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5 Things to Know About Wearable Application Development

In a sense, “wearable technology” has been with us for centuries. The first “necklace watch” was invented in the 1500s, the first wristwatch in the 1600s.  Wearable technology entered its highest-impact realm—medicine and healthcare—in the 1800s with the invention of the first wearable in-ear hearing aid. It entered the digital age with the digital watch and the nascent app age with the calculator watch.

This long history culminated in the revolutionary Fitbit in 2010. This wearable step-counter opened the floodgates of the “Quantified Self” movement—wearable devices to track and count everything about a person, from their heart rate to their blood sugar, in an effort to optimize user health.  An even bigger breakthrough of internet-enabled (IoT, or the Internet of Things) wearable health monitors furnishes healthcare providers with medically relevant data between doctor visits, providing doctors a much more robust picture of their patients’ health.

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A Guide to Mobile App Strategy for Healthcare Companies

At a 1983 conference in Aspen, Steve Jobs gave a presentation where he predicted a kind of “digital record store” where people would download discreet software applications over telephone lines. This was 24 years before the first iPhone and 24 years before the App Store debuted with 500 apps. It was even 14 years before Snake, the addictive game that could be played on Nokia phones or discreetly during class on graphing calculators, ruined AP Calculus for a generation of students.

As of 2020, according to Forbes, those first 500 apps have ballooned to over 8.9 million apps.  According to Grandview Research, the mobile app industry surpassed $154 billion in 2019 with an expected compound annual growth rate of 11.5% through 2027. According to App Annie, as of 2021 consumers spend an average of 4.2 hours a day on mobile apps. 

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Technologies to Support Health and Happiness of LGBTQ+ Youth

Hopelab, a social innovation lab based in San Francisco, uses co-design methodology to explore solutions to common social problems faced by LGBTQ+ youth and young adults. The best design is functional as well as stimulating, but can it be aspirational? Can design thinking encourage wellbeing and be a process for manifesting hope? Can design create resources for a promising future for the LGBTQ+ community? Table XI and client partner, Hopelab, has confidence this can be achieved.

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Table XI Delivery Lead Talks the Power of Belonging

It’s Pride Month in Chicago, and at Table XI, that means celebrating diversity and inclusion. 

Diversity, a term used more often to describe people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders and sexual orientations, really only captures a fraction of Lora’s story. Lora Ferraro, a long-term consultant and delivery lead at Table XI, possesses a colorful background of professional and personal life experiences. A passionate advocate and active voice behind the power of belonging within the workplace, we sat down to understand how the choices that she made helped her to arrive at the height of her career today.

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7 Mobile App Challenges & How to Handle Them

With nearly two million apps available on the App Store and nearly 3 million on the Google Play Store, mobile app developers have their work cut out for them. 

Users expect more from their apps than ever — performance, visual appeal, user-friendliness, and a unique solution to a daily problem. For every problem, though, there seem to be no fewer than three apps vying for the same market share.

Aspiring app developers face a more competitive landscape than ever. But even if the supply is abundant, so is the demand. Consumers are still looking for the next game-changing amazing app. There’s no reason that the app can’t be yours if you manage the challenges standing between an app developer and their target market.

Here are seven challenges faced by mobile app developers and how to handle them. 

Mobile App Challenge 1: Ensuring There’s Actually a Market for Your App

There’s nothing worse than pouring time and money into a product — physical or software — only to discover that nobody wants it. 

With so many apps competing for the same market share, it can be hard to stand out. An app that solves the same problem as other, more established apps had better solve the problem better, in a unique way, or for a unique niche market.

It is also important to understand the role of the app in the context of the broader business goals. Some apps fit better into a larger business model, rather than being an independent revenue source in their own right. 

How to Handle It

Don’t rely on instinct or hope that an eager market awaits your new mobile app. Get a sense of the market before a single line of code is written in the development of your app. 

