Today, effective mobile apps get serious work done –enabling salesforces to manage their pipelines, helping engineers inspect building plans, giving doctors the ability to review patient data, and more.
At Icreon, we develop serious (yet beautiful) apps on iPhone, iPad, Android & Windows. We're known for blending awarding winning design with serious, scalable, engineering-focused performance.
When developed correctly, an app can provide a sense of elegance and utility. With the abundance of platforms and devices available in the mobile market now, significant strategy is needed to outline a successful approach. Developers can choose from two different mobile application approaches, hybrid apps and native apps, each with its own set of pros and cons.
For the uninitiated, native apps are built for and installed on specific platforms using platform-specific software development kits (SDKs). Examples are apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad that are designed to run only on Apple products. Hybrid apps on the other hand, combine technologies from native apps and HTML5 (a markup language used to structure content on the web) making it accessible on a variety of device types.
The proliferation of mobile devices has sparked off a debate over the best approach for developing mobile apps. Brands looking to develop mobile apps should understand that there are pros and cons involved with either of the two approaches.
Due to native apps having to be built with the specific development tools and languages for each respective platform, developers that are well versed in either iOS or Android development are the best for the job. Developers are able to take full advantage of all the unique device features, such as the camera, accelerometer, compass, GPS or even the iPhone 5S’ fingerprint sensor.
In an article published on Mashable, iOS engineer Eric Miller says that native apps have the benefit of familiarity as developers already have a degree of familiarity with the respective software development kits. iOS developers and Android developers know how the code will function and run efficiently on the targeted platform.
If one wants to cover a larger audience across all platforms, separate native apps for each device will be required, but this approach is much more expensive. Going native involves a larger upfront investment in infrastructure, developers and technology as compared to hybrid apps.
With hybrid development, one cannot take advantage of the device specific features and themes. Reproducing those features with a hybrid approach becomes much trickier.
Hybrid apps are part native and part HTML5. Like native apps, they are installed on a device and live in an app store. But unlike native apps, they are built using HTML5 approaches and are subsequently placed in a 'wrapper' that allows for distribution and use on iOS or Android.
It is a 'Write Once, Run Anywhere' strategy, similar to what made Java such a dominant force many years back. This results in a cross-platform, consistent user interface that works well on most devices. The Netflix app is one example of a hybrid app which runs the same code base on all platforms.
According to Ken Dulaney, VP and a distinguished analyst at Gartner, enterprises now are increasingly finding the need to support multiple platforms. For hybrid apps only a small portion of code needs to be re-implemented for different platforms. Gartner predicted last year that by 2016 more than 50 % of the apps deployed will be developed with a hybrid approach.
A native app, on the downside, can be used only for its specific platform. This thereby restricts their potential audience reach (which is crucial for businesses to achieve mobile ROI). For example, an iPhone can never host Android apps and vice versa. So developing an iPhone app when 70% of mobile traffic stems from Android devices, is a surefire way to fail at mobile.
It is evident that both approaches have certain drawbacks and respective benefits. So one must not view the choice as a black-and-white decision. Deciding between the two approaches depends on many factors such as the type of application being built, development talent and resources, allotted budget, and so on.
If it is a productivity, utility or enterprise app, hybrid apps are usually the way to go. If the app in question involves gaming, photos, or videos then building a native app makes sense. Native development optimizes the performance of media and graphic capabilities since developers can access device specific features.
The bottom line is that there are many factors that comprise an enterprise’s mobility strategy and there is no "one-size fits all" approach. Developers lately have been sidestepping this debate and are instead going for the approach that makes the most sense in that particular implementation or environment.
Android apps mean business.
According to Venture Beat, Android's worldwide growth continues to outpace its mobile competitors, and consumers continue to purchase more Android devices than ever before. With such trends in mind many brands are aiming to strengthen their market presence by distributing brand specific Android apps.
They can attend to two specific areas of operations for a brand. There are also many internal business processes that can operate more efficiently when augmented or replaced by enterprise mobile apps. Other processes that are vital for conducting transaction with customers or marketing an advertisement can be delivered with customized consumer apps.
Brands can improve their performance internally as well as drive brand engagement with customers via mobile. But investments in app development must incorporate certain features and trends in order to offer a mobile experience that provides legitimate value.
Customer-facing Android apps are a marketing channel through which businesses can attract new customers. Some of the business functions that external users (such as customers, suppliers and partners) perform through a brand’s customer-facing Android app include:
A designated Android app can help brand's use mobile-specific features like the accelerometer, push notifications or contacts list to extract marketing data. Many of today's customers are more likely to respond to mobile notifications than email or other traditional forms of communication. Brands can also more accurately measure the reach and effectiveness of such campaigns compare static coupons and TV spots.
By using mobile geo-location data as well as demographic information, personalized advertisements can be highly targeted to a specific location and customer type.
Brands can use apps to offer functionality that fosters a direct relationship with the customer. They can serve as advertisements for products while also providing a useful service, like the Charmin ‘Sit-or-Squat’ app that helps a user find restrooms via geo-location.
In today's competitive landscape customer-facing Android apps can help brands attract and retain and attract customers.
Enterprise apps are designed for employees to help them perform their daily operations, and are never seen by the customer. Enterprises across the board are creating custom apps to support their internal business needs. Almost every aspect of work can be digitized via apps (i.e. filing expense reports, securely signing documents, and filing for leave with HR).
Customized enterprise apps can be broken down into two groups. Firstly, there are apps developed by vendors for a wide range of enterprises that are then customized for a particular brand. Secondly, there are the custom apps designed specifically for a particular enterprise. The main goal with these apps is to make complex desktop-oriented applications work seamlessly on mobile devices.
