Our Mobile Team Answers Your Burning Questions
Dan Murrell and Chris Ruddell answer the most popular questions about mobile apps.
Last month, the BigCommerce Developer Community Team hosted their first Hackathon for our platform's external users. This two-week event, known as BigHackathon: Summer '22, included a variety of Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions on topics that could help participants create their best projects.
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Dan Murrell, Mobile Team Engineering Manager, and Chris Ruddell, Lead Mobile Software Engineer, sat down with the Developer Community Team's Katie Hoesley to answer the most popular questions about mobile apps.
Before we dive into this chat, let's meet Dan and Chris.
How important is my mobile app versus my desktop app?
Chris Ruddell: Some people think about mobile apps as almost a replacement for desktop apps, and we view them, rather, as complementary. You hear terms thrown around like “second screen,” mainly with TV watching, but that’s also really true with store management on an eCommerce platform. So, the full feature-set of being able to manage your store is on the control panel on the desktop experience.
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We know we can’t do that on the mobile app. We have limited space that we’re working with . . . but what we can do is provide a really superior experience on a mobile device for things you would do on-the-go. If you’re taking a trip somewhere and you need to go in and change the status of an order, or you’re at a conference and someone wants to make a purchase from your business, you can just open up your mobile app to complete that order.
So, it’s things like that where the app shines because it can complement the experience of the desktop.
What makes a good mobile app?
Dan Murrell: Knowing what the platform’s limitations are will help you design a good mobile app. You should always start with the user experience, very early on if not first. So, like Chris said, we complement a very complex [BigCommerce] product that can do everything if you sit down at a desk or are on a laptop.
But, if you’re on the go and have a limited amount of time or space that you get on a mobile app, understanding those constraints and doing your design and your building keeping those constraints in mind is what makes a really good mobile app.
A good user experience means a good mobile app.
What’s the major difference between desktop experience and mobile experience that developers should keep in mind when building apps?
Chris Ruddell: The limit of space is a major difference . . . We have to really pay attention to the primary functions and features that a user is going to need or want. We have to make those decisions ahead of time and really hone in on them given the limitation of space, but also there are other limitations like how you interact with the application. On a desktop, you have a full keyboard, a mouse, but on the phone you’re using your finger for everything, so the amount of text you can type is limited.
But, you can also do things like dragging and dropping. You have access to device hardware like different sensors and things that you wouldn’t necessarily have on a desktop. That can provide a richer experience—one example of that is being able to look up an item by its barcode. On the mobile app, we have access to the device’s camera and can scan a barcode and pull that item up. That’s a lot harder on a desktop!
Dan Murrell: I would say it’s a whole lot easier to take a picture of a product on your phone than to pick up your laptop and turn it around to use that webcam. We’ve got all sorts of advantages that we can play with like that on mobile!
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