Mobile development has become so hot, with so many tech pros learning how to build apps, that it’s become difficult to set yourself apart as a talent who’s truly exceptional—the kind of person who’s worth a premium whether they’re working for an enterprise, a smaller development shop, or as an independent.
According to PayScale, the median salary for a mobile developer in New York with three years of experience is $71,000. But others can make more than $100,000. Assuming you want to be one of the higher-paid ones, what can you do? Consider these strategies.
Build Apps That People Want
Research the challenges that potential users face and work out the right solutions, said Robbie Abed, Director of Product Strategy for Y Media Labs, a developer based in Redwood City, Calif. While you do that, stay focused.
“Anytime you build an app, you need to build it around one or two use cases,” Abed observed. The ability to zero in on user needs and simplicity are a common trait of successful developers.
Make It Beautiful
Abed put it simply: “People don’t have the patience anymore for crappy apps.” Instead, they expect a great user experience, so be sure to put a lot of thought into what that experience should be: “Either learn design or pair up with a good designer.” In addition, study up on what makes great mobile apps succeed: Why create seven steps if you can accomplish a task in one? Developers who really understand the user experience are “a rare breed,” Abed added.
Keep the Big Picture in Mind
A surprising number of developers don’t consider the end-to-end user experience when developing their apps. Always challenge yourself about how to best on-board new users, then step them along a path that leads to the end result as seamlessly as possible. “There has to be a flow so users know what to do next,” Abed noted. “Otherwise, they leave and don’t come back.”
When employers consider your portfolio, they’re interested in more than seeing your finished products, said Dan Katcher, CEO of Rocket Farm Studios in Boston: “I love seeing people who have built stuff, even if it’s only for themselves.” To Katcher, a portfolio is made exceptional by “the conversation about it.” He looks for developers to come in, show off their work, explain why they made certain decisions, and explain what they’re trying to do next. “Passion and interest in learning” get his attention.
Know How to Communicate
Mobile development is about more than coding. The most sought-after developers not only have technical chops, they can communicate easily and comfortably with both team members and clients. “You don’t find these skills in every developer,” Katcher noted. “For us, collaboration with the client is everything.”
Understand What ‘Quality’ Means
End users and clients alike want to see high-quality apps: Solutions that are simple, look good, and let people get something done quickly and easily. But those characteristics alone don’t define quality, Katcher pointed out. “It’s not just about code, but delivery and process,” he said. “You want the experience to be super enjoyable for the client. So, it’s not just about what you do, it’s about how you do it and conduct it.”
It all boils down to this: You can position yourself for greater rewards by paying special attention things that might seem obvious—the purpose of the app, or how the user experience proceeds from first step to last. Of course, you need to understand the tools and technology behind the apps you build, but being an expert on user engagement and knowing how to communicate with everyone involved in your work are the keys to increasing your value.