Development of mobile apps for consumers and enterprise are two different animals. Consumer apps come from a broad range of sources, from individual hobbyists building Flappy Bird clones to publicly traded kings of the consumer app industry unleashing Candy Crush Sagas upon the workers of the world. For many consumer app creators, the approval process and product cycle is not complicated: make your game or widget, get the bugs fixed, and put it out there for everyone to enjoy. If it’s engaging and you catch viral lightning in a bottle you might see the ROI shortly, from ad impressions or in-app purchases.
Enterprise app development typically includes many more levels of approval, including getting buy-in from an organization’s CTO and other key stakeholders. This can result in more refinement to ensure all the requirements of the enterprise are met, but this comes with the risk that the app could sprawl to become an over-packed, unwieldy platypus.
A Little Style Never Hurt
Enterprise development would do well to borrow a bit of polish from the consumer world. Because enterprise applications are utilitarian in nature and marketed to a B2B audience (rather than to individual consumers looking to be allured by a sharp sense of style), developers may be lulled into thinking their apps don’t need to be as visually slick or functionally pleasing. But a little attention paid to appearance and design can result in increased usability -- something which would benefit many enterprise apps.
Applying smart, current design best practices to enterprise mobile app development aids efficiency, quells employee frustration and makes the user feel properly equipped -- all of which results in even better productivity. More caution is exercised in the design aspects with enterprise development, the primary concern, rightly, being that the app very simply get the job done.
Modern mobile design (including flat vertical scrolling apps and fast access to key functions) directly serves bottom-line, utilitarian functionality. However, developers should look for opportunities where adding cleverness to the UI and even including a bit of charm could pay dividends. In short: enterprise apps do not have to be boring to be functional.
Considerations for the Enterprise
Because enterprise apps are different they require different tools to produce them if you want to do them right. Development tools often need to cover device capabilities that don’t get used in non-enterprise apps, such as real-time barcode scanning, signature capture, NFC/RFID identification, etc. In enterprise development, frameworks are of heightened importance, so that more robust demands on the flow of information can be managed by the app separately from the user interface.
Object-relational mapping is valuable in development for enterprise as well, so that database code need not be written by hand. Whereas consumer apps usually have less need of synchronization servers to support offline data, with enterprise apps this can be a powerful feature that renders load times invisible. And finally, whereas a consumer developer might choose which platforms to develop for based on knowledge of the app market, enterprise apps need to support all the device platforms in use within an organization, and possibly beyond. In today’s world of BYOD, with workers often preferring to use their own familiar personal devices, availability on more platforms can translate to added productivity.
By recognizing the specific requirements and tendencies within the separate spheres of consumer and enterprise mobile app development, wise app developers can know their strengths, and borrow selectively from the other side of the development field to deliver greater experiences to their audiences.