What I’ve Learned from the MCDM UW Smartphones Course

Posted: August 23, 2010 in Com 597, Mobile Applications

When I started this course I called myself a smartphone novice. Now, I won’t go as far as call myself a pro at this point, but I now know a heck of a lot more about mobile technology and smartphone application development than probably about 98% of the population. So for that, I must thank my dedicated MCDM instructor, Kathy Gill.

When I first started this course I wanted to know what made a successful app versus a failure. I found out that it’s all about creating a unique product that solves a common need. Even if there are other competing apps out there just like yours, you have to figure out what you can do better; you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel, just make it smoother. Simplicity and a user friendly interface are also key attributes to a successful mobile application. Nobody wants to be digging through layers or icons to try and figure out how to complete a task. You app must have Barney-style navigation (in other words something Barney viewers could figure out).

At the beginning of the course I was also interested in the development process, in terms of the roles of the designer, developer, and concept creator. It seems to me now that the most successful applications integrate all three roles equally into the development process. The designer will tend to want to make things pretty, the developer will be more worried about functionality, and your job (the creator) will have to delegate between the two to come up with a concept that is both easy to use, and aesthetically effective in completing whatever mobile task or distraction your app executes.

I was also curious about what apps were preferred in the mobile market. But tt seems as though task based apps (utility apps) and game apps are equally important – they jut answer different needs. Nonetheless, I think most app users are utilizing utility apps more in on the go scenarios to optimize time and effort. Personally, I prefer utility apps, but don’t think that there is anything about gaming or utility apps that makes one more popular than one another. There just may be a different target market for each.

I have also learned that while there are similarities to the various smartphone operating systems, you cannot simply create a universal app that works on all platforms such as Droid, iPhone, and Windows Mobile. Each one requires a platform specific development (aided by the downloadable SDKs). I was very surprised to learn, in addition, that it does not cost money to put your app on the app store website. You simply must follow user guidelines and terms of agreement for approval, and then can charge pretty much whatever you want, without owing any cut to Apple.

The most important thing, I believe, that I have taken from this class is the awareness of the mobile world. There was a show on CNBC last week called Planet of the Apps, and that’s truly what we’re becoming. I wanted to learn about the app process, and I did! I know how to build a user interface and what things to consider when putting an app together including information resources, APIs, SDKs, marketing, usability, etc. Before now, I never considered that it would be possible that I could be in a situation where I could be developing my own mobile application, and now that I have that knowledge I believe the possibilities are endless. I have already spoken with my programmer at work about building an app specific for our appraisers and lenders so they can confirm, submit, and track orders with the touch of a finger. The more I learned about what makes apps “mobile” and why there is such a need for mobile apps I couldn’t help but think of our appraisers who are always in the field so their only option is to log on to our website via their mobile browsers, which often leads to errors and frustration.

I really enjoyed this class, thank you for opening my eyes to the world of mobile apps.

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