Thinking of building a mobile app? Answer these questions first

There’s a certain disconnect I’ve noticed over the years where tech leadership at a company lets two things and two things alone determine how they complete a project: 1) the cheapest way possible and/or 2) the quickest way possible. While these are certainly important factors to take into consideration for any project (which my colleague Chris Belli went into greater detail about last year), they shouldn’t hinder approaching things with more consideration, particularly when it comes to custom mobile applications.

As technology continues to advance at such a rapid rate, it can be easy to fall into the trappings of trend chasing. Maybe you find yourself getting on board with a progressive web app (PWA) that Google was promoting but it turns out to be much less discoverable in the Apple ecosystem, for instance. As a result, you’re inadvertently putting limitations on yourself and your business at the onset. At Studio Science, we’re big proponents of asking a lot of questions to figure out the best course of action for our clients, that’s right for both them and their customers. 

Let’s look at mobile applications, for example. There are so many considerations that are going to be much harder to do without a native application. When I think of building any mobile application, I’m immediately inclined to ask the following questions before going forward:

  • What do you want from the application? Are you targeting a purely internal team that can do without the highest end everything and thus you can make compromises on your UI for your target audience? Or is this consumer facing and everything needs to be as smooth and new as possible?
  • What devices do you need to support? Does this need to be supported on Android and iOS, tablet and mobile? Is it okay for a mobile application to responsively adjust for tablet sizing, or do you need a tablet tailored UI? These are all design considerations that need to be made, and can either increase or decrease the development and complexity of any mobile application. And remember, complexity = higher cost. So plan accordingly.
  • What can your internal team support? If you’re the CMO of a company that hasn’t done anything but Java app, you may not even have a team in place to support native iOS applications. If no one in your company has used React JS, is React Native the right multi-platform tool to use? But maybe that’s worth learning if you otherwise don’t have the bandwidth to maintain multiple codebases, as was the case with Simon Property Group. With Simon, we helped them modernize their mobile experience while consolidating that experience from three separate codebases to one React Native codebase.
  • How flashy does it need to be? If you are consumer facing, do you need a lot of animations and other complex things? Such as unique flows that don’t exist in other applications, for instance, or super webform? There are levels of complexity that get added by making things pop, so if you can get away without needing them, then that will save you time and money in the end. But again, that’s all determined by your target demographic and end goal. 
  • Do you need to have super high quality animations? Animations within an application represent a major performance consideration, especially if they’re on dynamic pieces of content. A PWA or a Cordova application may be less ideal than a native application in these instances.
  • Are you going to have a complex UI and a lot of things that aren’t just out of the box? Particularly complex UIs or deeply nested navigation can also have performance considerations that might lend better to a native application than a PWA or Cordova application. 
  • How easy is it to get your data? Will you need new web services to support a mobile application or is there an existing API for retrieving and displaying data? This does not necessarily impact the tool you use to build a mobile application, but does need to be considered for the overall implementation timeline.

Regardless of your situation, if you’re considering building (or upgrading) something like a mobile application, these are questions you should answer. They will help you move forward in a more informed way that helps you deliver an application that works for both you, and your customers.

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