Things move fast in the age of technology. It can be easy to forget that a couple of decades ago, even the most sophisticated desktop computers wouldn’t have been able to feature even one application on one handheld device, let alone the millions of applications that exist today. So when it comes to mobile application development, it should be no surprise that its history is a relatively short one.

Mobile application development is the process of writing application software for smart mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Ever since smart mobile devices hit the mainstream in the early 21st century, mobile applications have been an integral part of operating systems. While the earliest incarnations were generally preinstalled and unchangeable, smartphones like the Apple iPhone soon embraced a multitouch interface and, along with it, more opportunity for external application development.

Since then, mobile application development has been a dynamic and constantly evolving field.

When the first smartphones appeared in the market, custom mobile app development was expensive. Businesses needed to find the developer familiar with a number of native languages such as Objective C for iOS and then Java for Android platforms to create a mobile app with an engaging user experience (UX) and fully functioning back end.

Today, however, the barriers to learn mobile application development are much lower. There are apps to create apps — in other words, platforms that serve as development tools for even the most novice developers. As a result, the application development platform space is not only widening, but emerging as the foremost place to find the very tools required to join the party. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 75% of application purchases supporting digital business will be “build,” and not “buy.”

Using these modern mobile application development tools, businesses can take advantage of easier iteration, faster development times, and a much lower overall cost to dramatically cut the turnaround of custom mobile application development and see a return on investment much sooner.

The Lightning platform is one of the best examples of a mobile application development tool. Businesses can use the Lightning platform for one-stop shopping — whether they are looking for complex, intelligent, and connected customer application development, or simple, process-oriented apps to mobilize any business process for employees. Here is how the platform can help in each of these areas:

Mobile UX

While many different types of mobile apps exist, when it comes to user experience, these can be divided quite easily into three categories:

  1. Simple productivity apps that can be built with out-of-the-box design components (for employees)

  2. Custom-experience apps that can extend any component using custom code (for employees and customers)

  3. Highly custom interfaces built using any language, and which are able to scale up and down and handle streams of contextual data in real time (for consumers)

Salesforce provides a complete platform for companies to develop each of these types of apps, without requiring the developer skill set that is usually needed for each one. With drag-and-drop functions and easy customization — whether a company develops its own components or customizes the out-of-the-box standard components — the Lightning UI framework, combined with Heroku’s support for open development, provides a comprehensive range of solutions for front-end development.

Back end

Of course, UX is nothing without solid work on the back end to guarantee functionality. For an app to serve the needs of businesses in the age of IoT, AI, and connected experiences, it needs to connect to relevant data in real time, and then intelligently process and use it to securely provide valuable business context to users. That is why the built-in mobile back-end services of the Lightning platform include secure, trusted capabilities for user management, extensibility to integrate with any data, mobile device management (MDM) support, microservices, and APIs to build scalable interfaces with all the apps in your ecosystem. Also included are most standard mobile back-end services, such as push notifications, geolocation, social media capabilities, and more.

With this level of mobile back-end support, companies can handle a great volume of user interactions, without having to worry about their applications folding under pressure.

To tackle the challenge of managing employee productivity, businesses can access the Salesforce1 Mobile App container. This allows businesses to create and manage productivity apps without writing code. This includes such apps as:

  • Approvals

  • Case Resolution

  • Order Tracking

  • Streamlining Sales Management Inventory

  • Management

  • Simple Site Surveys

  • Time and Expense Tracking Internal Event Management

  • Contract Management

  • Concierge Apps

Additional features from the Lightning platform include AppExchange Lightning Components, Community Cloud, Salesforce Connect, and Salesforce Shield. The Salesforce1 Mobile App provides instant, fully integrated deployment of all the employee productivity apps needed to run a business. It is particularly useful when it comes to approval requests, HR management, case resolution, and customer service/customer relationship management.

Using Heroku, companies can get their developers to write either hybrid or native apps that meet their customers’ specific requirements. The Lightning platform’s Heroku service has a scalable “elastic” compute capability that can easily adjust to meet any demand. Just a few of the customer/consumer apps that can be used in conjunction with Heroku are:

  • Specialized Field Service

  • B2C Loyalty Apps

  • Ecommerce

  • Property Management

  • IoT Field Service

  • Social Media/Community

  • Sharing Economy Apps

  • B2C Wellness/Fitness

  • Recommendation Apps

Also included is the Salesforce1 Mobile App.

What are the benefits of Heroku? For a start, the flexibility of Heroku is key. In addition to having a rich set of add-ons, Heroku provides the developer with a choice of component framework, including Angular, Polymer, React, Xamarin, as well as server-side development languages (Ruby, Java, Scala, Node.js, and others). There is also support for all of the major MDM frameworks.

Basically, Heroku provides back-end compute scale and elasticity with none of the provisioning or complex configurations to manage. Perhaps most importantly, there is a great degree of control over branding and user experience. Consequently, it is most commonly used for things such as loyalty programs and custom intranet between a business and its consumers.

 

In a recent Gartner survey, 45% of respondents with knowledge of their organization’s software strategy said one of the current top five IT project priorities is “application modernization of installed on-premises core enterprise applications.” Furthermore, it is estimated that worldwide spending on enterprise application software will grow to more than $201 billion in 2019. For any business that hopes to remain ahead of the trend, custom mobile application development should be a priority right now.

With the Lightning platform, however, it is as simple as deciding which app to build, suggesting what architecture (front- and back-end) to use, and experimenting with the outcomes. Mobile app development is most effective by starting small and delivering incremental value, then continuing to deliver new features and apps over time. Deploying early and often is key — and the Lightning platform can help with that. With this service, businesses can spend less time on mobile application development, and more time on using those applications to make sure customers are happy.

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