Perform a competitive analysis. What apps are your direct competitors? How do they market to their audience? What can you do better in terms of presentation, functionality, or outreach?

Survey your target market. Do they already use competitive apps? How do the current apps on the market fall short? What would induce them to make the shift?

If possible, “pre-sell” the app — try some marketing and see how many people download a “pre-launch” version of your app that will go live once the development process is complete. Nothing tells you that you have a market like people buying your product!

Mobile App Challenge 2: Identifying the Right Development Partner

Most organizations do not have the in-house development team needed to design a world-class app. Most of them will go shopping for a third-party developer at some point. 

Unfortunately, “mobile app developer” is a saturated market, with vast variance in quality. 

Not all developers have the expertise or resources to create custom software from scratch, and will not be able to meet your true needs?

Even if it costs more, most organizations will do much better with an experienced development team that is accustomed to working in a competitive marketplace with high expectations. 

How to Handle It

Do your homework on any mobile app development agency you consider. How long have they been in business? What is their reputation in public testimonials forums? 

Who will lead your development team, and what are their qualifications? Are they qualified for the marketplace you want your app to trade-in? It takes a very different approach to get into the iOS App Store vs. Android marketplaces, for example. 

Can the developer show examples of apps they developed that are similar to yours, as well as quantifiable success metrics for those apps? Do they have a history of serving your target market and understanding what they want?

Personality matters too. Look for an agency that has a great culture and attitude — one you will enjoy doing business with.

Mobile App Challenge 3: Keeping the Project On-Budget

Some of the quotes you get for your mobile app development project may raise your eyebrows, but they are nothing compared to a mobile app development project that goes off-budget.

The cost of developing a mobile app can spiral for any number of reasons, including insufficient backend infrastructure, bad cross-department communication, underestimation of the marketing and user education budget, or failing to plan for ongoing needs and customer support.

Ballooning costs are never good news. The more you can stay on budget, the more return you can expect on the investment your new mobile app represents.  

How to Handle It

A few best practices to keep an app development project on budget include:

  • Aligning all stakeholders, including the development team. Make sure that everyone agrees on the business purpose of the app and core features, so no one gets unpleasantly surprised and demands extra, expensive work late in the game.
  • Creating a detailed project scope. Target a clean, minimalist design in the first iteration with clear benchmarks and guidelines for the app to be delivered.
  • Leaving room for flexibility. In an agile development model, for example, it is expected that features will change based on real-time feedback. That kind of flexibility is taken into account when estimating the features of the app.
  • Maintaining detailed communication between stakeholders and the development team. This level of communication helps prevent missed expectations and costly backtracking.
  • Prioritizing the most difficult or least understood features. When development starts, prioritizing unknowns and complex parts of the app will help mitigate risk by providing more clarity to the estimated effort. One good way to do this is by doing technical spikes of features in order to test or validate assumptions made during initial estimation.

Mobile App Challenge 4: Accounting for Performance

Users are merciless about performance. An app that is slow to load or crashes regularly will not earn a permanent place on any home screen. 

That said, you never know what device or mobile operating system your users will select to use the app. Developers have to account for a variety of native scenarios, including older devices and OS versions. 

It is impossible to account for every variable, and the clock is ticking before the user gives up and diverts to a competitor app.

How to Handle It

Work together with your development team to put in place a post-launch performance monitoring plan. 

The goal is to get continuous feedback and identify problem areas you can correct, as well as monitor your app performance on new devices as they evolve. 

Just because a boat springs a leak does not necessarily mean that the ship will inevitably sink. Be prepared to patch bugs and push performance updates to the app as soon as possible after they arise.

Mobile App Challenge 5: Managing Security Risks

New apps mean new potential points of entry for cybercriminals to embezzle money or access sensitive user data. 

Cybercrime is everyone’s concern and cannot be taken lightly. Not only do you have a responsibility to your users, but a data breach is perilous to your brand’s reputation, especially an emerging brand. 

