The way apps are being developed, tested and launched has changed. The new generation of mobile DevOps is switching from native to non-native, automating processes, integrating resources and tools, and streamlining workflows from start to finish.
With the digital transformation and hybrid world well established, apps have moved from differentiators to must-have tools for every sector and industry. In June 2022, approximately 90 thousand mobile apps were released through the Google Play Store alone, according to Statista, and the rate keeps increasing.
More than 2,500 mobile practitioners and global business leaders, including experts from Meta, WeTransfer, Salesforce, eBay, Reddit, Microsoft, Nubank and others, met at the first Mobile DevOps Summit on November 10.
At the summit hosted by Bitrise — a mobile DevOps and continuous integration and delivery platform — leaders highlighted the latest trends and new technology that will power the apps of tomorrow.
A shift in mobile DevOps
During the opening keynote, CEO and co-founder of Bitrise Barnabas Birmacher spoke about the tools and practices available for mobile developers designed to overcome modern complex challenges. Birmacher addressed the new technologies and the future roadmap for 2023 that will support the entire app development process for the more than 6,000 members of Bitrise.
To meet the global demands of end-users hungry for innovative apps and companies opening new digital channels, developers are turning to end-to-end platforms that automate core workflows, shorten release cycles and provide insight on code, pre-release, testing and deployment.
The automation and integration of tools are cutting time and costs while fueling creativity as mobile app teams go into experimental modes. Security, agility, accuracy and accessibility are now top priorities for the industry.
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Grouped under the Bitrise event, the community shared technical insight on focused sessions while keeping an eye on the big picture, best practices, app performance tracking, actionable insights and the app’s impact on society. Reducing time by automation took center stage at the event.
The mobile DevOps community is growing. The summit offered more than 100 speakers, over 80 workshops, customer case studies and live Q&A sessions with mobile leaders. One thing is clear: The new generation of mobile DevOps is in full acceleration mode, collaborating and working together, inspired and finding new ways to improve apps.
Challenges: From ranking to agility and accessibility
With a mobile CI/CD platform, developers can integrate hundreds of tools and steps, easily connect processes, debug, run automated tests and quality assurance, and fast-track the entire workflow. Maintenance, updates and continental development are also being streamlined in these platforms, but the sector is not free of challenges.
With a wide range of ever-evolving tools that work on different programming languages like HTML5, XPath and XQuery, Java, Swift, ActionScript, LiveCode, C, C++, Ruby and others, maintaining integration and staying up-to-date are new challenges for developers. Platforms like Bitrise allow developers to automate manual tasks and implement systems where code, configurations, scripts and documents across different platforms are easily trackable.
Experts added that frequently updated apps rank higher on app stores. Speed of mobile app deployment and faster and more iterative releases are critical. Regular app releases, or rolling deployment, help speed up the process while automating the deployment pipeline. This reduces the time it takes to roll out new iterations and enables teams to react faster to user feedback.
Marco Porcho and Letticia Nicoli, respectively senior software engineer and lead software engineer at Nubank, spoke about the importance of installing an experimentation culture in large-scale projects. Nubank’s developers focus on in-house tailored solutions and market analysis driving experimentations to meet the expectations of 65 million global users.
The company is also migrating from its native technologies to the non-native Flutter open-source framework to gain speed and agility. The migration process began in 2019. Nubank’s developers assure that the experience has been improved. Other benefits of migrating to non-native tech include better testing capabilities and stable and documented APIs.
Porcho noted that when their team of over 2,000 engineers is working on the code base, with a new app version being released every week, it’s essential to have the capacity to “turn off a single problematic feature” without disrupting the users’ experience.
Developers are also facing pressure to roll out apps more rapidly, although the way managers lead teams is sometimes proving to be counterproductive. Jan-Erik Lorfeo, agile coach and new work consultant at Meta-System, spoke about best technical practices. Lorfeo advised against using KPIs to track a team’s progress. Lorfeo added that training developers is a good approach to boosting performance.
In another session, Amy Tom, tech strategist and creator at Bitrise, and Aleksandra Kulbaka, full stack developer at Theodo U.K., spoke about accessibility, diversity and inclusion in app development. With 15% of the global population having some form of disability, the speakers discussed the urgency of incorporating good practices from the start of every new app project. Tom highlighted the need to consider diversity and inclusion as accessibility components.
Incorporating accessibility and inclusiveness concepts from the start makes the entire process easier for developers.
“I would like people to understand that accessibility happens at all stages of the app development process, especially in the beginning when you’re planning,” Tom said.
Kulbaka presented an accessibility calculator to guide and support mobile app developers. Kulbaka added that while her calculator can score projects, the tool should only be used as a guideline. Whether or not an app is accessible, according to Kulbaka, is decided by the users. Kulbaka explained how app testing processes, which usually fail to include users with disabilities, can be developed to widen the spectrum and get a real insight into accessibility.
Laws like The European Accessibility Act require some everyday products and services to be accessible for persons with disabilities. The law includes products and services such as computers and operating systems, smartphones, phone services, banking services, e-commerce, websites, mobile services and others directly related to mobile development.
Kulbaka also addressed inclusive design, where products enable people from different backgrounds, races, cultures and ages to ensure that the “real world” is represented.
Mobile DevOps: Practices and values
With the continual improvement of technologies and automation, the mobile development community is seizing the time, resources and costs they gain to level up the sector, taking different roads towards creativity, refining quality and adding value. The practices of mobile DevOps and its values are even more critical than the technical tools they are using.
Mobile DevOps continuous communication and planning goals include sustainability, accessibility, customer satisfaction, shorter development lifecycles, increased quality, transparency and security. DevOps are working with management, website developers and quality teams to accelerate workflows and meet these goals.
Documenting the development process is also key. It helps teams learn and accelerate while keeping track of the stages and details of the entire process. Visibility also supports the latest phases of updates, such as patching and monitoring.
Going beyond building the app has also taken a significant role. Developers are also focusing on meeting the standards of various app stores. Developers are trying to understand each new release’s quality and risk.
“Besides implementing an iterative process for testing, adding monitoring and real-time performance, tracking tools are all crucial in mobile app development,” Bitrise says. “These enable teams to find the root cause of failures faster and to save on hardware costs as well.”
Adding third-party SDK, performing crash reports and continuously monitoring the app performance and the feedback in app stores all help developers to constantly improve the app’s quality.
Mobile DevOps practices and CI/CD are today the new norm. The core values of the new generation of developers building the apps of the future are value, speed, quality and efficiency.