Business Apps: It's the Application Lifecycle, Stupid!
App development is no longer just about writing code – if it ever was. These four suggestions for thinking beyond code can help future-proof business apps.
Many enterprise leaders today understand the imperative of embracing digital transformation in the Information Age. A recent study found that modernization and digital transformation projects are driving growth in the enterprise application software market, with worldwide spending in this area estimated to increase to more than $201 billion by 2019.
This illustrates the need for businesses to update their application environments to prepare for handling mobile, cloud and other emerging digital platforms in the coming years. If they haven't already, enterprises are realizing that modern application development encompasses much more than writing code; business apps of the future must be designed to address the app's full lifecycle.
Thinking beyond application code is essential for businesses that want their digital transformation to contribute to the company's overall stability and success over time. The heart of this transformation is often an elegant, forward-thinking app that reflects an enterprise's holistic approach to development.
The primary challenge that arises for developers then, revolves around understanding the app's audience and its needs and preferences. Here are four fundamental ways enterprises can approach application development to match the pace of constantly shifting demographics and technology paradigms.
Think Application Lifecycle from the Start
An application's entire lifecycle must be considered at the beginning of the process. This effectively drives developers to think beyond just new app development and instead approach the build more holistically.
Like businesses, applications should experience their own digital transformations over time in regard to how they are launched, measured and later improved. Modernization is a continuous process, evolving as app users do -- not something that can be addressed once and then never evaluated again.
After an app has been launched, developers already need to be thinking ahead to when they'll next update its UI/UX -- which might be sooner than you think. Take note of the app's analytics and performance, and always look ahead to identify opportunities to innovate and to remain relevant and competitive in the market.
App Audience Is the Key
The application's audience will be a main indicator of when it's time for the app to mature. Younger generations will continue to be tech savvy, thanks to their early exposure to digital devices. Their familiarity with great -- and not so great -- apps has established their expectations for business software performance and functionality. While not overlooking the needs of Baby Boomers and Generation X, meeting the needs of this digitally advanced group of users will play a major role in the success of an application now and in the future.
Emphasizing the younger demographic groups' expectations, a business app needs to represent the enterprise to a "t." With the increasing adoption of smartphones, tablets and mobile devices, business applications need to function as well as the company's website when accessed and provide a seamless user experience across devices.
Thinking that only one type of user interface will meet customer needs is a mistake. If someone has a poor experience using a company's mobile app, he or she is less likely to use that company's products and services.
Focus on User Experience
The user experience for a business app audience must be top of mind from day one. Given users' diversity, their experience using the app will be varied, so UX is an element of digital business strategy that companies should continually re-evaluate. A modern UX is reliant on a plethora of factors, including the app's ability to integrate with existing systems, provide secure access and evolve over time as UI/UX technologies do.
Monitoring how people are engaging with the app is critical to ensuring it's delivering a superior experience. Businesses should exhibit responsiveness to user feedback and seriously take their suggestions for improvement into consideration; if someone isn't satisfied with an app's performance, it's easy for them to delete it and never use it again.
Listen to the people who are taking the time to share their opinions on the app. By doing so, businesses will be better in tune with their audiences, thus improving user satisfaction and evolving their own ability to innovate.
Use App Analytics
Like their users, thriving applications are constantly developing throughout their lifespans. Healthy applications are developed, deployed, managed and monitored continuously. When apps are built well, developers won't have to rewrite a great amount of code following their launches; the framework should equip them with the agility to address any stage in the app's lifecycle.
Many business applications have embedded analytics into their infrastructures, so enterprises are able to examine the data and consider possible avenues in the context of their tasks. In addition to addressing metrics and measurements, these analytics increase digital business intelligence and help inform effective decisions.
A Final Word: Future-proof Your Apps
Throughout its lifecycle, an application must meet the needs of different people, devices and methods of access. This means going beyond the code when an app is being developed and taking a more holistic approach to the development process.
Because of this realization, more enterprises are using digital transformation to help them re-evaluate their approach to app building along with technology in general. Expect to see a huge shift in how these organizations approach application development as they future-proof their approach to modernization.
TJ VanToll is a developer advocate for Progress, a jQuery team member, and the author of jQuery UI in Action. He has over a decade of web development experience - specializing in performance and the mobile web - and speaks about his research at conferences around the world. TJ is @tjvantoll on Twitter and tjvantoll on GitHub.