Cool graphics? Check. Sleek design? Check. Positive user experience? Check.
Seamless integration to necessary backend systems? Huh?
Developing the mobile app itself is the easy part, and for most developers, the fun part. Making it look cool and sexy can score you big points with the sales and marketing department. But if the app isn’t properly integrated with the necessary back office systems to deliver the right information in a timely manner to users, you’re likely to hear from the CIO or the CEO, instead. And that conversation won’t go well for you.
Putting aside the cool factor, the backend is where the heavy lifting for your app occurs. Think about a travel app where you can make flight, hotel, resort and car reservations. Each of those transactions likely requires access to a different backend system. So the app needs to understand:
- What is being asked.
- Where to find the information.
- How to interact with the right system.
- How to return the relevant information.
And all of this must occur nearly within a blink of an eye, or the user is gone. App retention rates keep dropping – regardless of user experience (UX). So if dropoff is that precipitous across the board, imagine what it is like for those who have a bad experience.
UX is the most visible of the challenges companies face when developing mobile apps that require backend integration, but UX certainly isn’t the most critical. Security is.
Backend integration denotes some sort of transaction is taking place, which often requires the sending and receiving of sensitive information by both the user and the company. Users are filling out forms and providing information that may be sensitive, such as Social Security numbers (SSN), credit card info and medical data.
Credit card data, for example, must be in compliance with PCI Security Standards Council to avoid financial penalties. The HIPAA standards in healthcare have been around for quite a while. The penalties for medical data breaches can be severe – on top of bad publicity and the potential loss of patients and referrals.
Consider those apps where you can get an insurance quote. Creditworthiness is one criteria that companies use to set insurance rates, so you’ll have to submit your SSN. And if you pay online, there will be a credit card transaction. The insurance company not only has to safeguard that information in transit (both ways), it has to connect with the right backend system to complete the transaction. As protective as you are (or should be) of your sensitive information, multiply your information by hundreds of thousands to millions of users, and you begin to understand how important security is.
Although backend integration might just be the most important part of the mobile app, but it’s an area that often gets overlooked. The techie who builds the cool interface most likely lacks the necessary skillset to connect the app to the backend.
Comprehensive app development platforms like IBM MobileFirst feature built-in APIs that make backend integration much easier. Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) helps link applications to cloud storage and backend APIs.
Both of these tools can help you develop a mobile app that’s not only sexy on the outside, but functional on the inside.