You’ve identified the need for a mobile app—maybe to serve up documents and media at a conference, or perhaps to give your brand presence on customers’ phones. Whatever the reason and whatever the need, you should ask these seven basic questions when you start looking for a development partner.
1. Should my app be for Android, iOS, or both?
Cross-platform apps give you flexibility, and aren’t necessarily bank-breaking expensive anymore. Tools for cross-platform development, like Adobe Air and Corona, keep the features and functionality aligned across platforms, ensuring a uniform user experience no matter what device the viewer is using.
A good developer should have the skill and knowledge to say, “Both. Both is good. Why not both?”
2. Should my app be stand-alone (that’s “native,” in programese), web-based, or a hybrid?
For that matter, does it even need to be an app? These days, a site with well-executed responsive design can do just about anything a native app can do. Serving up text works best with a mobile site; serving up documents or proprietary materials can benefit from a database with an application front-end.
Apps that draw heavily on the device’s hardware capabilities need native support. Games, for example, are resource-intensive and work best installed directly on the device. Also, apps using functions such as Bluetooth to interact with beacons or other mobile devices need to be native in order to access the hardware.
Brella has made responsive sites, hybrid apps, and native apps since the beginning of the mobile revolution—and we can help you figure out and execute the approach that fits your needs.
3. Does my app have to go in the app store?
Actually, some mobile apps never need to see the inside of the app store. Maybe you’re demonstrating product capabilities, telling a patient’s story, or keeping your meeting attendees equipped with up-to-the-minute accurate information about the weekend’s seminars and networking luncheons. You’re doing it with an app, for good reason: they’re ubiquitous, user-friendly, and immersive.
Not one of these apps needs to be vetted through an app store or made available to the general public. Brella knows how to make the installation process simple for even the most casual user, with good design and great documentation. We even do on-the-ground tech support!
4. How will we differentiate my app from competitors’ apps?
The short answer: with good design and exceptional usability.
According to Anthony Biondi, Brella’s Director of Programming, “A thorough analysis of your competitors will help guide your app to a competitive advantage. In some cases, it’s not the app—if you’re a Dunkin’ Donuts fan, you’re probably not going to start buying Starbucks because of the app. In other cases, taking the time to understand what’s important to your users and/or what your competitors are not doing as quickly, or as easily for them, will dictate the differentiating factor(s).”
5. How will you test my app?
Testing should happen in multiple phases. Along with developers writing clean code to start with, there should be an internal round of alpha testing, followed by a small-audience round of beta testing, before you see the app. Brella tests on a variety of devices, identified at the start of a project, and can work with external, freelance, and client-side testers.
6. How do you work with external teams?
Sometimes an app comes in with pre-existing teams already in place, such as a database managed by a specific vendor, or a third-party testing company with whom you have an established relationship. It’s absolutely necessary that your app developer talk to stakeholders for the app; if not in person, then in real-time over the phone or instant messenger. They need a shared vocabulary—programming syntax carries very specific meanings, and that makes it important for everyone to be on the same page.
7. What kind of smartphone do you use?
This is a litmus test question. An individual freelancer should have an enthusiastic—and probably simplistic—answer for you: the latest Android phone or Apple device. Their strong opinions will point toward deep knowledge of their pet platform. A tepid response to the platform you need to support, however, may indicate that they don’t have the chops.
Look for a deeper answer from your contact at an agency or production company. A director or account manager will have broad knowledge of multiple platforms, as well as their own in-house and freelance capabilities. Their enthusiasm should not lean toward iOS vs. Android, though they may well prefer one to the other. Instead, look for passion about building the ultimate app for your project and your consumers, on the platform that best suits your needs.
So if you have an idea that you think could benefit from a mobile app, consider dropping Brella a note. We’re interested in development. All development—especially yours.