We interviewed 18 executives across a wide-range of industries, all of whom have been involved with Native mobile app development for at least four years. Here’s who we spoke to:
- CARLA BORSOI, Software Product Manager and Marketing Lead, 6SensorLabs
- DAN BRICKLIN, CTO, Alpha Software
- ADAM FINGERMAN, Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer, ArcTouch
- NISHANT PATEL, CTO and KURT COLLINS, Director of Technology Evangelism, Built.io
- TYSON WHITTEN, API Management Product Marketing, CA Technologies
- RAJIV TAORI, VP Product Management Mobile Platforms Group, Citrix
- ZACH SLAYTON, VP Digital Technology Solutions, Collaborative Consulting
- BRAD BUSH, COO, Dialexa
- CRAIG LUREY, CTO and Co-Founder, Keeper Security
- JESSICA RUSIN, Senior Director of Development, MobileDay
- STEVEN JOVANELLY, Senior Director, Innovation Lab, PGi
- BRANDON SATROM, GM Developer Platforms and Tools, Progress Software
- EDDIE DE GUIA, Co-Founder and Managing Director, PubNative
- HANS ASHLOCK, Technical Marketing Manager, Qualisystems
- MARK KIRSTEIN, Senior Director of Enterprise Software, RhoMobile
- LUBOS PAROBEK, VP of Products, Sauce Labs
- JUSTIN BOUGHER, Vice President of Product, SiteSpect
01 The definition of Native mobile app development was fairly consistent across our respondents, with the common elements being:
- Written to the SDK of the platform and the OS of the manufacturer.
- Engineered specifically for the phone, device specific.
- Running locally on the device.
- Purpose build to provide the optimal mobile experience
While a couple of respondents felt you could achieve an acceptable user experience (UX) with a well-written app in HTML5, ultimately everyone agreed Native mobile apps are necessary to integrate a wide range of complex sensors, displays, and systems to create a highly intuitive, streamlined, immersive, and anthropomorphic experience.
02 The most important elements of Native mobile app development mentioned were a robust UX, the speed with which developers can develop and users use the app, and incorporating the new features of the operating system (OS) and the device.
Making the app so intuitive the user uses it without even thinking about it is a sign of success. The ideal Native mobile application is anthropomorphic, creating the perception the device it’s running on is an extension of the person using and interacting with it.
The speed of building on the tools enables developers to get the app to market quicker while the speed of the UX will determine whether or not the app will continue to be used by the end user. The end user is much less likely to tolerate latency issues on a mobile app than a Web app.
The ability to provide the end user with a holistic experience by using several of the tools their phone has built in (i.e. GPS, camera, accelerometer, calendaring) will result in an app that adds more value to the device while making the end user’s life easier. This enhances the use and recommendation of the app.
03 There are three areas of problems solved by Native mobile apps:
- They enable users to get the most from their mobile devices with a seamless, smooth, and intuitive UX.
- They give end users a dedicated space that allows them to accomplish a specific task, project, or goal helping them be more productive.
- The speed at which the apps work is tremendously beneficial, as well as expected by end users.
04 Knowledge of the platform and the language was mentioned most frequently as the skill that makes someone good at developing Native mobile apps. Respondents noted that it was rare to find someone knowledgeable about more than one platform but if you were, you would be in great demand. Also important are UX and design skills and the empathy to understand user needs and wants. Rather than thinking “mobile first,” one respondent suggested that we need to think “mobile only” because if you can get an app to work on a mobile device, it’s easy to scale up in size to other devices, including the Web.
05 There was a diverse range of opinions on how Native mobile app development has evolved. A couple of consistent themes are how the operating systems have consolidated and driven developers to build and the platform to provide the ultimate UX. Apps have become more complex, more sophisticated, and more important driven by end-user needs and expectations as well as the respective App Stores. While there is some debate over whether or not we’re settling into a Native mobile app world, or a combination with Web-based HTML5 and Hybrid, there is agreement that Native mobile apps provide the optimal UX for a particular device.
06 The three primary obstacles to success are the:
- multiple platforms, depth of knowledge required to work on them, and how frequently they evolve;
- the lack of skilled developers that know the platforms and the languages;
- and, client expectations around what can be done, when, and for what price.
Clients need to be encouraged to prioritize needs versus wants and understand the limitations with regards to time, talent and budget given the dearth of skilled developers as quickly as mobile has grown and how fast the platforms are evolving.
While none of the respondents had any significant concerns with the state of Native mobile app development, several interesting considerations were raised:
- How do we ensure apps are accessible to everyone given that a significant number of people do not have smartphones?
- We’ve trained customers to think apps are easy and cheap to develop and they’re not.
- Security of apps is a huge issue, especially as users have more information on their mobile devices.
- How do I fit the Apple Store approval process into my release cadence?
07 Respondents’ vision for the future were remarkably similar as they see the evolution of mobile across IoT, wearables, microdevices, cars, homes, Apple TV, Amazon Echo, et al. The key will be to integrate all of the data these devices capture on the backend to improve end-users’ lives and to make field workers more productive thereby creating significant value through automation, analytics, and intelligence.
08 The three consistent pieces of advice we received when we asked “what do developers need to keep in mind with regards to Native mobile app development?” were:
- Don’t sit still, technology is changing quickly, and you need to stay abreast of new languages (e.g. Swift for iOS), evolutions of platforms, and improvements to hardware.
- Pick a platform you are most passionate about and become an expert. Platforms are evolving so quickly you will do well to master one rather than just be adequate at two.
- Be flexible and be sensitive to design. Make sure to design in a way that you’re able to iterate easily. Be open to user feedback and respond quickly.
09 At the conclusion of each interview, we ask respondents what we failed to talk about that they think is important with regard to Native mobile apps. Here’s what some of our executive respondents had to offer:
- Be friends with a good graphic designer. UX is going to become more important as the real estate become more diverse and smaller.
- Think about what we’re doing with the data our apps generate and collect.
- How do we balance the spectrum of options and get the experience(s) to fit together? Realize the end user may not know what’s possible.
- Developers love open source. GitHub enables developers to become familiar with the technologies and collaborate via Websites, while hackathons provide access to APIs.
- Think about how devices are interconnected and the underlying network infrastructure that facilitates these connections.
- Cross-platform development tools may enable you to write once. A base level of functionality may be appropriate for some situations.
- The mobile developers of today are the IoT developers of tomorrow.
- Apps that are used globally need to consider network bandwidth. The bandwidth in South Korea, is superior to the U.S., which is superior to most other countries.
The executives we spoke with are working on their own apps or designing them for clients. We’re interested in hearing from developers and other IT professionals to see if these insights offer real value. Is it helpful to see what other companies are working on from a senior industry-level perspective? Do their insights resonate with what you’re experiencing at your firm?
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