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Getting to grips with mobile app development

Aaron Annesley
29/06/17
As mobile, smartphone and tablet usage increases globally, so too does demand for mobile apps and software that is compatible with such devices. While the initial apps were relatively simple and did very basic tasks – such as information retrieval or organisation – the market has now expanded to offer a broad range of apps, covering everything from gaming to utilities, social networking and video players.

The world’s largest app stores, Apple’s App Store and Google Play had 2.2 million and 2.8 million available apps respectively in March this year (2017), highlighting the scale of the market that is expected to generate $189 billion by 2020.

Waves of rapid technological advancements are driving mobile app development faster than many other IT disciplines, creating new career opportunities but also making it a priority for developers to understand the market. Planning and meticulous testing are just two parts of a successful roadmap in app development, here we describe the importance of clear aims and processes.

Aims

In many ways the fundamentals of mobile app development are the same as the tried and tested methods used by software developers for decades. However, due to the fast moving nature of the environments in which they are used, there are some aspects of creating and managing dynamic mobile apps that bring with them exciting new concepts and challenges too.

The main priority for a new app is to first establish clear goals that need to be attained and achieved. This will obviously differ greatly from business to business or depend on the workings of the organisation or other clients looking for an app solution. Therefore an initial analysis is needed which must include identifying the target audience or demographic, working out their preferences and behaviours, and then choosing the best platform, or platforms, to use. Compatibility is the final major concern, as an app will need to function properly on a mix of platforms and devices used by the target end-users.

Process

Once the groundwork in terms of research has been done, the lessons learnt about the actions of the target users can be mapped out to plot a line to achieving the end goal. Each potential problem will need to have a solution, and setting parameters to monitor app functionality relies on being able to choose the correct metrics in the first place. Developers can often look to existing competitors or rivals to start finding out what not to do, helping to identify potential drawbacks and avoid them from the start. Security must also be high on the agenda in developmental terms, and all possible vulnerabilities must be tested and solved in order to present a secure and reliable end product.

This is where application testing really comes into its own as a vital part of the development process. With mobile apps, the range of possible end user devices can present major challenges in terms of scalability and functionality and the quality and consistency of presentation of the app must be ensured at all times. This can present many challenges for mobile app developers, but it also provides many opportunities for those with the relevant skills.

Read our related blog: Future of apps
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