When a mobile app works well and is well received by the public it can create great visibility for a business. Many businesses feel the pressure to have a mobile app. The problem is that for most businesses a mobile-friendly website will work just as well or better than an app and costs much less. Creating a mobile app add overhead to your already busy business. Apps usually need to be developed for 2 platforms, require additional development time, and introduces potential errors and glitches into your processes. A bad mobile app that very few users download send a bad signal to search engines and creates a negative impression about your business.
The first step in creating a mobile app is to determine if your business needs a mobile app.
Three Categories Of Mobile Apps
There are three types of mobile apps:
- The original idea. These are apps that provide functionality that no one else has. The functionality works perfect on a mobile device but fall flat on desktops. These apps take full advantage of all the functionality available to them in a mobile device and benefits from the mobility, or the small screen, or the convince of the device. In other words, the application would not exist if it weren’t for the invention of the mobile device.
- Extend the functionality to customers. These are apps that take advantage of the mobile platform and provide more functionality to the customer beyond a website. Shopping apps are a great example when they de-clutter the experience and expedite the search and ordering process.
- Me too! Many of the bad apps out there fall into this category. Businesses are being convinced that there are riches to be found in the land of apps. Their analysis consists of finding the apps of their competitors and creating a copy cat application. Bad idea – the world does not need another discarded app.
You goal is to be #1, the original idea, or #2, provide better functionality to customers.
Never be a Me Too! app unless you are prepared to spend an exorbitant amount of money and time on the app to create a better app and move the attention to your app.
How to decide if you need an Mobile App
Most users do not use an app store to search for a business. First they discover the business then see if the business has a mobile application. The mobile app should improve the service you provide to your customers not just place a stake in the ground to help customers find you. Start with these simple questions to see if you should explore further the resources you need to publish a mobile app.
- What functionality do your customers need? If you do not know this start asking. It is easy to create a survey or solicit feed back in blogs and social media.
- Would any of your services benefit from the mobile environment? Mobile devices provide almost everything the desktop provides except on a smaller screen. The benefit mobile devices have are the ability to access data anywhere, touchscreens, and the accelerators (the ability to detect motion). Location, maps, games, etc. are all available on the desktop, it is just harder to put it in your pocket. Can your services benefit from this or will a mobile friendly website do exactly the same job?
- Do your customers use mobile devices? How do they use mobile devices? If you customers are not using mobile devices then it could be a waste of time to build and app when a mobile friendly site will work.
- What mobile apps do your customers use and why? It is valuable information to know what makes a mobile work for your customers. It would be a shame to build an app that your customers find difficult to use.
These questions will show you if your customers are mobile users and if your business has products or services that they want or need to access from a mobile device. Once you know these two are true you can start exploring the cost benefit analysis of building the mobile app.
What Should I Do Now?
There are a few steps you can take today to make sure you can serve the mobile customers:
- The first step is to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Google has already started to penalize sites that do not provide a basic mobile experience. Most companies can provide the information and
- Start examining the functionality your business provides. From this list see if any of them would benefit from the mobile environment.
- Ask your current customers about their mobile habits. The idea is to find out what mobile devices they use and how they uses it. Nothing is worse that developing an app for a phone that your customers do not use.
This is basic research before you build, which is what we always advise. Research saves time, money, and heart break. Do not get caught in the peer pressure and hype that mobile apps is the future. Take the time to examine your business and customers to build something that will serve your customers.
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