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Not so fast: What you need to know before going mobile

Mobile’s moving at an amazing rate
In 2013, Apple’s App Store saw more than 40 billion app downloads—double that of 2012—and reportedly paid app developers over $7 billion. But the mobile surge goes far beyond apps. More and more people are using their mobile devices to make purchases, do banking, and collaborate with coworkers. So needless to say, the mobile landscape is growing fast, users are more demanding, and the stakes have been raised—high.

Every device is different
While there are essentially now only two mobile operating systems dominating the market, iOS and Android, the number of device types and screen resolutions for these systems has multiplied. So the functionality and performance of each device—and ultimately your users’ experiences—will vary greatly. It’s critical that you understand your business goals, your maintenance realities, and your users’ needs before diving in.

Hybrid is the new native
The other decision you’ll need to make early is whether to build a native application, a mobile website, or a hybrid of the two. A native application usually performs better and a mobile website can be easier to update and less costly. But here’s where there’s a trend shift: hybrid applications, which are web applications skinned to look like native applications, are gaining serious ground in the mobile landscape. In fact, research firm Gartner reported that by 2016, more than 50 percent of mobile apps will be hybrids. Here’s why: hybrid apps have the branded look and feel of a downloaded mobile app but easy, web-based content updatability.

Think like your user
What are they looking to get out of your mobile product or service? Immediacy of information? Location-based services? Convenience? Determine what your mobile experience will be (for both your user and your organization) and how you can uniquely provide value. You’ll need to know how you’ll create, manage, and maintain content for the long term, and you’ll want to create content that’s flexible so it will adapt to your users’ devices.

Set application expectations
Determine what you want from your application, such as brand awareness, revenue, downloads, or page views. Then put metric-tracking measures in place to see exactly how your application’s performing.

Test now, test later
Pre-launch testing for usability and performance is critical—an application that’s slow or non-intuitive won’t be adopted. But here’s a tip: do both emulated and real-device testing in order to offer up the most streamlined experience. Then, once your site is live (and wildly successful, of course), test again. And again. You’ll want to monitor what’s working and what’s not through qualitative and quantitative testing, then make updates accordingly.

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