7 tips to consider when developing and designing mobile business apps

by Doug Drinkwater

November 29 2012

A recent seminar on the future of business apps yielded not only an interesting discussion, but also some great tips on how to develop and design internal mobile apps for your business.

Smartphones, tablets and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) are becoming big topics in the business world, so much so that one enterprise developer reckons that business mobile apps will be the next big thing in 2013.

That same developer, UK-based Mubaloo, held a talk on building business apps recently that included some great advice on what to do when developing and designing these applications. Here's a snapshot of the best tips:

Keep it simple

“Try and achieve a singular objective. Keep it simple and recognize its role in the broader business offering.  A good app should be clear about what it's trying to achieve,” says Gemma Coles, planning director at Mubaloo.

Don’t throw all features into version 1.0

“Start with simplicity and value," adds Coles. "Don’t throw every idea into the pot without a budget for future enhancements.”

Think as the user

“Offer two-way value translation. Really think what’s in it for the user. It sounds straightforward, but businesses are often thinking about what is in it for them and not the end user.”

Remember that an app is not a website

“You don’t want the same function or content of your website," says Eli Newman, head of design at the developer. "Try and do something different and do it in an engaging way."

Consider how your app will be used

Newman adds: “Also think about what the app is going to be and how it’s going be used. For instance, NFC, QR codes or location may be more relevant to a smartphone, but drag and drop, embedded video or anything else that requires a bigger screen may be better for tablets.”

Consider the unique aspects of designing for tablets

“Designing for a tablet is a big difference," says the Mubaloo designer. "Consider doing your wireframes (user interface guidelines for the user interface) from scratch.”

Must-have app security: Encryption and authentication

Mubaloo’s Scott Alexander-Bown, head of Android and security, also spoke at length about app security. He recommends business apps encrypt data on the device and while in transit (so you can still securely accesss the data if need be), have an app validity check and a passcode with a screen timeout.

He also strongly urged business apps to offer two-factor authentication.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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  • bfrench
    1 year 12 months ago


    I'm amazed that an article like this can be crafted without once using the term "requirements". But this is not an isolated case. Everywhere I look, advice concerning mobile app strategy and development is void of any discussion about business requirements.

    Certainly, a few of the 7 tips touch on requirements in a peripheral way. But failing to identify the true business requirements without ambiguity can trigger a cascading series of missteps for a mobile team.

    But that's not all...

    Many teams decide at the outset that they need to "design" an app when they really need to design a "solution". While this is also touched on in your article, the very idea that an "app" needs to be designed and developed rules out many implementation strategies that may address the true business requirements without ever building anything.

    A good example of alternative mobile implementation strategies is Wufoo or perhaps iFormBuilder. These front-end mobile form tools are sometimes ideal frameworks for rapidly designing and deploying mobile business solutions. Coupled with a cloud data layer, clever form design, and custom reporting, businesses can often put a solution into production in a fraction of the time and almost zero development cost.

    All too often we assume "business apps" is the axis we need to pursue. We've become so app-centric that it clouds requirements management and our judgement.

    Just sayin ...

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