Think big before you think small—5 secrets to mobile app scalability

Scaling an app is like replacing all the components of a car while driving it at 100mph. And you don’t get to choose when scaling challenges come up.
Mike Krieger, Instagram

Your app may or may not experience Instagram levels of growth (from zero to 30 million users in 2 years). You won’t know for certain until your app launches. Planning to scale from the start could mean the difference between supporting millions of users and seeing them depart in droves due to bandwidth or speed issues. Five tips for mobile app scalability:

1. Develop in the cloud

“99% of startups should be in the cloud,” says Dave Engberg, CTO of Evernote. For apps where bandwidth use is variable, you only pay for what you use and can expand rapidly if required. Using a mobile backend as a service such as Kii Cloud also means you don’t have to manage servers or recruit engineers to help you scale on the fly.

2. Build the API first

Start with a stable foundation and it’s easier to scale cross-platform. A foundation tied too closely to the first app iteration can trigger performance issues when scaling to a larger operation.

3. Keep it simple

Stick to tried and tested technology that allows you to iterate quickly. You don’t know what scaling opportunities you’re going to get, so keep your options open.

4. Watch your analytics

Actual user behavior can rapidly overturn plans developers have for their apps. Be prepared to change course and meet growing demand, even if it’s in an unexpected area.

5. Follow the market

Apps like Evernote are always available for users to install on new devices and operating systems. Make sure your app is available on day one of a device or OS launch to take advantage of an influx of new users.

Early app developers had to scramble when scalability issues emerged. The first piece of advice that Mike Krieger and Dave Engberg have for you is simple: “Don’t do it like us.” Learn from those who have gone before you.

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