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Building a Mobile App - some points

Summary

We get a lot of requests to build apps and there's a lot of things to consider before progressing.  Hopefully here we'll demystify a few preconceptions and help you decide what's right for you.

Why Apps?

Apps have a massive advantage to (most) websites (we won't talk about progressive webapps just yet): they're running on the user's mobile/cell phone which is the opposite of a website where you need to be connected.

This means that a user can download an app and (unless it needs a live internet connection) use it anywhere at any time.

However that act of downloading an app does require the user to jump through some hoops to get there.

When you need/want an App

Apps are best where you need recurring visits or it massively simplifies a process that's painful on the web.

Think of the Apps you keep on your phone; and the ones you use the most.  Those Apps that are shopping sites are largely ignored but you're probably using a few Apps all the time.

What shouldn't an App be?

For 99.9% of cases your App shouldn't be a clone of your website.  Instead the App should do things differently and possibly use your website for some elements (certainly migrating them over time).

An example is using the camera to speed things up: on a phone this is ideal and very very easy on a website it's a lot harder.

Security and Login

If you've got a website and you're looking at Apps then consider some form of Single Sign On ("SSO").  Why?  Well because Apps that have a different login / registration to websites are difficult to use and even if you need to do this temporarily it's not a good long term fit for users.

A SSO allows you to register in one channel and then use your account in the other without any changes.

What do Apps give me?

Apps bring you closer to your customers/users.  Users are more likely to use your app on a regular basis and thus engage closer with you.  They can also dramatically decrease your costs by increasing the amount of times that your users can "self-serve" (i.e handle their own problems).

What's the Catch?

Like everything in life there's a trade-off.  Apps cost more to develop than websites because of a few reasons:

- If you build an App for each platform (i.e. Apple and Google Android) then you need to do this twice

- Testing happens twice

- You can't just expose your existing APIs and hope it's secure.  APIs are magnets for people testing your security so you need to plan and be careful.  We always recommend adding a "facade" layer infront of your APIs to improve security and protect (better) against things like DDoS attacks (it acts as a front door that you can close if you notice a problem!)

- Maintenance isn't optional - to keep current you need to ensure you upgrade the code even if you aren't adding features

We Build Apps

We've lots of experience of the architecture, building of Apps and the secure APIs behind them.  Give us a call if you've got questions as we love to talk!

About the author

Stuart Muckley

Stuart Muckley

I’ve been a programmer and IT enthusiast for 30 years (since the zx spectrum) and concentrated on AI (neural nets & genetic algorithms) at University. My principle skills are concentrated on Enterprise and Solution Architecture and managing effective developer teams.

I enjoy the mix between technical and business aspects; how technology enables and how that (hopefully) improves profit/EBITDA & reduces cost-per-transaction, the impact upon staff and how to remediate go-live and handover, and risk identification and mitigation. My guiding principle is “Occams Razor” that simplicity is almost always the best option by reducing complexity, time to build, organisational stress and longer term costs.

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