10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building Your First Mobile App

10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building Your First Mobile App
Don't Bring Conventional 'Application Thinking' to Your App Project
Apps Should Be Purposeful, Not All-Purpose
Remember the One-OS, One-Device World Is Dead
Do Not Fail to Build for Multiple Platforms
No Apps Without APIs
Agile Isn't Fast Enough
MVP Approach Isn't Easy, but Don't Ignore It
You Can't Manage What You Can't Measure
You're Not Smarter Than Your Users
Don't Just Talk About Security
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10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building Your First Mobile App

By Chris Preimesberger

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Don't Bring Conventional 'Application Thinking' to Your App Project

As Gartner Research has noted, "apps" and "applications" are not the same thing. Applications are monsters prized for their long lists of capabilities, while apps are valued for doing a few things well—and for their purposefulness. The temptation is to try to bring the do-it-all standard of applications to the do-a-few-things-really-well standard of an app.

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Apps Should Be Purposeful, Not All-Purpose

As a rough guide, make a list of desired features for your app, then delete half of them. For every feature you introduce into your backlog, one must come out. Finally, embrace the clarifying "Darwinism" of app stores, which reward simple, purposeful mobile experiences while ruthlessly eliminating those with feature bloat.

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Remember the One-OS, One-Device World Is Dead

Gone is the Wintel monopoly. No longer are we creating apps to run on a single set of devices of fixed screen sizes. Now the need is for apps that run across a range of devices. Too often, companies make the mistake of building their first app for one operating system or platform with the "intention" to expand once they've tested the mobile waters—and then they don't. Or they focus on one OS more intensely than others, resulting in a poor experience on the secondary platforms.

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Do Not Fail to Build for Multiple Platforms

Failing to build for multiple platforms is no less than a decision to ignore entire user segments—justifiable in certain cases, but probably not something to make a habit of. Given the cross-platform app development tools that exist, there's no reason not to build apps optimized for a multi-OS, multi-device world.

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No Apps Without APIs

Good mobile apps are greedy things, hungry for all manner of data from enterprise systems to SaaS repositories, public sources such as social and the looming Internet of things. This is where application programming interfaces (APIs) come in. They give developers the simplified access to the data and services needed to build amazing apps. In fact, good mobile APIs act as a spur to innovation. Think of them as Lego blocks: The better and more varied the collection of blocks you make available, the better and more creative the objects people build.

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Agile Isn't Fast Enough

Building mobile apps well means optimizing your whole delivery process around velocity. Users expect a steady stream of feature updates, and each new release of the operating systems will demand app updates even if your users don't. The only way is to embrace an MVP mindset—that is, "minimum viable product." This is a strategy of putting the bare bones of necessary functionality in front of users as quickly as possible. Why? To get something in their hands fast and to improve the app based on their actual use. It's all about maximizing learning and minimizing resource spend on the wrong things.

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MVP Approach Isn't Easy, but Don't Ignore It

The MVP approach is not easy; it depends on employing analytics to find out how users are actually working with an app. It requires discipline and a willingness to listen. The key, covered in the next slide, is real-time analytics that show you in an instant how users are (or are not) using your app.

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You Can't Manage What You Can't Measure

So you've got your app out there in the wild and people seem to like it, but do you really know how well it's doing? We're increasingly moving into a mobile world, and with mobile comes a wealth of information unlike anything we've ever seen before. This includes variables like user location, device type, app version, operating system and device orientation. The trick is capturing this data, making quick sense of it and using it to inform your next release. Without analytics, you're flying blind and your mobile app plan will amount to little more than dart-throwing. The solution: Implement analytics with your first app, sort through the findings and improve continually with each subsequent release.

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You're Not Smarter Than Your Users

Today, users expect anytime access to elegant, easy-to-use services, all running on their device of choice. Too often businesses forget the demands of the end user when creating their first mobile app. Start building your app with the end user in mind and optimize around "mobile moments," as Forrester Research calls them, to create targeted, context-aware, anytime/anywhere experiences that people love. And don't stop once you've got your app up and running; apps require ongoing care and feeding and dedicated resources. Think of your apps as products, not projects.

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Don't Just Talk About Security

With countless devices working on multiple operating systems, many levels of risk and vulnerabilities exist, increasing the complexity and importance of securing mobile devices. Appcelerator advocates six layers of mobile app security, depending on the nature of the app: 1) authentication and authorization of users; 2) encryption for data in motion; 3) encryption for data at rest (client-side); 4) encryption for data at rest (server-side); 5) app code security via native source file encryption; and 6) security for app distribution and management. Obviously not every layer applies to every app type, but failure to consider each layer can lead to some unhappy headlines.

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