A Rant About Apps!

sodonnell

Wow!  You folks at Technology Review have been reactionary and are STILL! being reactionary! 

And you're leading business' and individuals who are trying to figure out what to do in the mobile arena with the impression that the technology is no god, when in fact it's your own lack of planning, design, project management and lack of technical expertise that caused every single one of your failures.

You heard the siren song of apps for iPad and Android and so you immediately decided that this is where your business needs to go.  You did not do any research apparently into what it takes to design an app, let alone build it.  You did not invest any time in learning what the limitations and strengths were in an app and more importantly for your bottom dollar...do didn't take the time to hire someone who could TELL! you what those values were and who could then advise you and/or lead the technology side of the project to build a quality app that takes advantage of all that the platforms have to offer. You didn't even look around to see that there are many technologies that will allow you to build mobile apps, and some extremley good technologies designed specifically for building apps for the publishing industry.

Instead you likey had a meeting or two with your planning group and with no actual data to base it on, you all gleefully said

"WE WANT AN APP! WE NEED AN APP!" 

and then you called in your IT team and said,

 "BUILD US AN APP!"  and then, ...

"Uh...Say..CAN you guys build us an app?" 

And they said, "Uh..an app?  Uh...

(whisper: hey bob!  what's an app?  Never mind...I'll just wing it)..

"Sure boss!  We can do that!" 

 and they then spent the next month reading articles online about how to build an app, and maybe even creating a 'Hello World' app in Objective-C.  They probably even talked you into buying them some new Mac's to play around with...after awhile, they came to you and said,

"Hey boss, guess what?  We don't know how to build an app.  But Joe in the mail room has a cousin who rides the train with an IT guy who says he knows a consulting company who can build us an app."  

And you said, "Hire them!  WE NEED AN APP!" 

 and so the consulting firm was hired...but no one bothered to check to see if they had any experience prgramming in Objective-C or any other mobile development platforms for building an app...most definitely no experience to build an app like you wanted!...even though if you were being honest, you probably didn't really know what it was you wanted anyway at that point.

And they were turned loose with very little direction and very little oversight and every month this consulting firm sent you an invoice along with a "progress report" that probably consisted of some mocked up screen shots and a lot of jargon.  And you were getting REALLY! excited and thought,

 "OH MY GOD!  WE ARE GOING TO HAVE AN APP WITH OUR NAME ON IT RUNNING ON AN iPAD!!!!  OH MY GOD!!!!  (uh-oh! I think I just wet my pants!)"

And eventually,  the consulting firm learned, on your dime by the way, how to code an app in Objective-C and they delivered unto you an app with your name on it. 

And you were ecstatic!

And then your team tried to port the content from next month's issue onto the app...and suddenly nothing fits.  Columns don't line up,  gutters are missing,  images are pixelated and it looks like crap. And then someone accidentally rotates the tablet and suddenly the app REALLY! looks lke crap! 

So now you work with the consulting company, who still hasn't admitted (and probably never will) that they cobbled together your app from 30 other sample programs on Apple's Develoepr website and they really have no clue of how to solve your problems.  But you and they work together and you create a kludge that works on iPad.  Then another kludge for Android tablets.   Then a HUGE Turd of a Kludge for android smart phones and their small screens. 

And hey, you have an app!

But after all this work and effort and money, you still have forgotten that no one has ever bothered to "DESIGN"! this app for useability!  

You are amazed that you cannot click hyperlinks to exit otuside the app and you think that you've just tossed all your money and effort down the drain.

Then you read ANOTHER article about how company XYZ is now using HTML5 to build apps designed for any platform and you shout, "THIS IS IT!  WE NEED AN HTML5 APP!"  and you're starting all this all over again....

But you're just reacting again.  You didn't do any research or talk to any developers with actual iOS or Android developer experience to find out WHY! your orginal app didn't work right.  You just assumed that since some things did not work as expected that it must not be possible.   Guess what?  You are wrong in those assumptions.

Every single "wrong" thing you wrote about is absolutelly technologically possible and none of them are hard to do.   Your IT-developers simply lacked real world experience and were afraid to lose the gig so they never told you that.  They did not know how to properly code the app to do simple things like allowing hyperlinks to take the user out of and back into the app, as needed.  Although in their defense, it sounds like there was no one at your company providing a design plan for them to work from or providing project leadership to make sure that all those features you wanted were in the app and working as you wanted prior to releasing it to the public.

And I could go on and on but your whole article just tires me and I grow weary of trying to shine a light on your FAIL .  I will add just one more thing...You should not be rushing to dump your $125K investment in your app just so you can build it again with HTML5.

