Basics of the Mobile App Development Process

Potential clients often wonder what’s involved in the app development process. We previously posted about the importance of doing market research before building an app, and we’ve also discussed some of the technical concerns like operating systems and native vs cross-platform development. If you’ve thought about these market and technical considerations and determined you’re ready to build an app, what comes next? At InspiringApps, we suggest a four-phase process.

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App Development: Native vs. Cross-Platform

Last month we talked about how important it is to conduct market research prior to embarking on an app development project. It’s critical for success to begin with a clear definition of your value proposition and target customer, as the technical requirements for your app should be informed by market needs/desires.

Once those are understood, one of first technical choices you’ll make pertains to which mobile operating system to use. Will your app be available for Android users, iOS users, or both? Your research may make it clear that your target audience has a strong preference for one device type or the other. If not, you can consider other factors like OS market share or OS upgrade adoption rates.

This is an important decision because the answer influences the development tools used to create your app. iOS and Android apps are written using different programming languages, so an app by default will only run on one platform or the other. In many instances, it makes sense to develop for both platforms. When that’s the case, the discussion often turns to the topic of native vs cross-platform development. We firmly believe this is a topic worth discussing with your app development partner, but we’ll share our experience with you so you have a starting point for consideration.

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App Development: Market Considerations

The start of the new year tends to be filled with resolutions, and perhaps one of yours is to build that app you’ve been contemplating for so long. App development has exploded over the past several years, so if you have a great idea, it is tempting to rush headlong into a project. Before diving into the technical details, though, we encourage you to spend time clearly defining the opportunity, and reflecting it against existing solutions. This is necessary whether your target user is an internal team or a consumer external to your company. It’s even true for gaming apps, as differentiation is always valuable.

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A Developer’s Perspective on Creating Apps for the New Apple TV

Apple TV, a digital media player that can receive content from multiple sources and stream it to a TV, was first released almost nine years ago. In October of this year, Apple released the fourth generation of the device with its own “tvOS” operating system. Numerous changes occurred to the platform, and one of the most exciting was Apple’s creation of the Apple TV App Store and the unprecedented invitation to outside developers to create apps for it.    

We couldn’t wait to experiment with coding on this new device, and two of our app developers jumped right in to test out the experience. Apple hopes to see the new Apple TV impact everything from entertainment to gaming to business, so we explored some simple apps in two of those areas.

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InspiringApps Wins a Prestigious Tabby Award

We’re excited to share that the retail merchandising app we created for SmartWool was named the 2015 winner of the Tabby Award /Business in the iPad App: Data Access & Collection category! We are thrilled to join ranks with other companies who have been in the winners circle like Citrix, SAP, Morningstar, RosettaStone, and Adobe.

The Tabby Award /Business is the only global competition that recognizes the top enterprise and business apps in the industry. Apps are evaluated on numerous criteria, including overall business value, user experience, design, innovation, tablet optimization, and performance. As a company that strives to demonstrate best practices in leveraging technology, we are honored that other industry leaders recognize our commitment to excellence.

An international panel of 24 judges reviewed over 150 apps before selecting the winners. With more than 300,000 business apps collectively available on Android and iOS devices, winners are positioned in the top 0.01% of all apps. “The lineup of apps this year was incredibly impressive,” noted judging panel chair Carson Conant, CEO of Mediafly. “The slate of apps this year brought the perfect mix of business utility and the clean interfaces that you see in the best consumer apps.”

The SmartWool app leverages the extensive experience we have in helping organizations of all sizes to collect, access, and successfully employ business-critical data. This expertise was recognized by the judging panel, who stated, “We immediately recognized the value of the SmartWool FSR app for streamlining field data collection, decreasing reporting time, and improving store service. We found the app to be highly intuitive with clear dashboards and reporting.”

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As you may recall, a sales presentation app that we developed in conjunction with Gulfstream Aerospace was also one of two finalists for a different Tabby Award.  In this case, we must tip our hat to Adobe for winning the iPad App: Marketing & Presentation category. Congratulations!

The Tabby Awards: Honoring the Best in App Development

We are so excited and humbled to have our work commended by The Tabby Awards! The Tabby Awards /Business is the only worldwide competition designed to honor the best mobile apps for businesses and professionals. 

Over 150 apps were evaluated this year and just 40 iPad-optimized apps were selected as nominees for the final round. Submissions are judged on a number of factors, including user experience, innovation, design, performance and reliability, and the business value that they add to an organization. Only those that excel in multiple categories move forward. Nominees and winners are selected by an international panel of independent app experts.

An app we developed for Gulfstream Aerospace was nominated in the Marketing and Presentation category. Gulfstream is renown for creating and delivering the world’s finest aviation experience, and they wanted this client touchpoint to reflect their commitment to excellence. Built as a sophisticated mobile education tool, the app showcases the aesthetics of the jet’s interior and exterior, explains Gulfstream’s technological advances, shares critical performance characteristics, and introduces the company’s award-winning customer support. 

