Mobile development platform takes burden off app hobbyist

Whitewater Labs' Jake Kopper discusses how he chose a mobile development platform for his small company's needs.

Developing mobile applications isn't a quick and easy way to get rich overnight. Just ask Jake Kopper, co-owner of Newport, Rhode Island-based Whitewater Labs. To support his hobby of developing applications for Whitewater, he also works full time as a Web designer at Kopper Creative. And because time isn't something Kopper has a lot of, adopting a mobile development platform had to be as painless as possible.

While download rates for Whitewater's mobile applications started off strong, excitement waned along with the extra income. Upkeep on the servers became particularly time-consuming. To stay out of the red, Whitewater Labs focused efforts on its personal finance management application, Moni, and on finding a cost-effective mobile development platform.

"We didn't want six months, 12 months down the road to still be maintaining these old databases, but not making enough money to justify it," Kopper said. "We didn't want to worry about monitoring load balancers or anything like that."

Without the tape and standard procedures IT professionals often find themselves dealing with at large organizations, Kopper could take a laid-back approach to selecting a mobile development platform.

Jake Kopper, co-owner, Whitewater LabsJake Kopper, co-owner,
Whitewater Labs

While he consulted with a couple other developers and designers, at the end of the day the decision was up to Kopper. Rather than make a list of criteria, he informally started his search by examining products that met his requirements.

"I try to go as quickly as I can because I've got other stuff to do," Kopper said. "This isn't my main job, so I am looking for shortcuts."

Investing in a mobile development platform

Some of the things Kopper knew he wanted in a mobile development platform included server components, scalability, authentication management and data storage. Some vendors that caught his attention included Parse, StackMob, and Kii.

The decision to nix StackMob was simple. The vendor was being acquired, and Kopper felt that he didn't want a vendor that wouldn't exist in a few years. Parse was also in the running, but developer friends told Kopper they'd run into roadblocks with the vendor.

You want to use all the tools available.
Jake Kopper

After sending in a couple of initial service requests to Kii, Kopper felt the vendor best suited his needs. He was particularly pleased with the friendly and quick response he received from the customer service team. In the end, Kii ended up providing services such as analytics that Kopper didn't even know would be an asset.

"We didn't start using it at first, but once we started talking with Kii, we saw the value with what we can do with analytics," Kopper said.

The implementation process went as expected. When Kopper signed up with Kii, he was able to download a sample application and see the code.

"They even had all the functionality that I needed to copy into my app already in that sample," he recalled.

Given that all Kopper had to do was essentially copy and paste some code into his application, he was able to get a basic implementation up and running within a couple days.

There isn't much Kopper would do differently if faced with a similar project in the future. While the techniques he used may not be ideal for everyone, he knows what worked best for him to get the job done. One piece of advice he does have for fellow developers is to make sure they take advantage of every resource available to them.

"You want to use all the tools available," Kopper said. "The developer community has grown so much in the past five or six years that there is so much content out there."

Maxine Giza is the associate site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at mgiza@techtarget.com.

Follow us on Twitter @SearchSOA and like us on Facebook.

This was first published in June 2014

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