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Almost every worker and every customer has a smartphone, and mobile phone apps are a proven way to empower workers and reach customers. Making that happen depends on making sure the mobile phone apps are functionally useful, stable and easy to use, and available where their users expect to find them. Android Play Store publication and iPhone certification are key issues here. To get your own mobile phone apps out in stores where they need to be, build and maintain an inventory of store requirements for your target mobile devices, pick a development strategy that lets you link development for each platform to each of the stores you’ve selected, and create an App ALM model that validates mobile phone apps against both functional and store requirements.
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Mobile phone app publishing
Whether your company depends on mobile apps for worker productivity or customer sales and support, you probably need to publish your mobile phone apps somewhere to get them into the hands of the target users. The worst possible approach to this is to write an app and then go out and try to get it placed in a store—even your own. Mobile app development has to include certification and publication requirements as co-equal to the business requirements that are driving development. Publishing happens in two steps—submission of the app, and certification of app behavior.
The most basic requirements for app submission relate to the credentialing or signing of the mobile phone apps, which will normally involve getting a digital fingerprint from the app store with which you can sign your submissions. Be especially careful to note the way that app updates are handled, and if you are updating an app follow the store’s update process rules stringently. If you don’t, you may end up posting a new app rather than a new version, and your users won’t get an automatic update.
Most mobile app developers know that submission and credentialing should be managed by a single team or person. Having divided responsibility here not only risks not submitting the app with the proper credentials, it risks submitting an app before it’s been internally validated against certification requirements.
Testing, signing and certifying mobile apps
Most stores will require that mobile phone apps be tested and certified before being posted, to weed out mobile phone apps that are poorly written, pose a risk to the user, or include material or information that store policies won’t allow. Certification of applications tends to fall into four areas. First is security; does the app present any risks of personal data or other confidential data, have serious security holes or expose the user’s network or system to hacking? Second is technical compliance; does the app use the resources of the target platform properly, in accordance with vendor recommendations, to insure stable operation? Third is functional compliance; does the app do what it’s stated to do, so users will get what they expect (and often pay for), and finally there is content compliance; is any media included with or distributed through the app appropriate and free of copyright risks?
Every app store has its own specific testing and requirements in each of these broad areas. You’ll need to meet these for each place you want to publish your app, and if you’re establishing an app store of your own you should use the requirements of other stores as a resource in framing your own. That means starting your app design process by collecting the store/repository requirements for all the stores/sites on which you intend to make your app available. Your goal will then be to frame application design to insure all the broad requirement areas are considered.
Experience shows that the need to support multi-platform development for your mobile phone apps will create significant complications in certification, unless you use multi-platform development tools to minimize or eliminate platform-specific development practices. If you plan on multi-platform development, then your development tools and mobile-back-end-as-a-service (MBaaS) platforms should enforce the certification and publication requirements you’ve identified.
Validating app store requirements
To validate certification requirements for your first, and also subsequent mobile phone apps and app releases, set up an app lifecycle management process that includes testing and validation of all four areas of certification, and run all your development and releases through this process before you submit anything for certification review. You’ll need to update your lifecycle management and testing process regularly to reflect changes in certification policies or your own failures in certification. Every problem you have is an opportunity to refine both your development processes and your application lifecycle management and testing, to be sure that it doesn’t happen again.
Pre-testing for the four certification requirements can preserve your reputation with your target app stores, and that can be critical. While experience here varies with the app store involved, app authors report that those who have recurring issues with one or more of the four main areas of certification are likely to be reviewed more carefully than those who have never had a certification problem.
Technical compliance is key
Security and technical compliance is normally the most rigorously tested and most difficult to certify. Best practices can change over time for each platform you expect to run your mobile phone apps on, and unless your organization has professional mobile developers you can expect to fall behind on changes. This is where having a multi-platform app development tool and MBaaS element in your app will pay off. The developers of these tools have too much to lose if they create problems with certification for their users, and so they’ll work hard to stay on top.
Some cross-platform mobile development tools and MBaaS middleware products will offer template or sample applications that have been pre-certified on each of the platforms they support. This can save you a lot of trouble if the templates/samples are kept up to date. To find out if your vendors are keeping up with certification changes, see how long it takes for them to support a new version of a mobile operating system or a new device.
App stores are powerful differentiators and revenue generators for mobile vendors, and they can be expected to take even more care to protect their app reputations in the future. Only by making certification a requirement from the very first, and extending certification qualification goals all the way through the app ALM process, can you make sure your own place in a store is secure.
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