3 Must-haves for Mobile App Development

ago 13, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Mobile Solutions

Mobile applications are still software applications so any well-known design and development practices apply.  However, mobile applications run on mobile devices, which are significantly different from laptops and desktop computers.  Sounds like an obvious and foregone statement? This apparently simple fact imposes a number of constraints on developers and raises several programming issues, for which new patterns and practices are required.

Let me give you a few examples.  One key difference between desktop and mobile applications is that users of modern mobile applications will most likely use a finger to point at available content.  Touch-sensitive screens force developers to increase the size of buttons and links.  Unfortunately, you can’t just make each button and link larger as the overall size of the screen in a mobile device is much smaller than that of a laptop.  Screen real estate is not the only limited resource on a mobile device; processing power, for example, is not comparable to what is typical in desktop computing.  The same can be said for memory and local storage.  What about security?  We’ve learned a lot about threats in web development but mobile presents a whole new world of challenges when it comes to security; many of which, are still largely unexplored.  Aside from being able pinpoint the differences and implications of mobile software development, it is essential to implement the following features on just about any mobile app, regardless of platform or operating system.

1)     Automatic & Periodic Input Screen Content Saving.  Do save input screen content when users leave (or are forced to leave) the screen.  Alternatively, save the input screen content periodically using a timer.  Don’t request an explicit command from users to save the data just entered.  Think of a mobile form as a blank sheet of paper and fingers as a pen.

2)     Intelligent Data Entry.  Do use any and all available resources to create intelligent guesses in order to save users the greatest possible time and effort in data entry.  Mobile is all about helping users on the go (and in a hurry) do things quickly, simply and effectively.  Don’t ask users what they want to do with the app, instead, guess what the app should do for them.

3)     Host Operating System Maximization.   Abide by the look-and-feel and host operating system capabilities.  As the famous ancient proverb suggests, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” I too suggest when it comes to writing for iOS.  Do use native widgets, design and metaphors that look familiar to the typical user.

These features are also the three sore spots in mobile development, which can’t be ignored if you intend to write a successful mobile app.   And by the way, there is no middle ground in mobile; an app is either successful or a lost investment with no return whatsoever.

Dino Esposito

CTO of a company that provides software and mobile services to professional sports, Dino is a well-known ASP.NET expert who has written several popular books, including Microsoft .NET: Architecting Applications for the Enterprise, Programming Microsoft ASP.NET, and Programming ASP.NET MVC, all for Microsoft Press. His latest book, Architecting Mobile Solutions for the Enterprise has just been published by Microsoft Press and is available for sales.

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