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Another app, developed for leading outdoor brand SmartWool, is a contender in the Data Access & Collection category. The app is used by SmartWool’s field sales reps to improve their effectiveness at retail merchandising.  Merchandising plays a critical role in the sell-through of products, but is time-consuming and error prone. Reps are able to use the app to quickly capture and share information about point-of-sale (POS) signage, displays, and stock levels. In addition to cutting reporting time in half, the app helps them to service accounts more quickly.

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While different in their function, both apps are valuable sales enablement tools that are making a difference to those who use them.

Learn more about these projects and others by visiting our Clients page.

Mobile Apps 101 with Google

Need to learn some basics about app development and whether it makes sense for your company? Our CEO will be speaking with the Google Small Business Community on Wednesday, June 17 at 2:00 MDT.  Google has numerous community forums, and this one was created to help small businesses get the help they need to succeed on the web by connecting with experts and each other. They provide ongoing training, compelling discussions, and insider tips.

The group describes the upcoming event this way: “The average smartphone user has 33 apps installed on their device. Should your business be their next download? During our June #Mobile #OfficeHours, we’ll be discussing the differences between mobile websites and mobile apps, and the potential value a mobile app could bring to your small business. Join us as we speak with Brad Weber from InspiringApps, a mobile app developer for small businesses.”

We’re looking forward to the discussion around the topics that arise during this hour and encourage you to join in. Check out the event here.

3 Characteristics that Make or Break User Experience

User experience is like the Zooey Deschanel of the design world—a quirky mix of science and art that many are enamored with but few understand. So what characteristics contribute most to a solid user experience? That’s like asking “What makes Zooey so darn like-able?” Ask anyone and you will get a different answer.

In my humble opinion, the three characteristics that make or break a user experience (aside from performance, i.e. an app must function correctly, and function quickly) are simplicity, clarity, and consistency.

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App Stores

Book Excerpt: App Deployment and Distribution Options

If the goal is for your app to go to a distribution partner like the Apple App Store or Google Play, you may need someone to help you navigate those waters. You will also need developer accounts with those outlets and may need to coordinate the launch with the marketing team. Planning should start at least a month prior to distribution.

For internal enterprise distribution you don’t need to worry about potential issues with the Store or Marketplace, but you may need help with distributing the app to your users in the field. Additionally, distribution and the communication plan surrounding it will need to be coordinated.

What are my options?

The storefront you utilize to get your app into the market will largely depend on decisions made early on in the process about the form and function of your app. For instance, if you decided to focus on Apple products, then the Apple App Store will be the logical choice. Similarly, Google Play, Nook and Amazon represent options for other hardware and software platforms.

There are four notable distribution options for your finished product—through online stores, ad-hoc distribution, enterprise distribution, or via the web.

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Book Excerpt: Devices, Hardware, Operating Systems…Oh My!

The iPhone took the mobile market by storm. In the early days, it was the only game in town. One operating system. One set of device capabilities. One screen dimension. It took time for competing device manufacturers to release their own hardware, and for others, like Google, Microsoft, and RIM, to release compatible mobile operating systems. Now that others have caught up there are seemingly limitless options to choose from. Variability and fragmentation in hardware and software not only present challenges to developers, but to you as you consider the platforms you want to support.

Form Factor

When Apple released its iPad, there were two prominent form factors to target—smartphones and tablets. Now there are many more choices, including smaller tablets like the Barnes and Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle Fire, and BlackBerry Playbook, as well as larger smart phones like HTC’s Inspire.

  • When considering form factor, think about the users’ environment when they complete the task at hand.
  • Will they need to operate the app with one hand (suggesting that a smaller device may be more appropriate)?
  • Will they need to interact with, view, or make decisions based on more information than can fit comfortably on a smartphone screen at one time?
  • Can your content and features be tailored to fit a wide variety of form factors?

 

Hardware Capabilities

What additional hardware capabilities will your app need? Is a device camera required? Some devices have a camera while others don’t—that is an easy one to identify. However, you may need to rely on your development partner to help determine if your app requires an accelerometer to detect motion, a gyroscope to detect rotation, or a GPS to detect global position.

Operating System

If you are building an app for internal use at your company, your operating system options may be dictated by your corporate IT group. If you are developing for the market, you will need to take into account the adoption numbers for your target users and develop your app for the dominant operating systems. Global percentages may not apply to your target demographic.

This post is an excerpt from our book, Inspiring Apps: A Business Perspective on Building Mobile Apps. Want to learn more? Download your free copy from the iBookstore and gain a valuable business perspective on building mobile apps.

Don’t have an iPad? You can download the PDF for an equally informative yet slightly less interactive experience.

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