Avoiding the Dilemmas of App Development

By Russ Somers, sonarDesign

Marketers tasked with creating apps often find themselves facing unpleasant choices. Dilemmas are the norm in app development. The iOS versus Android choice is only one example.

iOS wins in many areas - but how many millennials and other desirable users are on Android or other operating systems? Is it worth going over budget to reach more potential users by porting your app to additional platforms?  Other choices and compromises include use of external data, location services and geofencing, user management and additional screens. None of those choices are pleasant.

After that, of course, there's the roulette game of getting into the app stores. Will it be accepted the first time, or will revisions be required? How long will the process take? Will anyone download the app once it's in the app stores? It has been reported that 83 percent of apps in app stores are "zombie apps" with no downloads. 

That's how it's been up until now. Is 2015 the year that HTML5 finally changes things for mar-keters? It may very well be. Here's why:

The Economics of Proprietary App Stores Don't Favor Marketers. VisionMobile's State of the Developer Nation report found that less than 15 percent of revenue generated from Apple's app store ges to app creators, with 80 percent going directly to Apple (VisionMobile, 2014).

In an app store, just like in Las Vegas, the house always wins. But in Vegas, the house holds a slender single-digit advantage - no more than 5.26 percent in blackjack, for example. Now imagine how empty Vegas would be if the house kept a massive 80 percent advantage. Most gamblers would pass up the poker tables at that point. Why would marketers play App Store Roulette, given those odds? 

Preferences for Native Apps are Based on Dated Assumptions. In earlier years, a native app (that is, an app that runs on iOS, Android, or another operating system) could do things a browser-based Web app couldn't. As HTML5 platforms have matured and new tools have been built, that has changed. 

HTML5 Web apps can now get close to the hardware to use location services, accelerometers and cameras. Well-built Web apps can now run with equal, or even superior, speed when com-pared to native apps. And Web apps can claim that coveted tile on the phone's home screen, delivering the branding and loyalty that marketers covet.

Customers Have One Common Denominator: A Browser. In Google Analytics, under Technology and Mobile, most marketers will see dozens of browser/OS combinations. That may cover hundreds of types of mobile devices - tablets, phablets, phones and more. Wearables and immersive devices like Oculus Rift are showing up to the party, along with bigger screens as users surf from the living room.

'iPhone, Android, or both' is the wrong question for 2015 and beyond. Instead, marketers might ask "des the content work on whatever device the customer happens to have in hand when they're making a decision?"

Ask for More. Ask for All Browsers.

To avoid making these difficult choices, marketers should step back and consider what devices customers are on - and what devices will be adopted in the next months and years. Look for de-velopment partners who can accommodate those changing preferences.

An app development project can begin without the false 'iOS or Android' dilemma. A development shop with a stable of iOS and Android developers has an interest in finding work for those specialized teams, but HTML5 has opened up other options. Marketers should ask what experience their development partners have in HTML5 Web apps. An app developer who quickly writes that off as a non-viable option may be working with out-of-date information about HTML5's maturity and capabilities.

HTML5 Web apps offers marketers a way to reach more customers. There are a growing number of development shops, platforms and even self-serve tools focused on creating app experi-ences for the modern Web. With these tools, app experiences can work across all browsers. This frees marketers from focusing on platforms  and lets them place marketing focus where it belongs - on the customer.

Russ Somers is Head of Marketing for sonarDesign, a platform for HTML5 content creation on the modern Web. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter