What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Mobile App Platform

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You Need a Digital Partner

Years ago there were Android and iOS devices, Blackberries and Windows Phones. Android was fragmented, iOS was expensive, and those other two were a teeny tiny part of the mobile market share.

Common advice for choosing a platform almost always includes this one axiom: Choose iOS if you want to monetize, Android if you want market exposure. While that’s a handy way of thinking about apps for the general public, what if you want to develop an app that’s more internal-facing for your business or a select group of users? For example, you need an app for a corporate meeting or a conference or a sales tool for your team. Unless your target audience is all using iPads, the app development process can be a bit hazy to figure out.

What platform selection really boils down to is this: your audience and their needs. That’s reason #1 why you need to work with someone who knows what they’re doing. You need to consult with a digital partner.
We sat down with Brella’s Director of Programming, Anthony Biondi, and Programmer Anne Jurack, to talk about the things you didn’t know you needed to know before choosing a platform. (Or, for that matter, building an app.)

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You Need Research and Planning

According to Biondi, the two things that turn app development into a B horror movie are poor research and poor planning. Jurack added about research, “Apps fail because the creator didn’t do their research; into their competitors, their market, or even their vendors. You need to make sure you have something to offer. Before you start an immersive multiplayer game for serious gamers, you need to know what platforms serious gamers are using. If your target audience is made up of people who put hundreds of hours into a game for the story and world, you won’t find them playing those games on iOS. They’re clicking Candy Crush at the DMV like everyone else.”
Similarly, if you’re building a sales tool, you need to know how your sales force uses their devices. An event app requires an understanding of the attendees’ technical savvy, and the ability to provide on the ground technical support…sometimes in multiple languages.

Someone who builds apps every day will be able to guide you through even the earliest stages of development. Outsourcing research means that someone who knows the app store industry and knows what to Google for will be doing the research.

Biondi continued, “Not every app is about making money, or microtransactions. Sometimes it’s a value-add for an existing client base, or the developer just really loves making apps. Sometimes it’s never meant to see the inside of an app store—like a sales tool. But all apps cost money to build and maintain, and that’s the next thing you need to look out for. Whatever you budgeted to start with, double it.”

Biondi and Jurack explained that maintaining an app through even one or two iterations of iOS or Android can be costly.

“Every year we have deprecated code that needs to be re-written,” said Jurack. “Where in web, you can build a box using, for example, tables or CSS and both will display as boxes, the way you build similar components in Android has changed four times since Android 2. And many, if not all, of the old ways don’t work on newer versions of the OS.”

You Need To Understand the Development Process

When you include your developers in the concepting phases of an app project, they will guide you toward sustainable, agile development processes which will make maintenance and support simpler and easier. App customers are not like commodity customers—they expect minor changes to design and features, and they expect regular upgrades. They don’t get upset when they see changes. They get upset when the entire app breaks. It’s okay to keep it simple in a first release.

“That’s the last thing you need to know before you start thinking about platforms,” Biondi said. “Keep some functions back for updates—do a quarter of what you ultimately want really well at the initial release, instead of everything you want to do, badly. Your audience will love you for a great product, and they’ll love you more when you make it better with each update.”

If you’re interested in building the right app on the right platform for your audience, send Brella a note today.

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