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September 26, 2012

How to Avoid the 10 Biggest Mistakes in Voice Application Development

By TMCnet Special Guest
Steve Leonard, EVP and General Manager, inetwork

Are you building the next-generation mobile app that provides users anytime, anywhere voice and messaging communication? Maybe you’re integrating voice and messaging into your existing Web and mobile application for the richer social interaction that only voice can deliver.

No matter what the use for your new voice application, integrating rich telephony into your applications has never been easier. To be successful, you need to deliver both the high-quality experience your users expect and the scalability your application requires.

Developing voice applications is a complicated and exciting business, and it can’t be done in a vacuum. Here’s a list of 10 of the most common voice application developer mistakes, and how to avoid them:

1.       Using “Dirty” Numbers and Not Even Knowing It

A dirty numberis one that comes with a checkered past. Examples include:

    • A number from another business, resulting in your users getting calls from someone thinking they are talking to that business.
    • A number from an outbound marketing campaign that could have been blacklisted.
    • A number from an inbound marketing campaign that is still listed in residual materials like flyers, advertisements and stale Internet listings.

How do you avoid dirty numbers? The answer is number management. Effective number management is important for every voice application because it can have a huge impact on user experience. Some voice network providers help you manage this process, while others leave it all in your hands.

Ask yourself: what level of quality will your users expect? Do you need to have a single number in a specific region to test an idea? Would you like to guarantee that the next contiguous number is available? Maybe you want to reserve the next contiguous 100 numbers. You need to think of these things early in the development lifecycle. Otherwise, your application could fall flat.

2.       Not using Open Communication Standards

Just like in other ecosystems, open voice apps ensure you are free to adjust technologies, providers and investments as you grow. When you use open standards, your app can grow like wildfire using any network in the world. But if your app is built on provider-specific, proprietary standards, unforeseen limitations can squelch your app’s flame just as it starts burning.

Look for a voice network provider that relies on open standards, particularly one with proven, fast and intuitive onboarding procedures, so your success isn’t locked into someone else’s propriety solution.

3.       Failure to Look Past Your Initial Success

What’s the value of handling hundreds of thousands of transactions if the economics aren’t working or the operating model is too complex? Take the time to appropriately model both the technology and the finance behind your application.

Choosing a network provider that handles traffic daily for leading customers operating at a massive scale can be a major catalyst to your success. It can help you scale your network, predict long-term expenditures and determine the best solution for your goals while you focus more of your time on application development.

4.       Not Considering Tax Issues

Voice services are regulated and taxed at both federal and municipal levels. Not every application you develop will have tax implications but it’s important for you to understand your tax liabilities before you go to launch. Not every provider offers such advice, but it’s a skillset you should look for when selecting a voice network partner.

5.       Ignoring Security Risks

Heard about “phreaking”?It’s is a form of hacking, as applied to telephone networks. Phone (News - Alert) phreaks exploit weaknesses in the phone system to make long-distance calls for free, tap into other’s calls, take control of lines and get free phone services.

Voice application developers need to be aware of the inherent risks they take on when utilizing any major network. There is a vast underworld of hackers taking advantage of network holes.These hackers sell black-market products like pre-paid phone cards using your VoIP resources for fraudulent unauthorized calling. If you don’t have measures in place to ensure network security, your go to market strategy can quickly break down.

Look for a provider that owns, operates and monitors its own network to help safeguard its customers.

6.       Improper Use of SMS Long Code vs. Short Code

A long code is +1 (XXX) XXX-XXXX and a short code is 55555. Long codes are phone numbers that have been specifically configured to work with SMS. Unlike short codes, they’re formatted like traditional phone numbers, because they are phone numbers. Application developers and service providers use long codesfor voice traffic and texting.

If your application seeks to broadcast one-way communication, you should use short codes. This is also called application to person or A2P. For two-way person-to-person communication, or P2P, long codes are more appropriate. Why? The telephony world is an ecosystem of multiple carriers with an agreement on the proper handling of A2P and P2P traffic across network boundaries. Abusing long-code for A2P communications may result in the termination of your carrier access. This is a universal rule, no matter which carrier you select.

It’s true that the provisioning of short codes takes more time and money than provisioning long codes. But if your application requires SMS, you can’t afford to take the risk of using the wrong protocol. 

7.       Selecting a Network without Live Support

Unlike traditional mobile or Web experiences where users have been trained to “refresh,” users of voice applications have very high quality and availability expectations, and your users will expect nothing less in your app even though it will be facilitated over the Internet. Your 24/7, year-round voice quality better be solid.

Voice application developers need to choose network partners who understand the whole communications stack and will be there anytime they have a question. For something as important as your next great application, you can’t afford to leave voicemails or log questions in a public support forum and hope for a response.

8.       Using a Network Partner that Doesn’t Know Software

Voice app developers often make the mistake of choosing network partners who either don’t know software, or don’t know telecom.

It’s important that you choose a provider that understands both software development and how telecomnetworks operate.

9.       Not Prioritizing Voice Quality

Users today have extremely high expectations for voice quality. So high that they’d rather hang up the phone than accept scratchy/hissing artifacts, dropped speech, “tin can” effects or echoes in their connection.

There’s no excuse for poor voice qualityand the only way to ensure that quality is to partner with a company that owns and operates its own network and understands everything about voice. If you’re developing an application and this isn’t one of your top priorities, you need to rethink your strategy.

10.   Selecting a Network Partner that’s Not Flexible

When you’re working to deploy a new voice app, time to market is critical. You need a network partner who can help you rollout service quickly – but will also do it right. Avoid the pitfalls of choosing a niche player that can’t grow with you, or a monolithic company that’s not nimble and flexible.  

Steve Leonard is EVP and General Manager at inetwork, a division of Bandwith and provider of voice, 9-1-1 and SMS solutions. Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Austin 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker
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