Best Practices for Getting Started with Mobile App Development

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Mobile devices have become a ubiquitous part of daily life - smartphones, tablets, laptops and other hardware are now essential not only for personal activities but for professional tasks as well. Many businesses have gradually integrated these devices into their operations, but have met with mixed results. One issue that's common among these organizations is that employees leverage their choice of program - creating significant chaos in collaboration initiatives and leaving systems open to potential vulnerabilities.

However, organizations can address these problems and provide their staff with the tools they need by pursuing mobile app development. Whether these apps are created in-house or outsourced, there are a number of best practices that should be observed when getting started with mobile app development.

What are the business drivers?
The first thing to evaluate is why the application is needed in the first place. Programs must be business drivers in that they directly contribute to the overall workflow and success of the company. If the software isn't valuable, it's unlikely that anyone will use it. Propelics suggested conducting a litmus test to ensure that the app aligns with overall goals and objectives. The program will be assessed based on how ideas are prioritized and how the development effort is being focused to the most important items.

Having this best practices as the first step to mobile app development will be critical as it not only will help organizations save money on potential projects, but also provide teams with direction to make a quality app. Information gleaned from business drivers will create a bigger picture of what users expect and serves as a goal teams can measure their progress against.

Put infrastructure in place
Although this is another piece that users won't see, this best practice will be critical to ensuring that the app is successful. Before building the application, there are a number of items that must be in place for teams, including a development platform, security management capabilities, an app distribution method and many more, Propelics stated. Organizations must choose a vendor that is reliable, flexible and scalable in order to ensure that their systems will always meet team requirements.

For example, best test management tools must be able to integrate with existing programs and contribute to the overall product vision. Many times, these assets will go above and beyond what is necessary, so organizations must consider how to use them to their full advantage. Quality assurance members can easily collaborate across projects, prioritize tasks and monitor progress in real time. These types of capabilities will be essential for creating quality, successful mobile apps.

Consider user experience
There is one major thing that has the power to make or break the application: user experience. People have become so accustomed to the friendliness and ease associated with consumer apps that they have come to expect the same types of interfaces and functionality from the programs they use in their professional lives. If the company apps do not live up to these needs, employees are likely to leverage other programs instead. Enterprise Apps Today contributor Max Katz noted that investing in the user experience, fully testing software program and responding to feedback will be critical. Retaining consistent functionality across all platforms will build up the brand's reputation and increase overall adoption.

"Into your mobile app, build in analytics features that will monitor and track users' activity, interactions, crash logs and other events," Katz wrote. "This mechanism will provide the required data to continuously improve your mobile app, its feature set and usability. Also, use tools to listen to feedback, comments, blogs, review sites and social networks. Users will provide feedback and ideas that will help you improve your product, so stay attentive and responsive."

Address continuous integration/delivery and agile practices
In an effort to promote more effective defect management and higher quality applications, many teams have adopted agile workflows for their software development projects. Continuous integration and continuous delivery have particularly helped organizations meet the strict timelines set by decision-makers and user expectations. Because these concepts are typically a challenge to get right, teams must prepare themselves now in order to accommodate the agile environment and the different processes that accompany it in the mobile application development and deployment environment.

"Application changes delivered by developers need to be processed immediately for all of the targeted mobile operating systems," IBM stated. "If the mobile application is a hybrid or native implementation, several different builds of the application need to be triggered each time that a change set for the application is delivered by a developer. The build setup and configuration for each supported mobile environment is different from the others. You are most likely to need a small farm of build servers to be provisioned and available to handle these multiple operating system builds."

Use the development method that makes sense
With mobile development, there are a number of approaches that teams can take. Across bring-your-own-device environments, organizations are likely to use the method of developing the app one and running it across devices. This will reduce the needs to port or completely rewrite programs, saving a lot of time and money for other tasks. TechTarget contributor Bill Claybrook noted that hybrid apps are another popular approach to mobile app development. With this method, teams can take advantage of the hardware itself without having to rewrite the entire app for each device. Teams must determine what setup makes the most sense for them and their capabilities. This insight will give them better direction and play into their strengths for overall better products.

Learn more on how to overcome challenges in the mobile app development project in the upcoming Atlassian Summit 2015 session–Always on the Go:Developing Mobile Apps at Orbitz