The Tip of the Iceberg

It's a really simple app. It just does this. It just does that. On occassion a person or a small business will pitch me to build an app – a simple app – for them. But what they don't see is that what they need is more than just as simple app.

What these potential clients seem to miss is that the app is just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, maybe the app itself is really simple. Maybe it's just a few screens and a submit button. Or maybe it's just showing a bit of content that updates occassionally. No big deal, right?

But it's what's under the water that makes their app not quite as simple as they think. If the app is the tip of the iceberg, it's the backend system that lurks unseen below the freezing water. It's the backend system that's doing the work and providing the value.

Let's say a client wants an app that boils down to a simple publishing platform; they just want to show some content that updates on occassion. For this type of app, it's the backend system that handles what content to provide to the app. It's the backend system that determines when to provide it the app. It's the backend system that serves as a Content Management System that allows the client – and only the client – to update the content. And if the client wants to share that content on Twitter or Facebook so the app can "go viral", well the system better have a way to share the content on a website too. Now suddenly, we're looking at more than an app. We're looking at a larger system, of which the app is only a small part.

Or let's say a client wants an app that collects data from users; they just want a few form fields and a submit button. But it's the backend system that deals with the submitted data. It's the backend system that stores the data. It's the backend system that makes it available to users after they've entered it. It's the backend system that determines how the data gets shared, and who can see it. And if the user wants to see the data they entered, how will they see it? A different app? A website? Again, the simple app is starting to look like just a small part of a larger system.

These people want an app. But what these people need is a system. It's really just that simple.