March 11, 2021
Avoid These Common Mobile App Challenges
Avoid These Common Challenges When Building a Mobile App
Let’s say you want to build a mobile application. Where do you start? What are the most important factors to consider as you embark on this endeavor? We spoke to Arie Williams, a mobile app developer and member of OST’s App Dev team, to identify the most common challenges businesses face when developing a mobile application. And many companies struggle at the very outset of a mobile development project: they don’t know where to start.
Challenge: Knowing Where to Start Building a Mobile App
As a consultant, Williams works with multiple clients building mobile applications. Clients often approach OST with different ideas of how to move forward:
• Some aren’t sure exactly what they want.
• Some have a list of things they want without having any data about whether those features are actually what their users want.
• Some are caught up in wanting to replicate what they see competitors doing without understanding if a similar digital product will work for their own customers.
Moving forward from any of these starting points can lead to ballooning costs, missed deadlines or even building a mobile app that no one will use.
To avoid these missteps, you need to have a plan.
“Often, when we are first talking to a client, we discuss what end goal they want,” Williams said. “We also discuss how we are going to do that in phases so that we have completed, functional deliverables by certain timelines.” By stepping back, aligning around key outcomes and utilizing an iterative, agile approach, we can reduce risks for the client and deliver higher quality work — faster.
Challenge: Determining the Best Mobile App Platform
Williams said that early conversations with customers also center on what platform makes the most sense given their goals, user base, technical specifications and other factors.
In some cases, a client may wish to create an iPhone app, for example. In these cases, we try to get a better understanding of the rationale behind that desired approach. Have they considered whether they should create an app for Android? Would a cross-platform application development framework like Xamarin, React or Flutter make sense for them?
After all, if a company makes a mobile app for iOS because 85% of their consumers use iPhones, that excludes 15% of the business’ customer base.
When determining the best framework for a desired outcome, many factors need to be considered, ranging from user demographics, accessibility and the app’s intended use to color scheme to how many pages it has and other nuanced details.
During these conversations, Williams also works ahead with clients to plan for and manage changes in technology in the future.
Challenge: Future-Proofing a Mobile Application
“Future-proofing” has become a bit of a buzzword, and there is no way to make a digital product stable without maintaining it. That being said, developers can build a mobile app with the future in mind. Unfortunately, it is one of the most overlooked parts of the development process. And Williams has had a variety of experiences updating old applications, which can be very challenging. Future proofing relates not only to the frontend application code and architecture, but it also ensures that our customers are building their apps around scalable backend services in the cloud that can support varying volume and geographies of users.
“For the most part, when you have developers working on an application, you should be thinking about how to make the app the most successful, the most updatable,” Williams said. “You can’t plan for every new technology shift ahead, but you can put clear documentation in the code to explain what is happening where so future changes can be made quickly and seamlessly.”
Ensuring support of the latest Android and iOS Operating System updates is a moving target. The best way to ensure a seamless and stable experience for users is a proactive support approach. OS and API level updates can cause breaking changes to an app and OST is skilled at getting out ahead of major OS releases with pre-release testing and code modernization. Building an app is one thing, keeping it running in an ever evolving ecosystem of OS versions and devices takes a proactive plan.
At OST, we also offer ongoing application managed services for mobile apps. This allows businesses to avoid piling up technical debt and incurring massive costs to modernize an old or nonfunctioning digital product.
Challenge: Thinking Beyond the Mobile App
“Another thing we’re encouraging clients to do is think beyond their app and consider what insights they want to gain — and what data is needed to get those insights. What information do they want to know about their customers?” Williams said. That could mean measuring how many items are loaded into a digital shopping cart or the patterns of customers browsing through products.
For example, a client working on a grocery order app may want to know which products customers choose to deliver and which they choose to pick up in-store. They may also want to know how that compares to in-store purchasing patterns.
All of these are data points the client may be interested in obtaining. And the data clients want will help determine how the app should be built: both on the frontend and the backend.
“As a developer, the collection and utilization of all that data is something I have to code for,” Williams noted. As a result, Williams makes sure to ask clients what information they need and where that should be stored during initial discussions about creating a mobile app.
Challenge: Ensuring a Secure Mobile App Experience
To achieve their intended functionality, mobile apps may require permissions for using a device’s camera, location services, connections to other smart devices, etc. Developers must plan for this when building the app so that users can allow those permissions securely and maintain their privacy.
“As a company, it’s important to have deliberate conversations and really think through what features the app needs and what things it doesn’t need,” Williams said. Each feature and permission has security and privacy implications, which is why it is so important to pare down to the essentials and not expose users to any unnecessary risk.
“It’s possible to only do the bare minimum for security, but we have found that it’s not conducive to building and keeping customer trust,” Williams explained.
Let’s Start Building Your Mobile App!
No matter where your team is in the mobile app design and development process, OST is ready to help you move forward with confidence. Struggling to get your project off the ground? We can help. Encountering unexpected challenges in the development process? We can help. Trying to salvage an outdated, broken application? We’re here for you. Frustrated with your current vendor? We’re happy to give you a second opinion—or pick up wherever they left off.
To start a conversation, contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!