Contents

    How to Create a Mobile Banking App: Short Guide

    Back in the day, even the most basic operations with your banking account required a visit to the bank branch during office hours. Now, you can have it all in the palm of your hand. The functionality of the traditional bank’s app has become a deciding factor for users, and rightfully so.

    If you’re looking to get your own banking app development started, you must have a clear picture of what makes one great, what is the process behind getting one done on order, and what is the cost of developing a mobile banking app.

    So, the question is, where and how do you get started? Let’s see.

    What makes the best mobile banking app on the market successful?

    The more businesses learn about the user experience and their needs, the more precise and effective the design and feature set becomes. 

    Balance of impeccable security and ease of access

    Ensuring safety means extra steps to take, and the more steps users take, the more annoyed they become. An ideal app is capable of providing seamless, yet precise authentication (including biometric) in several steps, to ensure maximum security with minimal friction.

    Bank of America (4.8 App Store score) is one notable example of a bank that got its security at the right level, with multiple layers of protection. Two-factor authentication, unauthorized access safeguards, card blocking, single-used card numbers, and next-day cash reimbursement, all onboard.

    Unusual activity prompt - courtesy of Bank of America’s app feature showcase

    Slick, user-centric interface design

    Bank apps, for the most part, are notorious for clunkiness. Banking and mobile financial services on the whole adapt to changes slower due to how difficult it is to move the considerable back-end complexity onto a new interface and ensure a bug-free user experience.

    Revolut (4.7 App Store rating), a UK-based online bank and app, takes the user experience to the next level, placing it at the near top of what Revolut is as a business. The navigation within the app is straightforward, it’s easy to remember where every particular feature is, and it looks nice.

    Revolut bank app interface, courtesy of Revolut feature showcase

    Availability of bank products and services

    An ideal bank app can offer anything a bank branch can offer, so long as an extra security step is not in the way for your own good.

    Ally (4.7 App Store score), an American bank that really seeks to offer the most of its service suite through its app while driving the percentages down as much as possible. Credit cards, debit cards, savings, certificates of deposit, overdrafts, stock market access, business tools, and so on.

    How to prepare for mobile banking app development?

    While we strongly recommend resorting to the help of a business analyst to help you connect the dots between existing business processes and the app development scope, there is some work that can be done on your own. 

    What features should you aim for?

    In their recent mobile banking app trends research (2021), Statista researchers outlined the most popular app features used in banking apps are check deposits, account balance information, transferring funds between accounts, and paying bills. 

    Let’s take a look at each of the above mentioned features:

    • Check deposits

    Customers should be able to deposit checks into their accounts without having to go to the branch office. Simple.

    • Account balance and transaction history/tracking

    An absolute must that can be taken a step up with expense planners, bill-splitters, per-month stats, pie-charts, spending filters, and more. Help the users see how much they spend and on what. 

    • Mobile payments

    Bills, services, loans, mortgages, depositing to a friend’s account, you name it. The key advantage is in providing ease of access – storing the account number of a given service, the mobile phone number to find the right bank account, and similar. Don’t forget to include the exchange rates, the ability to pay through Google Pay and Apple Pay, and QR code scanning. 

    • Card management

    Virtual, physical, or otherwise – the ability to issue, close, or change PINs, set limits, specific cashback programs, and more is a must for a modern banking app solution. 

    • Notifications

    By text, push, email, even messenger integration is possible. Very handy and highly configurable notifications is the best option – to let the user choose how and when they would like to receive notifications.

    • Cardless ATM access and NFC payments

    The ability to get rid of plastic altogether can be a strong part of your unique value proposition, as opposed to other financial services or banks.

    • Customizable dashboards

    Imagine forming your own main page dashboard with widgets that show exactly what you want at a glance. This feature will add a lot of value to your app, even though its not part of the core system functionality. 

