Aditya Desai
Aditya Desai
February 9, 2015

Mobile App Dev Platforms: Composable Apps as Tablestakes vs. Custom Apps for Engagement

As user demands continue to grow, best-in-class mobile solutions will become even more integral to business success. Mobile savvy CMO’s are becoming aware of this, and are demanding more from their mobile application development solutions. Everyone wants a bespoke experience without the cost of bespoke development.

As we’ve watched budgets change hands from the CIO to the CMO in the last year, we have also seen an increased need for context, personalization, omnichannel engagement, and seamless but intentional brand interactions. Composable services, which have been at the heart of mobile application development platforms, have to become much more sophisticated before they will be useful for more than tablestakes entries to mobile strategies.

We expect 2015 will be an inflection point for learning how to catapult composed apps beyond basic for a designed experience. As Matt Asay described in September, simple technology does not mean it will be easy to develop (or you make it easy and are hamstrung by a lack of richness). We will see some fantastic learning opportunities where brands shortcut their way to failure before they realize that, while accelerators accelerate, they can’t replace skill, mastery, known patterns, business and UX savvy.

Accelerated creation of basic mobile interfaces has now become tablestakes for mobile appdev vendors. Beyond that, here are some platform characteristics that we expect will become critical to app development tooling for vendors looking to create differentiated, highly engaging UIs that are optimized for various device form factors.

Composability – The variation of application interfaces that brands need to draw in users will prevent a one-size-fits-all approach. This in turn will give way to user screens that have been assembled from composable services based widget building blocks – that effectively translate native phone capabilities into effective context-aware answers to questions users are asking in their mobile moments.

Ease of theming – Brands are extremely sensitive about maintaining a cohesive look and feel of their digital presence on a backdrop of severe phone platform proliferation and device fragmentation. The ability to apply a theme to the basic composable widgets will be key to help accelerate creating interfaces that represent the brand uniformly for all users.

Standards based application development – It’s easy for a mobile application platform vendor to create a proprietary component layer to deliver value added capabilities into the mobile ecosystem. The issue with such a layer is that it often results in vendor lock in for customers that choose to use that vendor solution. HTML5 and CSS3 have come a long way, and the plethora of Javascript libraries available now enable the creation of superior interaction patterns without the unnecessary entanglement to a single vendor.


Device optimization – Budget pressures often require customers to pick their “favorite” mobile device form factors while hoping for the best experience of others. Responsive web design realized using an industry standard theming library like “Foundation for apps” offers an effective way to deliver experiences that cater to each device in a manner optimal to that form factor. Responsive design done incorrectly however, will result in slow performance, which will drive away site visitors. Mobile appdev vendors that get this balance just right, will help create user experiences that will yield rich ROI for customers.


Flexibility to create engaging experiences – Last, but perhaps the most important characteristic of appdev platforms, is the unconstrained ability to create highly engaging and visually appealing interfaces, that deliver context-aware value-added capabilities to mobile users in their mobile moments. The use of technology or mechanisms that constrain these experiences to the desktop site (e.g. screen scraping) are a big drawback that will work against the benefits of that platform.


As you embark on your mobile journey or continue the course, look out for these characteristics in the vendor you choose. Who you partner with can influence the perception and user satisfaction ratings of your digital presence in a big way. Contact us and let us know how we can help your mobile strategy.

Michael Facemire’s Forrester blog Mobile Development: The 2015 Crystal Ball sparked the discussion that led to this post.

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