You have conceived of a solution—a necessary service, an exceptional product, a game—and you know that the world is going to find it as compelling as you do. You know that it is designed to specifically fit the hole for your target market. Your next step is to solve what is fast becoming the happy problem of all growth-oriented companies: how to scale mobile app solutions in a way that really works.
To answer this, the first thing to understand is that if you are looking to scale application software at some point, it is in your best interests to design with scalability in mind from the outset.
You may have come across tools on the market that promise you’ll be able to design your own app with no programming experience at all. What they neglect to tell you is that, while you may be able to create some sort of end product, it will probably not be architected well and may end up costing you more money in the long run.
But what exactly is scalability, and why it is such an important foundational element of architecture?
In a broad sense, scalability is the capacity of a system to grow and change as the needs that define it do. Scalability can relate to a range of applications—processes, concepts, software, hardware, or organizations.
When talking specifically about how to scale mobile app solutions, we can speak about scalability in two senses:
A growing customer base and your app’s ability to handle volume
Hardware infrastructure, and the malleability of your code to withstand future innovation
Regardless of how innovative your concept is, unless you can address how your app will be able to adapt and grow as it hits the market, you will only be able to take it so far. You may lose sales if your app crashes, or you’re not able to service tens of thousands of customers hitting your website at the same time.
The easy answer is to address scalability right from the get-go, and that often means abiding by your grandmother’s adage, “A stitch in time saves nine.”
Through a closer look at the two branches of app scalability—market growth and the adaptability of the design of your technology—we’re going to take you through why it is simply not worth opting for quick or seemingly inexpensive fixes if you want to scale a mobile app.
The question of scale is bigger than how to get users for your app.
A common misconception that plagues our industry is that the question of how to scale mobile app solutions is answered simply through good marketing strategy. All you have to do is get your app into the right hands, the story goes, and you will have hit fertile ground.
But if you do not have the tools, infrastructure, and know-how to cultivate that fertile ground, you risk a quickly busted boom.
Particularly if you are new to infrastructure scaling, it is imperative that you understand these two key features of scalability before you go ahead with the design of your own server architecture.
1. Coping with a growing customer base
If your customer base grows, you have to be sure you are able to rise to the challenge. That means that your app has to be able to handle a surge of connections from all sides—both front-end and back-end. From the front-end, increased user interaction can place undue strain if infrastructure scaling was not taken into consideration. Can your app handle this? Do you need more CPU? RAM? Hard disk space? Can you dynamically add servers to your infrastructure to meet peak demand and then remove them when no longer needed? From the back-end, can your system cope with a need to fix glitches and add new features while still serving customers? Unplanned downtime is the enemy of a well-conceived business plan.
Which brings us to the next point:
2. Growth and your server architecture
If scalability is at the heart of your thinking, adaptability is a necessary accompaniment. What served you well in the initial design of your app will not necessarily be the best option as you interact more with your target market and gain a better understanding of their needs. To ensure resilience in your market, you are going to have to be able to pivot on a code dime. Sound easy? Well, unless you have designed your app with scalability in mind, it might not be:
Ever heard of legacy code? A sort of equivalent to the Ghost of Christmas Past (but for programmers), legacy code is source code that might have been written 6 months ago that now needs to be administered by a new set of hands. If you want to create code that scales, you have to ensure that whomever has to maintain it in the future is able to clearly understand it. In conjunction, it should be easy to modify functionality without a complete overhaul of the pre-existing code. It should be an easy process to move from one rung on your growth ladder to the next.
The reality is, the issue of how to scale mobile app innovations is at the heart of sustainable growth. The difference between a success story and a could-have-been is not creativity and talent, but an ability to see into the future of what you have created and design it for the long term.
This doesn’t take any sort of entrepreneurial clairvoyance—it merely takes the wisdom of a software development company to do it right the first time.
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