App development is big business. That doesn’t mean that it is only meant for big businesses. It’s easy to see how a small business owner would get daunted because of unfamiliar terms and the seemingly foreign concept of how to make an app. Here’s one finding from Latitude that business owners of all sizes will find interesting:
“Somewhat unexpectedly, 77% of smartphone-only owners confess to shopping regularly from these devices at home, forgoing the larger screen and other niceties of a desktop or laptop computer. And, while dual owners prefer tablets at home, they’re smartphone power-shoppers pretty much everywhere else. Sixty-five percent of dual owners have used a smartphone to shop while in a store, suggesting opportunities to better synthesize digital and physical retail experiences.”
To think, those findings came out in 2012 and those numbers have possibly gotten larger.
Does your business need a mobile presence?
Suffice to say, businesses not only need a mobile presence, but that presence must be founded on accessibility and usability. What small businesses first need to know is if the app will pay off and if the resources spent on making it will be justified. One way to know if a business has a thriving online following is to take a look at its social networks. If customers are active on that company’s Facebook page or frequently interact with the business on Twitter, it is safe to say that they have a place in the mobile market. However, if a small business is only in it for the sake of getting the word out and making their brand known, an app will be unnecessary since there are other, more cost effective means of getting exposure. If a small business can see a concrete benefit from having its own mobile app, now is the best time to start working on it.
Common mistakes small businesses make
One mistake that some small business owners make when it comes to app development is paying a lot for an app made by professionals that has more features than it needs. It would be best to take it slow and start small, testing the waters before committing to anything more. A business will need to see how their customers take to the app and depending on their reaction, they can move forward or backwards.
Choosing a mobile platform
Some decisions must be made before a business starts the app development process and two of the most important ones are cost and platform. There are two major operating systems – Android and Apple and an app for one type of device will not work for the other, which means that the business owner must decide between the two. It would be much easier to develop for both but, that will not be cost-effective in most cases. A business with majority of its customers on Apple devices should stick to iOS and a business with a lot of customers on Android must cater to them.
Checkout the Mobile App Development Guide for more info on mobile platforms.
Paid or free-to-download?
When it comes to price, a decision must be made as to whether or not the app will be free or must be paid for. Free apps are typically supported by ads and there are users that find certain kinds of ads intrusive and annoying, compelling them to uninstall the app.
If a business does decide to charge for its app, it will have its work cut out since they have to plan out their strategy carefully. Assess just how much value the app will give customers and price accordingly while keeping a close eye on the app prices of competitors. Price it too high and customers will be scared off but if priced too low, its value may be doubted. Google’s Play is one of the major players in the app distribution game but there are other marketplaces that can be considered as well. For iOS apps, the only place to distribute is the Apple App Store.
The app development process
Once those details have been ironed out, it will be time to deliberate the options a business owners has when it comes to actually creating the application. There are numerous platforms available that can be used by the less experienced by way of a user-friendly interface. There are also platforms that allow users to create apps without sticking to just one language or platform. If a business has a professional developer on board, they can choose from Apple’s developer program, MIT’s App Inventor, and Google’s tools for Android. Apple and Google’s tools may be more familiar but for the uninitiated, the App Inventor facilitates app development for Android. Stanford has a course on iOS development that can be taken online, as well.
For small businesses that do not have an on-site developer, as most small businesses often do not, the work can then be outsourced to a third party. One option is to scout for a freelancer who can meet the requirements necessary without robbing a company blind or delivering sub-par work.
An easier option would be to go to sites such as oDesk or Elance, post the project and wait for app developers to bid on it. It is important that the compensation offered by the business is commensurate to the effort and time necessary to complete the app. It is important not to get tempted to go with the lowest bid because the person bidding may be offering such a low amount because of their lack of experience. Look at an applicant’s portfolio carefully and if there are any red flags, they must be taken into account.
The market is unpredictable
No matter how beautiful or feature-packed an app may be, it isn’t a guarantee that I’ll be a hit. This could be due to the application’s user experience because some developers take an app’s usability for granted when creating it, not looking at it from a layman’s point of view. Apps should load quickly and be easy to use for most anyone because a person having difficulty viewing it on a mobile device is more likely to close the app rather than transfer to a laptop or desktop computer.
Lastly, it is important to realize that the app development is a fast-paced industry and what works today may not work tomorrow. An app should be able to adapt to changing platforms and devices while maintaining its primary purpose. It may seem like a lot to take in but there is no doubt that small businesses could stand to benefit from mobile apps.