Mobile Application Development Standards

by Scott Gowell

3G and 4G Networks are amazing, if you can leverage them to their utmost. But you cannot assume this is the case for all of your visitors and potential customers.

Mobile applications and websites must find a happy medium between highly performant (able to handle a lot of hits), and high throughput (able to handle big hits). If your site or app takes too long to load, it doesn't matter how many hits you get, because people won't wait for it to finish loading. And without valuable or enticing content, it doesn't matter how fast it loads, because people don't want what you are delivering.

Some tips on building more efficient mobile apps come from the AT&T Developer Program:

  1. Handle multiple, simultaneous TCP connections: By making requests to the same server using a single set of persistant connections, you can lower the response time of the site.
  2. Reduce inefficient connections with periodic transfers: Create quicker load time without sacrificing content by limiting the amount of traffic to just in time downloading.
  3. Handle duplicate content and caching: Make sure if you have already sent data to the device that it does not need to be download again.
  4. Utilize pre-fetching: When possible, get content the user could reach following their current navigation path. This requires a lot of forethought as you don't want to overdo it and slow down the app by downloading too much content before necessary. It is a delicate balance.
  5. Manage peripherals: Save battery lifeby using peripherals such as accelerometer, GPS, bluetooth, or the camera to only when the app needs to use them.
  6. Upgrade from HTTP 1.0: Make sure your requests are using HTTP 1.1 for the addition of persistant TCP connections, as well as improvements in security, caching, and connection management.

The days of assuming everyone is hitting your website with a cable modem are over. Where the mobile Internet speeds are faster than that of dialup, only a limited number of packets can quickly reach the device. Mobile app developers must make each request count. If it doesn't add value immediately, then you have wasted their time and bandwidth and in the fast moving smartphone market, you really only get one chance.

Now is the opportunity for developers to reshape their online footprint. It's an old problem: big companies used to deal with Flash video splash pages for website mirrored over complex information architecture. When developing a mobile solution, "go small, and go well, or just go home." The mobile sites that provide the most utility either cordon off a multitude of features into "sub" sites, or they get rid of all but their primary mobile features.

If you spent all of your budget building the infrastructure and do not limit scope, then you have limited your effective reach.