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Four Reasons Your Mobile App Needs a Web Back End

Building a modern mobile application can be an intimidating prospect. From establishing trademarks to choosing the right technology approach to planning your marketing campaign, there’s a lot to keep in mind.

One thing that’s easy to overlook is the web back end, but it’s essential to powering many of the experiences that customers expect from a top-tier application.

1. Hosting Marketing and Legal Material

Like any other business endeavor, your mobile app is more likely to succeed if you back it up with good marketing. Your app’s icon, descriptions, and screenshots in each of the mobile app stores are a great start, but no top-tier app is complete without a solid marketing website. Hosting your own marketing site gives you the flexibility to share your message with the world in a way that you control.

In addition, many apps require publicly-accessible legal documents for submission to the app stores. Apps submitted to the Google Play store, for example, must submit the URL of a publicly visible privacy policy in order to request access to personal information like a user’s location.

2. Syncing Multiple Devices

Most of us have more than one device that we use on a daily basis. Increasingly, customers expect the apps that they use to present a unified experience across all of their devices. In order for your app to do so, you’ll need some way to synchronize user information.

Usually, this comes in the form of a web API that stores and retrieves user information from a database. Many developers have historically served their APIs and databases from internally-managed servers, but there are now several good commercial options for storing and syncing user data without having to manage your own fleet of virtual servers. Amazon’s Cognito and Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory are two good options. These services and others like them typically charge a monthly fee based on the number of people using your application.

3. Collecting Analytics

Analytics are crucial to modern mobile applications. Tracking when your app crashes can help you diagnose and fix problems before they become widespread. Tracking how often customers use particular features is also useful to inform discussions about what features to build next and which existing features need more work. For some classes of application, tracking user engagement can help determine whether in-app advertising is a viable business strategy.

In order to provide useful information to your team, all analytics packages will send their reports to some form of web back end. Often, it’s a service like Visual Studio Mobile Center, or Crashlytics, for which you’ll pay a monthly fee. These services host crash reports and other analytics data and usually present it via a web interface.

When collecting any kind of anlytics to improve your app, it’s important to consider the privacy implications of sending user information to a third-party solution. Due care should always be taken to remove any personally identifiable information from crash reports before submitting them to your provider.

4. Communicating With Customers

Whenever you need to communicate with your customers, you’ll need some kind of web back end. Every email, text message, and remote push notification that you’ve ever received from an application has gone through somebody’s server. In the early days of each mobile platform, it was common to run a cluster of dedicated servers for sending notifications and messages, but lately, the commercial offerings in this space have become good enough and cheap enough to present a viable alternative for many applications.

Whether you choose to run a notification server yourself, or contract with a third party to do so, the web back end for your mobile app should be able to send text messages, emails, and push notifications to both iOS and Android devices.

As you can see, a web back end plays a lot of important roles, so consider giving it a little more thought on your next mobile app project.