May 1, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

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by Adam Vicinus, Managing Partner, The Atom Group

Clients often come to us with this request: “I want an App.” Although, at first glance, that request might seem simple, it can actually be a complex process. And, it might seem like a web and mobile application development firm, such as The Atom Group, might benefit from charging forward and building what the client wants, but we find it more valuable to determine exactly what it is our clients need. We pride ourselves in going beyond client satisfaction to a new service paradigm we call client elation.

Client Elation

In our commitment to providing extraordinary client service, we begin each mobile request with an in-depth briefing session with the clients and our technical and creative team, which may include a business lead, software architect, front- and back-end developers, and a producer. These meetings get at the strategic intent of the mobile engagement by exploring the business goals behind the request.  Does the client want to attract new customers?  Engage audiences in a new way?  What do they hope to accomplish with this new App?  We also discuss the desired user experience, the product’s benefits, attributes, and features as well as the technical specifications for the build.

Briefing Sessions

During these briefings, which are true working sessions, we have fun and tap into our creativity and innovation.  We use whiteboards, note takers, custom sticky notes, voice recorders, digital still and video cameras, and any other tool that might help us capture the artifacts. We plan for these sessions by asking the client for materials that might be helpful to better understand the business objectives for the App.  We also ask for materials that will help us collectively think through three key questions: 1. Do you really need an App?; 2. Do you need a native App that will run on devices of your choosing?; or, 3. Do you need a web App that will run within the browsers on the devices of your choosing?

Three Key Questions

The first question, Do you really need an App, helps us gauge the drivers for building an App. Is this based on the trend of building Apps? Is this something you need to lead your competitors? Do you need the App to keep up with your competitors? Is the App going to help your audiences – your core user group – solve a problem? Will it provide an integrated offering to an existing application already on the web?  How will it be used? The way it will be used is often the determining factor in answering questions two and three.

You Need an App

During the briefing session, let’s say that we learn that you do want and, importantly, need an App. Now, will it be native or web? Web applications use a combination of HTML/5, cascading style sheets (CSS/3), and JavaScript (JS) code to implement interactive applications that live on a web server, might include a web service, are transmitted over the network, and run inside the Safari web browser. Native applications, on the other hand, are installed directly on the device and can run without the presence of a network connection. So, one of the primary drivers for building native or web Apps is the amount of connectivity you need or desire for your users.

Native Apps

Depending on the features your App requires, there are some simple benefits that cause developers to know you need to go native. If your users are going to need to use the Built-in Cameras and Photo Library, then you need a native app. You also need a native App if you want to push notifications using Apple’s Push Notification service. If you want to use the onboard Gyro and Accelerometer to allow your app to use both the accelerometer and gyro-based data for games or other apps that use motion as input – or as a way to enhance the overall user experience – then you need a native app. The same is true if you want to use the iOS compass feature to obtain full access to the hardware compass, when available, to employ along with location and map services, also available as core services of iOS. And there are many other core features, such as multitasking and in-app messaging, that make native iOS App development a compelling choice.

Web Apps

If you have an idea for an application that requires users to be online — connected via a cellular data network or Wi-Fi — then the advances in HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript are well suited to your needs. A web App should be light on data or have a web service that provides the data in useful packets. Web Apps are perfect for helping to find an ATM or a store location, or even a local library. In addition, a web App will run across browsers so it can be immediately offered on an iOS device or an Android device.  All users need is the link or a way to save the web App icon to the Home Screen and they are ready to use your App. A more sophisticated example of a web App that will run well on iOS is Google Calendar, which allows you to use the mobile version to keep track of appointments, edit your calendar, and share events with colleagues or friends.

So, You Want an App?

Hopefully, this article helps you begin to think about the development process that we take seriously at The Atom Group.  We help our clients understand that their simple request, “I want an App,” can actually be a complex undertaking.  Like any other venture, there should be careful thought and strategy behind it, to ensure that this endeavor ultimately helps the organization meet their specific business goals.


We’re constantly monitoring the marketplace for new ideas, new directions, new technologies and insights. If you would like to share your thoughts, or have a dialogue, please get in contact: avicinus@theatomgroup.com.
The Atom Group is a web and mobile application development firm serving creative agencies, marketing and communication firms, and businesses. The company is headquartered in Portsmouth, NH and has a satellite office in Chicago. Founded in 2007, by entrepreneurs, Adam Vicinus and Tom Herer, Atom seeks to deliver value to clients that result in client elation by offering development solutions based on experience, expertise, and excellence.

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Tharon Cottrell
The Atom Group


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Adrienne Walkowiak -President
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