The art of the innovative app: why the customer is king

If you’re not thinking mobile-first at a minimum; you’re not future-thinking for your business

A staggering 140 billion-plus apps have been downloaded from Apple’s App store in just over six years to 2016. Not surprising then, is it, that understanding the context and constraints that mobile app developers face to set themselves apart at the top of the heap in a fiercely competitive market is not a simple science.

But not all brands aim to create Pokemon Go engagement. Instead, corporate enterprises are looking to deliver the best customer experience.

Now and Then

Mobile application software, or ‘apps’, started appearing in 2008 as popular, pre-installed functionality on mobile devices sold by Apple, Samsung, Blackberry and HTC.

Launched in mid-2007, the iPhone paved the way for native apps on mobile devices. Developers were able to join the Apple Developer Program that gave them access to software and tools, advanced app building capabilities, testing, and support and distribution. Early adopter companies who released branded apps included Facebook, Starbucks, Disney World and the US Open.

Since then, the primary challenge for developers in this fast-paced business has become the creation of apps that deliver a ‘user-friendly interface’, that is building applications for a range of screen sizes, hardware applications and platforms, most commonly including iOS and Android.

However, what many businesses hiring mobile development companies overlook in their ‘we need to build an app’ race is that, in just six short years, consumer interaction with mobile technology has become much smarter. Users want an exciting experience they can share, and a solution that is, simply, useful.

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Danny Gorog presenting at the 2016 Outware Breakfast Series on changes in mobile technology trends. Credit: Outware Mobile

When I founded Outware in 2009 with Eytan Lenko (BSc 1999, BE (CompEng)(Hons) 1999) and Gideon Kowadlo we identified a global gap for developers who understood that what mattered was the combination of mobile (app) design and technical excellence. This was the change in mindset that quickly enabled us to position Outware as a leader in mobile software design and app development.

Not just good looks

Beyond good design and social shareability, real innovation should begin with agile and iterative customer engagement. These are Outware’s three pillars. Customer expectations, usage and acceptance of new apps are evolving at the same rate as mobile technology. Our capacity to innovate, respond quickly to a client brief, and anticipate customer needs, can make or break our business.

Against the norm, we continue to put significant resources into making our apps intuitive and easy-to-use by integrating the latest technologies able to deliver innovative and effective mobile products. Viewed by many as risky business, it is certainly a strategy I would recommend for newcomers to the field.

Outware is a special place to work. We encourage all our staff to think innovatively and bring new ideas and solutions to the table for discussion Danny Gorog, Outware Mobile

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Outware employees Alex Bird, Anil Kumar, Sutina Wipawiwat and James Litjens. Credit: Outware Mobile

Frustratingly, the media in particular have a habit of either being slow to pick up on innovative ideas or overplaying passing fads. Initially, mobile apps were considered to be fad, not a viable strategy for brands to grow their audiences. Many failed because they were built as information services, not really to address customer needs.

We never took that approach. Fast-forward to 2016 and our experienced team now consists of more than 150 UX experts, business analysts, visual designers, developers, test analysts and project managers.  We have seen the commercial benefits of having an entire team in-house rather than outsourcing our work. Our focus is to build great apps, and the result is a strong brand equity and reputation for quality software products.

We instrument mobile applications to collect the data actually driving our customers’ business.  This aids future development, iteration and agile testing Danny Gorog, Outware Mobile

Given that the top five, most used mobile apps in the in the last six months are Facebook, YouTube, Messenger, Google Maps and Play Store, for corporate enterprise clients we need to remain focused on user experience (UX) design and technical excellence to ensure their brands are offering highly creative and appealing app designs as well as functionality.

Bridging the technology trend chasm

As innovation ambassadors, educating clients on the rapidly evolving technology space is an advisory role developers should be implementing and fostering constantly.

The pace at which iOS and Android platforms are developing is unprecedented. Mobile software and app technology are no longer one-off projects. Regular updates to every app we create are essential to remain relevant — and maintain a place in the app store.

Across mobile strategy, iOS and Android app development, UX design, UI design and integration services, and technology trends that provide customers a solution are shaping app development.

Top three trends to watch:

MobileThere are expected to be more than five billion mobile phone users in the world by 2019. Obviously, the technology potential is huge.
'The Cloud' MarketNotwithstanding security concerns, the demand for cloud-based services will continue to grow to meet the objectives of modern, digitally led strategies.
AnalyticsCompanies are effectively using analytics to create innovative solutions and add value for their customers, and drive competitive advantage.

Also keep an eye on:

ChatbotsSoftware that helps humans and computers to have a useful conversation over the internet using artificial intelligence
Big DataAs volumes of data increase and business intelligence grows, companies may outsource analysis to experts.
WearablesAt present, most popular in health and fitness industries, wearable electronics are set to drive app development for a wide range of businesses. We see the Apple watch at the forefront of this technology.
Adaptive technologyBlind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking. Connected, automated cars will become the norm within five to 10 years.
IOT(the Internet of Things)
Self-driving cars(Tesla, Uber)
Green techClimate change etc.

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  • Danny Gorog completed his Bachelor of Commerce in 1999, Bachelor of Science in 2000 and Postgraduate Diploma of Management in 2003. He is Co-Founder and Director of Outware Mobile.