There was a time when building a streaming app was complicated and expensive to the point of being prohibitive. Today, technology is much more accessible than it used to be. Smaller businesses might use app development to build a streaming app of their own.
While digital innovation has made the possibility of building a streaming app much more accessible, it is still a project that will require a lot of time and consideration. Businesses need to be able to assess their goals and they will have to make a lot of decisions throughout the process.
Even if you choose to hire developers to build the streaming app for you, there is a lot you will need to know going into the process. The following are some of the things you should know before you start developing a streaming app.
Types of Streaming Apps
The first step is to figure out the type of streaming app you want to create. You are probably already familiar with a few different types of streaming apps. Maybe you use a VOD app like Netflix or an audio streaming app like Spotify.
Here is a quick overview of some of the types of streaming apps you may want to build:
- VOD: Video on demand allows a user to access and watch a library of videos without having to download them onto a device. The app will have a built-in player and the user will be able to watch videos at their convenience while also offering features like forward, rewind and pause.
- Audio Streaming: Audio streaming is similar to VOD, but instead of videos, it works with audio files. These apps are popular for things like music streaming and podcasts.
- Livestreaming: This is an app that allows for the simultaneous recording and broadcasting of content. Viewers can watch as creators broadcast the content live, and in some cases, the content is saved so people can watch it later.
Some apps may only offer one type of streaming, but there are some that combine two or more types of streaming. This can be a great way to offer more options to users, but it can complicate the process of developing the app. If you are creating a new app, it is better to focus on one type of streaming and then consider adding other options later.
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Finding a hosting service is one of the first decisions you will need to make when building an app. A host provides the infrastructure that puts your app on the internet and makes it available to users. When selecting a host, you not only want to consider reliability, you should also think about how easy it will be to scale the app with the host as your user base grows. There are several established app hosting services out there, and your developers should be able to help you find one that will meet the needs of your organization.
Content Delivery Network
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) places a network of servers at different locations across the world. A CDN can serve a range of functions for any website or app. Firstly, it provides a level of redundancy to protect the functions of the app and ensure the availability of resources for users.
Beyond making the app more consistent and reliable, the distributed nature of a CDN can improve performance for users. By having servers closer to users, it can improve the speed with which users can access content and it can also alleviate issues with bandwidth and latency.
Your streaming app will need to have a content library. This library should be stored in a place that can reliably protect the data while also making it easily available to the users of your app. You also do not want to have to worry about interruptions to the streaming service if your data storage cannot be reached.
For most streaming apps, some type of cloud-based storage solution will deliver the best option. Cloud storage can provide reliable data storage that should always be reachable. Along with that, they offer plans for operations of different sizes and you can easily scale when your user base grows.
Coming up with a basic design for the app will be an important part of the process. You will need to think of the features that will be necessary, the types of screens the app should have, and develop a user interface. Consulting with a digital transformation company can be one way to sort out the basic designs of your app and figure out what you need.
Start With an MVP
Starting with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will be the best option for most streaming apps. Maybe you have used some of the top streaming apps and want to use all of the cool features and functions they have. But it is better to take it slow. Most of those top apps did not start with all of the features and functions they currently have; they started with something simpler and built from there.
With an MVP, you are trimming the app down to the basic features and functions it needs to serve its purpose. After you release this early version of the app, you can get feedback to see what is working and what is not. Once you have some of the early issues ironed out, you can then start considering adding new features and functions.
When building the MVP version of your app, there are some basic features you may want to consider. The ability of users to create an account might be one early feature that is necessary. You might also want to allow users to create custom user profiles. Beyond that, the ability to search content, leave ratings and make comments are other common features that can be included in the MVP version of the app.
After a while, you can then start looking at adding more features and functions. As an example, you could add more options for customizing a user profile or new subscription plans. You just need to take your time when adding new features and functions. If you try to tackle too much at one time, it can cause issues for the app. It might be difficult to determine which new feature or function is causing the problem.
Many of the advanced features are really attractive to app developers and users. If you are building a streaming app, you look at the top apps on the market; you want to offer the coolest, slickest features to attract users. While this impulse is understandable, the addition of any major feature or function should be done with serious consideration.
One good option is to allow users to adjust the video quality using the player. This is a good option because it makes your app better for a wider range of users. Most users will want to watch videos in the highest resolution possible. But some might want to reduce the video quality to improve the experience on devices that may be slower or for when their connection is not strong.
Live chat is another great option for apps that offer live streaming. Having a comment section is great, but live chat is much more engaging for videos that are broadcast live. Viewers can all come together to comment live as they watch the video; it is a good way to offer the ability for audiences to interact with creators. Live chat is a little more complex than a simple comments section. But it can be well worth the work if your platform offers the option to stream live content.
Most people are not going to give you a break just because your app is new on the market. If they open it for the first time to find that it is buggy or that the interface is confusing, they will uninstall and move on to something else. For that reason, you need to do some testing to make sure the app performs well before releasing it.
Some of the technical testings can be done using automated tools. This will save you time and money; it will also be a good way to catch most of the technical issues. However, you also need to do some user testing with humans. Working with real people is the only way to find out if the app performs well for real users.
Push notifications might be another good option for a streaming app. You might not want to add them to the MVP version of the app. But they can add serious value in the future. Push notifications are good for keeping users engaged. Timely messages about things like new content they might be interested in can be a good way to keep people coming back to your app.
Feedback and Updates
Even with all of the testing, your app is unlikely to be perfect when it is first released. After the app has been released, you need to keep your eye on the user feedback. Find out what people like and what they say could be better. Look out for any suggestions about ways you could improve the app.
User reviews and ratings can be valuable feedback. You can use the feedback to inform future updates and users might even have good ideas for features or functions that could make the app better. Regular app updates should be a part of the plan; you should be prepared to analyze user feedback and use it to improve the app moving forward.
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Building a streaming app can be a lot of work. But it can also pay off if you get it right. With that in mind, you do not want to rush the process. You might want to get your app on the market fast. But the decisions you make now can have a significant impact later. The impact on when you are looking to scale the app or add new features.
This article is written by Chloe Kirby from Blue Label Labs. Chloe is a writer and digital marketing professional. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and her Master’s Degree at Goldsmiths University in London, England. Chloe has professional experience in e-commerce, digital marketing, and copywriting. For the last year, she has been working in New York City.