Application development is a hot field. The explosion in mobile devices has turned a monolithic process dominated by a few big players into something everyone seems to be doing.

And you could do it too, right?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Even if you’re a crackerjack website developer, your skills – and tolerance for frustration – won’t necessarily translate into app development. There are a few things that make this process distinctive, and not a good fit for everyone.

  • Complexity. Even a simple app has multiple components, and each one has to interact with the other smoothly and successfully. That makes the development process taxing. You need to be able to keep a lot of information running in your brain simultaneously, and be able to see how changes in a small part of your app might have a big affect on other areas. It’s kind of like playing a game of chess nonstop for weeks on end. You can never really relax while it’s going on, lest you forget something critical.
  • Coding time. Think of a seemingly simple application – Slickplan, for example. Guess how many screens you’d have to code for that site. Now multiply that by 10. If you’re interested in app development, you need to be ready for a massive amount of work, even for very streamlined sites. The number of PSDs I have to build for a single app always surprises me, even though I should know better by now.
  • Awareness. You also can’t get caught up in your own development process and block out the rest of the world. Chances are, the success of your app will depend heavily on how well it reflects current usability standards and the way that other, even dissimilar apps are being designed. So you can’t ever stick your head in the sand. You have to know how your users expect their screen to behave. And what they expect today is likely very different from what they expected six months ago.
  • A never-ending story. You may be used to designing websites and purging them from your brain the day they go live. It doesn’t work that way with apps. Instead, expect a never-ending process of debugging and incremental improvement. And don’t be surprised when your users come back at you with an insane number of ideas and suggestions – everything from basic stuff you can’t believe you missed, to sophisticated ideas that knock your socks off.

You can get frustrated with that, or you can sit back and realize how amazing it is that your users care enough to click that little “feedback” button and tell you what they think. If you think you can do the latter – and do it with a smile on your face – you just might be ready for the world of application development.

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