A working life of an app developer

This Guardian article that tells the story of Justin James, an apps developer for smartphones and handheld computers, provides useful information for understanding the development process of smartphone applications.

For example, it depicts the job of a head developer:

[My job] often involves taking large chunks of data and making it work for the user. It’s about coming up with different solutions to the same problems. You’re building on stuff all the time, taking what has worked with something else and applying it to a new app.

The development process would start from understanding a client’s requirements, trying out various different solutions, getting on developing the one chosen by the client, delivering the job on time and under budget.

Most often, a corporate client will approach Grapple with what they want from an app, Grapple will take that idea, cost it out, produce wireframes (walkthroughs of how the app will work) and a design aesthetic (if needed) and build the app for as many different types of mobile platform as the client needs. Grapple has completed fistfuls of popular, recognisable app including BT’s Phone Book and the XBox Kingmaker – an innovative geo-location-based social gaming experience.

James’s job is to take a brief from the client, create the app and deliver it on time and on budget. It is easier said than done: “It can be straightforward or it can be difficult. With the Decanter wine app, we had a huge database of wines and regions that the user had to be able to access. We had to find a way of displaying that information quickly and we decided to force the app to access the internet to do it. Even then, that’s a large chunk of data for a mobile phone to process so we had to find ways to slow the user down and stop them getting angry if it took too long to find what they wanted.”

The article also provides some up-to-date industry information. For example, in terms of earning, “apps can cost a corporate client around £30,000” (a developer / day normally costs £700-800, including operational costs, for an employer). Also, in terms of scheduling tasks, it’s useful to know that

Some apps can be built in days, and others can take a fortnight or up to a month. It depends on the level of complexity; Facebook, Twitter, Google Maps and even email integration will take longer. Grapple has in-house testers to ensure the finished product ticks all the boxes and, most importantly, is exactly what the client wanted.

This is an article I’d recommend the CVG students to read. Lots of real-life project management examples.

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