Four essential skills for today’s app developers

Gone are the days when app developers could simply publish their app on an app store and expect a decent amount of downloads. In an increasingly crowded market, devs need to put in more work to ensure that their app gets recognition from fickle users. While there is no magic recipe for guaranteed app success, here are 4 skills that today’s app developer should have for a leg up over competition:

1) Cross-Platform Capabilities

As the mobile market grows, so does the fragmentation of mobile users across mobile operating systems. Developing an app for only one OS will cut off a huge user base, so modern devs need to have a cross-platform plan when they begin coding. Luckily, there are many cross-platform development engines popping up across the internet which are designed to assist mobile app developers with porting their apps across the major operating systems.

In addition to multiple mobile operating systems, users are starting to demand that their mobile phone experience translate onto other mediums like wearable tech and desktop computers. While both Google and Apple are trying to bridge the gap between smartphones and other platforms, cross-platform capabilities of this kind are still in their infancy stages. Enterprising developers have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this new movement in mobile tech. Honing these skills or coming up with a viable cross-platform solution for your app will put you way ahead of most other mobile developers stuck on mobile.

2) UI/UX

Functional, bug-free code is only one half of the equation for a successful app. All of the most popular apps have unique and well-designed UI/UX, but a majority of them have access to professional, skilled UI/UX designers to help them along.

Indie devs usually don’t have this luxury. While hiring a freelance designer is always a viable option, it is a big cost for developers with small budgets. Another option for non-designer developers is taking a short class in the basics of effective UI/UX. If there still isn’t room in your budget for classes, consider going through Google’s and Apple’s lists of the best-designed apps. Study the layouts and common design themes, and, while you shouldn’t copy the UI/UX of these apps directly, feel free to take inspiration. Pay special attention to the placement of buttons, menus, and the number of views.

3) Localization

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As the mobile market expands across the globe, developers need to start thinking about how they can get their apps in front of foreign users. If you are still on the fence about globalizing your app, consider this: the mobile gaming market in China is expected to grow 93% in 2014 alone, pulling in an estimated $2.9 billion and placing it on track to overtake the North American market. Devs who ignore emerging markets like China could be missing out on hundreds or thousands of dollars of potential revenue.

In order to successfully localize, developers should focus on two things: translating and tailoring. Translating is the simple part; simply hire (or find) a translation service that will translate all of the text (and audio!) in your app to the local language of the country you are targeting.

Tailoring is a bit harder. Different countries have culture-specific services that are used by their mobile users. When localizing, tailor your app to fit these geographical preferences. For example, if you are targeting Chinese users, you should remove any tie-ins with Facebook or Google with your app and integrate plugins for popular Chinese sites like Weibo or Baidu. If you are developing an app for a country in the European Union, keep in mind that users in the EU are much more wary about their data privacy. You may need to cut down on the amount of information that your app captures, or be prepared to be much more transparent when disclosing what information you collect and what you use it for.

4) Patience & Perseverance

An app that becomes an overnight success is an exception to the rule. Most apps toil along for a few months with low download numbers before gaining popularity. If your app is struggling, don’t start panicking or get discouraged. This is completely normal and should be expected. Keep working on perfecting your app after you release it on the market, and continue to experiment with developing new apps. Practice makes perfect, and having more apps on the market will only increase the chance that one of those apps will resonate with users. If you truly love developing apps, don’t give up!

Do you have any other "essential skills" for today's developers? Let us know in the comments.

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