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Mobile Development

May 22, 2012

Mobile technology is booming!  The number one job in terms of demand and opportunity is mobile application development.  Employers just cannot find enough people to fill the huge need.  Ask any IT employer.  They will consistently tell you that they need mobile app developers.

But why is this?  What is it about mobile technology that has it in such high demand, and what does it take to develop a good mobile app?  In this paper I’ll briefly touch on some of the possible answers.

When Apple took the Blackberry concept of mobile computing and combined it with their OS model and touch-screen technology the iPhone was introduced and it exploded the market.  Soon many other manufacturers developed similar technology and the race has been on ever since.  The primary players today, categorized by operating system are Android at number one, followed by Apple’s lOS, then Blackberry’s RIM.  On May 16, 2012 an article in Mobile Phone Development cited the 2012 first quarter stats of Smartphone sales to end users released by Gartner.  It showed that Android sold two and one half more units than Apple, was up over 100% more than its sales during the first quarter in 2011, and controlled 56% of the market.

The natural conclusion would be that most of the work for mobile app development would be in Android technology. But why is there such a high demand for that OS? One of the reasons is Android’s open source technology. It allows for the production of a large number of free apps. Unfortunately, that’s not such a good model for the developer trying to make a living, and in that regard the IOS closed source, but better paying development environment is much better.  In the same posting by Mobile Phone Development it was noted in another article that a new survey by AB! Research found that only 3 of users
account for more than 20 of all the money spent on mobile apps.

As a developer the rub is to discover what it is that makes mobile technology so attractive, and what types of needs do people want to fulfill with their Smartphones? Like any other product, once that is determined, the goal is to find the largest area of unmet need, and, or a specific niche in the market. What are the reasons that the 3 chose to pay?

The AB! Research article suggests that developers find and talk with paid uses to get insights and motivations. The fact is, most paid users want developers to succeed, especially so that they can get continual support and upgrades for their paid apps.

During a recent public presentation in Seattle the guest lecturer asked the class a few questions while discussing how to discern the value of mobile development.  She asked about the types of apps we could think of.  The answers were grouped into three broad categories: financial, sharing and fun.  I would also add areas such as daily living and time management.  She asked the audience to suggest why people use mobile apps, and answers such as convenience, portability, and ease of use were offered.

In another article in Mashable.com titled, Mobile App Development: 10 Tips for Small Business Owners, ten successful entrepreneurial developers were asked what to expect from the development process, what some of the best features are, and the pitfalls to avoid. Things like “one click” purchasing, special discounts and deals, community building, and partnerships with larger companies were mentioned (see the complete list at the end of this paper).

In summary, there are five areas that one needs to consider when deciding to build a mobile application.

  1. Is it solving a unique problem? * Figure out what “sucks” and how your app can make it better.
  2. Does it serve a niche? * A specific one that will bring passionate customers.
  3. Are you building a better “wheel”? * One that is simpler, easier, less friction, better security …
  4. Will it be “sticky” enough to warrant return visits? * Something that customers will need to use over and over.
  5. Should you build a “web” app, as opposed to a native app? * Cheaper, quicker, built to be used on any mobile device, but with limited functionality. See the article at pcworld.com, #3 in Resources below.

*          *          *          *          *          *

MOBILE APP DEVELOPMENT: 10 TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS 

By Scott Gerber, April 7, 2011, mashable.com

  1. Deals and Directions

Have a location-based discount feature – customer has to check in at your location via your app to unlock special pricing. Oh, and have a “directions” feature so that they can get to your location no matter where they are. “One touch call” and “share it with friends” features also help them connect to you. – Devesh Dwivedi, Breakingthe9toSJail.com

  1. Create Special Promotions

One way to get more sales is by creating an in-app system that rewards people who use the app well and often. Offer them special deals, discounts, and such. This will help increase loyalty and engagement while also boosting your sales. – Danny Wong, Blank Label Group, Inc.

  1. Forget About It

… I think in the vast majority of cases, this is not an investment that will pay [off] unless you can provide massive value through the app and invest significant money in online marketing to drive downloads. Instead, I would focus on partnerships with local Groupon and Living Social- type sites, Facebook Places, Google Places, DealMap, and LevelUp. – Matt Mickiewicz, 99 designs

  1. Does It Solve a Problem?

Make sure when you create an app that it somehow solves a problem and serves a niche. People like to use apps that serve a purpose whether it’s information driven, makes them laugh, helps with productivity, etc. When creating an app, think about what you would want out of the app if you were the customer. – Ashley Bodi, Business Beware

  1. Mobile Payments Are the Next Big Thing

Mobile payments are going to be huge and you have the opportunity to let customers pay with their smart phones before your competitors do. Check out Square and Intuit GoPayment to see how mobile payment processing works and whether it’s right for you. Promoting that you accept mobile payments will surely show your customers that you’re innovative and ahead of the curve. – Natalie MacNeil, Imaginar.us

  1. Social Media-Friendly Apps

I would recommend including social media engagement where real-time interaction is built into the app. This could include live Facebook or Twitter streams. Also strive to build an app that creates real community among your fan base. Allow them to meet each other virtually and build stronger brand evangelists to not only use your app but spread the word about your business! Be social media friendly. – Kris Ruby, Ruby Media Group

  1. Give Them Magical Powers

Before you start building an app, make sure you’re not just summarizing your webpage. Rather, give your customers some kind of magical power to interact with your business with only a few taps. For inspiration, check out how Starbucks lets you interact with Starbucks loyalty cards, while Chipotle lets you almost instantly place an order for pickup, – Jeffrey Powers, Occipital

  1. Make It Share Worthy

An app isn’t very effective if only a handful of people are using it. Build in benefits and features that inspire sharing. People are inclined to share things that are useful. Be sure your app solves a problem your clients have. – Lisa Nicole Bell, Inspired Life Media Group

  1. Focus on Your Audience’s Needs

Ask yourself one simple question: What’s in it for my customer? Why would they want your app? Does it give them coupons, specials, discounts, behind-the-scenes access, exclusive opportunities? If so, now we’re talking. Reward them, and they shall reward you with their presence. – Adam Gilbert, My Body Tutor

  1. Prepare For the Worst

First things first, you need to assume your app will get denied and plan an extra two to three months in the approval process. This isn’t a joke. Your app should be dead-simple to use, should be intuitive to any user and if possible, let them share their experience with friends. One-click purchasing, send to a friend and push notifications for new updates are key features for any good retail app. – Jason Sadler,  IWearYourShirt.com

Resources

  1. http://www.mobilephonedevelopment.com/
  2. http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/255941/mobile app standoff web app vs native app.html
  3. http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/geoloqi-partners-with-appcelerator/
  4. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/05/22/prweb9531647.DTL
  5. http://www.prnewswire.com/news- releases/kontagent-expands-mobile-analytics- client-base-with-bigpoint-152619945.html
  6. http://mashable.comI2011/04/07/mobile-app-tips-small-biz/
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