Mobile Apps for Small Business

With more and more people coming to rely on smartphones, many small businesses are turning to mobile applications as a quick way for customers to connect with their business. From offering discounts to creative treasure hunts; from creating a tool to make their lives easier to providing education; the number of apps available is forever growing.

While coming up with a concept for your app can be fun and exciting, taking the next step to create it is where the real challenge lies, especially if you do not have technical background. To guide you forward, we have listed some of the things you should remember when looking to create a mobile app.

Key Things to Remember When Creating Your App

  • Make it simple to use, free or cheap to buy and so addicting or useful that your customers will just keep coming back for more.
  • Don’t load it up with features that make it slow to use and complicated to understand.
  • Make it easy to identify by keeping your app and your business branding consistent.
  • Don’t release it until you’re happy – releasing a product with bugs and glitches will not result in happy customers and may cause bad feedback which puts off others from downloading it.
  • Keep it fun so customers want to share it with their social circles.
  • Don’t try and replicate what’s already there. There is much competition out there and you can’t afford to be ‘just another app’.

Common Questions When Thinking of Developing an App

Below we have asked some of the most common questions small business owners have when considering developing an app.

Can We Do It Ourselves?

This depends on how technical you or your employees are and how ambitious the type of app is that you want to develop.  If you are creating a simple app to provide the text of a menu, then maybe; if you are trying to teach customers about the product you are selling, providing interactive options, then maybe not.

There are number of companies who offer templates for building and managing apps which require no or little programming knowledge.  Many of these templates can be tailored to different industries e.g. restaurant templates which offer options for menus and making reservations or consultancy company templates which offer staff profiles, a list of services and appointment scheduling..

If the industry templates do not offer what you need, why not try one of the templates which focus on appearance themes where you can upload your own photos and create custom topic tabs and icons.

Prices of templates vary widely from a creation fee and then monthly amount to an all inclusive yearly fee so make sure, when researching your options, you are aware of where fees may be applied.

What Other ‘Do it Yourself’ Options are there?

If you have some programming experience, consider developing your app from scratch.  Software development kits are available from Apple and Android which, although need some technical knowledge to use, come with their own tips and tools for users.  This will provide you with the unlimited control over the design and functions of the app and will save you the recurring costs of a template.

Other options include develop your app using HTML, CSS or JavaScript.  There are many companies which let your use traditional code including PhoneGap, MotherApp and Appcelerator, which will save you the time in learning the multiple styles of programming code needed for each mobile device operating system.

Should I Hire a Designer?

Although the most costly of the three routes, if you do not have the technical abilities, time or inclination to create your own app then hiring a designer will be the way to go.

Specialized firms usually charge a project based fee for the design and development of the app but do not usually charge any recurring fees unless you wish to update the app or if you require ongoing technical support.

Finding an app developer is much like trying to find your website developer.  Your research should be thorough.  Look for recommendations from similar businesses. Create a specification of the types of features you would look to include and approach developers for their feedback and examples of similar past work.  Creating an app will be a large expense for your business so it is important that you find the right developer for your business and your idea.

To App, or Not to App: That is the Question

It is important to carefully consider the risks associated with getting out of the gate early with an app that misses the mark. Think about your audience and its needs; what unique value will your app provide? What role should your mobile app play within your brand conversation and overall marketing strategy?

By focussing on your content and audience and thinking about the mobile experience you want people to have with your brand, your app will be better positioned to be a success. And once launched remember, just like your website, measure its impact and use these measurements to make decisions on any further development.