Mobile Apps Development – To Do or Not To Do?

Enterprise Mobility
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There are more mobile phone subscribers than toothbrushes.

- Economics of Apps – University of Oxford

There are currently over 5.3 billion mobile subscribers (almost 80% percent of the world population) and in the next 2-3 years, mobile internet is forecast to overtake desktop internet usage. According to Gartner, smartphone shipments grew by almost 85% in Q1 2011, while worldwide PC shipments grew by only 2.3% in second quarter. This phenomenal growth in mobile usage is consequently fuelling the demand for mobile apps across the globe.

This demand for mobile apps – especially those that run on Apple iOS or Google Android – is huge. How huge? Apple sold over $1.78 billion worth of apps in 2010. This year, according to market research firm HIS, global mobile app sales will cross $4 billion.

The job trends for Mobile Apps Development provides a clearer picture of this immense surge:

In the recent study on “America’s Tech Talent Crunch”, the leading IT career website Dice.com found an unprecedented demand for technology professionals with mobile skills. Not surprisingly, the greatest demand is for mobile app development skills for Android and iPhone.

“It’s one of those areas where there is more demand than supply because there aren’t enough great mobile developers out there.”
– Ellen Pack, VP Marketing at Elance.com

While there is no shortage of Web and Java development talent, professionals with expertise on building apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices are in considerable short supply. This is, of course, primarily because of the relative newness of iOS and Android.

Consequently, designers and developers who have a firm grasp on the limitations and the opportunities afforded by the smaller screens and touch interfaces of smartphones and tablets are in very high demand. The challenge is not of mastering new programming skills, but of grasping the new usage rules of mobile… especially the user experience and security.

“All of the same customer experience rules found on the internet apply for mobile too. Forms need to be easy. Navigation needs to be functional. Text needs to be readable. Websites need to be usable. The good news is that it isn’t rocket science.”

– Chris Lake, Editor at EConsultancy

Eric Knipp, Research Director at Gartner Research, notes “When you’re building Web applications, [you] have the whole desktop. There are things you can get away with from a design point of view that simply don’t translate to a mobile device. It’s not just about making things smaller or splitting things up into separate screens. Developers have been trained to think that more features equates to better applications, but on mobile devices, that’s simply not true.”

In this post-PC era, good mobile app developers are those who can literally think out of the “box” – outside the old desktop PC model. It’s the quality of thinking that is key in this scenario. The tools are available across the board, but great apps that users love are not a function of great tools.

“Great mobile user experiences don’t happen just because you chose the best development tools. To deliver apps your users will love, you must design a user experience that is useful, usable, and desirable and that takes into account the five dimensions of the mobile context: location, locomotion, immediacy, intimacy, and device. User experience design is the differentiator. Great mobile apps are the result.”
– Mike Gualtieri, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

Forrester’s report “Mobile App Design Best Practices (2011)” states that excellent mobile apps need to have the following qualities:

  • Utility: A mobile app must deliver functions that allow customers, employees or business partners to achieve their goals using the ingenuity and capabilities of your business.
  • Usability: Your mobile app must be extremely easy to use.
  • Desirability: The experience of using the mobile app should produce positive emotions.

“You’d think that useful and usable would be enough — but they are not. Users also want to enjoy their experience,” – Gualtieri says.

Even from an organizational perspective, well-designed mobile apps enable users to further their organization’s goals. In just the way Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) revolutionized user-experience on the Web browsers, Rich Mobile Applications (RMAs) are doing the same for smartphones and tablets. Mobile apps are enabling interactive delivery of services while also offering a rich overall experience, leading to lower costs and productivity gains, and a consequent surge in demand from businesses.

While there is undoubtedly a strong demand for mobile app developers who have a very good understanding of the new platforms, corporate IT teams are not yet looking for app developers on board full-time. Good mobile development talent is highly specialized, and thus often pricey; so a full-time commitment is not what many companies with lean IT budgets are looking at right now.

But neither do they want to lose the opportunity of mobilizing their business. In the present scenario, most businesses that are not going mobile are slowly, but surely, going obsolete. As the current global economic scenario forces companies to innovate, evolve and explore newer technological avenues in order to continue growing, mobile applications can help businesses become even more successful in ways never thought possible.

The solution, as of now, is for organizations to outsource their mobile app development requirements to niche consulting firms until they have a more pronounced requirement.
While that answers the “To Do or Not To Do” question, businesses need to choose their outsourcing partners with care… those with significant mobile engineering expertise to deliver the utility, usability and desirability that go into making great mobile apps.

How do you go about finding the best talent? You can start by Googling “Rich Mobile Engineering”…

Web Spiders (www.webspiders.com), specialists in Rich Mobile Applications Development, is a niche software development and consulting company with over 250 employees. Web Spiders is dual-headquartered in Singapore and India with subsidiaries in UK and USA.
Founded in 2000, Web Spiders’ focus and mission is to drive its clients’ revenues and profitability by providing product development and digital marketing services through a best-shore delivery model.

Web Spiders delivers its mission through its core competencies in Mobile Technologies (iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone), Rich Internet Application Frameworks, and Enterprise Content Management systems.

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