HTML5 has not even been finalized yet.  It's currently in beta mode (go ahead and google beta...based on your experience with the app development I'm guessing you don't understand that term).  HTML 5 is also not supported by the majority of browsers yet and the latest projections I saw said it would be 3rd or 4th quarter 2013 before that happens.   No one is building production level code projects in HTML 5 yet.   Everyone agrees that HTML5 is the future, for sure,  but it's no even lose to being ready for it yet.

Just do your research and planning first this time, and if after everything you fail with HTML 5 too, don't bother writing an article about how terrible HTML 5 is becuase your app sucked like you did with developing native mobile apps. 

I wouldn't have even bothered commenting except I didn't want some reader who is looking for information about mobile app development reading your piece as gospel.  They deserve to know that your experience is not based on any technical limitations to native mobile apps, but rather to terrible project management/planning/design/programming.

This is wonderful. Lol. This is what I tried to prevent when I designed and wrote this page (the site's been redone, so this is a link to a screenie).

but... oh well. XD

Zomg, a SANE way to do development quotations.

Ever since we started Offroadcode we've taken the stance of never giving fixed price quotes for projects. Some people think this is crazy but allow us to explain why it makes sense for clients and ourselves.

What I'm going to cover here is nothing new to me and probably many other coders out there. To others though (both clients and designers in the business) it can be quite eye opening when I first tell them about it. All through the following post, remember the point below is what we do and what we give our clients.

We always want to give the client the best website we can for their available budget. Offroadcode
Keeping your cards close to your chest isn't the right way to work!Talking about budget shouldn't be a secret!

Asking a client what their budget is can come across as either rude or plain money grabbing. They hold back the true amount thinking we will quote back to them the full amount when we say how much it will cost. Difference is though, we don't give fixed quotes.

We will work up to the amount of budget the client is happy to spend. That to us makes sense. The clients gets the best site they are happy to pay for at a fair price.

We don't deliver rubbish for that money, we deliever the best we can to the amount of budget/time the user has. At the end of that we will have delievered the best, most feature rich site we could. All the client need do is pick and choose which features they want on their site.

"One assumption we're making is that you do have an idea of how much actual time a feature might take to complete. If you don't, you really shouldn't be in charge of quoting for a feature."

XD Just one of the great things!

This is what happens when your ad agency doesn't actually care about YOU.

Yes, I admit it, I clicked on "Popular". And then I was royally pissed off. (That 'navbar' is an advertisement, by the way. See how helpfully it's labelled.)

If this ad agency's KPI was clickthroughs, not conversions, then I'm pretty certain this ad is getting results.

Unfortunately, of course, once users realise they've been tricked, their instant reaction is to close the site in disgust. The last thing on their minds is even LOOKING at whatever it was the site was selling.

One could argue that the agency was doing nothing wrong - their client probably demanded clickthroughs as KPI, and on this, I'm sure they deliver. But the reaction after click-through in no way helps their client.

An agency that cared about their client would realise that what the client (and every client, really) wants is conversions. Yes, an ad banner cannot guarantee conversions. But if the banner pisses off the users it brings to a site, you can bet it'll guarantee a lack thereof.

Find a job you’d be happy doing, so you can pay for the things you really want to be doing. - Teshness is a wise fellow.

Find a job doing what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

It’s my experience that this is not only shallow and semantic, but the philosophy is actively bad for long term health.

There are a few aspects to this:

  • Turning a love or hobby into a job is effectively ceding control of that interest to those who write the checks. Whether you’re working for The Man as a cog in a machine, or The Herd as an entrepreneurial wizard, you’re still tying your love to money. That always changes things. And, as the EASpouse storm made more aware, and this story of Free Radical underlines (hattip to Anjin), passion is easily exploited by unsavory management, canny to optimize assets and maximize revenue.

 

    <...>

    Find a job you’d be happy doing, so you can pay for the things you really want to be doing.

     

    Sorta dovetails with how, when I conducting interviews (when I've been in the position to) - passion is all very well, but what I want is *professionalism*. What I want (in terms of interviewees) is more along the lines of passion for doing a good job, rather than passion for the field itself.

    Ze Web Design, UX & IA Portfolio of a Nugget

    Having set my illustration house in order, I figured it was time to do my web design/UX/IA one as well. While I used to hand-code and maintain my own site, I've found that I'm way too lazy to do all the updating that goes with it. Hopefully with my new Posterous based webby portfolio, I'll actually update it more than oh... once every new job. ;)

    Here's a webnugget for you!

    P.S. Can you spot the punny domain name!