With thousands of Apps now available to end-users, how do you know which ones to trust and what are some of the major challenges that App producers face on an ongoing basis? The team at Timeguard tell us more.
Who are most boring in the pub? The people talking about the price of their house or the ones that whip out their phone and tell you how they’re just turning the heating up at home or checking the webcam. It’s a close-run thing, isn’t it? Admit it, who doesn’t love it when the set-up fails and their friend is left prodding the touch screen manically.
When this happens, especially in a relatively new installation, it’s probably a router (or hub) problem on their home network – something that you as an installer can’t be held accountable for – or a bug in the App. If it’s the App that has failed, then the customer perceives the whole installation to be a dud – and for that they will lay the blame squarely at your door.
So why do Apps let us down at times?
Perhaps the fact that they’re generally free to download from the App Stores gives us the wrong perception of how much time and money goes into development and how they need to be maintained. Ongoing App maintenance is important: suppliers can’t just buy in some developer time, upload to the online stores and forget about them: there will be bugs to find and fix and there will have to be updates to keep up with new releases of handset operating system software. A rule of thumb is that maintenance is probably going to cost around 20% of what is probably already a six-figure development cost, even for a fairly simple App. So, before you buy, be sure you can trust the manufacturer to be making that long-term investment.
Of course, the number of bugs can be minimised by really rigorous testing before launch, but no one believes that there will ever be perfect piece of software, so constant testing and checking is needed. De-bugging is time-consuming, even using automated software tools: just finding the right lines of code within the hundreds of thousands of lines within even a basic an App is a challenge!
Another approach to avoiding bugs is to keep the App fairly simple – a clean interface delivering the functionality that users really need, without unnecessary bells and whistles. After all, it’s said that 45% of App features aren’t used anyway. But don’t confuse simplicity and focus with just rushing to market with and unfinished light version of the App to try and steal a march on the competition, and then relying on adding patches later – that’s just going to create more software bugs!
“With our WiFi Apps we didn’t rush, despite the sales team champing at the bit, and we deliberately avoided commissioning unnecessary features,” says Timeguard’s Technical Manager, Peter Staniforth. “After all, we’re selling reliable time control, not fancy software!
“We’ve successfully put WiFi control into a single gang unit that also incorporates used spur protection. So, wherever you already have a spur, you have the option to add WiFi control with no extra wiring. All the App screen animations or features in the world won’t improve on that as a superb sales proposition for installers!”
Even if a project or product manager has minimised the need for frequent functional updates by focussing on the essentials, there is an ongoing need to update Apps, not least because device operating systems change. Also, no matter how near perfect an App is, some of the inevitable customer feedback can’t be ignored. Every change is a chance for new bugs to creep in and publishing an App is an ongoing process that simply can’t be done on the cheap.
Our advice is to choose WiFi controlled devices from trusted brand names that won’t let your customers down. Be sure to introduce them to Apps that can be downloaded from the mainstream App Stores, Google Play or the App Store, which will be subject to initial checks and also every time a change is made.
Looking ahead, tech industry forecasters tell us that more developers will choose to build web applications rather than Apps that you download onto your phones, making it easier to test, debug and add new features. In our industry, though, the same principles will apply: a) Do you trust the manufacturer? b) Is it easy to use? and c) Does the device it controls do the right job for the customer?
Dowload the Timeguard product catalogue here.