Mobile App Development 101: Myths And Realities

No matter what you're trying to do, someone will tell you "there's an app for that". That might be good news for consumers, but it's not necessarily the right path for every business to follow. Here's what you need to know when you're formulating mobile app development plans.

The world of professional IT is filled with buzzwords, but they're often undefined, misunderstood and abused. This week, our Myths And Realities series defines some much-discussed concepts and busts some of the myths that surround them.

What Mobile App Development Is

Modern smartphones all have capable browsers, which means they can access most web-based services. If you've built a site using HTML5 and adaptive conventions, it will work on a wide variety of devices without requiring specialist adjustment.

Nonetheless, this isn't always ideal -- a busy screen filled with small tappable areas won't work well and can be frustrating. In this context, a dedicated app that takes advantage of the phone's UI conventions can be more useful. With two smartphone platforms dominating the market -- Android and iOS -- building for those can be tempting.

What Mobile App Development Isn't

The only thing you need to do. Unless you're a start-up business concentrating solely on a single app, mobile apps will only ever form part of your strategy. If you're a retailer, you'll still need a web site, potentially a physical presence and a social media plan. Even if you're simply deploying existing apps for staff to use, you need to recognise that mobile apps can't solve every need. Sometimes you simply need desktop software for flexibility, power and the attached keyboard.

The right solution to every problem. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Yes, it might get your manager excited if you promise a mobile app to make incoming order processing easier. But is that the best use of what are undoubtedly limited resources?

Mobile App Development: The Challenges To Accept

Development is a continuous process Mobile platforms evolve constantly, customers buy new devices, screen sizes change, bugs emerge. If you built an app without allowing for ongoing development and maintenance, the project will be moribund very quickly.

If you don't have a multi-platform strategy, customers will be annoyed If you release an iOS-only app, the sole thing a large portion of your audience will want to know is "When is the Android version coming out?" The reverse also holds true. If your website audience stats tell you a large proportion of your visitors are using a specific platform, give it priority. But if you can sustain a decent multi-platform effort, you're likely to see more engagement.

Set metrics for what you want to achieve. Apps can't exist without a purpose. Is the goal more sales? Easier work for staff on the road? Better brand awareness? With a defined goal, the project will struggle.

Mobile apps picture from Shutterstock

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