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4 Questions to Ask Before You Build a Mobile App

We talk to companies all the time that are looking to build a mobile application, and we work with them to try to understand if an app is right for them. If you’re thinking of building your own mobile app, here are a few starter questions to help you decide if it’s a good idea for your business.

is-it-possible

1. “Am I doing something that doesn’t already exist on the web?”

The web is an amazing platform for collecting, organizing, and running complex computational functions on vast amounts of data. If you’re building a matching system (like Uber, match.com, or taskrabbit.com), you’re definitely already building a server-side component to store all the actual data. You may be able to get started with a simple mobile website.

The benefit to this approach is that from day one you’re available on PCs, Macs, iPhone, Android, and just about every other device you can imagine. This lowers your time to market and your costs considerably, making it possible to start earning revenue right away.

If your app needs to store information based on sensors embedded in the device, this information generally must be collected with a native application running on the device. This can be something simple like the camera, or more specialized data from the gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, barometer, or heart rate sensor. As well, any application requiring end-to-end encryption (think chat, video, or voice messaging systems) should run natively on-device to provide a secure customer experience.

green-checkIf you said yes…

You’ll either need to build a native application or adjust what you want to do to exclude data based on hardware sensor data.

green-checkIf you said no…

No, you probably don’t need an app. The web will generally suffice, especially if you’re just getting started.

experience

2. “Will it provide a better experience for my customers?”

In many cases, mobile apps can provide a better customer experience than a sales or support team, showrooms, or web applications ever could. This includes cases like the following.

  • Your customers want access to data offline. As a for-instance, this could be a book-reading app that has to work perfectly in areas with a bad signal, like an airplane or the subway.
  • Your customers want to have access to your service at their fingertips at all times. For instance, this could be an app that lets you order dinner or open your garage door.
  • Your app stores sensitive data that your customers want to keep on their device without transmitting it to the cloud. This could include health, behavioural, or financial information.

green-checkIf you said yes…

Your business is ideally suited for an app. The best reason for an app is to provide a better experience for common tasks.

green-checkIf you said no…

This could be a fairly good indication that you don’t need an app. But read on, because some considerations can override this.

brand-rep

3. “Will it help my brand reputation?”

For an established company, the question may not even be “Do we need an app?” as much as “Would an app build up our brand?” Having a well-built app builds a level of confidence in brand due to its association with other, much larger brands that consumers associate with on their device every day.

For a brand, sharing the home screen with Facebook, Google, Instagram, or Twitter provides a level of sophistication that can override many other considerations. The value of improving your brand by being able to say “We offer an app” is worth the cost of development and can on its own make an app worthwhile.

green-checkIf you said yes…

It may be worthwhile to consider building an app in order to give your customers greater confidence in your business.

green-checkIf you said no…

Brand reputation alone often isn’t enough of a reason to spend time and energy creating an app. However, it can be worthwhile when combined with the considerations above.

afford

4. “Can we afford it?”

If you’re thinking about building an app for your business, there are often many additional financial considerations to take into account.

  • Ongoing Maintenance: Apps need to be updated on a fairly regular basis. Typically the longest you should go without an update is yearly. New devices and operating systems with new capabilities and requirements are shipped by manufacturers on a yearly basis, so keep in mind that an app can’t simply be built once and left forever.
  • Customer Support: If you’re interacting with your customers via an app, you’ll likely need to support their use of it. You may receive inquiries about issues that may come up, and you’ll want to be monitoring your app store reviews to ensure that customers aren’t having difficulties. This typically requires time from one of your staff members, so be sure to factor support into your plans.
  • Cross-Platform Development: Mobile applications aren’t like websites. They can’t be built once and simply work across every mobile operating system (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry) from the start. There are tools that can produce applications for multiple platforms from one template. However, these applications still need to be published to the various app stores and require different tools and processes.
  • Server Maintenance: Many applications require a server component that coordinates data storage and transfer. The cost of this server infrastructure will need to be factored into the costs of building your app.

green-checkIf you said yes…

An app could be a good fit for your business. We’d be happy to help you build it, so give us a shout.

green-checkIf you said no…

Now might not be the right time to build your app, but it’s worth keeping in mind for the future.

$2$s

Jeremy Massel

As managing director, Jeremy builds teams of people to get projects done and ensures that Habit’s day-to-day operations go smoothly.

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