It's All About the UI: Focus on the User Experience

As mobile application usage continues to grow, it comes at the cost of the mobile Web. Apps provide a richer interface and additional functionality when compared with mobile Websites. In fact, the mobile browser has been described as a single application swimming in a sea of apps. Building a custom application is becoming more important to providing the experience that users are now demanding. With mobile apps consistently and persistently outperforming the desktop market, there is no second chance for a bad mobile user experience.

Account for Unreliable Networks

Eventually, every mobile user will experience a dropped phone call, a lost signal or not getting an important update due to an unreliable mobile network. If you think the area you live in is safe, check out the latest metrics on which U.S. cities have the best performance. San Jose, Calif., the tech capital of the world in the heart of Silicon Valley, doesn't even make the top 50. App developers need to be acutely aware of these intermittent problems and the impact they have on user experience and performance.

Plan for Explosive Growth

What would happen if your application went viral tomorrow, and you had to scale from a customer base of a few hundred to an active user base of 100,000 or even a million? In a world that stays connected 24/7, apps can go from unknowns to global sensations in a very short timeframe. To ensure optimal user experience throughout that expansion in user base, app developers need to plan for growth. Taking a real-world example, if Uber had not been able to expand quickly, would it be the successful $19 billion company it is today? Utilization of libraries that focus on low-latency data distribution at scale can help developers intelligently grow their apps' user bases without changing core architecture.

Security Is Never an Optional Feature

When asked what the main issues were in the adoption of mobile applications, 77 percent of enterprises put security at the top of the list. As users move toward a mobile-centric lifestyle, personal data and the security of that data should be a top concern for mobile app developers. Although general awareness and concern about security and data privacy have gone up in recent years, more than half of adults are unaware that security solutions exist for mobile devices. The Internet has become the new "Wild West," and developers are the gunslingers, vigilantly fighting off the constant threat of outlaw hackers.

Don't Forget the Underdogs

In today's world, it is amazing how many applications only support iOS or Android. In a global world, whether or not an app supports all of the mobile platforms (Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows) can be the difference between mass adoption and being a "flavor of the week" app. On a global scale, Android is a dominant player, but in the United States, iOS is a much fiercer competitor. Alienating a large part of your market can lead to slower or no adoption, so be sure to find solutions that can help you create apps quickly and natively for all mobile operating systems.

Be Consistent Across Platforms

It is not enough to simply support multiple platforms; it's critical to have consistent behavior and features across them. With more focus on security in the workplace, companies are often providing their own mobile devices that typically don't match what users are using in their personal life. This means that users are more platform-agnostic but still expect each platform to behave similarly. This takes the first focus on the user experience and ties it directly with a multiplatform approach to make users happy and ensure development teams are contiguous and well-structured.

React Quickly to the Market

As mobile becomes mainstream, relevance and functionality have become constantly changing goals. Every app needs to focus on relevance minute to minute and week to week. Ensuring that every app can be tweaked to include new functionality, features and methods should be a cornerstone of app development. This is why major apps like Facebook and Gmail are updated constantly. These updates may consist of minor fixes to basic issues or slight functionality adjustments, or they may be major updates to address changing utilization and user journeys. Just as users are becoming more real time, so must applications in order to ensure optimal user experience.

Be Kind to Devices

Applications that deal with real-time data can be detrimental to a user's data plan, especially if they are running and continuing to update in the background. Users today are also more focused on data consumption as they are being charged for even the slightest of excesses. Mobile carriers are struggling to provide physical infrastructure to support the wave of new devices, and have passed that cost and restriction onto the consumer. Apps that pay attention to every byte they send, make the data consumption efficient and ensure that the battery life and processing power of a device are preserved naturally will float to the top of user preference.

Test, Test, Test!

A single bad customer experience with Web-connected performance could mean that creators can lose about 80 percent of their customers, which makes getting it right the first time so critical to growing and retaining the customer base. Even knowing this, half of all mobile app issues are found by customers, leading to bad user experiences and shrinking customer bases. Additionally, there is a growing need to automate and perform functional and integration tests.

Mobile devices and their use are rising at unbelievable rates, bringing with them a flood of applications to solve hundreds of problems that users may or may not have realized they faced. The move to mobile has simultaneously brought an increasing demand for real-time data, information and updates–and generally, without adequate physical network infrastructure to deliver on that promise. As a result, developers are faced with fierce competition, low margins and temperamental users who are not afraid to quickly and indefinitely change their app allegiances if they don't experience optimal performance or app response times. Let's face it: Users are spoiled, but developers have to work around that fact. These issues make finding a unified solution that can easily be integrated and scale rapidly a necessity. This slide show, based on eWEEK reporting and professional industry insight from Sean Bowen, CEO and founder of Push Technology, explores what developers should consider to provide an app that meets user expectations in this increasingly fast-paced world.



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