“My Kingdom for a Mobile App” Why everyone wants one, and “thinks” they need one!

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In the “buzz, want, why” technology lifecycle, mobile apps are currently in the “buzz” and “want” phases – especially as far as the enterprise world goes. This means everyone wants one regardless of the why, and thinks they need one. The only solution that appears to be solved by unnecessary mobile apps is bragging rights that your enterprise is so leading edge and tech savvy.

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“My Kingdom for a Mobile App” Why everyone wants one, and “thinks” they need one!

  1. 1. WHITE PAPER www.intellavia.com | September 7, 2010 “My Kingdom for a Mobile App” Why everyone wants one, and “thinks” they need one! By Marc Piparo, VP Technology, Intellavia LLC © Intellavia, 09/07/2010. Permission to share if source is fully credited. Ah….the mobile app, or more specifically these days, the iPhone app, the latest buzz word of our time. Every company seems to want one, regardless if they need one or if it serves any purpose in solving a problem, or for that matter, gaining results. Increasingly the only result returned for many companies’ mobile app is being able to tell the world, you have an iPhone app. How cool! We’ve been down this road before. Everyone wanted (and some still do), the pure Flash website. It’s only recently where companies finally understand the best uses of Flash within their website is for animated graphic components within a site rather than building an entire Flash based site. Why the change in heart? Well quite simply – results and awareness of search engine optimization (SEO) which lead to $$$. It took awhile (and is still going on), but many companies are now moving passed the grandeur of having a flashy website and instead focusing on results. Top search engine results based on textual content is finally driving the point home. But this path is not new and represents the natural course for many new technologies, “the buzz”, “the want”, and finally “the why”. In the Flash world, we are finally getting “the why”, despite the fact that there are still many Flash based sites, primarily in the restaurant and nightlife entertainment domains. This baffles me since those are domains that mobile access is a must, and since most mobile devices do not have Flash capability, mobile access is all but shutout. But I digress…Steve Jobs has a plan, and has decided put the nail in the Flash coffin by not supporting the technology on Apple mobile devices. However, Flash lovers needn’t fear. The latest Android based phones support, and are growing their support for, Flash Lite on mobile devices. So all is not lost, and Flash is still currently the only viable solution for some multimedia website components since the move to an open solution (HTML5) is still in its infancy. So what does this all have to with mobile apps? Well in the “buzz, want, why” technology lifecycle, mobile apps are currently in the “buzz” and “want” phases – especially as far as the enterprise world goes. This means everyone wants one regardless of the why, and thinks they need one. The only solution that appears to be solved by unnecessary mobile apps is bragging rights that your enterprise is so leading edge and tech savvy. Once again there is the problem of misunderstanding the technology. Many apps being sought and developed today are simple information dissemination applications. But wait! Don’t we already have a mature technology that does this called the World Wide Web? And an application platform called the web browser which was specifically created for information dissemination? So when is a mobile app appropriate vs. a mobile version of your website? The fact is that a mobile app should be there to provide a solution for highly interactive activities and functionality. Keep in mind that the web browser 29 S. Orange Ave. 3rd Floor, Orlando, FL 32801 | 407.412.7244 | www.intellavia.com | 1
  2. 2. WHITE PAPER www.intellavia.com | September 7, 2010 was developed for sharing information. Capturing data in forms was secondary, and there are virtually thousands of server side solutions to circumvent this inherit weakness. But through AJAX and asynchronous client-side technologies, the website is finally able to achieve a more “app” like behavior. So when is a mobile app appropriate? Essentially, when it becomes too complex for a website, or mobile website, to provide a suitable user interface bounded by the browser. A great example would be banking apps. These applications require much user interactivity and functionality, and mobile access to these activities are in demand. And that’s the real point to be made. If the problem to be solved involves “complex mobile interaction” with your user, and by complex meaning not just simple registration forms to collect data, then a mobile app may be the correct solution. Here are some questions to consider when determining if a mobile app is the correct solution: 1. Does your solution require mobility (access on the go) of your user base? If the problem involves engaging your user base on the go, meaning not at home or near a computer, and your user base would desire accessing this functionality on the go, then mobile access should be part of the solution. However, there are several avenues of a mobile solution that should be considered that the remaining questions will address. 2. Is the problem too complex to be solved to run on a mobile web browser? The most obvious first mobile choice would be implementing your solution as a web based solution. However, if the solution involves complicated steps and work-flow requiring a complex user interface, then another mobile based avenue should be considered. 3. If your current website already has the solution implemented, is it too cumbersome when using a mobile web browser? If there is already a working solution in place on your website, but does not conform well to most mobile browsers then another path, such as a mobile site, should be first considered. 4. Is the problem not able to be solved with a mobile version of your website? A mobile version of a website is often a scaled back version of the main website. Less images, more text, and tighter and simpler UI are some solutions that can be implemented by a mobile version of your website. Also you can consider just implementing a mobile version of the specific portion of the website that the solution is to solve. Keep in mind that mobile browsers are increasing their capability every day, and along with increased wireless data network speed, eventually there will be no need for mobile versions of websites. 29 S. Orange Ave. 3rd Floor, Orlando, FL 32801 | 407.412.7244 | www.intellavia.com | 2
  3. 3. WHITE PAPER www.intellavia.com | September 7, 2010 5. What is your user base’s typical mobile platform? If you responded yes on all of the above, then a mobile application is most likely a good avenue to take. However, always consider your user base’s needs and tools to access your application. Specifically what platform does your app need to run on? Until recently apps were almost exclusively written for the iPhone, and to a lesser extend, Blackberry devices. With the advent of Google’s Android mobile operating system being adopted by many mobile device makers at an incredible pace (Android based phones are now outselling iPhones), you need to consider which mobile devices apply to your user base. Porting apps to additional mobile platforms is not an easy task. There are caveats to each platform that may need to be addressed. Also Apple is implementing new requirements for apps that are intended to run on their iPhone OS platform, which may impact the app’s portability to other mobile devices. If you’ve consider the questions above and determine that a mobile app is indeed the appropriate solution, then keep in mind the costs of porting the app to more than one device platform, as it is sure to increase the level of effort of development and deployment. This involves data collection of your user base as well as marketing decisions. Concluding, always ask the “why” when considering the development of a mobile app. The above questions should provide some guidance, but not all. Always consider your user base and also answer the “why” question from their perspective. Like anything else, do not enter into what could be a costly project without knowing exactly what you’re intending to solve. And as usual, understanding the problem is the best way to solve a problem. 29 S. Orange Ave. 3rd Floor, Orlando, FL 32801 | 407.412.7244 | www.intellavia.com | 3

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