60% of companies never recover from a data breach. Furthermore, some industries must validate their data practices to meet stiff regulatory compliance burdens. Failing to do so could mean fines or shutdown. 

How to Handle It

Make sure that your in-house team and your third-party development team are up-to-date on the latest security best practices. 

Use a variety of security-testing tools to probe your new mobile app for points of weakness. Consider hiring a penetration tester or “ethical hacker” to try and breach your app. This is a powerful best practice to identify potential security vulnerabilities.

Hire a compliance officer if you need to validate compliance with regulations. 

Mobile App Challenge 6: Building a Marketing Strategy

The best mobile app in the world is useless if nobody knows it exists. Marketing is the act of achieving top-of-mind awareness in the mind of your target audience when they enter the marketplace in search of the solution you intend to provide. 

So how will people become aware that your app exists? How will they come to trust you as the solution provider they need and convert to being a user of your app? 

How to Handle It

Start thinking about your user-acquisition strategy from day one—that is, before a single line of code has been written. 

Start by clearly defining your value proposition—what valuable solution will users get from your app, expressed in just a few words.

Clearly define your target audience—their age, gender, occupation, education, income, hobbies, passions, familial status, etc.

Use these two definitions as guiding stars to put the right message in front of the right people.

Also, define your strategy for making sure your app shows up in-store search results, which will make a critical difference.

Mobile App Challenge 7: Defining a Notification Strategy

Mobile device home screens can get crowded. Getting prospects to download your app and become users is a big step, but the next step is to keep them as users by keeping them engaged.

The most powerful tool for increasing user engagement is notifications. Instead of the user coming to the app, a notification brings the app to the users by pinging them with a call-to-action or call-to-awareness to encourage the app usage. 

How to Handle It

The key to a notification strategy is to identify strategic times when a user is likely to want to interact with the app. 

This could be when conditions change—a message received by another app user, a certain time of day or day of the week, holidays, the user’s birthday, a change in geographic location, money changing hands, etc. 

Consider what conditions might inspire favorable user behavior, and craft a notification strategy around those. However, notifications can require extensive backend support, so you’ll want to weigh the potential benefits vs. the investment.

Conclusion

The road to a successful mobile device release is lined with pitfalls, but with proper preparation, those pitfalls can be navigated. By verifying your market, partnering with the right developer, adhering to your budget, and strategizing for performance, security, marketing, and notifications, visionary app founders can still find a ravenous market for their game-changing solution. 

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How to Build a Great Mobile App in 8 Simple Steps

Mobile app development can seem like a daunting process, but breaking it down into steps can help clarify the approach for your next mobile app project. This article will take you through building an app in eight basic steps.

Table XI has a decade of experience in mobile app development, and we’ve seen it all. From researching the product-market fit of a new app to wireframing, design, project management, app deployment, and every step in between, our team knows how to turn software into one of your greatest strengths.

In this article, we’ll take a look at each of the steps needed to build a mobile app. This guide will help you create a digital product your customers will actually want to revisit again and again.

Let’s get started.

Mobile App Step 1: Develop an Idea for Your App

You need a vision of what you want your app to accomplish.  You see that someone has a pain point and you want to address it.    

But an idea alone simply isn’t enough. You need to establish a clear user need and the value you plan to drive for your organization from the app. You need to make sure to align key stakeholders on the vision for your app. Think of it as producing a business case in which you clearly outline what needs and use cases you’ll solve for what types of users, and why a mobile app is uniquely positioned to solve that problem. 

Everyone involved in building the app will use this documentation to frame their thinking and help drive out the direction and trade-off decisions, so it should be clear, detailed, and easily digestible.  

As you move through each step in the process, your plan will be a reference point for everyone from designers, developers, and investors. Spending the time upfront to get clarity on a vision will make the process smoother as other parties become involved in the project. 

One other factor you should consider in the ideation phase is who your audience is and the set of capabilities your app might need to support at launch. For example, the needs for a healthcare application will differ from those of an e-commerce application. 