    • Multi-layered access and transaction protection

    You want your users to be able to log in quickly with their biometric data – FaceID, fingerprint, and PIN codes. Ideally, a user must be able to combine these security methods at will, having one of the selected steps inactive during active use.

    • Automated support chatbot

    A chatbot is capable of answering user requests, gathering data, acting as both sales and support agent, and so many other things. Creation of a chatbot is a separate development process that requires extra planning. It’s always worth it, however – there are many success stories where a simple chatbot is capable of reducing the work of Support teams in magnitudes.

    • Onboarding

    Show the user key features of your app and where to find them via guides and highlighting. An online and mobile banking app is often complex and needs time to get comfortable with. Keep the steps to a minimum, however. It’s a good idea to keep the initial registration fields to a minimum, too. 

    What type of development to choose for a mobile banking system?

    There are several approaches to app development, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at each one. 

    Native

    Native development is centered around a certain operating system, with Android and iOS being notable examples. A native app will only function properly on the platform it was designed for, and is delivered to the smartphone’s memory in the system-specific package. 

    Native development requires intricate knowledge of the given platform’s framework and code. If you’re looking to develop an app for both iOS and Android, you will have to create two separate apps as a result, similar in design in functionality, but completely different in the backend. For instance, Android apps are often made with Java or Kotlin, while iOS apps are usually made with Objective-C or Swift. Native approach is often used during the development of highly complex apps that rely on high performance, security, and overall quality of the product. 

    The advantages of native development include better integration with the given platform’s functionality, advanced features, security, and optimization, all of which will be important for a banking app. 

    The disadvantages are in costs. Unless you’re willing to alienate a considerable portion of your market, you will have to pretty much order two apps, each with its own development pipeline, support, and so on. 

    Just for your information, at Surf, we specialize in native development for both iOS and Android platforms. If you’re absolutely certain your app must be made natively, just let us know and we’ll help you. 

    Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

    PWA’s are basically the responsive versions of the website functionality delivered using a mobile browser. These apps work on any mobile device or OS, so long as an internet connection is available. A web app can be made specifically for mobile screens of various sizes, or it might have a desktop and tablet version as well. The app itself is made with Web languages – HTML5 and the like. 

    The advantages of a progressive web app are pretty clear – it’s a part website, part app, built with the same language, and aims to make the best out of both worlds without giving up too much performance or user experience out of it. The user won’t have to install the app in order to use it, although they may – this kind of apps can even use basic phone features like camera and push notifications. Banking app users will enjoy lower steps to install, smaller app package space, and strong TLS/HTTPS encryption for data protection. 

    The disadvantages are many: if you can’t download the app from the App Store or Google Play, it can only be stored as a bookmark in a mobile browser (unless manually stored on the home screen via the “Add to home” button). It won’t be visible in the app stores, and as a result, app store SEO won’t help new users to discover it. Notifications are also likely to be less effective. All of these disadvantages, of course, might be less important to a banking app, since its users might be the bank’s clients already, but it might prevent new users from coming on board and subscribing to the bank’s services. 

    Cross-platform 

    Cross-platform development is often confused with hybrid development. Both approaches have code shareability as a benefit, but that’s where their similarities end. Hybrid apps are written with web technologies (HTML5, CSS and JavaScript), whereas cross-platform apps are developed with a single codebase to run on both platforms (Android and iOS) smoothly. Cross-platform apps often approach near-native levels of user experience because such apps use the platform’s native rendering engine. 

    React Native and Flutter (Surf’s personal favorite) are popular frameworks used in сross-platform development. These frameworks are provided by Facebook and Google (based on Dart language) respectively. 
    In our case, one notable example is Rosbank – a bank app that we’ve made on Flutter.

    Rosbank app interface

    We’ve managed to develop a quality app with all the necessary features even with considerable time constraints. Flutter allows for quick, efficient, and at the same time, quality development of even highly complex apps. 

    The advantages of cross-platform development are in cost-efficiency (you develop one app for both platforms, essentially), consistent code that doesn’t get in the way of adding new features (as opposed to native development), and near-native UI performance. 

