Mobile Application Development: Planning for a Successful Future
As a mobile application development company based in Boulder, Colorado, we have seen a very wide variety of people and businesses interested in developing a mobile application. Apps are not just a fad, but a new market for building relationships with customers, expanding your business or even founding a new business. (You can see some of our mobile application success stories here, if you don’t believe us).
As such, it is important to talk about some of the necessary elements that go into a successful app once the app has been developed and launched. To use terminology for the rest of the software world, we will call this ongoing support and development.
Ongoing App support and development is not a topic that is regularly addressed in app development discussions, but there are a few factors that make it at least an important consideration during the planning and financing phase, specifically:
- Multiple operating systems (OS)
- Multiple devices for each OS
- A constant stream of OS updates, and new device releases
- Modulating and evolving markets
Multiple Operating Systems
Many people assume that Apple’s® iOS 4 (the operating system that runs the iPhone™, iPad™, and iPod™ touch) is the best because of its popularity. While Apple certainly is popular, Android™ has also become a major player in the market, not to mention many other major mobile operating systems.
Instead of focusing on the most talked about, it is important to view each operating system as a different market. By analogy, a product may be successful by only launching in the US, however Japan is also a huge market and by launching in both, you can potentially create a drastic improvement in sales and success. You need to find the best market for the initial launch of your application so that you can build a successful base to launch on additional platforms as well.
When creating an app, it is helpful to find a mobile development company that is able to create your app for multiple markets – multiple operating systems – even if you are only planning to initially launch on a single OS.
For our clients, it has been very convenient to be able to save resources (by resources, we mean time, money, and tons of stress) by working with one company to develop an application on multiple operating systems. Clients have the freedom to try out their idea on the iPhone, for example, and then when they feel comfortable, they expand to Android, then to BlackBerry®, and then Windows® Phone 7, or to whichever platforms they need.
This helps your app stay relevant as app platforms change and grow. For example, last year, Apple’s iPhone OS was by far the most talked about platform, and the fastest growing. However, now Android is taking center stage, and is arguably the most popular new platform, in terms of the number of device activations.
In six months, with the new version of the BlackBerry operating system, as well as the launch of Windows Phone 7 devices, there will be a whole new band of devices and potential markets for your app.
Although programming an application for each platform is very different, there are many elements that can be duplicated. Also, the app programmers have the benefit of working together to solve common challenges (such as integration issues with an external website, for example), rather than employing four teams each spending time solving the same problem.
The benefit to ongoing support and development for your application is that it will help your app take advantage of new devices and features as they become available. Currently, there are four versions of the iPhone, a new range of iPods set for release, and the iPad, which runs on the same OS but benefits from having its own “optimized” version of an app to take advantage of the larger screen size.
For Android, the challenge is even greater, which currently has 32 phones and 8 tablets that run version 2.0 or higher (Bonus points if you can name them all!).
The challenge here is that as the app owner, your app runs the risk of not working properly on each device. This may be a display error, as one device has a slightly different size screen, or a major error if a device does not come equipped with a hardware feature (such as a front facing camera).
Your development company should be able to offer some sort of support package that will update your application to be compatible with devices as they come available. Yes, this will cost some money as an ongoing support feature, but it should be very reasonable in comparison to the original development cost.
Future Updates and Platforms
Another benefit to having an ongoing software support option is that it can help update your application as new versions of an operating system are released, and can help your app take advantage of new features.
When the iPhone first launched, it was difficult to see how far the Smartphone market would grow in just a few years. Finding the right development partner now can help your app stay with the market as it continues its rapid expansion. Who knows what capabilities and features phones will have in the next few years?
Also, regular updates help prevent compatibility problems that sometime affect applications during operating system upgrades. Developers are usually aware of upcoming changes that can impact your application and can work to address those issues before the upgrade launches. This helps keep your ratings up, keeps your users happy, and encourages continued downloads.
We’ve discussed the importance of app marketing for the iPhone before, but not as an ongoing service option. App marketing is one part promotion, one part visibility, and one part knowing where to start.
As mobile app developers, we have helped many companies design, build, and launch applications. One thing we have learned: there are major consumer differences for each device. These consumer differences result in different behaviors and expectations that can have a direct result on the success of certain types of apps.
This impacts design decisions, such as pricing, advertising in the app, and distribution and promotion channels. It also impacts “visibility” decisions, such as how you describe the app, the importance of a website, and your ability to pitch the app to relevant publications.
Not all developers offer consulting services as a part of their development, but finding one that can provide true insight based on real data can be very helpful in building an app that will be successful. This type of consulting helps you understand all aspects of the app business, so that you can make informed decisions about how you want to proceed.
Smartphone applications are a quickly growing business opportunity, whether it is by selling an application, selling ad space on a popular app, or building a current business by engaging customers through an app.
However, as this market quickly grows and changes, your app needs to be able to grow and change as well. We encourage those looking to develop an application to consider the long term plans for the app. Of course it is fine to take a risk and experiment with an app idea. However, by planning for success from the very beginning then you have a strategy already in place to take advantage of your successes. And then it is easier for you to identify exactly what went right, or what didn’t go so right, so that you can repeat those successes in the future.
The best part is that by planning right, you rarely spend more money up front, and then you save money in the long term by finding the right development team, the right creative sources, and the right marketing strategy.
Sources and Resources:
Chart 1 can be found at: http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-smartphone-os-2010-8
Chart 2 can be found at: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/burnette/android-sales-surge-surpass-iphone-updated/2019
Chart 3 can be found at: http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-free-vs-paid-apps-2010-8