A Few Changes Mobile App Developers Should Prepare For

Photo from Fox Business News

Will the way in which developers build mobile apps today remain the same a few years, months or even weeks from now? Probably not.

Countless new apps are being launched daily, and the features and technicalities of these new applications are what analysts tend to hone in on. However, what most of them fail to recognize is that end user behaviors drive this evolution. In fact, the user experience will be the driving force of change in the way mobile apps are developed in the coming years.  SDTime’s Suzanne Kattau says Forrester has released a report outlining some of these changes that mobile app developers should prepare for:

“The report, written by analysts Jeffrey Hammond and Julie Ask, explains how modern mobile applications will evolve over the next few years and what development teams should prepare for now. If you’re a developer looking to build modern applications that will deliver contextual customer experiences, there are UI changes coming that you will need to understand, according to the report.

‘When developers design user interfaces today—whether it’s for a laptop or for a mobile device—we think that that application is totally what the user’s going to be focused on,’ said Hammond, principal application development and delivery analyst at Forrester. ‘So we try to design the applications to catch the user’s eye, to involve them, to totally engross them. But think about what’s going to happen when they have to be able to see the road or make sure that they don’t trip and fall while they’re getting cues from these applications.’

Currently, app developers and mobile advertisers thrive off the ability to fully engage users in an app. This will make the change from a fully engrossed app experience, to a more peripheral interaction, difficult for developers to adjust to. Here are some of the possible UI changes developers should be aware of:

Multiple Modes of Input

“UIs are going to change focus from touch to voice, according to the report. ‘When you strap that device onto your arm (before a run, for example), you’re not going to look at it anymore until you’re done with your run. Voice takes over,’ Hammond said. ‘Also, when you’ve got applications that are in the car, the natural mode also shifts to voice. But you don’t only want to have voice because, if you’ve got an application and you’re in a crowded restaurant, you’re going to want to shift back to touch. So developers have got to be able to essentially support multiple modes of input.’

Hammond said that developers need to even understand which mode is going to be the preferred mode. He said there’s no reason for developers to not take advantage of the microphone that detects ambient sound and say, ‘Oh, well, with the decibels here, I can’t really understand voice input so I’m going to automatically shift to text input or touch input instead.’”

Wearables and Connectables

“Wearables and connectables are definitely coming in the near future, the report said. ‘I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the prototypes that have been shown around on batteries that are flexible,’ Hammond said. ‘So you can conceivably have a battery woven into your jacket and be charging your cell phone all day long with a 10-ounce, flexible battery that’s in the back panel of your jacket. Or imagine shoes that can generate power while you’re walking around. If you’ve got that battery panel hooked up to little power generators in your shoes and you go for a 40-minute run, you’ve just generated enough power to power your cell phone for the rest of the day.’”

Form Factor

“There’s also no reason we can’t see these mobile devices change pretty radically in form factor, Hammond said. ‘Why do you have to have the 4-inch device up by the side of your face?’ he asked. ‘If you have a pair of glasses on, who’s to say you can’t have a brick sitting in your briefcase or your attaché that’s doing most of the processing and the glasses are essentially the local dumb terminal, if you will. It’s kind of like the fifth generation down from a 3270 terminal.’ Hammond said that by 2014, those types of glasses will definitely be available.”

If your thinking “sure… this won’t happen for years”, think again, or rather do some research. There are prototypes of devices encompassing these features out being tested in-the-wild at this very moment. It won’t be long till developers are changing their app dev processes to fit a vastly different interface. Luckily, there are great mobile app quality and testing tools out there to test for inconsistencies, which tend much more prevalent when you’re developing for an new interface or device for the first time.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

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