Mobile App Development is about much more than UI creation

  • 29-Oct-2013

I've found a general mis-impression among some enterprises that mobile app development is really simple.  For some reason, many people seem to think mobile app development is just about building a mobile user interface, and as a result they focus primarily on the front-end. Some mobile development tool vendors exacerbate things by touting their "rapid development" capabilities.

Of course, front-end interface development is important, but there's so much more to creating an effective experience.  We find many customers underestimating mobile development effort (and not just the testing bits).

Actually, This Is Hard

My experience has been rather different, especially within large enterprises. Most enterprise mobile apps -- except for the really, really basic ones -- will require a non-trivial amount of development effort. For many scenarios, you may need to integrate with content management systems, application servers, identity management systems, workflow engines, ecommerce systems, public social networks, and/or different types of middleware, to provide backbone services used by your mobile app.

In such cases, you need toolsets that provide features beyond what a simple, drag-and-drop-based development environment can provide. Specifically, your developers will require tools that help them to design, develop, debug, test, and deploy.

Where Are the Vendors?

To support these development efforts, most (but not all) vendors that we evaluate support integration with the popular open source IDE, Eclipse. In fact, they usually provide a downloadable version of Eclipse that already bundles the required plugins so you can start creating apps right away. Alternatively, you can just download the plugin and install it on your existing Eclipse installation.

For more complex scenarios, your toolset should provide some sort of modelling environment that lets you model complex business processes and integrate with business systems within your enterprise architecture. A few tools that we review in our research -- such as SAP (Mobile Platform) and to some extent Oracle (ADF Mobile) and IBM (Worklight) -- provide these capabilities, but this is an area where most vendors lag and you will end up falling back on your "regular" enterprise application development tools for such services.

We dedicate a full section in our Enterprise Mobile Technology reviews where we evaluate development capabilities for each of the tools that we cover. Just remember that mobile applications should merit the same amount of rigor as does your regular enterprise application development. So don't underestimate the effort.

And as always, you'll want to invest in capable developers who understand well defined software development lifecycles (SDLC) for mobile development, aligned with best practices in architecture, design, development, and testing.

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