Does the world need really another app? That’s like saying does the world need another year of new car models. Hybrids and electric models, yes. All those others, probably not. And if it were left solely up to me, we may still be living in caves, drawing wooly mammoth silhouettes on rock walls and commuting with our v1.0 legs and feet. It’s not that I’m anti-progress, it’s just that I fall on the necessary side of purposeful innovation. But new functions and features keep the game exciting and interesting. And “purpose” can really be as simple as improved design that connects people on a deeper emotional level. These ideas give me a new frame of reference, and this week’s work of brainstorming and planning an upgraded iPhone app has forced me to rapidly evolve my perspective.
The learning curve has been more of a slippery spiral, and what I bring to the table is insight into customer feedback, particularly how the consumers feel about the current application. Valuable, yes. Technologically relevant, not so much. I’ve spent the majority of meetings jotting down tech-jargon to look up on my own, so as not to slow progress. In between, I’ve tried to address my knowledge gap with various industry articles, including the especially helpful App Development 101 for Marketers. But I get hung up on all those little moving parts, features and functions, and the endless possibilities for the end product. It takes all I have to repress a childlike curiosity that wants to stop and ask—can we make it spin and sparkle, too?
Integration adds another level of complexity, too, because you can’t just develop an iPhone app. That’s boring and totally misses the point. Consumers are highly evolved and now expect constant engagement. Everything needs to be connected: desktop site, social media, and other mobile sites and apps. Keep everything cyclical, allow for seamless integration, and you have something consumers will actually use and enjoy. Segment your offerings and risk looking like a digital throwback.
A clear blue horizon appears when the big decisions are made. Once the foundational requirements are set for functionality and integration, possibilities narrow, and logic shines down to illuminate a path through second and third-tier requirements. With this release and relief comes loss, and you have to say goodbye to some of the spin and sparkle—farewell to the geo-targeted pet-dating feature that syncs with Facebook. Soon, you have a plan for fully formed upgrade that’s shiny, new, and ready to be pitched. I’ll admit that most of the technology is still magical to me, but I know where I contributed and how/why that shaped the features proposed for the upgrade.
This type of work is challenging and exciting. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you learn so much about the problems your colleagues are trying to solve and how your work fits into the big picture. You also walk away with a better understanding of the medium, and in my case, an evolved outlook on purpose within the development cycle. Having a better grasp of the possibilities and limitations proves to be immensely valuable when writing for apps and the mobile web.