Taking the decision to create a mobile app for your business can be one of the best things that you ever do. Find out what you should consider in advance to make this investment successful.
Taking the decision to create a mobile app for your business can be one of the best things that you ever do. You may be worried about to go about it, how much it will cost and how much time it will consume, but the reality is that it has never been easier than it is today to start creating your very own mobile app. There are whole libraries full of advanced smart frameworks for mobile apps available on the web, many of which are open-source as well, meaning that they’re free to use however you want.
However, that being said, the more features you want to include, the more likely that it is that you will need to hire in the services of professional developers, and when you start to do that the costs do quickly begin to mount up, as does the time that will be required to complete the project.
And so the first thing that you need to consider is exactly what it is that you want your app to do, exactly how much time and money it will cost you to do it, and pit that against your expected ROI once your app is launched.
Let’s go into this in a little more detail before we continue.
Does my business really need its own app?
Well, essentially – no. Your business is not just going to keel over and collapse tomorrow if you don’t bring out an app by the end of the day.
But, making the decision to build a mobile app is not about saving your business, it’s about increasing and improving your business.
Many start-ups and SMEs struggle over this decision. They know that the future of the web is on the mobile, but are also worried that creating a mobile app might be a wasted investment – at least until they start to get a little bigger.
But perhaps the main point to consider is the fact that if you don’t get an app out there sooner or later, you can rest assured that your competitors will. So, in order to gain a meaningful advantage, the sooner you can start getting an app budgeted for and into the design and development processes, the better.
Mobile apps are not a must, but a really worthwile extension of your online business.
How will my business benefit from an app?
Unless you’re actually in the business of developing and selling apps for a living (in which case you probably won’t really need to read this blog), you will not be looking to create an app that monetizes itself via downloads. That is to say that you will probably not be able to charge people for the privilege of downloading your mobile app.
So the purpose of your app will most likely be a part of your larger online marketing strategy. You will obviously already have a website with a regularly updated blog, and will be participating in social media marketing strategies in order to try and drive more traffic to your website with the intention of increasing conversions and sales.
It wasn’t so long ago that a website was a rather exotic thing for a company to have. Now, it’s inconceivable that anyone would go into business without one – they are simply just too valuable a tool for connecting with customers, promoting business and driving sales. As mentioned above, apps aren’t quite at that stage yet, but that’s the direction in which they’re heading, and, as the technology improves and becomes more affordable, more and more business are adopting them.
The reason for this is their versatility and ease of use for the end user. With a mobile app you can:
Set up customer loyalty programs
Promote special offers
Communicate directly with your followers
Send out push notifications every time you produce new content
Allow people to sign up using their social network credentials, enabling you access to a larger audience
Put simply, the mobile app is a great way to connect directly with your customers right in their pocket. You’re essentially creating an easy-to-use gateway into your site, and that, if done well, can only equate to bigger business.
So, if you’ve already made the decision that a mobile app is the right move for your business, then we’ve put together a list of things that you need to consider when it comes to actually developing it. And, as with all new projects, you need to begin at the beginning – and that means research.
Make sure customers find your app user-friendly and... useful!
If you’re only now getting into the app game, then it almost guaranteed that you will not be the first company in your field to do so. So, to start your research, you first of all need to head to the app store, locate all of the apps of your direct competitors, download them and start using them – making notes as you do so.
You need to ask yourself:
What’s working well?
What could be improved?
What are the users of these apps saying (i.e. read the customer reviews)?
Should I be trying to come up with something completely new, or would it be better to try and improve on what’s already available?
When answering these questions, you need to do so whilst keeping in mind the following elements:
User Interface (UI)
User Experience (UX)
What features you (and other users) think are missing
Which existing features could be further optimized when you start building your own app
You need to make extensive notes on all of these points and really try and figure out exactly what it is that will make your app stand out from the crowd. In this regard, it is actually the customer reviews that you should take into the most serious consideration, for you must always remember that it is for them and not yourself that you will be building the app for. If they want something that’s currently lacking, then give it to them. If they hate something that all of your competitors include, then leave it out.
The Drawing Board
By now, you should have a pretty good idea as to how exactly you would like your business app to work, look and function. So, the next step to take is to put your notebook to one side and get your sketchbook out instead.
Start creating story boards for how your app will look and move from one page to the next. In fact, it is actually quite a good idea to download a storyboarding app right onto your smartphone. This way you will know exactly what scale you’re working with.
One of the most important things to consider when you’re designing your app is the UX. Everything must be clear and very simple and intuitive on the small screen, and this means that your navigation tools should be the most prominent features of any given page. Without users being able to easily navigate around your app to access the information that they want quickly, they will simply stop using it, and, even worse, might even leave a negative review on the app store, which, by extension, puts a black mark against your company as well.
Taking your storyboarding one step further, the progression from here is to start researching wireframes – and it’s here where things start to get a little technical and tricky.
Wireframes are great tools for the app developer – and particularly the novice. What they fundamentally do is strip down the app to its bare essentials so that you can focus on the app’s functions and how the user will interact with the app. You will of course be collaborating with other members of your business – or perhaps outside third parties such as professional app developers – about your idea. Trying to explain verbally or textually (or even with your rough sketch storyboarding) exactly how it is that you envision your app working will leave a lot to the imagination, and you may not be able to get your idea clearly across to all involved.
But, with the use of a wireframing tool, you can begin to put together a much more demonstrative picture of your app, and will be able to show exactly how you see it working and functioning.
Any one of these wireframing tools we recommend you use:
Eventually, the time will come when you will have to start building your app, and this will probably mean – unless you take an intensive crash course in programming – that you will have to turn to professional skills of outsourced developers to start putting it all together and creating the app that you have long been dreaming about.
Finding the right developer can be as painstaking a part of the process as any, and you might not initially know where to begin your search.
You can search for private developers to produce your app, and you might even consider offshoring or nearshoring your app development in an effort to reduce costs. But before you do so, make sure that the teams you hire are able to cope with working across time zones and are provide fluent international communication.
When you boil everything down, your own app will provide you with a brand new channel through which you can connect with your customers. And, as a rule, apps for SMEs particularly shouldn’t really need to break the bank, as you will only want to include the most useful features, and not try and make the most elaborate and fantastic app that has ever been created.
And, with this new avenue, you should be able to increase revenue, which can often mean that your app will end up paying for itself. An app may not be strictly necessary for your business, but if it will increase conversions, revenues and help to grow your business, then it certainly makes sense.