain clear and constant communication with all the parties involved.

There are many communication channels such as Slack, Trello, and the likes you can establish from the onset. Let them know that their input is making a difference.

Having this type of structure can help you avoid conflict. Nevertheless, when one arises, review each stakeholder’s interests with the project objectives in mind.

3. Mismanaging the Budget

Another common app development mistake is poor budget management. 

Irrespective of the scale or nature of your project, app development is a significant business investment. As such, one of the major deciding factors to pay attention to is the size of your budget and how it’s handled.

To avoid blowing your budget, there are three tips you should incorporate from the onset of the project.

Make a detailed budget before initiating the development process. Its relevance and accuracy depend mainly on how much research you put in. Understanding your target audience, the app feature list, design elements, and intended monetization strategy will play a significant role here.

Assign funds to make up for unexpected costs. No matter how detailed and extensive your budget is, unforeseen circumstances will always arise. A good budget should, therefore, make room for miscellaneous expenses.

Adhere strictly to the budget. Once you’ve created that ideal budget, ensure to also stick to it even at the most critical stages of the project.

In a nutshell, app development is a complex, customizable process. 

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for financing it, proper budget management ensures that you always put your best foot forward.

4. Not Communicating Properly With Developers

Just like every business venture, communication is a central component of every successful app development project. 

Getting developers to see the entire idea of your app may seem like an uphill task, but it’s one you have to commit to nonetheless. 

How well you do this can make all the difference in the results you get.

The best approach to communicating with developers is to leave out no details and make no assumptions.

When it comes to an entirely new piece of software, detailed documentation packed with all the necessary visuals will come in very handy.

Documentation should contain your app’s synopsis (abstract describing what it does), an app wireframe, and a complete feature list. In most cases, these are the elements a professional developer would require from you.

In return, the developer or agency will offer their feedback and prepare a quote for the project.

During this initial conversation, you can get an insight into the developer’s communication process and decide if it works for you.

Bear in mind, though, that this part of the development process isn’t standardized. Nevertheless, putting in your research input from the onset can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Related: How to Hire a Mobile App Developer 

5. Mimicking Your Website or Desktop App

Before looking to build a mobile app, you will probably already have an existing web app. The chances you’re in love with this web or desktop app are very high. 

However, choosing to replicate your web app in your mobile app is hardly ever a good idea.

The reason is simple: mobile apps and web apps work differently. Both products have different User Experience (UX) requirements. 

A mobile app shouldn’t be merely a ‘smaller version’ of your desktop app.

It’s important to emphasize this from both the functionality and design perspectives. By default, consumers use smartphones and desktop devices in different ways. 

This difference should, therefore, reflect in both the feature list and design choice.

While it’s excellent to maintain an identical color scheme and theme across the board (for branding purposes), the app’s UX should always remain a priority. 

Your mobile app (as a native app) should offer the best performance possible in optimum conditions. Your choice in design elements and functionality will help you achieve this!

6. Developing an App for Too Many Platforms at Once

Most major brands field multiple app solutions for different device platforms. In a bid to take a leaf out of their book, app developers are often tempted to do the same. 

Unfortunately, making this move early on has proven to be a mistake time and again.

No doubt, developing your app for several platforms is a sure way to reach as many consumers as possible. However, the major caveat here is that you should ensure not to go for too many platforms simultaneously.

The first downside to this approach is the financial implication. 

For example, creating an iOS app and an Android app simultaneously is a humongous task.

Since both tasks will be handled as two individual projects, you’ll need almost twice the budget one platform requires. This isn’t good economics for a new app.

Three types of mobile apps

Similarly, the factors responsible for optimum user experience may vary based on the platform.

Therefore, it makes more business sense to start with one platform, analyze user behavior, and modify your app based on the necessary changes identified.

In other words, expanding to different device platforms should only be a gradual, calculated process. 

This not only helps you achieve maximum customer satisfaction, but you also get to conserve your resources and maximize profit.

7. Making the App Too Big

A 21st Century digital consumer may be enthusiastic about many things; a large mobile app is not one. 

Unlike desktop devices, smartphones and other mobile devices are still significantly limited in storage space—no wonder most mobile users avoid apps that take a lot of storage and slow their devices.

As a result, keeping your app’s size at a minimum should be a priority. 