Remember, an app is not a one-and-done thing. It’s ok to prioritize various features an app will support over time and iterate from there. 

Mobile App Step 2: Conduct User + Market Research

Answering questions and addressing possible variables early in the process leads to a stronger solution down the road. Conversely, a rushed or incomplete planning period is more likely to lead to surprises in the midst of your development, potentially leading to delays or cost overruns.

Your research phase should answer some fundamental questions such as what your app will do, how it will be built, and what functionality will be expected from it. 

This is the stage at which your app needs to progress from an idea to a fully formed concept. This includes conducting a detailed analysis of possible competitors and make sure you are bringing something unique to the table that will make your product stand out. 

It also means defining and investigating the target audience for your app, making sure you have a clear understanding of their needs and habits, and what qualities your mobile app will have to deliver to engage your target demographic. Engage prospective users in your target demographic and learn about what their needs and expectations are.

If you don’t have a target audience with a demonstrated appetite for your app idea, it may indicate a need to rethink things until you’re sure there’s a product-market fit. Or maybe it’s an indication that a mobile app isn’t the right solution for your business at this time.

However, if the demand for your idea appears to be there, you’ll still want to take the step of validating your mobile app concept. In a broad sense, this means taking any underlying assumptions that will be critical to the success of your app and rigorously testing them, until you’ve established that your idea is both economically and technologically viable. 

Once you have validated that your concept truly has the potential to make it, only then should you move forward with developing it. 

Mobile App Step 3: Identify A Development Partner

If you’re reading this article, chances are that your organization, like many, doesn’t have the expertise or resources in-house to create its own mobile app. 

This is not unusual, as mobile app development requires specialized experience that not every organization will have on hand. Selecting the right mobile app development partner will make sure your project gets off on the right foot.

Here are some things to think about as you’re evaluating possible partners.

  • What is their track record? Have previous clients left positive reviews? 
  • Do they have extensive experience in your industry?
  • Do you prefer to find a mobile app development partner who is local?
  • What examples of their work do they have on their own site?
  • Do they offer post-launch support and maintenance?

Make a shortlist of the companies that best meet your criteria, and once you’ve had a chance to evaluate them and identify the one that best aligns with your needs, you’re ready to move forward with your mobile app development project.

Mobile App Step 4: Establish Your MVP 

At this stage, you will need to define the MVP (aka minimum viable product) that you’ll need at launch. 

MVP is the first version of your mobile app that you can launch and your ideal target users will get enough value from it. This is not the final version of your app by any means. Rather, it is a robust first-generation mobile app that may not support all the features a user may want to use, but it provides enough inherent value that they will still find your app helpful.  

There’s an excellent chance you have a list of MANY features you want your app to have. Some of those features will be expensive, time-consuming, and potentially not necessary to have at launch. 

When you work on the MVP version of your app, ask yourself: what are the core functionalities that solve a problem my ideal users have? Everything else can go into the post MVP phase of your mobile app. 

Be ruthless. You don’t want to forever delay your launch while obsessing over every possible feature your app could offer.  

Make a clear list of MVP features, and save those that can wait for future iterations.

Mobile App Step 5: Create an Intuitive Design 

The next step in developing your mobile app will likely have the biggest impact on whether your app is a success or not. You may come with the best app idea in the world. But if it’s not designed in a way that users can easily understand what it does and how to use it, then your idea simply doesn’t matter.

Apps live or die based on the quality of their design. Or, more specifically, they die or die based on whether they have a clear focus or not.  

Make sure the experience of your users is at the center of every design choice you make. 

There are a few simple best practices you must absolutely follow regardless of what your app is trying to achieve. 

For example, it’s critical that the app navigation is simple and user-friendly. That includes buttons that are clearly labeled, visual instructions (headlines and text) that users can understand, and a simple navigation path that allows users to go back and forth easily between different sections of the app. 

