We live and operate in a competitive environment – one in which we’re constantly asked to decide between competing choices. Are you Mac or PC? Office Max or Office Depot? Paper or plastic? We get used to the feeling that we have to choose either one or the other.
This goes out the window when it comes to developing mobile apps, because in the mobile app universe we want to play on all stages. While there might be some who want to only work on iOS or Android, most of us are not willing to block off those revenue streams.
That said, it’s worth spending a few minutes thinking about whether developing an app that goes across all platforms is good for your business. For example, suppose your app is just right for a phone with a touchscreen UI. There is still an audience out there for the “old fashioned” QWERTY/non-touchscreen device. Are you going to go after them? For example, Temple Run on a Blackberry Curve might not be as fun as it is on a Samsung Galaxy.
It’s a conversation worth having internally with the development team. But for now let’s assume you’re going all in – iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows, et al. What hurdles await?
How to confront the cross-platform challenges.
While all platforms offer an SDK for developers to work with, we hope no one in your development group will be surprised at the specificity that goes with each. Keep in mind that as you develop an app going across all platforms, each of those companies is battling for market share. So not only is your app going to need a framework designed for each OS, it is also going to have to be imagined to accept updates as they occur.
Don’t assume the SDK will be the panacea. It might be wise to be more app-centric than device-centric at this step. By that we mean how do you want you app to look and perform regardless of the device? Be prepared for updates as they happen – and any smartphone user knows they happen on a regular basis.
Make sure your development team doesn’t get too attached to just one framework. One member of the U.S. Marine Corp. said it best; we should all be “Semper Gumby” – always flexible. Quite often, going from one OS to another is going to mean learning how to use some new development tools and master new skills. Being the best iOS app creator may sound like a nice title, but there’s a significant number of people with money to spend who don’t have iPhones.
The first step – goal-setting.
This is a good time to step away from development and talk about your goals. It’s reasonable to assume that any competent developer can create an app for a specific phone. However, if you are a company that hopes to develop apps that go across several platforms you’re going to want to build an infrastructure that isn’t thinking one dimensionally. Before a company ventures too far into the arena, management needs to make sure its teams are going to have the resources to work across platforms from the beginning.
Another hurdle is to ensure the UI experience is going to translate cleanly across all platforms you choose to go after. The end game should be that no matter what device is being used, the experience is exactly the same. Nothing can create a buzzkill around an app as the news that it works great on one platform but not another.
The bottom line.
As mentioned previously, a wise investment in device and emulator testing is a must. According to Gartner Research, worldwide revenue from app stores will increase this year by 62%, bringing the total industry revenue to $25 billion dollars. That’s an audience with too many choices to tolerate glitches.
And finally, think about this: A considered, well-funded investment of time and money developing App A that will shine across all desired platforms, is going to give you the framework for App B, App C, etc. Making that investment, in the short term, may look expensive for just one mobile application but those same resources can be brought to the table again and again. So if you have the ability to reuse the code, design or database, you’ve made your future a lot brighter.