To do this, here are some essential tips for you to consider.

Minimize Resource Count and Size

Every app requires resources. By reducing each resource’s size and eliminating unused resources, you get to optimize the size of your application package. 

Among many other options, you can go about this by using drawable objects, compressing image files, relying on vector graphics, and limiting resource use from libraries.

Use the Android Size Analyzer and App Bundles

This tip is a very important one for Android developers.

The Android Size Analyzer is a powerful tool you can use to identify and execute various app size optimization strategies.

You can either use the analyzer within Android Studio or from the command line.

android app bundle overview new
The contents of an Android App Bundle with one base module, two feature modules, and two asset packs.

Once you’re done with this, using an Android App Bundle can also help save a lot of storage space when uploading to Google Play.

Keep Your Code as Short as Possible 

When it comes to app size, your codebase is another area you ought to pay attention to. 

Common code elements that can add to your app size include automatically generated code, enumerations, debug symbols, etc. Use those elements sparingly.

When you keep your APK as lean as possible, you don’t only get to increase your app’s chances of getting installed, but you also help users enjoy better performance.

8. Overcomplicating the App With Features and Functions

You may have heard that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. If you’ve doubted the truth of this saying in the past, mobile app development is here to change your mind.

As ironic as it may seem, cramming your app with tons of features is going to have a negative impact on it. Apart from the disorienting user experience you get, a complicated app is also hard to sell.

One of the reasons why many apps fail at launch is that they always try to stuff the product with numerous features. 

Effectively combining the key components is sure to give your app a significant edge.

A strong product vision is a crucial guideline you can use to strip your app of non-essentials. 

If your development team has clear targets and goal sets, you’ll quickly discover certain areas where you can build universal features. 

For example, DragApp allows Gmail users to automatically generate a to-do list by keeping mails in their inbox until they’ve completed tasks associated with them.

Similarly, you can choose to enable features for consumers who use them only or simply display selected features when they’re needed.

In general, a successful mobile app sports a feature set that is simple for consumers to understand and use.

The more intuitive your app is, the longer the usage time you can expect. This is especially true with navigation. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.

9. Designing a Poor UI /UX

There are many reasons why mobile apps fail. Poor User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are high up there. 

According to MobileAppDaily, bad UI/UX is the fourth most predominant reason mobile users uninstall apps. It only falls behind forced social logins, privacy concerns, and intrusive ads.

top reasons why people uninstall mobile apps

Some of the ways a poor UI/UX can kill your app’s prospects include:

  • The app takes too long to load. The longer your app pages take to load, the more users you lose.
  • Your design is monotonous and lacks creativity. An elegant, clean app design is sure to offer users enough visual engagement to retain them.
  • Poor navigation means the user has to scroll and click severally to find what they need.

Low-quality content and unnecessary login pages are other elements of poor UI/UX implementation to avoid.

The primary element that defines good UI and UX is a client-centric design. Even after implementing a standard UX design for your app, client feedback is a major ingredient for success. 

At times, the popular client choice may not always be the technically sound option. In the end, maintaining a profit-oriented balance should always be the priority.

10. Having a Never-Ending Improvement Loop

No doubt, putting your mobile app through multiple rounds of improvement is crucial for ensuring its market success. However, it’s also important to know where to draw the line. 

No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to create a perfect software product. Attempting to do this will only leave you with an app that never takes off.

At a point, you need to admit that there are things you’ll only learn after you launch your app. The courage to launch the actual product after a certain number of iterations is an essential business move in itself.

If you have a knack for playing it safe, you should consider making a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). 

With an MVP, you get to offer daily users a chance to assess your app’s functionalities and performance. In other words, you’re generating real user feedback under real marketing conditions, all before launching the final app.

This approach helps to speed up the app improvement process and launch the final product faster. 

Many successful mobile apps, such as Uber, and Instagram, have used the MVP model to deliver highly engaging products.

11. Failing to Test Adequately

On the other side of the coin, launching your mobile app without testing it sufficiently can be as disastrous as running a never-ending improvement loop.

Quality control is one element of the development process you cannot afford to overlook.

Quality assurance process for mobile apps

It’s quite common to see developers testing their apps or merely getting another developer to take a look. However, product testing is not a developer’s job

While peer testing is great from a technical perspective, beta testing by dedicated app testers is indispensable.