Both iOS and Android provide specific guidelines, so make sure you check them out during this phase of your project. 

Finally, do not hesitate to invest in a quick user test of your app design. For example, you can share your designs or mockups with potential users on websites like UserBob and get twenty people to check out and provide feedback on your app design for only $100. Even if you think your design is absolutely stunning, amazing, and perfect, it is still worth testing it at this phase and getting the opinion of people who will tell you exactly how they feel about your app. 

Trust us when we tell you that making app design changes at this stage is significantly cheaper, faster, and, ultimately, wiser than waiting until your app has already been developed.  

Mobile App Step 6: Choose How to Build Your App 

Should you build a native, web, or a cross-platform app?

Before we answer this question, we should start with a short tutorial. Here’s a good resource if you want to examine the topic in more depth.

Native apps: A native app is built specifically for one operating system - usually for Android or iOS - and resides entirely on the user’s device. Native apps can be used offline, are usually faster to load than web apps, and allow users to use specific hand gestures. The major downside is that they can require considerable development if you’re starting from the ground up.

Web apps: As the name implies, a web app is an internet-enabled app that users can access directly on their mobile device’s internet browser. This can make development faster and less expensive (though if you’re starting from scratch the difference can be pretty negligible), but it can also make the app slower and less reliable. Twitter is a great example of a company that has built both a web app and a native app to ensure their users’ overall experience is frictionless regardless of whether they access the platform in a mobile browser or natively via the app.  

Cross-Platform apps: As the name suggests, a cross-platform application will be deployable to both iOS and Android devices. They consist of a single codebase that will function just like a native app on either platform. 

Mobile App Step 7: Implement Analytics

Even before your mobile app is being coded, you need to start thinking about how you’re going to track the overall performance of your app once it goes live. This is an incredibly important step because it will impact your ability to actually adjust your mobile app user experience after the app is launched. We cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure that you have implemented a strong analytics framework that can really help you turn data into actionable insights. 

If your budget for your mobile app is limited, the first thing you should look at is Google’s excellent suite of analytics tools that can be applied to any mobile app.

“Google Analytics for Mobile Apps is mainly used to:

  • Measure the end users’ activities with the specific mobile app,
  • Calculate and create reports about the number of users in the app (includes real-time data with real-time screen names and real-time count of the active users),
  • Outline the characteristics of the app (e.g., version, device, screen name, most clicked screen names, etc.),
  • Show out the end users’ every action in the app,
  • Show if there are in-app payments and measure the revenue,
  • Create personalized reports for the apps (with filters)”

However, Google isn’t the only game in town. This analytics article offers a broader picture on different tools you can use to define and track your key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Take the time to do this step correctly.  Without a strong analytics foundation, you won’t know what’s working in your app and what needs improvement.

Mobile App Step 8: Code and Deploy Your App

Once you have gone through the previous seven steps, then your developers are ready to actually code your mobile app and bring it across the finish line. 

This is the point at which all the work you and your mobile app development partner did researching, planning, and testing assumptions should pay dividends. The more work you put in upfront, the smoother the actual development itself is likely to be. 

Once your mobile app is deployed, your mobile app development partner should also be available to provide ongoing support and maintenance, as there are always opportunities to improve and adjust a mobile application as you get more information from users.

Your Path to Building a Successful App 

If you follow these simple steps, you will build an app that should work well right out the gate and will improve over time. You just need to have the discipline and patience to actually follow each of these steps. Doing so will set you up for success. 

When you’re ready to put your app idea into action, contact Table XI. We’re here to make the most of your mobile app development.