    The disadvantages are chiefly in the expertise level required to produce truly great apps. React Native or Flutter have their own relative limitations, which might get in the way of the development of highly complex apps. To produce good results, the dev team should be very well versed in the development of apps on any of these frameworks. What’s more, the difference between platforms still dictates that some parts of the code will have to be written separately. 

    How to create a mobile banking app?

    Unless there is a structure in how the development process is approached, getting one done on order won’t be a pleasant experience. Below you can find the standard steps to building a banking app. Depending on the project, of course, the steps might change. Here’s the general development framework we follow at Surf

    Step 1: Conceptualize

    The most important step. Assess the costs ahead of time and set clear deliverables for the development team to follow. The more granular and tangible the approach to delivery is, the less chance there is that you will be disappointed or tricked into paying for an endless project. 

    Step 2: Build an MVP

    A minimum viable product version of your app is a crucial step on the development journey. In essence, an MVP contains just enough features and design to attract customers, thus helping you to validate the product-market fit and overall conception of the app. At this stage, it’s important to seek all available sources of user feedback. 

    The more you will learn from your MVP, the better assurance you will have that your fully-developed app will be a success. 

    Step 3: Get security in order

    This step requires extra checks from you and the development team working on it. Make sure the security features listed above make it to your app and work flawlessly – you can’t compromise or save on app security. One major data breach or money stolen from your users and your reputation is gone forever. 

    For the developer, that means coupling physical security with server-side security, including good security processes in the onboarding process, performing code obfuscation, encrypting traffic, and adding functionality such as transaction verification, biometric ID, PIN  change reminders, and more. 

    Step 4: Get the app built! 

    Monitor the milestones, the deliverables, and keep your hands on the app delivery process. This step will take a decent while to complete. The new app build will require testing, intensive feedback, and probably some things might change along the way. 

    Step 5: App design

    Once the app is built, it’s time to put a coat of paint on it. The app will have at least half of its interface work done at this point, but still, you will need a UI designer to make it really nice looking.

    Step 6: Release, integrations, good-to-haves

    The app is ready to be shipped, and all other work done on it will not significantly affect its course. Plan API (Application Software Interface, a way for two different apps to exchange data with each other) integrations with other apps that you might find beneficial for your users – like document sign software, third-party expense trackers, accounting software, and such – have them built as well. 

    Step 7: Maintenance

    Now, all you have to do is pay attention to customer feedback, fix whatever pesky bugs make their way to the surface, and ensure the best user experience possible.. Ideally, you would have full documentation on app features available and usable by your audience. Help articles, chatbot advice, you name it – it will help cut down costs on Support to have it beforehand. 

    How much do banking apps cost to make?

    A banking app with a full suite of features and extra tough security, of course, is something worth paying a tidy sum for. In our case, we even have a full article on estimating a mobile banking app development cost. 

    Simply speaking, the project cost depends on 4 things:

    • App complexity
    • Tech stack used to make it
    • Dev team location
    • Type of cooperation

    An average banking app with a standard set of features (proper security, account data, transaction history, notifications, analytics, and in-app chat support) might take around ~2300 hours, which will equal ~$300,000. No project is alike, of course. 

    How long does it take to create a mobile banking app?

    Again, it really depends on the scope, but you can expect the base app functionality (suitable for market release) in about 6-8 months.

    Final word

    The success of a good banking app relies on advanced security, good app design, and the availability of bank services and products within. Looking into the development of an app of this scale, it’s important to structure out the necessary feature set for the first and later app iterations, make sure the MVP helps to discover any serious design or product-market fit flaws. 

    At Surf, we pride ourselves on building Android and iOS apps that make good things happen – happy clients, happy business. It’s challenging work but we love it nonetheless. However difficult or simple your project scope is, do send us a message – let’s chat. Your dream app can be made real, and we can tell you how.