In an ideal world, all a publisher or media company would have to do to be successful is produce engaging content, and do it consistently. In reality, creating good content isn't enough anymore. As our lives become increasingly reliant on mobile technology, people expect fresh, compelling content, and they want to be able to access that content, anywhere, anytime, and on any device.
The good news is that companies no longer need to be convinced about the importance of integrating mobile technologies, such as apps, into content delivery plans. "We're thankfully at a stage where we are no longer talking so much about experimentation," says Peggy Anne Salz, founder and chief analyst at MobileGroove. "We do not have the discussion point any longer of ‘Do I need to be mobile.' That discussion is gone. We are in a phase of execution."
Choosing the Right Format
How a company should approach content mobilization is the new, hot-button topic, and the current winning answer is to create an app. To do that, you need to enlist the help of an app developer that fits your requirements. As Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at Quocirca Ltd., a research and analysis company, explains, "With respect to media and publishing companies, the key is audience reach. This should be the guide for thinking about the requirements of app development."
Before you can choose an app developer, you have to decide what kind of app experience you want your users to have, because this determines if you need to create a mobile web app, a mobile version of your website that can be accessed by any device's browser; a hybrid app, which is created just a like a mobile-friendly website but is bundled inside an app for the app store; or a native app, which is built for a specific device and can take advantage of that device's features.
Ron Evans, principal consultant at arts marketing and technology consulting agency Groupofminds.com, Inc., admits there are benefits and drawbacks for each choice. If you choose to make a native app, you can take advantage of special features such as the iPhone's camera or GPS. If you decide to go with a hybrid app that moves across all platforms, "The lowest common denominator is the lowest capable phone it can run on," says Evans. "It is better in the long run, if you want cooler features, to build for the actual platform itself. If you are trying to get your information out to the widest amount of people, then something that is generic will be the best."
Jonathan Stark, mobile consultant and author of three books on mobile and web development, adds that "if you want to be on multiple platforms, it gets to be very time-consuming to build native apps with different codes on every different platform." But, as Bamforth argues, "Today, iPhone and Android are the rising stars; yesterday it was BlackBerry, but tomorrow it could be Windows Mobile, and if a platform isn't covered, then essentially that audience is immediately inaccessible."
Finding the Right Developer
Understanding what you want your app to do, and which format it will take, will help narrow the field of developers, as many developers specialize in a particular platform. Since the market for app development is still growing, right now, finding the right developer relies heavily on word-of-mouth and reputation.
Evans says that choosing an app developer is "sort of like choosing a handyman. How do people choose roofers and plumbers? It is mostly by word-of-mouth if somebody else had a good experience. It is easy to download an app from someone that you really respect, and if you like its capabilities and it seems clean ... then find out who developed that app and contact them."
Evans adds, "You want to stay away from folks that you can't really see what they've done before, who don't have a lot of experience." Without experience, a developer can't fully understand the market challenges. "The ‘right app developer' needs to understand not only the technical aspects and limitations of each platform but also its user interface nuances and how other leading apps exploit these," says Bamforth.
One thing is clear though: Before you can even think about finding an app developer, you have to have a good reason to create an app in the first place. "A lot of major companies are approaching mobile as a check box item. We need to have an app; we need to be in the app store. But it is not that simple," says Stark. "It needs to be part of the brand life strategy." Salz agrees, noting that when thinking about making an app, "If it doesn't fit in with your strategy, then it is just a stand-alone that isn't really helping the media company. Whatever developer you look for also has to understand strategy."
Mobile App Solution Providers
Atimi Software, Inc.
CDN Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Eclaxy Software Co. Ltd.
Endeavour Software Technologies
Five Mobile, Inc.
FUN and MOBILE Sp. z o.o
Grapple Mobile Ltd.
MadCap Software, Inc.
Mercury Development, LLC
Mobile Development Experts
Mobisoft Infotech, LLC
Oxagile Software Development Co.
Paragon Technologie GmbH
Perception System Pvt. Ltd.
PhoneGap, Adobe Systems, Inc.
Punchkick Interactive, Inc.
Silver Touch Technologies Ltd.
Softway Solutions, Inc.
("Mobile Pad Computer with Application Icons" courtesy of Shutterstock.)