Week 1 Lecture Notes

An application (or “app” as they are colloquially known), is a software program similar to the ones found on a personal computer, although with a smaller scope and a much more specific purpose. They can be considered a bite-sized version of a more robust program, designed with portability and quick access to information in mind.

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HTML 5 Logo

Three main options exist when developing an app;

HTML

The first is built entirely with HTML. Primarily a web-development language, HTML based applications are easy to build thanks to the versatility of HTML. Consisting of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, responsive websites provide the option for a developer to easily create a mobile-friendly version of their site along with the possibility for tablets should they desire. As this option allows for the creation of an application to be done entirely with a widely-known programming standard, it can be seen as the entry level and more cost-effective method.

Using this language with mobile devices in mind can be extremely limiting however. Where it succeeds at offering a versatile website, suitable for viewing on multiple devices, it lacks the integration one would achieve from building an application natively. A website is unable to utilise integrated functions found on a mobile device such as the accelerometer or the ability to communicate with other applications. Of course, also being stored on a server, it lacks offline capabilities.

Native

The second option is to create an application that only exists on a mobile system. Prioritising the mobile architecture means the application is built to be fully integrated, or “Native” to the system. This method has the advantage of enabling the application to be able to take full advantage of the full capability of the device. This presents the developer with the option to utilise the integrated applications of the mobile’s operating system, for example, a health application having access to stored medical information and being able to retrieve it effortlessly.

Other advantages to this method often include faster load times and aesthetic improvements such as smoother animation due to the application being stored entirely locally on the device. That is in addition to the ability to access the application offline, something not possible in the aforementioned HTML approach. From a sales perspective, inbuilt application “stores” offer a much greater degree of visibility for a prospective business looking to get their new app into the hands of potential customers. The biggest downside of this method is the production costs. A Native Application does not offer the same versatility as HTML and must be constructed with a specific piece of hardware or operating system in mind.

Hybrid

The final method utilises a combination of the previous two. Titled “Hybrid Applications”, these apps attempt to utilise the integration found within a Native app, while housing a HTML based interface. These apps, while able to be found on the app store and stored locally,  still lack offline capabilities and largely suffer from the same shortcomings as a HTML application.

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Apple iOS Home Screen

Things to consider

As the smart phone is to the desktop computer, an app is to a traditional computer program – a portable excerpt of a larger piece of content, contextualised to portability and reduced to necessity. With the rise and normalisation of smart phones in recent years has come a certain expectation and standardisation of an applications interface. Universally used button prompts have become a must-have to provide familiarity to the user. Gestures must provide feedback per the norm across touch screen devices. Drop down menus traditionally found in computer programs often fail to translate well on smart phones and therefore developers must aim to provide interfaces that better accommodate. When developing an app, one must consider the limitations of the screen-size as well as the reach of the user’s hand.

Despite the increasing power of the hardware found within smartphones or the emergence of devices with larger screens such as the Phablet, users still expect a certain feel and functionality from apps, distinct to those found on a desktop computer. Developers should take care when making an application to concentrate on quick navigation and ease of usability, contrary to the robust information focus of a computer program. Apps are used on the go, and should provide experiences that cater.

Final thoughts

The success of a brand’s image can be impacted by the experience provided in an mobile application. Difficult to understand navigation, sluggish responsiveness or poor presentation in an app can deter and frustrate customers. As standards have risen in the quality of mobile applications, so too have the expectations of the public. The increase in demand for quick access to information at your fingertips, easy navigation, along with sleek presentation, has meant anything that doesn’t exemplify these standards risks being dismissed. It is for that reason that the method in which one chooses to create an application has become a choice between affordability and success.

References
LoboStudioHamburg. (2014). Apple iOS Home Page [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/twitter-facebook-together-292994/
Pexels. (2017). Computer Displaying Code [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/blur-close-up-coding-computer-data-1853305/
W3C. (2011). HTML 5 Logo [Image Vector]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HTML5_logo_and_wordmark.svg
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