Mobile App Development: Know What You're Getting into Before Diving In

John Storts

Just recently, I caught up with an old friend of mine, Pat, who earns his keep doing graphic design and Web programming work in the public sector. While chatting about our jobs, Pat expressed a good deal of dismay at a vexing problem involving mobile app development: His boss wanted him to create them for nearly every platform you can think of, the boss wanted them to be native and he wanted them soon. As in "yesterday" soon.

 

This programmer pal is Web-savvy and doesn't have any problem with HTML, JavaScript, CSS or PHP. He's not afraid of programming languages and he's always game to add new skills to his set. But, he faced so many hurdles that the requests being made of him seemed more than unreasonable. Pat's lack of experience in developing native mobile apps would have been the highest of these, if not for this insurmountable one: Within mere minutes of discussion, it became startlingly clear that his manager didn't understand a single thing about what it takes to create an app designed and optimized for a specific device, from the technical aspects to the time requirements. The boss just knew he wanted apps and he wanted them now.

 

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You can probably understand why Pat wailed and gnashed his teeth at the prospect. He was supposed to quickly create apps that ran natively on these mobile operating systems, yet he had no prior experience. He also didn't have the hardware. How was he supposed to create, run and test an iOS app with confidence in the absence of a Mac to do so with? How was he supposed to give due diligence to things like compliance and security concerns?

 

Given the kind of content his organization deals in, and considering the time, expense and staffing constraints (being a coding army of one), I think my friend came up with a great alternative: Instead of trying to craft apps for each OS, he pitched the idea of creating a Web application that was designed for mobile browsers. Anything more custom-tailored would have been costly overkill anyway. Pat hasn't heard back yet, but he's hopeful.

 


Trying to be as helpful as I could, I recommended a few of the mobile software development resources we have on hand. In particular, I pointed Pat to our excerpt from Wei-Meng Lee's "Beginning iOS 4 Application Development," since the iPhone and iPad topped Pat's manager's want list. Not only did I think the excerpt, which focuses on getting one's feet wet by creating a simple app, would help Pat learn the basics quickly, I thought his boss would benefit from an understanding of the forethought and inspiration it takes to make a useful, well-made app.

 

In the event that his Web app idea was shot down and he had to hit the development ground running, I told Pat to check out these resources:

'iPhone for Programmers' Excerpt

'iPad Application Development for Dummies' Excerpt

Android Applications Support Checklist

'BlackBerry Development Fundamentals' Excerpt

 

I hope these help both managers and programmers get acquainted with the requirements of mobile app development before jumping in.

 

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 13, 2011 6:27 AM Jonathan Joyce Jonathan Joyce  says:

The decision between Mobile Web Vs Native app ideally should be based on requirements not available skillset.

I suggest your friend have a look at using Titanium (http://www.appcelerator.com) to develop apps. He can target multiple platforms (esp iOS and Android) and use his JavaScript skills in the process. Titanium is not perfect but it is getting better and, as with all native apps, you'll need to test thoroughly before deploying (one of the advantages of Mobile Web apps!).

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