Apps Outside The App Store

When you think of mobile applications, you probably think of the App Store. Apple’s App Store is perhaps the most well-known mobile application store on the planet. But are you, like countless others, under the impression that you can’t get apps outside the App Store? While some apps must be created through the App Store (such as OpenGL-based games, or apps that aren’t exposed to the browser and must access your phones hardware), most can now be created with HTML5. The advancements in mobile browser technology over the past few years have made it very easy to create smooth interfaces that are easy to use, nice to look at, and very useful for people on the go. The main reason that Apps from the App Store are so much more effective than the average web app is that Apps distributed through Apple experience a much more rigorous development process. Anyone, even amateur techs, can create a web page with little time and difficulty. The process of creating an iOS App, however, is much more difficult. Apple charges you $99, you must download and use XCode, learn Objective-C language, create and upload certificates, and amongst other steps, self-publish your work on the App Store. Ultimately, it’s a process of commitment and quality. Someone who takes the time to go through all of those steps will be more committed to the quality of their app, resulting in a ‘better’ application. This, then, leads many app developers to choose traditional app development over web development. But this doesn’t need to be the case! Although time, dedication, and a great idea are the basis of any successful mobile app, the same quality of user experience and overall tactile gain of an app aren’t dictated by where that app comes from. So if you have an app idea in mind, or are looking for apps to download, consider thinking outside the app store.

Tips for creating a mobile application outside traditional app development:

  • Apache speeds up load times
  • FastClick effectively fixes the bug in mobile Safari that causes a 300ms delay when you click a link
  • Use the -webkit-overflow-scrolling: touch CSS on iOS and Android 4.x to create scrolling instead of trying to use custom scrolling.
  • Only properties that are GPU accelerated should be animated
  • Make your app look like an app, not a website. Use buttons instead of underlined links, and tailor the experience for the user on the go
  • Test your app rigorously. Click on everything, scroll everywhere, tap things multiple times. Use it while you’re walking, talking, and switch to it from multiple other applications. The more you test, the more you’ll discover. And don’t ignore these bugs: fix them. It might be tempting to ignore the smaller glitches and think they won’t compromise the overall integrity of your app, or that the problem will almost never be encountered. But even the smallest bug can lead to lowered user experience, so take note and get to the bottom of these issues