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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Wearables: Not Just for Fitness

We love our fitness wearables! Between us, InspiringApps employees possess Apple Watches (with fitness apps), the Garmin Forerunner 220, and a handful of FitBits. The swimmers on our team are looking into Moov Swim to track laps, and some sleep-challenged employees think the Jawbone UP3 that tracks both fitness and ZZZs is worthy of consideration.

We’re not alone in our passion for wearables. A recent report from Gartner predicts that sales of wearable electronic devices will increase 18.4% in 2016 from the previous year. While fitness products lead the market in sales, wearable technology in other industries is causing a buzz too. Several caught our attention in the business, health, and pet industries.

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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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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.

Online. Offline. Either. Both.

Last week, Dropbox announced it will be releasing a data sync API for developers to use in their apps. This TechCrunch article about the announcement got our wheels turning on the topic of data synchronization and why it’s such an important part of what we do here at InspiringApps. The need for mobile app data sync is common and significant. You don’t stop working when you lose a network connection – neither should your apps. With our AppSync technology, we’ve got your back.

A lack of connection shouldn’t affect someone’s ability to use an app. At its most basic level, AppSync allows you to use an app offline and syncs automatically as soon as a network connection is available.

As mentioned in the article, supporting data synchronization is a big undertaking, difficult to get right, and beyond the reach of most small shops. We’re proud to have made a big investment in AppSync over several years to support it and continue to improve it in our apps. In fact, AppSync is present in all of our products, as well as many of our client projects.

Naturally, a growing need means there are now several data synchronization solutions on the market. However, most we’ve seen are limited in two important ways when compared to AppSync: support for multiple users and data filtering.

Many solutions are only built to help a single user share data across their own personal devices. For example, the article talks about remembering your current page when reading a book on multiple devices. That is true for Apple’s iCloud, and it sounds like it may be true for Dropbox, too. While individuals can benefit from this type of sync, it isn’t very helpful for business apps, which have several users who need access to synchronized data within the app.

There are a few data sync solutions that do support the synchronization of data across multiple users. With these solutions, though, all users typically get all of the same data. There are many apps, especially simple ones without a lot of data, where synchronizing all of the data to all users is perfectly acceptable. However, organizations often need to filter data among their users. AppSync is capable of that type of data filtering to reduce the amount of data transferred to most mobile users– sometimes dramatically less data.

In many mobile apps we build for sales organizations, sales reps only need to see (and sync) data related to their assigned accounts. Sales managers need to see all of the data related to all of the reps they supervise, and regional managers need to see all of the data related to all of the reps who report to all of the managers in their region. The user experience for an individual rep will be greatly hampered if the app has to retrieve loads of data from the server that they will never see in the app’s interface (because they don’t have access to it). Instead, AppSync can deliver only the data they need, greatly reducing sync times and local data storage requirements for most users.

In-app data synchronization is a feature growing in popularity, with tech giants like Dropbox and Apple throwing their hats in the ring. But these new solutions still lack essential features like support for multiple users and data filtering. We’ve put a lot of work into AppSync to ensure that it supports the way in which you work– with your mobile workforce in a disconnected world.

To learn more about AppSync’s features, check out the newest edition of InspiringBusiness.

Interested in working with us? Contact info@inspiringapps.com.

UI17 Recap

Last week I had the amazing opportunity attend the UI17 Conference in Boston. UI17 focuses on the leading trends and best practices in interface design, multi-device design, and team-based solutions. The conference follows an unconventional format with one day of shorter talks sandwiched between two full day workshops. This format was an effective way to dive deep into two topics while still getting an overview of related important topics.

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Book Excerpt: What Exactly is an App?

Inspiring Apps, the BookWe wrote a book! Below is an excerpt from Inspiring Apps: A Business Perspective on Building Mobile apps.

“App” is shorthand for “application”. The term gained popularity in reference to software modules created for use on mobile devices—first for smartphones and subsequently for tablets. After its rise in popularity on mobile platforms, the same term is now also used to refer to software that runs on a PC or Mac computer.

In short, an app is software developed with the purpose of making some task, or tasks, easier and more streamlined. Sometimes apps are created solely for good old-fashioned fun, think games like Paper Toss and Words With Friends. Some apps are created for the mass market (e.g. Facebook® for iPad®), and others are custom developed for a particular person or organization.

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2010 WWDC: The Driver’s Seat

The Macintosh put Apple in the driver’s seat for the personal computer revolution in the early 80s. But they were displaced by Microsoft and others, relegated to a ~3% market share at its low point. Since Steve’s return to Apple, the introduction of OS X, the overhaul of their traditional laptop and desktop lines, and the advent of retail stores, Apple has clawed its way up the market share chart.

But something happened with the introduction of iTunes and the iPod. It was the start
of an explosion for Apple. And it propelled Apple to a market position it hadn’t seen in a very long time— if ever. It dominated the music industry with a 70% share of retail sales. Read More

Matt Drance Prepares for WWDC 2010: Perspective From The Apple Outsider

Matt Drance is a former Technologies Evangelist at Apple. Since his departure, Matt has started Bookhouse Software, an independent iPhone consulting company, and has partnered with Daniel Steinberg to teach at The Pragmatic Studio. He is also the voice of the Apple Outsider blog. Matt shares a few insights as he gets ready for his first WWDC as an attendee. Read More

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