These days, it’s hard to imagine a successful business that doesn’t have some kind of mobile app integration. Whether it’s a lean startup, or a massive enterprise, companies are recognizing the importance of incorporating mobile into their long term business strategy.
What’s even harder to imagine, especially if you’re an entrepreneur or a part of a smaller startup, is the sometimes daunting process associated with launching mobile apps. Go to any hackathon, tech or networking event and you’re likely to find founders and startups looking for developers to help them solve their mobile app problems.
So why is mobile app development such a challenge for startups? Here are three key issue areas and how leaders can look to overcome them:
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with programming in its most basic utilizations, but cursory knowledge only gets you so far when it comes to building and launching a mobile app. Even those who are adept in this field often admit that the code these apps are built on is often more complicated than it needs to be.
In a continuously changing industry saturated with tools, platforms and frameworks, trying to unite a developer team around common practices has suddenly become a huge hurdle — even before the first prototype is complete.
It’s therefore important to bring your entire team onboard to discuss and establish standards before you write a single line of code. It’s much harder to pivot to a different core technology or practice once you feel committed to a choice you made before you were ready to make it.
Related: 7 Steps to Developing a Startup App
#2: Function overload
It’s a common, somewhat commendable but often precarious, goal to give your app as much functionality as possible. “We don’t just want our users to be able to access their accounts, we want them to be able to…” is a phrase you’ve probably heard many times in brainstorming meetings and can lead to endless options and a glut of functions that rarely mean much to the end user.
The fact is, however, that most of the time, users don’t use the full functionality of an app, so spending time over-developing features can result in a delayed launch and a clunky product — especially If your app project is a tie-in to an existing website or service.
To keep the the function overload in check, you have to commit to remaining lean throughout the process. Keeping opinionated stakeholders (or even your own great ideas) in check is tough, but you have to be ready to kill your darlings to succeed. Agree on your core function goals, focus on making them stunning and then work from there.
#3: Lack of good tools for teams
The process for app development hasn’t changed much over the past few decades. And, quite frankly, it’s just inefficient! Of course, new tools and computer languages have come (and gone), but the process remains largely the same, with developers and designers working in completely separate worlds, using different tools.
Collaboration across these boundaries requires a huge amount of additional work just to translate and re-implement the vision of the stakeholders and designers into production code, which leads to slow iterations for testing and validation of ideas. As a result, you often end up with products and user experiences that are way less thought through and polished than they should be, even though you’ve spent an unacceptable amount of time, resources and risk to produce them.
That’s why it’s critical to have the right tools in place to help streamline the process. Platforms that use simple code, provide a user-centric development environment and visual interfaces can help save developers the hassle of building every aspect of an app on their own.
When you consider tooling something that your entire team should have access to, the whole process improves from initial idea to launch. The team has better overall control with less grind and more fun. That in turn leads to experimentation and better apps and user experiences.
Upgrading the whole process
Fast paced startups simply cannot afford the costs associated with getting an app wrong — “fail fast” is easy to say, but hard to do for most. What’s just a regular Tuesday for Google can be the whole lifespan of a startup, and entrepreneurs should be cautious of blindly applying “tried and true” tactics from already successful companies to their new ventures.
When your app is your business, it is of vital importance to consider how development delays or slow traction can impact both customer and investor perceptions of your business. As such, startups need to remain lean and curious. In many cases, that means looking for an app development toolkit that solves the problems previously listed, while empowering your developers to deliver a better user experience. This means using development tools that are designed with teams in mind, as the development process of the future isn’t the traditional waterfall approach with clear hand-off points along the way.
At the end of the day, startups need to get their ideas to a testable prototype as quickly as possible. Being able to validate (or scrap) an idea with minimum effort should be the goal. To borrow a marketing term, “maximizing efficiency at the top of the funnel” has huge gains in productivity for everyone involved, and offers a shift in how we see apps being developed and tested. Adapt a development process that reflects how people work, and not an idealized version of reality where everyone is an expert, there are no deadlines, and you have infinite VC money to burn.