App Development In A Mobile World

Flappy Bird. Pokemon Go. Snapchat. Facebook Messenger. Instagram. Uber. Countless others. What do they all have in common?

They were all remarkably popular mobile apps that rose to fame in a relatively short time. Many of them continue to ride the curtails of success, while others have dropped off the radar completely.

Guaranteed success seems to be the mantra of the mobile development market, right?

The reality is way different than it looks from the outside. Mobile app development is a much tougher market than you’d initially expect.

So, what’s it like to be a mobile app developer? What’s it like to be a team member for one of those companies trying to rise to the top in a sea of apps?

Is it all wild parties, champagne, expensive vacations and fancy cars? Do most of these companies have a handful of successful apps raking in millions by the hour?

No, not at all.

The Elephant in the Room

Let’s take a minute to explore why you’d even want to get involved in the first place. If you’re already interested in mobile app development, then clearly it’s not about creating something for you. It’s more about ‘how’ you will go about creating.

You can always take the easy route and design a responsive website instead. What are the motivations for creating something unique and proprietary, especially when responsive web design is so much easier.

Couldn’t you create the next Flappy Bird as a responsive site? Sure, but that wouldn’t be ideal.

The truth is that a lot of designers wrestle with this argument: mobile app development or responsive web design? There’s no clear answer, per se. But it is important to recognize the difference between the two options, and identify why one would be better than the other.

Mobile apps don’t require a constant internet connection, usually see better performance (unless they’re poorly optimized), and include a lot more functionality. With a mobile app, for example, you can tap into a device’s camera, GPS location, or additional services. A responsive website is limited by what the browser can access. Plus, mobile apps can take advantage of push notifications, which is a highly visible and engaging way to interact with users.

For organizations, there’s also the matter of using a local, dedicated team or outsourcing the work to third-party agencies - which includes SaaS tools. Do you keep the mobile development work in-house, or find someone else to do it?

Why? Because we believe you’ll always extract more from a highly-skilled and self-motivated team of developers.

What’s in It for Mobile App Developers?

If the market is tough then the barrier to entry must be pretty low, right? That would explain why there’s so much competition.

No, actually, that’s not true either. Depending on which platform you want to develop for - especially if you plan to launch across multiple platforms and devices - the total cost can be exorbitant. You have to pay for the development hardware, testing devices, training - not including the time it takes to learn a language - software applications and more.

Of course, most folks interested in mobile development have a couple of those requirements met already, but that doesn’t matter, it’s still expensive.

So, if there’s a high failure rate, and the cost of entry is super high, why even bother? Seriously, what’s in it for mobile app developers?

To give a brutal, honest outlook from someone with mobile app development experience it’s about the journey and creation. Most artists don’t necessarily create a piece of artwork to make tons of money or get rich, just like most writers don’t put together a novel or story to reel in large sums of cash. Creatives tend to do what they love because they, well, love it!

The same is true for most mobile app developers and software engineers in general. It can be excruciatingly demanding work at times. You have to love what you do to stick with something like this, let alone to succeed in such a competitive space.

All in all, if you want to know what’s in it for mobile app developers, it’s the experience. It’s creating something from scratch, coding, designing, building, deploying - making something with your own hands and mental effort.

Mobile App Development By the Numbers

The space is super competitive, it’s expensive to participate - both in time and money - and it takes years upon years of investment to truly reach the levels of success that you might want.

Does that mean it’s not a viable career path? Absolutely not, quite the opposite actually.

The most important thing to understand is that the Flappy Birds out there are rare. You may get lucky and create the next super popular app. Or, it may take years - even decades - to do something half as successful as that app. But again, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a living or a decent career in the mobile app development world.

In 2016 alone, the total number of mobile phones in use on a global scale were near 6.8 billion. China leads with 1,276.66 million devices in use, while the US is in third - behind India - with 327.58 million active devices.

The global mobile penetration for 2016 was 97%.

Mobile is on the rise, every day. That means more and more people are browsing, download, installing (or uninstalling), and using mobile apps.

The projected number of mobile app downloads for 2017 is 268,692 million.

