So you are considering creating a mobile app to improve interaction with your customers.  After all, these days everyone, literally everyone (95% of Americans)  owns a cellphone of some kind. And the vast majority (77%) have a smart phone. When you look at younger (18 – 49) individuals and those with at least some college education the numbers are even higher. 

Right about now, you are thinking a mobile app is a good idea. But wait! Before you write that check to start the development process consider the pros and cons. A mobile app is not useful for every business, even if the target audience is comprised of college educated millennials.

When does a mobile app make sense

  • If you have features people will use over and over again. One of the best apps I saw developed was for a client  for engineers in a specific industry. It contained a number of formulas they were likely to use again and again. It was convenient to have the app handy whenever they started to work on something. The company also pushed the latest blog and an updated parts list through the mobile app.  This company was able to leverage information engineers need every day as a gateway to communication. If you have a one time process people will be unlikely to download the app.
  • If your target audience spends much of their day on the go. Professional sales people and service technicians are likely to appreciate a mobile app they can launch from their phone, where ever they are. Administrative assistants who sit at a desk all day may not find it as useful, preferring to work on the large screen on their desk. 
  • If the mobile app requires a limited amount of input. We love our phones, but we don’t necessarily like typing more than a few words into them. Long forms just aren’t compatible with the mobile environment.
  • If everything needed to use the app is on the phone. I was talking with a recruiting firm who thought millennials would use an app to upload their resume until they thought through the mechanics. Millenials would have to email it to themselves, save it and then upload it. Doesn’t make any sense. However, companies like Indeed, who let you store your resume on their app so you can apply for jobs from a phone, figured out the right way to use a mobile app. The repetitive process of applying for jobs is made simpler with the mobile app once the resume is uploaded. 
  • If you have a specific need which can not be addressed simply by improving your website then a mobile app might make sense. 

A Mobile App is Expensive

Many business owners are surprised at how much more expensive it is to build a mobile app than a mobile website. There are a lot of things which contribute to the cost:

  • Mobile app development requires a much more specific skill set.
  • Once the mobile app is built you will need to create a minimum of two versions. One for iOS and one for Android.
  • Upgrading is a routine part of app development. Every time a new operating system is released you will need to test to be sure it still works correctly.
  • Every time you make a change you will need to update both versions of the app. 
  • You have to account for different screen sizes across devices for both platforms
  • The apps must be approved from by the App Stores before it can be available for download. Right now approval times are relatively short about 1 – 2 days for Google play and 4 – 6 days for the iTunes store. However, If the app is rejected you have to go back to the development team for changes. 

Alternative to a Mobile App

Many companies, when faced with the cost and challenges of constructing a mobile app, find that simply optimizing your website for mobile is a viable and affordable alternative. Ready to update your website? Give us a call.