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A guide to having a successful Android and Apple App

We are going to discuss the pros and cons of creating Apps, it is meant to help you decide whether you want to commission an App for your Business or for your personal interests, if you are intending to build your own then it may still be of some use to you as we discuss the pitfalls of App creation, ownership and hopefully answer some questions.

Why you need to have an App built?

Apps can fall into a number of different categories, is it going to be a useful utility, a means of promoting your Business, instructional App, a game or a way to publish your knowledge?

Bear in mind, Apps are not websites, they are separate entities and should provide a specific functionality or purpose, no-one is going to download your App if it just contains details that can be found on your website and they certainly won't pay for it if they can get it for free.

Apps can be used to duplicate the functionality of your main website, take for example the eBay website and its sister App, same processing but presented in entirely different ways, or an App can be used to produce unique functionality.

Remember an App is deliberately downloaded by a User, it is not accidently come across when surfing the web, therefore the User has to want to have it on their machine, it must therefore appeal and be of use.

Once on the phone or tablet, the App Icon is there as a reminder to open and view its contents, indeed with notifications switched on the User can be 'nudged' to view the newest content

What are the advantages of an App?

There are we believe a number of advantages to creating an App
  1. A static App (ie one not needing to update off the internet) doesn’t need a connection, therefore the contents can be read anywhere at anytime, take for example one that contains instructional videos, your User would not like to wait while the video is buffering.

  2. It can be sold, Users can pay to download the App and its contents, free content on media sites is actually generating a lot of money for hosting Apps such as YouTube and Facebook, if you have information that is valuable to others, why are you giving it away ?

  3. It can replicate certain aspects of your website, if for example you run an Estate Agency, property can be listed from your Database on a mobile device with the advantages of portability and GPS.

  4. Apps appeal to all generations

  5. It's World Wide, reaching a far wider audience than your current client base.

  6. It’s a great way to publish your knowledge and expertise, the turnaround is far quicker than if you choose the traditional method of publishing than paper and ink.

  7. The sales side is taken care of for you; both Google and Apple stores facilitate the sale of your App paying you monthly.

  8. An App can communicate with a server side Database, for example, salesmen in the field can enter the order details and these are written to the database when connected speeding up the invoicing and shipping processes.

  9. App content is easily updated and can be synchronised with the main Database for the website.

  10. An App is ideal for publishing information internally in the Company

  11. Apps can be password protected.

  12. Multiple language support from same App

What are the disadvantages of creating an App?

  1. Apps need to be built on the two main platforms, this requires two programming teams with different skill sets.

  2. The submission of the App to Apple and Google stores is fraught with delays and minor irritations, websites are uploaded via ftp, Apps have to be submitted for approval.

  3. Apps technology is a fast changing environment, existing Apps need regular updating

How easy is it to build an App?

App building requires high-end programmer skills, it is particularly exasperating that Android and Apple use different languages.

In addition, the main front end tools of Xcode and Android Studio build and store the App structures in entirely different ways and are not interchangeable …

How easy is it to build an App? …. not very !!! couple this with the graphic requirements for icon and splash panels etc and you will agree it needs a specialist team (hint: Seer Computing)

App platforms

There are two main Apps platforms, Android and Apple (iOS) operating systems, there is also Windows but at the moment when you look at the number of, and popularity of the phones etc Windows isn’t worth considering for creating an App in.

Apple or Android?

The answer is normally BOTH !! Not only that, but Seer Computing recommend that the versions are synchronised so that they appear to be the same on both platforms even though they are essentially two different products.

Android and Apple version side by side
Two possible exceptions to developing on both platforms are when the App is specific to the platform's operating system, this would normally be only on Android as Apple are a lot stricter with 'OS amending' Apps.

A second exception is when the App is intended for 'internal' use, for example an Organisation has all Apple products and therefore no need to produce a version for Android (or vice versa)

How long will an App take to produce?

That depends on the App design, and the expertise of the Developers, Seer Computing has a number of templates which can be used to speed up the production, customising these is far faster than building from the ground up, however we can build from scratch when necessary.

Timewise it’s a question of complexity and design, with Seer Computing providing the expertise, you can concentrate on the content.

How much does an App cost to create?

Again that depends on the App design, some components are interchangeable between Android and Apple but they are normally confined to the content; data, images, video, audio etc...

Seer Computing have a number of costing algorithms …
  1. Time and materials costing

  2. Collaborative costing / profit sharing

  3. Maintenance costing

How can I make money from an App?

Aside from the promotional value of an App, Apps can provide you with an additional revenue stream; potential revenue can be broken down into three main areas …
  1. Initial Sale of the App

    Apps are placed on the App Store (Apple) and Google Play Store, at submission the Developer can specify the price of the App, these are in your home country currency but will be converted for the market it is being displayed in. Any revenue from sales is subject to a percentage going to Apple or Google, if the App is free then it is still displayed by the Stores.

