Written by Technical Architecure on Wednesday 26 November 2014
There was much excitement in my house this week. Yes it was finally happening, the latest update to Android was downloading to my phone. I knew it was coming, I was ready for the new Google Material Design, and I’d had a sneak preview of new features using a developer edition of the OS. As the spinning globe in the android’s stomach stopped turning and the new spiralling splash screen stopped whirring my phone sprung to life. It seemed faster, I liked the new flat design and support for multiple users, I started to try out some apps, no problem with Duolingo (I’m learning Italian), yep Candy Crush Saga seems fine, good old Auntie Beeb had IPlayer and IPlayer radio working to perfection – clearly all was well with Android Lollipop. All that is until I tried to launch my banking app.
It would appear that although the rest of the world was well aware of the upcoming update, and Google had made available pre-release versions and developer guidelines well in advance of the general release, the news had passed my current account provider by. On launching the app nothing happens, no polite message saying “sorry this app is not compatible with your operating system”, no crash report, just a splash screen with a little spinning wheel sitting there annoying me! Unfortunately my current account provider was not alone, my ISA provider also had a similar problem – although this time at least there was a crash report allowing me to send a message to the company.
After a few minutes of frustration I decided to check for updates. There were none available, but what I did notice was a stream of feedback comments from unhappy users. “Doesn’t support lollipop!”, “Won’t start up – worked great before, I’m tempted to move banks”. So I added my comments to the end, changed my previous rating from 4 stars to 1 and left some helpful advice to my bank on keeping up with technology trends.
Clearly my bank (and probably many others) had underestimated the complexity of providing a mobile app. You cannot treat mobile development in the same way that companies have been treating their standard web offering. There is a much more rapid rate of change in mobile than in the desktop world and the biggest change of all is an app is actually a piece of software sitting out there on a user’s device rather than on your corporate systems. In a corporate environment you decide when to update the systems and even in a web environment it’s quite simple to keep up with the rate of change. With mobile the users get operating systems updates pushed to them by providers so you have to be ahead of the curve and keep up to date with changes.
Development teams need to be well aware of the product roadmaps for all mobile operating systems the apps run on. They need to get hold of the new versions and start updating their apps well in advance of the public roll out. A project to deliver mobile apps should be thought of as one that starts with the idea, moves through development, test and deployment and continues as an on-going process of continuous improvement.
So for now I’m staying with my bank. Let’s hope all their customers are as forgiving and understanding as I am.