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The 3 keys to getting value from custom-built apps

Ryan Faas | Sept. 18, 2017
Whether a company is building for mobile users, the desktop or the web, custom apps can solve a lot of enterprise problems – if IT does all the right things in the right order.

But understanding the problem doesn't end when code writing begins – users and stakeholders should be consulted throughout the development process to keep the app moving in the ideal direction. 


2: UX is king (and must be platform-specific)

Saying that the user experience is important has been a staple of advice for years now, ever since the phrase consumerization-of-IT was coined. But, it's standard advice because it is both true and it's an understatement.

By now, people are used to having a massive selection of apps for every task. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and countless others have raised the bar for user interface design and experience higher than it was even a few years ago.

Those high expectations are now set for every piece of technology a person encounters – from a smartphone app to a fitness tracker to a car to the apps used for work. Add to that the fact that users know that there are countless well-designed apps literally at their fingertips and it's easy to see why this is important; companies have competition when building a custom app, especially if it is even remotely similar to something in the App Store, Google Play or Windows Store.

The good news is that if companies do a good job of understanding the problem(s) they’re trying to solve, they’ll understand  the experience users expect and the problems to avoid. You also have a group of experts (users) to draw upon in ensuring the user experience hits the mark. 

One often overlooked aspect of user experience is the importance of making apps that respect and capitalize on features of the platform on which they run. A mobile app shouldn't look like a shrunken version of a desktop app. A watch app should just display key context-sensitive data and minimal controls rather than looking like a phone interface strapped to the wrist. A tablet app shouldn't be a blown up phone app, nor should it be a desktop app designed for keyboard input.

Going further, iOS and Android apps should be similar but not identical. The unique functionality offered on each platform –  iOS, Android, Windows, Chrome OS, web/cloud, WatchOS, Android Wear, etc. – should be embraced where it makes sense. This shouldn't be gimmicky, but if integration with features like AirPlay, Google Assistant, AirDrop, Widgets, Chromecart, or others makes sense, implement it – even if it means differentiating slightly for each platform. (And don't forget to build in security along the way.)

In short: An iOS 11 app should feel like an iOS 11 app and an Android Nougat app should feel like one. 


3: Don’t finish and forget 


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