Drumrolls please! AppBoard Tuesday (ABT) – our free weekly newsletter – turns 21 this week. To celebrate its, well, ‘coming-of-age’, we will today concentrate on the doubts, apprehensions and challenges of young, aspiring mobile app developers. After all, ABT is a youngster too now!
On a professional level, mobile app development is a mighty rewarding field of work. There are loads to learn, coding for different apps is an exciting challenge, and the payoffs are – more often than not – handsome. However, there are a few roadblocks that a newbie needs to overcome, to be able to shine in this domain. Here are what you have to tackle:
- Letting mobile technology move ahead of you – Learning the tips and tricks of app development is not a one-shot game. Mobile technology is evolving constantly, with new devices being launched by dozens each quarter, new software and accessories being regularly unveiled, and new mobile OS platforms being released. At present, the mobile world is all abuzz with iPhone 6/iOS 8 and the upcoming Google Nexus 6/Android L combinations. Subscribe to tech magazines, do regular research on the internet, and learn from your senior colleagues. This is one field where your knowledge level cannot remain static.
- Optimizing apps for devices – The user-interface (UI) of an app might seem amazing on the screen of a 5” smartphone. The same layout has every chance of looking horribly stretched on a 7”/8” phablet. There are already around 1.75 billion smartphones across the world (true story!) – and with a projected annual growth rate of over 25%, there is no saying how many mobile gadgets the world would have in, say, five years from now. Find out the devices that your apps will be most frequently downloaded and used, and optimize according to their tech specs. Do not go for the ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
- Risk of compromising user experience – When you create an iPhone app or an Android app, you will have to think like its target buyers/users too. Many new programmers make the folly of bunching up too many high-end technical specifications and complicated user-tools in an app – which makes the latter a virtual ‘black box’ for customers. An app does not become popular because its developer possesses the most advanced coding knowledge – it works due to its simplicity, organized features, smooth in-app navigation controls, and something ‘unique’ or ‘extra’ about it (let’s call it the ‘wow factor’). It takes a really smart developer to make an app that laymen find easy to use.
- Data security considerations – On most apps, users have to log in with unique usernames and passwords, or with their social media credentials. A host of tasks can be performed by different iPhone/Android apps – ranging from gameplay features, daily task-management, to finance transactions, personal budget management and digital payments (the last-mentioned would really gain in momentum after Apple Pay is released next year). The onus is on you, the developer, to implement proper security protocols in your application. If people do not feel ‘safe’ while using your app, they won’t download it. There is no dearth of options, you know!
- Moving away from a static approach to work – At any mobile app company that is worth a mention, you won’t find the good ol’ ‘9-to-5’ work-culture. A flexible mentality is a must-have for any person wishing to stick it out in this field – and the first couple of months or so can prove challenging. On days, you might have to stay back at office after the formal ‘holiday hour’, to finetune your app and readying it for release. There might be instances when you have to work from home as well (particularly for keeping track of mobile app analytics figure). On the other hand, if you are into iPhone app development, you can take it easy during the Christmas period – when the app store remains closed for about a week. End-of-the-year cooling off time for you!
- Probable problems in data access – All mobile apps involve data being accessed by users, but that’s where the similarity ends. Apart from the diversity in the nature of mobile data being accessed, you will also need to find the exact ‘location’ from which it would be pulled (which would maximize user-satisfaction. If data would be obtained via the web browser – make sure that the web connectivity of your app is top-notch. A slow app is invariably an unsuccessful app.
- Ignorance about responsive designs – This is an extension of the second point in this discussion. You simply must have a proficient graphics designer in your team (at least one, that is!), who would be able to create responsive UIs for your app (so that it works fine on all devices). If your passion is to become a mobile app developer, don’t coax yourself into thinking that you can double up as a designer as well. If it’s a new team you are building, hire a specialized UI/UX designer – and in case you are hired at a big company, do not be shy to seek the help of the designers there.
- Touch vs Voice debate – Many new app developers make the mistake of thinking that a mobile application needs to be based on audio/voice (complemented by Siri or Google Now or Cortana) OR interactive touch features (like Google Glass or the Samsung smartwatches). In reality though, there is no such conflict – and when you are making a mobile or a tablet app – you have to use a combination of optimized voice and interactive touch features. There will be cases though (for example, in a driving navigation app), where voice commands would have to be given precedence.
- Testing – If you feel that you have got everything right at one go, your overconfidence is almost sure to come back to haunt you. Irrespective of how brilliant (or otherwise) a coder you are, you need to follow the international standards of mobile app testing – before submitting your product at the stores. It has to involve focus group checks as well as tests in the cloud environment. You need to get your app tested for all the different versions of Android, Apple, Windows and Blackberry mobile platform versions – particularly if you plan to be successful at cross-platform mobile app development.
- Lust for revenues – If your app is good, it will earn revenue (through paid downloads, in-app advertising, or other channels). Sadly, many newly established mobile app agencies do not have this confidence – and they invariably charge money for giving app quotes to clients. There are also companies that promise free Android or iPhone app quotes – and try to make up that ‘loss’ later, by charging money on app updates. Of course you don’t want to make apps for charity, but do not run after money-making from the onset. Give time for your apps to become hits – and financial rewards would follow.
Speaking of financial rewards, the issue of mobile app marketing is one that new developers often find challenging. When you are working for a third-party client, find out in detail the context of the app, and the precise features/functions required in it. Conversely, for in-house apps, brainstorm ideas that can be: a) converted into apps without much of a hassle and b) actually offer something new to the final users. Young developers across Europe and Down Under are earning big…scratch that…huge bucks from mobile apps. You can definitely be at par with them.
That rounds off the principal challenges that any new mobile app development professional is likely to face, and have to overcome. If you feel there are any other difficulties that they have to work around – let us know, and we will add them to our list. The journey from being a newbie to an expert on mobile apps need not always be a smooth one – but it is one that can definitely be completed, and completed rather easily!
AppBoard Tuesday returns on October 21, with another discussion that we hope you will find interesting. Till then, stay well, learn lots, and remain zapped with…you know it…apps!
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