What Else Does the Mobile App Market Have to Offer?

Of course, there’s a whole lot more to being part of the mobile development market than being creative and delivering a solid customer experience. Seriously!

Many developers get to attend events and tradeshows, even in competing industries. At these events, they network and meet interesting people, both on the business and customer side of things. They also have the opportunity to share luncheons with strategists from innovative companies.

More importantly, they get the opportunity to be on the frontlines and really dig in. That means working on other programs that integrate with a mobile-first customer experience program like designing gamification systems, re-tooling leaderboards, extending the mobile vision past customer experience walls, and even VR/AR technology. All these things can swoop and loop back through to a ‘mobile app’ that’s designed with thought and care to achieve something or make it better. 

Designing for mobile apps is both challenging and fun. Consider this, with apps you have to be on your game at all times. The idea is to solve complex problems, create a fluid pattern, and really optimize the experience through limited space, minimal clicks, and an intuitive UI. Responsive design is none of that. It’s more about performance and bumping up accessibility.

Mobile design has everything to do with the experience. That’s why it involves prototyping wireframes, coming up with appealing designs, configuring navigation elements and flows, choosing correct placement for images and ads, and much more. You truly have to fine-tune a mobile app and make it the best it can be.

Perfecting the end product and achieving exactly what you want from your users - or customers - that’s the mission. And all of it is done via small tweaks, visual enhancements and in-app functions.

Pretty amazing, wouldn’t you say? It’s almost like we’re gods of our own digital workspace.

Mobile Apps and the Customer Experience Journey

When it comes to the mobile outlook for enterprises, the trick is to merge your mobile app and customer experience program.

Would you eat a peanut butter sandwich without jelly? Would you eat cookies without milk? Would you put out salt and not pepper?

Mobile apps and customer experience programs go hand-in-hand. Enhancing the customer experience with mobile-first touchpoints like instant messaging, news and social feeds, and direct interactions will accelerate the growth of your app, ultimately contributing to the growth of your business.

86% of mobile phone users regularly interact with apps, while 68% of those same users engage with a specific brand through an app. In other words, more and more customers are using mobile apps to interact with brands whether through customer service, sales, or another experience entirely.

Building a customer experience journey around a mobile app will get you more engagement from your community through physical, social, informative, and communal touchpoints all combined to provide a comprehensive user odyssey.

Think about it. This structure isn’t exclusive to business and enterprise solutions, it’s true of all mobile applications. Consumer apps and games even incorporate this structure, by embedding the customer experience within the app.

It’s all about the mobile mindset, which ties into the customer journey. Your audience is looking for a personalized experience, no matter how generic your app may be.

Facebook, for example, offers a variety of solutions for the average user from the news and social feed, to a sense of community, down to direct one-to-one conversations.

Pokemon Go succeeded because the developers focused on the customer experience journey at the start. From the way players interact with the digital - and real - world through the app, to the way the players interact with one another via gyms and local tournaments.

Even the experience of customizing your trainer, capturing Pokemon and building your party, to strengthening your team - it’s all about a journey, a personalized, user odyssey.

Key Components of a Mobile User Journey

Now that you get it, let’s focus on what goes into a killer, “successful” app or customer experience journey. What key traits and elements should always be incorporated? What should never be left on the cutting room floor?

  • Ease of Use The app must be easy to use, navigate, and understand.
  • Simplified Tasks All tasks must be easy to complete and available from the start.
  • Instant Access Surface data and information in the best possible way that users are hungry for. 
  • Personalized Experiences Create journeys that give users the option to personalize the interactions.
  • Offer Additional Insight People love tracking their stats. But while you’re at it, make sure you’re tracking trends and patterns too so you know what your users are doing and what they like.
  • Solve Complex User Flows What will they be doing with your app? What are they trying to accomplish? What services are you offering? What needs to happen every time they open your app?

If you look at every single one of these elements, they relate to building a positive, solid experience for your audience. Better yet, look at some of your favorite apps and try to find one that doesn’t incorporate some form of these strategies. We bet you won’t be able to! All the best apps deliver a solid customer experience journey that keeps people coming back again and again.