Smartphones and tablets have arrived. They are a ubiquitous fact of life at home and at work. It's no wonder companies across all industries are busy building apps both for consumers and for their own employees. 

If you are thinking about a mobile app strategy for your business, here are seven things to keep in mind that will help you focus and refine your requirements and expectations, as well as help select the best app development partner.

1. Look through a new lense

We see this often. Business apps try to copy the functionality of desktop applications. In developing mobile apps, it’s important to rethink usage scenarios. For example, if you have a document management system and you’re building a tablet app, its users will probably mostly be top management. In principle, the functionality of the app could be as rich as the desktop. However, there is no reason to put all that functionality on a tablet. If you look at a document’s lifecycle and workflows, most actions on it are probably performed by your other employees, so it might make sense to limit the app’s functionality to what your target users are actually likely to do. Additionally, the contexts in which you have your tablet in hand may be different from when you have access to a laptop. That’s another reason to have the tablet functionality be different. For example, give your users the ability to edit documents your desktop, but only to view and do a couple of predefined actions with them on the tablet.

2. Don't fear complexity

We have been told repeatedly by usability experts that a mobile app needs to be simple and intuitive. I think it’s true as far as it goes, but let me ask you this: would you call a jetliner cockpit intuitive? Or, say, the UI of 3ds Max? And more importantly: should they be?  If your application addresses a complex, unique issue or process, then its complexity is not a liability, and the learning curve is a price worth paying. It’s going to work fine as long as the user is motivated to learn, and the benefits of using the app outweigh the cost of getting familiar with it.

3. Don't go overboard with design

New trends in UI/UX design come and go all the time. Your business apps do not need to be on the absolute bleeding edge. It’s more important that they are understandable and easy to use. Ubercool design tricks take 1-2 years to become standard and expected by the user community. So I would advise caution. This doesn’t mean that you should shy away from innovations in the actual technology, of course.

4. Don’t be afraid to build two apps instead of one

Mixing and packing too many disparate features into one app may not always be the best idea. Sometimes the functionality you are trying to give your users is so broad and diverse that it’s best to release two separate apps instead of one. This gives you more flexibility, makes apps easier for the users to learn, and allows you to continue to enhance the two apps in parallel. However, there is a caveat: if your app targets broad masses of consumers as opposed to your own employees, one app is easier to promote than two.

5. Reliability

If a user launches a game on their phone and the multiplayer is down, he or she will simply log in later. If your app that is supposed to automate some important process in your business is not functioning, your company loses time and money. Business apps need to meet higher standards for reliability and performance. You should especially pay lots of attention to testing to ensure stable operation in different scenarios.

6. Scalability 

Every executive and entrepreneur hopes their business will grow, and the faster, the better. If your app lags behind and can’t handle the amount of users, the volume of transactions or whatever else, that is not a good thing.  That’s why even at the early stages you should be building scalability into both the app itself and the server side. Your app should be modular in design so that its separate parts can function without the others, and that new modules (new functionality) can be added in easily.

7. Security 

Business apps always have stronger security requirements than consumer apps. Having your business data fall into the wrong hands is always unpleasant and sometimes fatal. Data should always be transmitted via secure channels, and the server should be protected against intrusions. 

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David Tedford
VICE PRESIDENT