Majority of developers have never built mobile apps, survey reveals

Survey of 3,000 IT professionals finds those that do build mobile apps only do about one a year; UX and process constraints are issues.

In recent years, one can be forgiven for thinking that mobile apps are the only pathway to the future, and that everyone in IT has been making the shift away from traditional server or PC applications to mobile apps -- many of which allegedly can be built and deployed at the snap of a finger. However, the reality is quite different.

A new survey of 3,000 IT professionals finds most have never built a mobile app, and among those that do, they are hampered by delays due to limited resources, lack of process, and fickle market demands. User experience (UX) also surfaces as an important, yet misunderstood, factor and one of the top barriers to success.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the gist of a new survey conducted by Telerik, a Progress company, which found that a majority of IT professionals, 57%, say they have never have been involved in building a mobile app, suggesting that mobile app development remains highly specialized.

Among the 47% of developers who do build mobile apps, the average is just one functional mobile app per year. Some haven't built any at all lately.

A lack of process may be getting in the way. Mobile developers in the survey expressed frustration over constraints and changing technology and development practices (16%). In addition, they struggle with a range of inhibitors, such as a lack of time (19%) to a lack of tools (15%) to budgetary constraints.

Many developers look at UX as the most important element to consider when developing mobile apps of any type--whether they are external-facing or used for business-critical functions. Forty-four percent of those surveyed indicated UX as the most important part of the apps they build, followed by ease of maintenance (24%), performance (15%) and security (11%).

In terms of platform, hybrid is the most preferred (33%), followed by native (25%) and web (19%). Seventy-six percent reported developing for Android, 63% for iOS and 40% for Windows Phone. Of those who develop for iOS, 83% also develop for Android. Although multi-platform development is a requirement for the majority of B2B and B2E mobile apps, it is one of the greatest challenges--36% of respondents listed it as the most challenging part of the app building process, tied with the need to provide a clean UI.

Looking forward, respondents reported developing for a mix of platforms other than mobile, including web (87%), desktop (62%), IoT (22%), wearables (6%) and others.

Only 21% of those surveyed have definitive plans to build apps for wearables in 2015. Of the 21%, 45% will be developing apps for the Apple Watch.

Survey respondents were a mix of developers (49%), CEOs/owners (14%), architects (14%), IT professionals (8%), CTOs (6%) and others. Forty-seven percent of respondents work in software companies or ISVs, 33% in non-software companies (enterprise/SMBs) and 20% in development system integrator shops.