Outware Mobile is a Melbourne-based iOS and Android app developer, which was recognised by Deloitte late last year as Australia’s fastest-growing technology company over the past three years, and the 11th fastest growing in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Here director and co-founder – and Macworld Australia contributor – Danny Gorog gives an insight into the world of app development.
Can you tell us a bit about Outware Mobile?
Outware Mobile was founded in 2009 and currently has 45 staff consisting of developers, QA testers, designers, business analysts and project managers.
Outware’s vision since inception is to be the premiere app developer in Australia. Developing apps is our core business and we are proud to work with leading Australian enterprises such as Telstra, Sensis, Seek and nib to deliver high-quality and high-ranking apps to the market.
Building great mobile apps is challenging and takes experienced software engineers and designers. Outware’s developers are all qualified software professionals, who understand all components of a system, and appreciate that the app is often only the tip of the iceberg.
Delivering high quality and secure code is important, but ensuring a great user experience is also critical. Our award-winning in-house user interface team has the experience to make even the most complex app easy-to-use.
Outware consistently delivers great apps thanks to our internal processes and use of best-of-breed software tools and systems.
Outware recognises that great apps don’t build themselves. The interaction between Outware and our clients
is critical. We strive to ensure that communication with clients is regular and that clear expectations are set and delivered on.
What is the process of planning and developing an app? Does it begin with a main concept? Or a features list? Or something else?
Planning starts with a scoping phase – this is like getting an architect to draw the plans to your house, so you can give the builder something to work from. The same process goes for apps.
The user-interface designers and business analysts create a wireframe document that allows us to estimate the development effort and provide our clients with a development quote.
Once we begin developing, we provide regular software releases so that clients can regularly view the progress of the development. During the development process, our QA team ensures the app is working correctly.
Then, when the app is completed it gets submitted to the App Store.
The detailed 10-step process is:
1 Sign-off and contract negotiation.
Outware and the client agree to the project, and agree on the terms of engagement.
2 Kick-off meeting/project workshop. The project starts with a kick-off meeting where all relevant stakeholders gather to discuss high-level requirements, roles and responsibilities, and to introduce the team.
3 Mock-up wireframes. These are created to demonstrate the features of the app. This stage is performed in close collaboration with the client through an iterative process.
All business rules and decision points will be clearly documented in the wireframes. Workshops are held with relevant stakeholders to review the wireframes and collaborate on refinements and modifications.
4 Wireframe sign-off. The client provides wireframe sign-off prior to the start of development.
5 Technical discovery and documentation. Outware works with the client and its partners to define the technical and infrastructure requirements for the app.
6 Visual design. Once the wireframes are complete, we consult with the client to develop the visual design of the app.
7 Define iterations and development plan. Once the wireframes are finalised Outware presents the client with a development plan that details the functionality that will be delivered in each release.
8 Begin development. All releases from here on will be functionally complete, including having passed unit tests and acceptance criteria.
9 Testing. Releases are tested by Outware and the client during the development phase.
10 Final release. Outware provides the final app release to the client for submission to the app store.
Which Outware Mobile apps have you enjoyed creating the most, and why?
High-profile apps like the AFL and Seek ones are always fun to be involved with. The team gets a buzz when they see random users on the train using apps they have built. We recently won an AIMIA award for the Heritage Victoria app we designed and developed for the Heritage Council of Victoria. It always gives us satisfaction to have our work recognised by our peers.
What apps are you currently working on?
We are currently working on some very exciting apps across the media, banking and sports areas, but our development work stays confidential until the app hits the market.
We are also continuing to update apps that we have worked on over the past couple of years, including some great updates to the AFL and NRL apps.
What are the main differences when developing apps for the iOS and Android platforms?
Android development is done in Java and iOS is developed in Objective C.
Each platform also uses its own development toolchain and environment. To develop for iOS requires Xcode (available free from the Mac App Store). To develop for Android, the most common IDE is called Eclipse with the Android plugin.
In both cases you can develop and run apps in a simulator on the computer or on a device plugged in to your computer.
The user interface guidelines are different on each platform and it is important to understand these properly before starting development.
Lastly, submitting apps to the relevant app store is also different, but plenty of documentation exists to help beginners get going.
Which platform is better – iOS or Android?
It depends on the requirements of the app. Android is an easier platform to develop for, because you don’t have to submit your app for approval.
Overall, though, iOS apps are still of a higher quality and new features tend to get released on iOS first. This is especially true for games, where the market is much stronger.
What popular features/trends do you see emerging in the app market?
The demand for Android apps is growing strongly (it has increased 400 percent since July) and we see it being equal to our iOS business in the next 12 to 18 months.
Other platforms may also emerge. For example, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10 have recently been released. While demand doesn’t exist for these platforms at the moment it may in the future, so
it’s important to keep an eye on market trends.
The other major trend we anticipate is a move to more hybrid apps that integrate web content in new and innovative ways. We already do this on many of our apps and we expect the trend to continue.
As more apps hit the market, how do you make sure your own work stays fresh and innovative?
It’s important for our clients to continually take advantage of the latest the platform provides. So, when iOS 7 and Android OS 5 are released this year, we will sit down and discuss what the benefits are and how we can take advantage of them.
What are the most common mistakes developers make when building applications?
Not having a solid marketing plan and understanding how they will recoup their investment.
For readers interested in app development, what advice would you give in terms of how to get started?
Do your research. Ensure that the app you want to build doesn’t already exist. App development is expensive and doesn’t finish when the app is released. You need to be able to invest further to keep developing your product.