  2. Internal Adverts

    Free Apps can contain adverts (paid Apps can't), the App needs to be modified to include the display of adverts, rather like adverts on websites these are strictly controlled by both Apple and Android regarding their frequency and placement, deliberate attempts to make the User accidently click on an advert will get the App removed. Revenue is by pay per click and again subject to a percentage going to Apple / Google.

    Example of App with Advert
    A different way of advertising is sponsorship within the App from interested third parties, this cannot be pay per click but gives the owner the opportunity to sell real estate on the App

  3. Additional add-ons within the App

    Games in particular use this method, additional levels etc can be purchased and installed into the App, some games for example offer power ups, Newspaper Apps offer additional content to subscribing Users.

How do I promote my App?

Both Apple and Google stores will promote the App within their products, to this end a large number of screen shots need to be created and a comprehensive write up of the product.

Additional promotion of the App will be needed as there are millions of Apps on the stores, so your website will need to have links to the download pages as well as promoting on social media and other forms of advertising if the budget runs to it.

What happens after an App has been released?

In theory an App whether on Android or Apple can be maintenance free once released; Dynamic data can be updated and extracted from a website-side database without releasing a new version of the App, however App development is a relatively new area in Computing and both Android and Apple are regularly updating and improving their underlying development tools as well as the programming languages. Each release is deprecating earlier versions of processes making them obsolete rather than supporting for a little while for Developers to upgrade gradually.

What this means is that Apps that are live work perfectly, but Apps in development or being updated need to be amended to take on board the new changes and these changes tend not to be piecemeal, Apple in particular is prone to removing functionality of processes and replacing them with new versions or totally different ones, one of our live Apps had over 90 compilation errors when opened for updating … most are five minute fixes, some are not, what we are saying is that maintenance is a necessary component in the life-cycle of an App and cannot be ignored.

Changes in Operating Systems is also a factor to keep in mind, Android has over 25 versions, a decision needs to be made how far back to support, our Apps work on all Apple products from iPhone 3 onwards, the Android versions will work from 'Ice Cream Sandwich' (14) onwards, some innovations in newer versions are coded to allow for older Operating Systems (in other words we have to bypass the process)

Other Considerations

In no particular order you should consider the following …

Orientation of an App

By default an App will turn from portrait to landscape and back again when the machine is rotated without any programming by the Developer, however care must be taken to preserve the perspective of the elements on the screen, elements such as images and buttons etc will distort in relation to text etc …

The Developer has the option to fix the orientation permanently to resolve this issue, Newspaper Apps are mostly portrait, whereas Games are nearly always landscape. Alternatively spend a lot of time making sure the orientation changes work smoothly, a good example is our A-Z of Yoga, check out the way we handle the images and text.

Landscape and Portrait

Screen size

Machines come in a variety of size screens, the App will need to 'adjust' so that the designed screen displays fully, images for example are best handled by proportionately applying them to the screen, therefore if an image is made 30% of the visible screen and tacked to a side this automatically adjusts to the screen size.

Text sizing is handled in two different ways by Android and Apple

Android's method is fairly mechanical in its approach, each size screen is assigned attributes which can be applied to text (and other elements), size is then assigned at runtime. Testing is key with this methodology.

Apple has functionality within the Operating System which allows the User to adjust the preferred text size for all Apps installed on the machine, this is termed 'Dynamic Type' and Developers need to take this into account. To complicate matters, if the text size is changed while the App is running the App should refresh to take on board this change, its complex and time consuming but Seer Computing has mastered this...

Dynamic Text example

Functionality

A lot of the functionality that Users are used to in an App, have to be programmed in, 'left to right' swipe to return to previous screen for example doesn’t come 'out of the box', menus have to be built in and all clicks on buttons have to be detected and acted upon.

Usability

Whilst we applaud innovation in App design, remember that an App that works significantly different to all others might turn Users off, therefore avoid putting too many 'idiosyncrasies' in the design.

Images

Images come in a variety of sizes and filetypes, in our development we use photoshop to shrink large images down to a more workable 800 pixels along the longest side (consistency across all images is essential) converting to jpg or png at the same time, in testing a maximum of 40 images can be added to a listview at any one time unless thumbnails are created, there are over 150 yoga postures so we used thumbnails in this example ...

Thumbnail example

Videos

Like images the limits of size constraints can soon be reached, in one build we are currently developing we have installed a series of instructional videos of over one hour duration.

What can Seer Computing do for me and my App aspirations?

  1. Support and build on Apple and Android platforms

  2. Platforms guaranteed to be synchronised with each other

  3. Professional service from design, build, release through to maintenance

  4. Video and audio facilities

  5. Image processing

  6. Database design experts to handle bulk data

  7. High levels of support

  8. Enthusiasm !

Contact Seer Computing to discuss your requirement, our initial consultation can discuss suitability, timescales, cost and outline design.