Why is mobile app development slow and expensive and does it cause a lot of duplication? By involving backend developers more closely (and often earlier) in the process, digital agencies make possible things that the IT landscape for clients often cannot do. Time to put the silent forces in the spotlight, argue Ennio Brands and Lotte Nijland (@Move4Mobile) during the Tweakers Developers Summit on June 23, 2022.
In a digital agency, developers (front-end, back-end and full stack) work in multidisciplinary teams alongside digital designers, strategists, data analysts, technical experts, testers, and content specialists. Together these teams work on a digital solution for their clients; From an e-commerce platform, dating app, or data-driven insurance to a digital healthcare provider.
Says Ennio Brands, Technical Director at Mobile First . Agency Move4Mobile† “They see how the client’s IT landscape works, what is possible and what we need to build in order to ultimately deliver the best application to the user. Essentially working in the background gives the team some freedom and creativity in the rest of the project.”
current scene key
Move4Mobile, affiliated with Dutch digital agencies (DDA), works with many clients, from start-ups to corporations. Ennio: “We develop product visions for the solutions we create, so that they become future-ready high-end solutions; valuable to business and loved by users. To achieve this vision, our backend is critical. We use the backend as key to the existing landscape, and then create something special for ourselves.”
“We are always looking for nice place, So What the user needs and where the value lies to the customer and what is technically feasible”The project often begins with the need or desire of the client. “Often this is a mobile app that has to meet or even exceed the expectations of end users,” says Lotte Negland, Creative Strategist at Move4Mobile. “The bar is set high right away. But if you look at the landscape behind it, it’s often not the right fit to make it happen. We’re looking at how we can still technically perceive that. We’re always looking for nice place: The ultimate match in which we develop a solution that the user finds great, provides business value and is technically future proof. We desperately need our background specialists in this process.”
By building a mobile portal as an “intermediate layer” between the front-end and back-end of the application on the one hand, and the back-end of the client on the other, developers do not depend on the nature of this client to build a modern mobile application. Ennio: “We often build this with PHP, but sometimes deviate from it with Java or Node.js. We give our developers room to experiment, but it can also happen that the client only works with a certain tool or language. We did something in Go sometimes. It’s a bit more exotic, but that space is there.”
“With our backend team, we’ve gotten very good at building mobile portals,” says Ennio. “This is also important, because it means that you can move quickly into the future. This allows us to create features that are not possible in the customer landscape, but are possible in our mobile portal.” This does not mean that the same situation is created for every customer. “It is also possible that we build a mobile platform where the portal is the API. What we make in any case has to be flexible and therefore future-proof. The pro has a lot of responsibility in this. Something that many customers want, for example, is to pay Notifications in their mobile app. This is something you’ve already enabled in the background. Plus, you can be aware in the portal that you get more control over the data, so you get a picture of users’ behavior. This is also very valuable.”
The difference is getting bigger
At Lotte and Ennio Digital Agency, multidisciplinary teams work on projects. “These teams are getting more and more sophisticated,” Lott says. “In the past, this team consisted of a number of front-end and back-end developers and possibly a UX designer. Now there is often a data analyst and strategist involved. Depending on the project, other specialists also join, for example when security is very important. Design has been divided Now to many sub-experiences, and this evolution is also reflected in the backend department. The teams are getting bigger and bigger, and because you use each other’s expertise, you can achieve more speed, learn from each other and deliver quality.”
Since no mobile app is the same, and as a developer you often work on different projects at the same time, Lotte believes that working for a digital agency is more fun than anywhere else. “Sometimes you work on a fintech project, other times it’s digital media or e-commerce. That really challenges you to get out of your comfort zone. For example, at an insurance company, it quickly becomes all about privacy and security, but you can also get involved In a project for a streaming service, where you have to consider speed and performance when sending large amounts of data.” As a background specialist, you help build solutions for clients in sprints, but you are often involved in the strategic process. “You can never do everything at once and a lot of consulting is needed. Where will your app be in a couple of years and what do you need to technically modify now to enable future features?”
Pragmatism is important
As a background specialist in a digital agency, it is important to think in a practical way. “Projects always have a head and a tail; you know you have to work with certain frameworks to get to a version,” says Ennio. “An example is an application for internal use by the client and for external users. The first group of users can use 1 tick on Log in, but the other group does not. Then there is the challenge of looking at how to combine these user flows. It also requires that you look a little beyond just the development process. You really have to think about the direction of the solution at the initial stage.”
The “classic” background – by the way unjustifiably – evokes the image of the somewhat calmer type who prefers
“There is some magic in the work of backend developers, and a lot depends on it”
The background does its job. According to Lotte, backsides should be in the spotlight a bit more. “They have a role to point out and see that it might be more apt to approach things a little differently. There is some magic in their work, and a lot depends on it.”
During the Tweakers Developers Summit on June 23, Lotte and Ennio will highlight the role of backend development on behalf of Dutch digital agencies, based on various practical examples. Enyo: “I think everyone benefits from this story, not just the supporters. We work in a certain way because it gives us some freedom. With the mobile portal, you don’t have to adjust the scene, which is also interesting for other roles, including product owners and operations managers. There is often the notion that mobile app development is expensive, slow, and iterative because a lot has to be done locally. But by increasing the role of the backers, you are accelerating time to market and increasing the potential of what is possible through mobile app development” .
Have you become interested in the world of Dutch digital agency and want to know if there are any vacancies that match your profile? Check it out here: dutchdigitalagencies.com/werkenbij
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