Nowadays, mobility is king; this doesn’t just mean everyone has a mobile device, but they are doing more and more of their “core media consumption” on mobile devices. For small businesses, this means developing your business model with tools that take advantage of the mobile sphere and determining how you will get your information and services to your customers. This may be difficult to get started with, so here are a few things to consider when deciding whether your business needs a mobile app or not.
App vs. Mobile Website
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of mobile app development, you should step back and determine whether everything you want to achieve can be done in more basic means – like a mobile website. What’s that? Well, every website should take mobile access into consideration, and most major players have a website for computer usage and an automatically launched, mobile-optimized website for when customers access websites on the go.
A mobile website is so basic that many website-building services – like Wix.com, Squarespace, etc. – offer mobile development tools to modify your layouts for mobile devices. So, before you jump right to the app conclusion, be sure you can’t make your existing website work with a few simple design optimization moves. It will save you some money.
Budget, Budget, Budget
This brings us to the crux of the issue: money. Unless you’re a pretty prolific tech start-up with a deep development staff, you’ll need to outsource this project. That means you’ll need to pay a mobile app design company to create the app, or hire a freelance web designer with mobile app experience. So, don’t forget to factor that expense into your budget.
The average hourly rate for a low-level developer is usually in the ballpark of $60 per hour. Not to mention the cost in server space, app store publishing and marketing. So, you’re looking at a lot of money. Therefore, if you resolve to take the app plunge, you’ll probably need to look into business loans. Lenders usually see the clear benefit of app development, and getting approval should be fairly easy.
The Goal of the App
Before you can build an app, you need to make sure it’s worth the time and effort. After all, as stated above, a mobile website can achieve quite a bit for a lot less money.
Determine what your business is all about? Are you a small-town bakery with clientele in a locally centric radius? Then chances are, you won’t need an app, because mobile users can just look at your mobile website for simple information – operating hours, ordering instructions, etc.
On the other hand, if your business idea is something more interactive like a parking-spot-finding database, then an app could be a huge win. In that example, you might find geo-tracking technology, map overlays and a sleek, fast interface are paramount to your brand’s success. People are probably driving around looking for parking, so a handy map-based app will be huge. In that case, ponying up the capital up front is certainly something to consider.
Determine What’s Right for You
As mentioned, an app will cost you money, but it could also spell a huge advantage for your business. The key here is to be smart about it. Don’t jump right in with both feet and eyes closed. Really assess your business. Hold some quick focus groups — which could be as informal as a phone call to five of your close friends. See if they’d use an app, but make sure they’re candid. A good rule: If your mobile service offering is strictly informational, you can probably get away with just a mobile website. If your business is going for something more interactive, an app really can’t be beat.
Image credit: Jon Fingas via flickr