Opinion

Traditional methods of development will fail for mobile apps

3 min read

15 August 2014

As demand from enterprises puts increasing pressure on IT organisations to deliver large numbers of mobile apps, application development (AD) teams will have to think outside the box.

Enterprise AD teams need to realise that most traditional practices used to define desktop apps will not work with mobile due to device diversity, network connectivity and other mobile-specific considerations. And even though such means have worked historically, there are several reasons why these efforts don’t succeed today.

Essentially, even though mobile apps have been around since 1983 (the first of which was a contacts app for the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X – a ‘brick’ phone) and despite its rapid evolution, it still remains a new category for most.

Research vice president at Gartner, Van Baker, explains that “users find it challenging to effectively describe what a mobile app needs to do. As a result, the traditional practice of having a business analyst sit down with the mobile app end users to define requirements for a new mobile application normally fails.”

Such apps are also constrained by the nature of their platform and size of the screen they will be displayed on. This means that porting the workflow of a mature desktop app is not viable. This should be an important aspect for all AD teams as most complaints about mobile apps have to do with a poor user experience, which can be caused by poor user interface (UI) design, poor responsiveness or, indeed, poor application workflow.

This just comes to show that desktop app development is an entirely different experience to that of mobile, including testing mobile applications shorter session lengths and limited presentation.

But the important thing for enterprises to realise at this point in the mobile app maturity cycle is that there is still much to learn about how to design, build and deploy great mobile apps. And with the rapid pace of change in the mobile market is putting pressure on development and operations teams to adopt rapid development and deployment practices that constantly iterate their mobile applications as expectations change. So it’s crucial to understand how it is actually used, because behaviors may change.

It thus becomes imperative to employ agile development to quickly iterate on improving the mobile app as the need for ongoing analytics to monitor how the app is used and confirm assumptions will not go away. This is due, in part, to the frequent release of new versions of mobile OSs and new devices. 

“Mobile apps are different,” said Baker. “They need to be frequently revised to meet end-user expectations, and this agile development process especially requires operations to be on top of infrastructure and systems to support frequent mobile app deployments and pushed updates.”

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