A popular tool for that is Shake.

Here are some popular mobile app testing strategies major companies employ:

  • Proper test case documentation using set templates.
  • Unit testing involving a Quality Assurance (QA) team. Here, app features, modules, or classes are tested individually.
  • Functional testing to ascertain smooth performance.
  • UI/UX testing.
  • Regression testing ensures changes in the code don’t break the app’s flow.

Other testing strategies can also prove useful depending on the industry. At the end of the day, testing your app properly helps you detect problems early enough.

12. Not Marketing Your App

In our article on mobile app marketing, we pointed out that a mobile app will not sell itself, no matter how great. 

An app’s features and performance are indeed essential components that determine its success. However, without a strategic marketing plan, your product will eventually die a slow death.

Assuming it even takes off at all!

App marketing is a critical process that helps you acquire new app users and sustain its profitability. 

According to The Manifest, a staggering 98% of businesses have a documented app marketing strategy. Of these, 68% of companies with a mobile app own a long-term well-documented marketing strategy.

For the best results, your app marketing efforts should include both pre-launch and post-launch strategies.

Typical pre-launch marketing efforts include market research, engaging your target audience, and creating a branding style for your app. 

After launching your app, it’s important to use App Store Optimization (ASO) to generate organic traffic. You also want to consider different promotional methods, such as paid ads, referrals, and viral loops.

13. Ignoring User Feedback

It’s impossible to build a successful mobile app without prioritizing user experience. User feedback collection is one of the easiest ways to assess your app’s user experience in practical terms, and Shake is a handy tool for doing so.

But beyond collecting feedback, your app only gets better with each update release when you leverage the feedback collected.

There’s no way you can convince app users to love your app without eliminating major pain points from earlier feedback. 

Once users observe that you consistently ignore their input, they’ll end up finding a substitute.

On the other hand, app developers that pay close attention to user feedback can easily turn casual app users into loyal customers.

Beyond app store reviews and ratings, app analytics can also offer a lot of insight into how you can make your app better. 

If you can successfully combine data from both app analytics and user feedback, you have enough information to meet users’ expectations for your app.

For example, app analytics will reveal your app’s average user session length. However, if the figure falls below your target, you’ll need user feedback to identify the reason behind the low engagement level.

14. Focusing on Downloads Instead of Retention

Within many development circles, developers often tout the number of app downloads as the ultimate proof of mobile app success. However, this is only where it all begins. 

High download rates do not always translate to app success.

Many brands already spend a lot of money on user acquisition. Interestingly, if you pay equal attention to user retention, you could save a lot on marketing in the process. 

If properly engaged, existing app users can be a potential jackpot for attracting massive Return on Investment (ROI).

Loyal customers do more than just complete repeat purchases. They also give your brand free word-of-mouth advertisement and quality feedback.

Below are five proven tips for improving app engagement and user retention:

  • Create a pleasant onboarding experience.
  • Incorporate push notifications the right way.
  • Use branded in-app messages or notifications.
  • Attract users with various offers, discounts, and loyalty programs.
  • Encourage and reward user feedback.

By and large, setting up your app for better retention rates is an extensive process that involves creating and maintaining a great app. A truly successful high-quality app is a product of both high download rates and high retention rates.


Developing an app is often a long and arduous process that spans over an extended period. Along the way, developers are bound to make certain mistakes that can impede the app’s success.

Common bad development practices range from a poor understanding of users’ needs to involving too many stakeholders and neglecting user retention rates.

In this article, we’ve highlighted 14 major mobile development blunders we’ve observed in our many years of working with developers and agencies. We hope this comprehensive list goes a long way in setting your product up for success.

Written by

Mario Zderic

Co-founder and CTO

Mario makes every project run smoothly. A firm believer that people are DECODE’s most vital resource, he naturally grew into the role of People Operations Manager. Now, his encyclopaedic knowledge of every DECODEr’s role, and his expertise in all things tech, powers him to manage his huge range of responsibilities as COO. Part developer, and seemingly part therapist, Mario is always calm under pressure, which helps to maintain the office’s stress-free vibe. In fact, sitting and thinking is his main hobby. What’s more Zen than that?

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