10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building Your First Mobile App

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2015-02-06
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building Your First Mobile App
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
 

"There's an app for that." That phrase was on everyone's lips a few years ago. Here in 2015, however, the initial push to build mobile applications has settled down from the relative hysteria back then. The world has seen a lot of run-of-the-mill mobile apps come and go. Many companies were enthralled with the idea of creating mobile apps for little reason other than simply to have their own app—whether or not the app was actually useful for customers. After learning some lessons, independent application developers now are moving back to creating mobile apps that are more thoughtfully designed and executed. In this slide show, put together with eWEEK reporting and industry insight from Appcelerator, we offer a list of mistakes to avoid when developing your first mobile app. Mountain View, Calif.-based Appcelerator makes Titanium, an open-source software development kit for cross-platform mobile development, and Appcelerator Platform, an enterprise software suite for mobile app development, testing, deployment and analytics.

 
 
 
 
 
Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz
 
 
 
 
 
 

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