It was only a few years ago when a developer friend of mine stood over my desk and yelled out “why do people keep using this word app”. My friend was simply perplexed by the idea that people where just realizing that “apps” exist. After all we had been writing software applications and managing content via a client/server relationship since we could remember. We had grown up in a world where our parents had set us up on terminals and given us books of code to copy over with the promise that in the end we would have a game to play. By the time we where in middle school it was clear to us that an “app” was just a piece of software. We did not even call it an “app" then. I think we just called it software or a program.
So when apple products like the iPhone became so popular and they opened development to third parties, all of a sudden the whole world was walking around talking about apps. My pal was literally confused as to why clients would come in and ask for “this new thing called and app”. What new thing? You mean the same thing we had been doing for 10 years but for a different OS?
It was at this point I instinctively tried to rationalize out what an “app” was so I could help define what the client was really asking for. I told him “I think they simply want software and that apple pretty much branded the word “app” to be the universal word for lightweight software that could make using our devices easier to end users. Nobody would want to say that long sentence out loud so they just say app”. I don’t think he got it and we just went on with the day.
Fast forwarded years and of course this same pal that was so perplexed is using multiple devices and downloading “apps” like a maniac. It’s become “normal” now and he even uses the word “app”.
I remembered this little convo while looking over the requirements for current “app” project I am reviewing. It made me realize how far we have come and how fast. Looking down at my desk I realized what where creating was much bigger then what the word “app” started out as. I think “app” started out as meaning lightweight software that allowed the end users to access the features of their devices in a user-friendly way. A way for non-technical people to use technical hardware and software. Really it was a brilliant idea. But by no means a new idea and not something apple invented. “Apps” have always been made with the above-mentioned intent. This was just and instance of doing it on these new smaller computers/devices. However once the consumer market caught on to using these “apps" they brought it into their office with them. So slowly the consumers are walking into their corporate jobs with iPhones and showing everyone how wonderful they are. Then it was just a matter of time before “management” realized that in order to keep their job they probably get their business on the app train. So they did. Now what these clients ask for as an “app” could mean much more than a lightweight software. It could be complex management systems that include tons of data relationships, storage pools, load balancing, real-time communications, event triggering etc. These clients are asking for full-blown system development yet they still ask us how the “app” is coming along like they are ordering it up from the menu.
So we take away from this that it’s important when clients ask for product that they are aware of what they are asking for. Sometimes we have to push to get this into words. At Splice we are going to ask a lot of questions to our end -users and clients about what they are doing and why they want this “app”. This is to try and push out of them their bigger thoughts and ideas. We want them to make bigger “apps”, but sometimes we have to push the end-user’s imagination to make the ideas bigger. Bigger ideas and bigger “apps”.