With the right apps on Android enterprises can provide their mobile workforce with the tools to communicate effectively and instantly access the information they need.
Whether for the internal employee or the potential prospective customer, there is an app for everyone. They are also being developed and used by enterprises specifically for the processes within their organization as well as to market a brand to customers. Businesses should consider Android apps as a part of their customer facing and internal employee mobile strategies depending on the circumstance.
When it comes to consumer apps brands should assess what type of device the average customer uses. Does a significant amount of their website traffic stem from Android devices as opposed to iPhones? If so, an Android would be a logical approach.
If a business is considering an enterprise app, the team in charge should consider the most popular devices used by their workforce. If a company recently distributed Android tablets to their workforce, a selection of Android apps should follow.
For businesses considering Android as a part of their mobile strategy, achieving ROI comes down to knowing your audience and envisioning a mobile experience that aligns with your brand.
Even the greatest app idea is useless without an effective road-map for development. While full-time developers and designers may be outside a founder or entrepreneurs budget, there are other options. Outsourcing development to a third-party consulting firm or a freelancer is an economical and effective means for building a go-to market app quickly.
Below please find a list of the top ways to manage outsourced development that results in a quality mobile app:
Few successful apps are developed without a cross-collaboration between business leaders and technical experts. Without a unified vision of the back-end engineering’s impact on the front-end experience, an app can quickly veer off track.
Developers should consider the end-user experience. And designers should understand how to present features in an intuitive way. Collaboration is key to an end product that looks great on the outside and functions smoothly internally.
Prior to deciding on a final choice for a development partner, your team should list pertinent requirements that are crucial to the app. With those basic necessary requirements defined, the quote provided by a development partner will be much more precise.
Once a project is formulated, both teams should segment the process into phases. Devote time to wire-framing, design iterations, and user acceptance testing (UAT) towards the end. With a well-defined road-map in place, projects are less likely to fall off the rails.
Setting deadlines and envisioning a clearly defined scope is crucial for launching a product on time. Timelines are also crucial for ensuring that processes were followed accordingly. Once a set deadline is chosen, development teams and internal leadership can plan for iterations, feedback discussions, and other proactive means to refine the app.
One of the biggest drivers of budget overruns stems from missed timelines. By setting feasible yet stringent deadlines for each phase of a project, development teams are given specified guidelines and business leaders can plan accordingly for launch dates, marketing, and eventual updates down the road.
Business leadership should invest their time into providing feedback and assessing progress, even if they lack any technical knowledge. While developers may see the logic in a certain design or feature implementation, the impact on business processes will not be clearly understood.
Championing buy-in from leadership and incorporating their feedback and insight into the development process is critical. The more time that leadership invests in communicating with the outsourced team, the less likely a project is to move ahead blindly.
Although outsourcing is an impactful means for building an app, there are caveats to managing outsourced app development. Be sure that the firm in question adequately understands the vision and strategy behind the app. By investing upfront in thorough communication and strategy, the development process will roll out smoothly.
In today's technology-driven world, designing a friendly user-interface (UI) is one of the most challenging jobs. Even veteran web designers are having issues acclimating to mobile. Unless a UI satisfies the users' expectations, an app will have little value for on-the-go mobile users. It might include all the necessary functions and features, but users must be comfortable with an intuitive UI.
Every business user has a different approach for a preferred UI for enterprise tools. The focus should be on meeting their business expectations while attending to their own tastes and preferences. Emulating trendy design styles won’t help. Focusing on the user is the only way to create an interface that sticks.
Strong communication channels between the development team and potential users, end-user documentation, and effective feedback systems are central to optimizing user adoption. So let’s take a look at the processes that lead to an effective UI and a great end-user experience in the enterprise.
Consistent iteration of UI should also be kept into consideration. Location of buttons in UI, color schemes and wordings in message labels should be experimented with throughout the app. The more intuitive the interface is, the easier it is to use.
And the best way to identify if a UI is intuitive or not is to continually receive feedback and apply the insight. This lowers down training and support costs by developing an app that melds with their existing preferences.
A successful enterprise app rests with identifying and incorporating the needs of users. When introducing a new app, there is a serious chance of disrupting processes and taking away from the productivity and efficiency gains. Constant communication with intended users is the only way to ensure an app will meld with their existing workflows.
IT teams must commit to consistent feedback and iteration sessions. They should establish a deep understanding of the preferred software systems used by employees. The more you constantly communicate with them, the more insight a team will have of their needs.
Inquiries related to their preferred device types and favorite apps will provide great insight into their ideal UI. These proactive strategies serve to build an app that aligns with user requirements. While developers focus on technical aspects of the app, designers need to emphasize usability.
An effective road-map should be created and followed strictly so that both teams work together to achieve business objectives.
Initial training sessions should be organized for end users to attain their maximum comfort level. Without someone dedicated to helping users with UI related issues, they will likely ignore the app.
Well-prepared training materials and end-user documentation should also be delivered. These materials contain technical as well as interface-related information and serves to support users at some later stage. For long term user adoption, these documents are essential for answering potential issues down the road.
Technically-sound support systems also help in gaining the confidence of end-users. Support should be provided during the roll-out phase. Interacting more with the user will result in a seamless launch and higher usability of the app.
UI plays a significant role in making or breaking an app. Although the business functionality is important but the way an app provides it to users is just as important. No matter if your app is technically excellent, if your users don’t like it they won’t use it, and ROI will not be achieved.
To build an effective app, don’t underestimate the value of UI design and its usability. Focus on them from start and you will deliver a user-friendly app with a user experience that leads to greater productivity.