Demystifying App development

By Andrew Boland 19th March 2024
Mobile graphic with person stood next to it
App development means many things to many people.

The most common view of what an app looks like is what you download onto your mobile phone, which might be banking or a game. For these specific apps, to the consumer, you only see the front end user version that has a design interface made easy for the consumer to navigate.

These are just two examples of what are the most commonly used or thought of what an app might be. But even those types of apps will have gone through an extensive layered process of development and testing for multiples options of navigation and outcomes but also integrated security levels to ensure cybersecurity and GDPR compliance. Numerous apps are developed with the hope of them being placed in the Apple environment, but Apple actually has strict rules on security and what they will and won't accept onto their own platform to deliver these apps to the general public.

Apps can be as complex or as simple as a developer needs to make them, usually to client specification in most scenarios. But apps aren’t just for mobile phones, this is just one element of where they sit for consumer use. A great example is app integration and how this transfers data from one place to another securely in the cloud either on your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, and sometimes all three.

Take cloud accounting software, we will use Xero in this example (other products are available!). When accounting software went from desktop to digital cloud accounting Xero was born and developed (as was QuickBooks, Freeagent, Sage, and many others). This enabled a business owner to manage their own finances on a monthly basis and file their tax and VAT returns at the same time. This is achieved by a chain of apps, integrations and plug-ins as demonstrated below:

Demystifying App development diagram

Starting at Xero as your point of entry, you plug-in your bank feed, payment options, invoicing through multiple apps provided by the suppliers such as Stripe, Paypal, Hubdoc, Dext, any highstreet bank who have all had their own apps designed to enable integration to software such as Xero. You can achieve this manually though CSV import, automatically where Xero allows or through something like Zapier which acts as a plug-in integrator for a vast number of apps that all feed into Xero.

Xero will even tell you when you’ve been paid, and will automatically match invoices to payments for reconciliation through their coding and algorithms. Overall to meet consumer needs, security levels and regulatory requirements this is actually an incredibly sophisticated and multi-layered app.

Behind all of this was someone with an idea to provide a solution through digital innovation to meet the need of the government wishing to push accountancy and digital business for faster and more accurate payments of tax, but also created a system for the business to achieve better credit and cashflow control. The development “behind the scenes” would have been complex with vigorous testing to make sure something as complex as this behind the product was user friendly and compliant. This is just one example of app development and what it can achieve.

Ultimately where there is a need to a business there is potentially an app either off the shelf or a developer can design custom to a client's specification to meet that need regardless of how complex that need might be. A developer will always work on the basis of all the hard work of a process going digital being automated through the coding and development and the interface front end being user friendly.

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