In a world that increasingly revolves around smartphones and handheld devices, the industry of mobile app development continues to flourish and expand. Mobile app developers are responsible for filling that digital world with everything we interact with and are thus in high demand, but the industry is not the most intuitive to break into, even for otherwise experienced programmers. Here are 5 essential skills that will help you to break into the world of mobile app development.
1. Know Your Languages
At the core of all application development is coding. It’s crucial that you have a deep understanding of the languages you’ll be working in, especially Java if you’re developing for Android, and Objective-C for iOS, as these are very commonly used.
2. Understand User Interfaces
Almost as vital to a mobile app’s success as the code itself is the user interface, as this forms the bridge between the user and the business you’re developing for. Though it might feel like a bit of a step away from the usual repertoire of an app developer, being creative and capable with front-end design will massively increase the range of work you can undertake.
Take some time to analyze some applications that you feel are well presented and intuitive to use, identifying and highlighting the features that make their interface so successful and user-friendly. It’s a good idea to try and make a list or mind map of any common elements and techniques used across them because doing so will make it easier to utilize similar approaches and tactics when it comes to designing the front-end of your own applications.
3. Know the Operating System
Android, iPhone, Windows OS – different people have different preferences about the operating system for their phones, and the user experience for each of these different systems varies significantly. When designing an application for a phone, it is important to consider which operating systems you want your app to run on. “As many as possible” is the choice that will likely grant the widest user base, but it also requires the most knowledge.
Different operating systems have different styles, so if you are building an app for multiple platforms, it’s important to create something that fits well with the thematic appearance of each one. Beyond that, however, there are also technical challenges to creating an application that will run on many different operating systems. Issues such as which symbol is used as the end of line character, and problems as basic as whether file names need to be treated as case sensitive or not vary between common operating systems and can present a serious hurdle to beginner developers at first.
4. Be Aware of the Low-Level Stuff
Mobile application development is often done in modern high-level languages such as python, with many tools to allow the developer to deal with a lot of complex problems without needing to focus too hard on how the underlying code works. These tools can be a great help in avoiding getting bogged down in the details when trying to perform what should be a simple task, such as interfacing with the camera.
However, these tools are often less efficient in terms of memory usage or speed than lower level methods. If your app takes too long to load, you may find your user-base swapping en masse to a copycat alternative, especially in the fast paced and competitive field of app development. The more knowledge you have about the underlying hardware your program is likely to be running on and how it works, the faster and more efficient your code is likely to be. It’s not just speed that is an issue here, either. Battery life and storage space are also important issues to consider and bulky apps, or those that have a steep cost in terms of the phone’s battery life, may quickly fade into obscurity. When accessing hardware resources such as the camera, it is important to consider how quickly you can stop using that resource in order to save power and free up memory space.
5. Understand the Cyber Security Challenges
This one can vary in relevance depending on the exact purpose of the mobile app you are creating, but it is at least somewhat relevant to developers building almost any kind of application. You might thing that there is not much to be gained from someone hacking the details to a simple game, or an app for finding nearby shops. However, if your app requires or even allows users to create an account then the frequency with which people reuse passwords means it is vital that their login details are stored securely, that passwords are properly hashed, salted, and neither stored nor transmitted in plain text.
If your app connects to the phone’s GPS or camera, then security issues in your code could leave your users’ private data vulnerable to malicious attacks. This issue is often overlooked by new developers in favor of building a working prototype of their software and getting it out their users. However this is something that can come back to bite you hard in the future. The stigma of losing users’ private data can cause long lasting damage to an app or even a developer’s reputation, and it is far better to spend a little time ensuring the software is secure during development than it is to risk ending up trying to patch a zero hour exploit once the software has already been distributed.
In short, breaking into the mobile app development industry is not easy. A large number of skills are required to design a competitive application for mobile phones, and the steep learning curve involved puts off many would-be mobile developers. Hopefully, however, this guide will help you to get started and avoid some of the common pitfalls that other novice developers fall into.
Michael Dehoyos does editing and web development at Write my essay. Alongside assisting companies in their marketing strategy concepts, he is a contributor to numerous sites and publications.