One of the things I find myself talking to clients about more and more is app development. Until fairly recently, to have an app you needed to be one of the big players like AFGA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) but today you can be a small country-specific business such as NoMU or as global retailer such as ZARA. The point is, anyone can really have an app these days, but the question is should they?
The way I explain it to clients is that an app needs to fulfil a specific purpose, or do one specific task. That’s what makes a great app.
Many a company’s downfall in its app strategy is that it is trying to develop an app to do too many things, which then really just becomes a reason to have a mobisite or extension of the current website, not an app.
Does your business need an app?
This is the first question we ask when clients approach us, and the answer really depends on the kind of company and product[s] or services we’re talking about. It’s also based on and determined by the target market and the current state of their mobile landscape.
If your business needs to find a way to improve communication, productivity or even efficiency between customers, suppliers and even within the organization, then an app is probably a good solution. You might even create an app quite distant to your core business offering, but which still adds value to the user.
As I said before, an app needs to solve a specific problem, or perform a specific task – get that right and your app will fly!
What’s so great about apps?
One of the benefits of an app is that it allows for the creation of dynamic content and provides a smoother, more consistent experience than a web platform. Apps generally have an automatic login or ask for one immediately, eliminating the hassle of remembering website addresses or waiting for pages to load.
Apps can also act as a constant brand reminder as the icon lives on the user’s phone. It also makes for quick immediate interaction between your business and your customers. Why would they use someone else when they already have your app downloaded and it takes a matter of seconds to complete a task? As opposed to searching, waiting, emailing and the following up with a competitor (for example).
Which app is right for you?
Again, it comes down to what the app needs to do and who is going to use it. Techies will spend their lives fighting over which is better — iOS or Android — but it really comes down to who the people are that are going to use it, and what they prefer, so make sure you do your research. Just to be difficult, there are three main types of mobile applications: native apps, web apps, and hybrid solutions.
Native mobile apps are programmed using Objective C on the iPhone, or Java on Android devices. Native apps do not need to be connected to the internet to be used because they are specific to the mobile device they run on (hence the term “native”). Native apps are distributed within popular marketplaces like Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
Hybrid mobile apps are a mix between the two. They are native apps with embedded HTML technology producing cross-platform apps that access a mobile device’s native features. The Facebook apps were hybrid apps, before the social network decided to go native. Hybrid apps are downloaded from the app store and have all the features of a native app, but requires updates from the web to function.
A curve ball
You need to bear in mind that these apps are intended for smartphones – so if your customer is using a feature phone, or an older BlackBerry, then you might need to consider a mobisite or SMS driven strategy as an alternative.