Do you remember a time when “There’s an app for that” was merely a catchy tagline? Developers and businesses across the globe have since turned Apple’s advertising genius into a reality, as more than 2,000 native apps are published each day. Are you ramping up to join the ranks and begin your own native iOS or Android project? Consider these words from Skookum's founder: “Always start with the business problem, and then seek out the most effective technology for the job.”
In other words, you have to know why you’re making an app and what goals you’re trying to accomplish before you jump in. Recognize whether you’re creating something for utility (internal use), business support (profitability), marketing support (brand recognition), or some other motivation — and then consider what impact that reason has on your project.
Even With a ‘Why,’ There Will Be Roadblocks
Aligning your team members behind why they’re making an app sets the tone for the project. It will help define where your budget should be allocated, which teams need to be involved, what technical dependencies are required, and how you will ultimately measure success. In many ways, tackling a mobile app is just like starting any other non-technical project.
Don’t be afraid to leverage skills and learnings from past experiences. If you know a launch date is key to your project’s success, consult with others to make a realistic project timeline. If there are many parties involved in the project’s success, make sure you get buy-in from the appropriate stakeholders. If the budget is tight, do your homework when it comes to the partners you’re working with and how they approach change orders.
General project issues aside, there are, of course, roadblocks specific to mobile development. Here are four of the most common issues you might encounter:
1. Technical Debt and Hurdles:
Be prepared to learn that the current codebase supporting your business or product can’t immediately support your future mobile needs. Your project isn’t doomed if your technology doesn’t immediately align with your app’s needs, but you should know in advance what needs to be adjusted and how long it will take.
For example, most mobile apps rely on APIs to provide and consume data. While you might have done your homework and confirmed your project could tap into an existing API, you might learn later that the data it provides isn’t formatted for optimal performance. Also, most native apps require Internet connectivity to provide the full experience. Creating an app for a crowded event or for use in a location with potentially bad service? You will need to determine what kind of interactions can be handled offline. Do you have problems with your existing data or performance? Don’t expect your mobile app to avoid those same problems.
How to avoid this: Establish an initial discovery phase that includes your tech team. During this phase, you should map all known features of your existing API offerings and confirm compatibility with the existing technology or products you plan to incorporate. This is a good time to talk about any performance or speed issues.
2. Misalignment on Analytics Needs:
Collecting user and interaction data from a native app isn’t quite as easy as working with a web-based product. Many of the analytics and reporting tools your business uses might not work for mobile applications. Also, keep in mind that mobile data collection guidelines are dictated by the Apple and Google Play stores and are more restrictive than general web-based practices.
How to avoid this: Understand what tools can be leveraged for mobile use. Define your KPIs and project data needs in advance, and set clear expectations across all teams regarding what data you’re collecting and why.
3. Rejection by the App Store:
For those new to mobile projects, you might be unaware that apps must be submitted to Apple and Google Play for review and approval before they are published to their respective stores. Don’t get caught off guard by the high standards and somewhat complex submissions and business rules of these companies.
How to avoid this: Being aware of the rules is a crucial first step. Knowing each company’s feature specifications and submission requirements is essential to ensure your app is store-ready the first time you submit it. Review the rules for both the Google Play and Apple stores. If you’re still unclear, you could always consult with an expert before getting started.
4. No Plan for User Acquisition:
Competition is tight in the mobile space; if you build it, they might not come. Often, a marketing department or business development team is given the budget and a tight time frame to build an app, hoping it will be a great PR tool or provide a quarterly sales boost. At the same time, those driving the project might not understand who the potential users are or how to reach and retain those users.
How to avoid this: Treat your mobile launch like a typical product launch. Someone on your team must understand how general marketing strategies apply to a mobile product and be prepared to apply them. When working on a consumer app, include features that encourage sharing the app, and plan to spend some of your development budget on marketing efforts.
Like any project, a successful mobile app project starts with a knowledgeable team working toward a common goal. Predicting potential roadblocks and planning accordingly are key to creating a product that achieves your goals and ensures there is one more “app for that” out there.