Developing mobile apps is no small feat. As mobile development technologies and best practices continually take shape, developers are discovering new rules and processes for the platform with every new project.
Such was the case with our most recent launch, Fair Shake - an iPhone app for the Minnesota State Fair. We thought it was a good time to share some of what we've learned along the way with others, as so much of what we've learned has come from our own development and testing, as well as spending a lot of time in forums looking for answers to new questions.
This post not only covers some of the most critical elements involved in getting an iPhone app developed and approved, but also offers some helpful, concrete tips from our mobile design and development team that will help expedite the process.
1- Start planning early
Don't underestimate the time it will take to plan, develop and test your mobile app. Much like any strategic plan for a website, unforseen obstacles must be considered from the onset. Don't be fooled with what seems like a simpler process. Building a mobile app can be more complex than you think, especially if you want to integrate any type of data or GPS technology.
2- Define the app well from the start
Get all your functional requirements, content and features sorted and finalized before you start to develop your mobile app. Unlike building standard websites, it can be a lot more difficult to change any of these elements after they are already in development.
3- Get permission from any organizations involved
Let's say you're tasked with building a mobile app that tells a user which grocery stores in a certain area carry a specific brand of yogurt you like. Because I love FAGE yogurt and I happen to be writing this post, we'll go with that. (No, I am not being paid to say that.) Before you spend the time and money to develop an app for you and your fellow yogurt enthusiasts, you should check with FAGE and receive an endorsement (or at least permission) to develop an app so closely tied to their brand. Some organizations may be over the moon for a little free brand exposure, but others could consider your app competition with one they already have or they may have issues with liability, usage, etc.
You'll want to do this before you spend the time, money and effort.
4- Factor in app approval process
It can take up to two weeks after submission to get an app approved by Apple's app store. So, if you're working on an app that hinges on a time sensitive deadline, such as one for an event or a campaign, make sure you provide yourself with enough time to market and test your app before it is needed. Going back to the first point of this post – plan way ahead of time.
Note from our mobile team:
Remember that you will need a valid 'Distribution Provisioning Profile' to submit your app to Apple. This is a different provisioning profile than your development one, and you will need to request it when you're ready to submit your app to Apple.
5- Have content before you build architecture
This is where that content strategy we're constantly harping on over here comes into play. Just as it's nearly impossible to build a website without content, it's very difficult to create a mobile app that has no content or context behind it. When the developer has the content he or she needs ahead of time, it's much easier to develop the app, and much faster. Let's mentally revisit the initial planning process where I said it was difficult to go back and change things once they have already been developed. Content obviously plays a big part here.
6- Test and begin updates as soon as possible
Once you have submitted your iPhone app to the Apple store, your work is not over yet! You'll want to continue the testing process to work out any bugs or errors that may pop up. Any updates needed will have to go through the Apple approval process all over again. So remember, sending in updates as soon as possible is also key – especially when it comes to apps that are time-stamped alongside an event or campaign.
Note from our mobile development team:
Make sure to test your app running on the physical device with the instrument's 'Memory Leak Configuration'. Memory leaks will stop your app from getting accepted.
7- Design considerations:
When working with retina graphics, the size of your design files should be doubled. For instance, when creating iPhone backgrounds that you think would normally be 320px by 480px, they should actually be 640px by 960px. Once the design files are exported to the iPhone, they must be resized to the proper dimensions. As our mobile app designer, Adam Olinger says, "It's tricky because the padding in the iPhone is 20px standard but when in retina it is 40px which can hurt your head when you have multiple objects on the page that are doubling."
In this case, name all of your graphics files the same, except with a @2x at the end of the name. For example, if you have the file "main-header.png", it would become "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Additional design tips from our mobile development team
Are there critical elements you've learned about developing for the iPhone that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @iexposure.
If you are interested in harnessing the unique functionality of a mobile app for your next web project, our mobile development team would love to help. Contact us: email@example.com and tell us a little bit about your big idea. If you want to see our latest mobile wares, check out Fair Shake - an iPhone app for the Minnesota State Fair.
Photo by William Hook and licensend by Creative Commons.
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