4 Important Steps You Must Include When Developing Federal Mobile Apps

Mobile App Developers in the federal space are all scrambling to get a piece of the action as federal agencies start acting on the directives in Obama’s digital strategy. The hope is that this process doesn’t become just another “check-box” exercise throughout the agencies.

Nor should this become an opportunity for government contractors to throw together a mishmash of subpar resources at the problem and churn out spools of mediocre product. And we, as an industry, simply can’t let that happen.

It’s our responsibility, as government (mobile) contractors, to lay a strong foundation for our new digital government.

Here are 4 critical, often overlooked, elements all App developers should focus on during application development lifecycle:

1. Keep It Simple, Stupid

The KISS approach is an obvious one but often not followed in mobile application development. Any clickstream or workflow should be kept to the absolute minimum number of steps. If you have to force the user through a clickstream they may not easily understand the first time then you should make every effort to make an inline tutorial within the app itself.

Mobile App users are now acclimated to seamless design and flow for many commercial products and they have similar expectations for anything in the federal space. Bottom line, if user signup in your app takes 13 steps, may want to go back to the drawing board.

2. User Feedback

Criticism is a good thing even though it is often difficult to hear. The more individuals from diverse backgrounds (technical, non-technical, gamer, non-gamer etc) you have, the more likely you will get some commonality on which portions of your app need some tuning. Disconnect yourself from the app emotionally and understand the “why” behind negative feedback. People like to complain regularly, and that is quite annoying, but sometimes those gripes will help you create a better app.

3. Usability

Usability is complementary to the KISS approach but usability is often not given enough attention during the design phase of a mobile app. People equate usability with function (it gets the job done, right?) but often don’t consider how use cases run together, conflict, or are not plain clear.

In mobile app development, there are some things often working against you such as form factor (small screen) and data entry or user input challenges. For most apps developed these days, you should use the “5 year old test” on any mobile app you develop. If a 5 year old (they are smarter than you think) can easily navigate through screens, enter data and don’t have a temper tantrum after about 5 minutes, then your app is on the right track.

4. Launch

What happens after app launch is just as important as all the previous phases of the project combined. There is often a notion that once the app is launched, the propagation and adoption will happen auto-magically. This is definitely not true for 99% of the apps in existence. Shortly after launch, there are often critical course corrections that need to be made in the code to make sure adoption of the app isn’t impaired. This could be as simple as a minor code bug, or a user case that was overlooked during the process.

In this day and age, social media plays an important role in provide useful feedback by users and can also act as important marketing channels for your message. In any case, don’t expect to sit back and sip a margarita once that last line of code is finished.

Your Turn

  1. Let me know in the comments any other critical, but often overlooked, elements of mobile app development I missed.
  2. Do you have any tools that help you keep accountable for each step of the app development process that you can’t live without? create content (in any medium) that you just need to share to the world? Please share them with us in the comments!