Red Robot’s Jargon article Series: Number 7 – Mobile Applications (Apps)

Red Robot’s Jargon article Series: Number 7 – Mobile Applications (Apps)

The 7th article in our Jargon Series looks at mobile applications (commonly referred to as apps) and how they can be utilised to create bespoke software solutions.

A mobile app is a software program developed specifically to be used on handheld devices such as mobile phones or tablets. Generally there are 2 main variants: –

  • An application created specifically to accommodate the features of a mobile device – commonly these will be listed on Google Play (Android) or Apple’s App Store (IOS)
  • A mobile optimised version of a website – essentially configuring your website so that it is viewable on a handheld device and with a UI that suits a mobile device.

Mobile apps are ever growing in popularity essentially because so many of us love our smart phones and the fact that we have got used to being able to do more stuff on our mobiles than just make calls or texts. Having mobile apps means that a user can interact with a system anytime, anywhere and any place (assuming they can get a signal!), therefore it makes businesses more mobile and flexible – and all of this can be done using a device that is (relatively) in-expensive.

As the two options listed above are becoming more desirable, businesses need to decide which option would be best for them. As with most things related to software it depends on what you want the app to do and your unique business circumstances.

Building an app specifically for a handheld device/ mobile phone is well geared towards solutions around adding to or creating productivity software and of course any solution that has mobility at its central core will work well here. Other good solutions on mobile are ones that can integrate with the in-built features of smart phones (such as the camera or emailing functions). The gaming industry also utilises this method very well – where would we be without Angry Birds, Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga?!

Building an application specifically for a mobile optimised website is good if you know you are going to making regular additions/ changes to the content. It is also more likely to gain growth through word of mouth and sharing due to it being easier to do – all you need to do is share the web address as opposed to telling people to download an app. It will also provide a familiar UI to users as it will be in the confines of a web page so people are more likely to be able to navigate around it more easily.

Mobile apps can be built by either: –

  1. Building applications for some/ all of the three major platforms (Android, IOS and Windows) Building applications like this can get very expensive due to it being time consuming. If you decide not to build it across all the platforms then you are effectively ruling out a portion of your potential market; however this allows you to have better control over the output and generally the quality of the app will be higher.
  2. Building it in a cross platform tool. This allows you to create the application once and can then be cleverly converted into the native code for the above three platforms. This allows you to create the application to access all of your potential market and will be quicker and therefore less costly to develop. However it’s more likely to be less responsive, less fluid and may have a few more bugs that need to be ironed out.

Mobile apps are excellent solutions if you have mobile workers or if you have an organisation that is geographically spread out over different sites/ offices. They can help bring control and uniformity to your processes and enable your business rules to be followed. They also make life easier for your team, especially when they are out of the office.

If you have a software project that you think could be developed as a mobile application contact us to see how we can help.