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How to exploit the exploding mobile world…

"It's no secret that the mobile world has exploded over the past few years," said FileMaker Systems Engineer David Head, speaking at the Ingram Micro Showcase 2013.

Mobile technology currently ranks number two on the list of CIO priorities, with Head explaining how FileMaker can help companies exploit the growing trend.

"Gartner's predictions for 2013 tell us what CIOs want is information anywhere and anyhow - and the mobile is a centric part of that," Head said, dividing his talk into three sections.

Rise of mobility and what mobility means for the world

Alluding to recent reports of PC shipments declining for the fifth consecutive quarter, Head spoke at length about the future, and what devices have been brought in to replace the traditional Personal Computer.

"It's obvious that mobile and smart devices are replacing the PC sales," Head explained.

"Forecasts within the industry predict that tablet shipments will overtake PC shipments within a few years - but how do we take advantage of that?"

Asking the audience 'What is mobility?', Head questioned a common misconception among mobile device users.

"Many people think that because I've got a Macbook or a smartphone that they are mobile, sitting in a coffee shop working away," he said.

"But mobility is a lot more than portability and taking your office down to the coffee shop and these are the things you need to think about.

"Portability needs to be interactive and contextual - making sure the device knows who you are and where you are there and when you are there.

"Also it obviously need to be connected to really be mobile, and the experience needs to be individual and personalised for that particular person."

Citing figures from New Zealand Police, which now uses 6,500 iPhones and 3,900 iPads, Head honed in on the advantages of mobile, claiming them to be:

• Access data from all places• Flexible work location• Timely data entry• Capture metadata

Building a mobile solution

But while addressing the need and the importance of mobility is one thing, Head addressed what CIOs are actually going to do within this space, and how they can be a success.

"We need to consider what we are actually going to do here," he said. "This involves standard questions such as Who, What, Where, Which and How?"

According to FileMaker's parent company Apple, an app should be defined by: a concise, concrete declaration of an app's main purpose and its intended audience.

"An app should be developed with a clear declaration of purpose and audience," Head explained.

"When you build the mobile solution - what is it going to do and for whom? Be very clear about why you are doing this and if you ever lose track during development, remind yourself of the app definition statement."

Various methods to plan out the solution

Flow-mapping - When designing the navigation structure of an app, Head asked where will they start and how will they get around? "Basically, flow-mapping is a sequence of what the users see and then what they do, then what they see and what they do…"

Storyboarding - Entering the stage where thoughts should turn to what the app will look like, Head suggests drawing out what the screens will look like. "This is a trial and error period to design what the solution will look like," he said.

Prototyping - "This is when we actually put it in the hands of the users," Head said. "The whole point of prototyping is to get user feedback, but you never offer them instructions on how to use the app - that is the whole point.

"Tell them what to do but don't talk them through it, if they can't work it out from there then your app isn't very good, the steps need to be obvious."

Usability testing - During the final stages of the solution the job is to make sure things work the way things are supposed to work. "This is the time to measure the apps efficiency, accuracy, understanding and emotional response," Head explained.

"There's an app for that"

After coining and trademarking the phrase, 'There's an app for that', Apple's App Store currently has over 800,000 apps, but Head acknowledges there is not an app for everything - which is where FileMaker comes into the equation.

Whether it be through FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Server or FileMaker Go, Head insists "the limit is your imagination in terms of what you can do with FileMaker."

For more information on building FileMaker mobile solutions click here