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Judith Sol-Dyess talks Table XI, Values, and Creating an Inclusive Company

Judith, a TXI delivery lead, is sitting in her office filled with a lush garden of plants that creep up her wall giving way to a collection of framed lithograph art. She moved across the pond to Catalonia last year with her family to begin a new chapter of her life. Even though Judith embarked upon a new phase, she still has strong ties to Table XI and has managed to find a balance so she can continue working with the company as a consultant.
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Kinetic Learning: Learn to Love Self-Conferencing

A few weeks back, I was clearing out my inbox and browsing the folder where I had bookmarked dozens of articles to read (at some point) when it suddenly dawned on me: my routine had become my enemy. 

Let me explain. 

First off, it will probably come as a surprise to no one that I work exclusively from home right now. This means my day is relatively predictable. I know who I am going to see, what I am going to talk about, and when I am going to do these things. From one perspective, it’s rather fortifying. No surprises (for the most part). On the other hand, though, it’s quite limiting. No surprises. 

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One Year Later: Reflections on Table XI’s DEIB Progress

A year ago, Table XI made a commitment to incorporate a more rigorous DEIB lens to every facet of our culture and business in light of demands for change across the world. In response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many others call for racial justice resounded around the world, and the team at Table XI took time to listen and reflect. A year ago today, we committed to making systemic changes to our organization’s approach to business with racial justice and accountability serving as guiding principles. One of those commitments was to be transparent about the actions we take and our progress along the way.

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Acknowledging Indigenous land and working toward reparations

A critical aspect of being anti-racist in America means to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. As part of a continued anti-racism effort at Table XI, we wrote a land acknowledgment to recognize the Indigenous peoples of what we know today as North America. Specifically, we recognize that members of Table XI reside on the stolen homelands of:

  • The Council of 3 Fires (Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi) - Chicago
  • Duwamish Tribe - Seattle
  • Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Ute Tribes - Denver

Land acknowledgments have become increasingly common in areas of the world that are colonized — namely the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. They primarily serve as a reminder that the land we reside on was taken by force from Indigenous peoples, and that many of those peoples live on today. However, we also recognize that the land acknowledgment falls flat when used as a superficial gesture without any further call to action (this critique of land acknowledgments explains further).

Our intent is to avoid performative allyship and engage in meaningful support. For that reason, it was important that our land acknowledgement include relevant historical context, draw knowledge directly from Indigenous content creators where possible and encourage donations to specific Indigenous organizations local to our areas.

Historical context

Part of acknowledging Indigenous peoples is recognizing their accomplishments as the native stewards of these lands. It is a common myth that North America was an unfettered wilderness that European settlers tamed. In the land acknowledgment, we mention instances where Indigenous peoples paved trails and farmed land (such as with the Potawatomi Tribe in Chicago) and used their knowledge to aid the survival of settler communities (such as with the Duwamish Tribe in Seattle). We also sought to mention the specific broken treaties and deceptive agreements where possible (such as those that forced the Ute Tribe off their lands in Denver).

Indigenous content creators

The land acknowledgment drew knowledge from a variety of different sources, including those written by institutions, historical articles and websites curated by Indigenous communities. We tried to use information from Indigenous websites as often as we could to learn directly from the community and respect how they prefer to present themselves and their history (such as with the Duwamish Tribe).

Donations to local Indigenous organizations

In all three metropolitan areas, there are Indigenous organizations advocating for Native communities, continuing cultural traditions and engaging in mutual aid. Especially during COVID-19, where Indigenous peoples are at higher risk due to centuries of violence and disempowerment by white society, we believe it is critical to show meaningful monetary support. We started by donating to all the organizations listed in our land acknowledgment, and plan to continue supporting and engaging in ongoing relationships with the Indigenous community.

In truth, land acknowledgments are just the first step in supporting Indigenous peoples. As individuals and an organization striving to be anti-racist, we know there is always more to do and to learn. While it is difficult to envision true reparations to Indigenous lives and communities destroyed by colonialism and white supremacy, we’re committed to making an effort toward that end.

Our pursuit of anti-racism comes from both our personal ethics and our professional obligation to build software and systems that work for people. Without a full representation of everyone’s experience, we’ll never be able to design and develop a better future.

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