Tools & Technologies for Building Mobile Products

We shape our tools and afterwords our tools shape us!

– Marshall McLuhan

Mobile Technologies

I have been building Mobile Products since Mar 6 2008 – the day the iOS SDK was first launched. As a Product Guy, I work with teams of engineers, QA, designers & marketers. Here are some of the tools and cloud platforms that we have used in the past to build world class mobile products.

A/B Testing: There’s a notorious Silicon Valley story about Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo, ex-googler) that once tested 41 shades of blue on the google.com homepage just to test which shade of blue consumers prefer! A/B Testing refers to the practice of testing different variations of a product design and measuring results to see which variant performs best. Companies like Google, Yahoo & Facebook are well known for rigorous A/B Testing to determine what works best.

  • Artisan: Artisan has a great A/B Testing platform that lets you A/B test without doing any coding for those different variants and without having to force the end users to download the newer versions of the app. Once the Artisan SDK is integrated into your app, you can use the Artisan dashboard to create test segments and deploy different A/B tests (e.g. different strings, button colors/sizes/locations, different images, etc.) without having the touch the app code. Getting A/B tests done without having engineers code them into the product saves precious engineering cycles. Similar Products: Optimizely

Analytics:

  • Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a well-known analytics platform used by thousands of websites to track user behavior. In the recent years, Google extended that platform to offer similar capabilities to the mobile apps. While the Google Analytics for mobile is a great platform with lots of bells and whistles, be ready for a learning curve. Sometimes to get mundane data and insights, it takes non-trivial effort.
  • Flurry: Flurry was one of the first analytics platform on the mobile scene until it was acquired by Yahoo in the recent past. Flurry offers a pretty good analytics platform that is easy to use. What it lacks in bells in whistles it makes up by its ease of use – at least when compared to Google Analytics. Flurry also has an interesting concept of personas that lets you see what kinds of people are using your apps.

App Distribution: 

  • HockeyApp: When you have a team of product managers, QA, developers, marketing, designers, etc. they all need to test & use the product under development. The HockeyApp platform for iOS & Android (recently acquired by Microsoft) makes it easy for teams to get the access the latest builds of the product to test and use. Saves engineers the headache of manually installing builds on everybody’s devices.

Crash Reporting:

  • Crashlytics: When developing products, crashes are a reality. Crashlytics has a pretty good platform that captures the crash analytics data so that developers can analyze and fix crashes. My engineers setup integration between Crashlytics and Slack such that they get an automated message posted on their Slack channel whenever there was a Level 3 (and higher) crash. Sweet!

Customer Support:

  • HelpShift: If you have a high touch mobile product and want to offer a solid customer support experience from within the app, checkout HelpShift. HelpShift allows mobile users to access the FAQs from within the app and get in touch with the customer support teams from within the app.

Deep Linking:

  • Branch.io: A neat platform to enable deep linking within your app.

Reporting: For a small monthly fee, reporting platforms automatically fetch your Google Play & AppStore app download stats and show that data in pretty graphs that you can slice and dice – very useful for Product Managers, Marketers and execs. They even generate daily/weekly/monthly reports that are automatically emailed to teams.

  • AppFigures: AppFigures has a good reporting platform that pretty much does all what you need.
  • AppAnnie & Distimo: Both these companies recently went through a merger. In addition to reporting, they also offer high level aggregated reports & insights organized by leaderboards, platforms, geographies, categories etc. Very useful to understand broad trends in the mobile ecosystem.

Marketing Automation:

  • AppBoy: Allows you to run push notification, email & in-app messaging campaigns to your mobile app users to drive app engagement. Once their SDK is wired into your app, you also get other capabilities such as analytics, install attribution, etc.

Performance Monitoring:

  • Pulse.io: To monitor and track hard to solve performance problems such as spinners, loading delays, network lags, etc. you will find this tool to be quite useful. Google recently acquired this company. Similar Products: Newrelic

Prototyping & UX:

  • Invision: Once you have the UX mockups, use Invision for prototyping the app’s flow – get a real feel for the app using a dynamic prototype that you can touch & feel instead of evaluating with static wireframes.

Miscellaneous:

  • PLJukeBox: When using the Music app on iOS devices, if your turned the device to landscape mode, you can see the coverflow (i.e. the neat album art row that you can flip through). If you want to offer a similar experience in your app without writing all that custom code, use the PLJukeBox SDK to make it happen.

I’d be curious to know the tools and platforms that other companies use for mobile product development! Post your comments below…

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