These days, everyone and their flappy bird has a mobile app. It’s become a fever, the desire for every business to join the mobile jamboree.
But stop for a moment and consider: do you really need a mobile app? Is it strategically aligned with what your business does?
Here are five questions you should ask yourself and your team before spending a penny on mobile development.
1. What Is Your Aim in Building an App?
If it’s just to keep up with the competition, that’s not good enough. You need an entire strategy built around your mobile goals. Do you want to make passive income from the sale of the app? Make it free to attract more customers to your site or store? Provide an enhanced way for existing customers to interact with your brand?
If you can’t quickly answer these questions, put that dev project on hold until you can.
2. Is It the Only Way to Reach Mobile Users?
You’ve read the statistics. You know that 34 percent of Internet users go online via their phones and not a computer or other device. You know the opportunity to capture them through your app is great. But building an application is not the only way you can connect with these mobile users.
Consider responsive web design or a dedicated mobile site. Both make it easier to view a site on a smaller screen, and provide a better experience so your website visitors stay longer.
There are good reasons to do a mobile app, but if it’s just to reach mobile users that isn’t enough.
3. Do You Have the Resources?
The financial resources are a given. The cost of app development has come down significantly in the last few years, and unless you really need fancy and complicated features, they won’t break the bank.
But consider the human resources you’ll also need. You likely aren’t in the app-building business, so you won’t have internal staff that can work on the project. And so you’ll hire an app development firm. But you will still need a point of contact within your company. That might be someone from IT. Or marketing. Or an exec. Whoever it is, that person will be responsible for overseeing the project and making sure your company’s needs are being met. Who has time and is willing to take this on?
Also, consider that mobile apps have different platforms and that can increase the cost. Unless you use an app developer like Magellan’s M2 Matric, which lets you create one app for your small business and then automatically codes it for each mobile platform, you have to develop each application for every platform. Developing your app to fit criteria for the iPhone, Android, etc. can be expensive!
4. How Immediate Is the Need?
If in reality you don’t need a mobile app, consider waiting. Every day, technology grows leaps and bounds, and what your app does today may fall short of what users want it to do in a year. You’ll never sit exactly on top of that wave of change, but if you wait until you are completely ready to build your app, you can ensure it meets the current needs of technology users.
For example, Google Glass is still a bit far out for most of us, but in a year or two, will likely be more prevalent. If your app concept would fit well with Glass wearers, wait until there are more of them.
But, don’t forget to consider if your application is a competitive differentiator. If you have one before your competitors do, that can be a powerful differentiator that drives business for you. Wait, if you can, but understand what you risk as well.
5. How Realistic Are You About Making Money Off Your App?
Sure, maybe you’ll create the next hot candy-crushing-bird-flapping app and get rich. But maybe not. And don’t forget that each app store takes its cut. Apple takes 30 percent, and others take similar amounts. That’s why more app developers are simply offering their apps for free.
If you’re planning to get rich quick off your application, you need to come up with another strategy. Assuming you’re not going to be building games, make sure you understand what your strategy is and what the return on your investment will get you. It may not be money from the app directly, but new customers and repeat business.
This isn’t to warn you off from app development. Having a mobile app is a wonderful way to find new customers you can drive to your website or brick-and-mortar location. But it’s important to manage your expectations and have a clear strategy before you dive into the process.