We have written extensively about the rise of the citizen developer movement, whereby everyone can become a developer because of the widespread availability of rapid app dev tools.
IT professionals have been trained how to manage their app portfolios, and there is no secret to doing this. Here are some ways to start thinking about how you can manage and build more capable apps.
First off, do you need to build a separate app or can you deliver the same functionality with something entirely running entirely on a Web server? While building apps can be cool, it might be easier to set up a URL that your users can access and run the app from their web browsers. Web-based apps can require more skill to understand how to setup the best user experience and appropriate user controls, however. And web-based apps also demand a different skill set than building apps too.
Do you have reliable pool of beta testers? You want to start recruiting people that will give you the best feedback and can identity bugs and other issues before the app gets deployed and used widely. Ideally, they will be users who are forthcoming with their experiences but don’t bury you with numerous and irrelevant email comments. That is often a fine line to walk, however.
How often do you need to update your app? The hard part about app construction isn’t the initial app build, but what happens when your ultimate users get ahold of it and realize 17 new features that they now want as a result of seeing your app. So plan up front for how these updates will happen, how often you intend to do them, who will take responsibility for them and how the updates will ultimately end up in your users hands. Also think about what happens when you have to expire an app or remove it entirely from your portfolio.
Can you build the app with its own security built-in? The answer should be yes: your users should be able to authenticate themselves and obtain the appropriate access rights to the app without having to rely on external Active Directory permissions or other security apparatus. Also, you should build in a mechanism to protect your data generated or used by the app too.
Do you need separate web, desktop, tablet and mobile versions for your app? If so, choose the appropriate tool that can create apps in those operating systems and form factors. Or focus on one or two versions and stick with them. Learn about responsive Web design to make your webpages more effective and useful to users who are running smaller tablet and phone screen sizes. Also, be sure to test the app with the collection of OS versions that your users are running to make sure it operates as expected. And when Google and Apple come out with new OS versions, make sure you stay on top of these updates and find out if your app still works properly.
As you can see, building an app is just the beginning. But the more you cover these issues up front, the better your app experience will be for everyone.