The way mobile apps are built and maintained is undergoing a major shift this year. In my work as an industry analyst, I'm seeing technologies and architectures coming to market simultaneously that will support modular apps and flexible, speedy, collaborative development processes.
Whether you're building mobile apps for your enterprise users or for your company's external customers, it is an iterative process. Waterfall development practices that lead to monolithic apps are increasingly unable to support the demand on developers to create and update apps to meet the requirements of modern mobile users. Platforms are supporting increased flexibility though granular, componentized, and agile architectures and practices.
It's my recommendation that CIOs and others involved in DevOps think about how to divide systems into smaller pieces so they can be independently and quickly updated. This will help your organization keep up with the constantly accelerating pace of change.
Adopting a modular approach to building mobile experiences will create a number of opportunities for efficiency. Adjusting development organizations to easily move development talent across projects will help better utilize scarce developer talent. Collaboration among developers, designers, and marketers will also lead to a more streamlined operation.
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So, where do you begin? Here are three emerging technology trends that will get your mobile app development teams headed in the right direction.
The use of microservices in the backend enables mobile app development teams to operate efficiently and create flexible apps. Microservices are not really a specific technology so much as an architecture that supports faster iteration. They are a pattern for architecting small backend services that can be developed independently of each other, and then connected together via APIs.
Each microservice can be built to complete a certain function and combine with other microservices to create a unique, full-featured service. For example, a flight reservation app might contain a number of microservices such as:
- creating customer profiles
- checking flight availability
- calculating fares
- processing transactions
- allocating seats
- adjusting inventory
Because microservices are glued together with APIs, there are no dependencies for developers to track. Consequently, dynamic development organizations are possible, as different developers can work independently on various microservices. This also makes apps easier to maintain and scale.
Cards and Deep Links
In the front end, the idea of a standalone mobile app is also beginning to splinter as card-based UIs gain traction. Popularized by Pinterest, cards present data and images in rectangular shapes on the home screen and can be layered and moved. Most dating sites have copied Tinder's card-based user interfaces, in which each potential match is represented in a unique card.
The flexibility of this layout enables brands to experiment with different ways to present the information that is most relevant to the user and device. Much like microservices, each card is focused on a specific thought or action. However, instead of connecting components with APIs the way microservices do, deep links can be used to connect cards to each other or connect to specific pages in a completely different app.
These developments will change the mobile experience for the end-user, as walls between apps become porous and eventually disappear. In this scenario, the days of apps with well thought out user interfaces and menus give way to a collection of UI widgets or cards.
Flexible technologies will enable increased experimentation. It's important that your teams test and measure every aspect of user experience and tweak UIs in order to drive app engagement and retention. This will be how brands compete in the mobile ecosystem going forward.
The bottom line? Your mobile app is never done. So build your dev infrastructure and strategy around this assumption.