There is no denying that mobile is here to stay. Its meteoric growth and near endless possibilities are truly stunning. People spend a lot of time on their phones, doing everything from playing Pokemon Go to paying bills. People are productive, entertained, and connected.
Despite this popularity, the decision to build a mobile app is actually a very complicated and nuanced decision. Every team should carefully examine why a mobile app is necessary, and think about why a user would want to give up valuable space on their home screens.
We labored over this decision for quite some time, even going so far as even building a beta version as a prototype. In the end, we decided against building a mobile app. Here’s why:
1. Less IT Friendly
When it comes to mobile apps, they can be surprisingly non-friendly to corporate IT networks. For starters, most mobile phones are being used at work in a BYOD model, so they aren’t directly controlled by IT. In addition, phones inherently have two network interfaces: WiFi and an LTE/4G modem. Both of these things make it difficult to setup and configure mobile apps to work smoothly in an IT environment. Obviously technologies like SSO/SAML can give our customers the option to authenticate with their network, but this adds a layer of complexity to the app as it generally requires that the user provide additional information about their company network/domain in order to login.
2. Feature Slowdown
When you add any new platform to an existing app, you immediately have a new problem on your hands: you have to maintain complete feature parity across all platforms. Even if you decide to only build a subset of functionality in a mobile version, the complete set of features in the application need to be considered and tested. For many software teams, this level of work is commonly underestimated. We discovered that as we implemented new features for our web app, the pace of release was slowed down as we tried to implement these same functions for our iOS and Android versions.
3. The Bar is Set High
Apple is constantly setting the design standard for mobile – even going so far as publishing design standards (Human Interface Guidelines) to help developers build wonderful mobile apps. And rightly so: the smaller real estate of a mobile screen warrants an ever more vigilant attention to detail.
Sadly, there is a dearth of high quality enterprise mobile apps in both the Android and iOS app stores (all the apps in our space are complete garbage). To build a good mobile app, the bar needs to be very high. For IdeaScale, we felt that we couldn’t devote the attention to detail that we wanted to give to the mobile app without stealing away considerable resources from our existing UI team (and subsequent mobile responsive app).
4. Mobile First Doesn’t Mean Mobile App
Mobile phones, tablets, netbooks, etc have caused an explosion in the variety of screen sizes. And if you have a web app, you cannot ignore these devices – it must look great on all screen sizes. Thankfully, HTML5 and CSS3 gave us responsive design which allows a web app to look great on any screen size – provided you design for it from the beginning. Which means that you can still use IdeaScale on any mobile device.
The core IdeaScale web app has been mobile web responsive for years now, and usage of these smaller screen sizes has continued to grow. Our customers love that our web app “just works” on any device and any screen size. So when we started building our mobile app, we kept asking ourselves: “Can we build something better than our web app? Will it be more convenient to use?” The answer continued to be no. Once we decided not to, it was incredibly freeing – we could focus entirely on our responsive web app.
5. When Designing a Mobile App, Consider Your Use Case
Hard as it is to believe, we’re still not doing everything on our phones. When it comes to innovation management, most of the ongoing labor of moderating ideas, refining them and reviewing them does not occur while you’re on the go, but while you’re at your laptop with a suite of other resources. We’ve learned this from a wealth of customer interviews and analytics research. Not every task is a mobile-first task and we decided to put our development strength where our customers were asking for it. After all, if the odd innovator wanted to perform idea reviews while on their commute or an employee wanted to share an idea on the go, they still could with our mobile responsive design.
As I said before, for some startups the decision to build a mobile app can be very complicated. These are just a few of the reasons why we chose not to.
This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.
This post is by Rob Hoehn, Co-founder/CEO at IdeaScale.