Companies ranging from Fortune 500 to start-ups are using mobile apps to reach customers, streamline their processes, deliver services or, increasingly, as the backbone of their entire business. While there is a strong push for mobile apps (or even just mobile devices) within the enterprise ecosystem today, there are a few things to consider before you hire a developer or write a check.
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Here are five things to consider before starting a mobile app project:
Identify your users: is this app for internal or external users (meaning customers will see it)? Who are the people using the app, and what are their demographics? Who will serve as the administrator who can add/delete users and data? Without thoroughly exploring this question, you may be spending money unnecessarily building for who you think is your user and not who your real target audience is. Don’t fall victim to this – at the beginning of the brainstorming process, bring all key stakeholders together in one room for a discovery workshop to clarify requirements and agree on a direction.
Research the competition: If you’re in a crowded space, creating a matrix of your competitors can be very helpful in creating your own app. Find out what you like and don’t like about their apps – and why. Read their customer reviews to find out how users feel about their apps and what they’re missing. Then see if it’s something you could use.
What problem does my app solve? Maybe you’re creating an extension of your ecommerce website to a mobile platform. Maybe you want a new way to take advantage of the features your phone provides, like location, push notifications, and on-site photos. But beware – if your app doesn’t enhance your existing business or introduce a unique user interaction, really take your time and consider the money and time you’re about to spend.
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Native or hybrid? For quick proof-of-concepts or simple data entry applications, a hybrid platform like Phonegap or Ionic may be the right choice. This option allows the development team to save time by writing just one codebase that works for both iOS and Android. However, if you envision a more complex app, consider spending extra time on native development, which means different builds for different iOS and Android operating systems. This allows the app to take advantage of the latest native-only features like Apple Pay, rich push notifications, Android Pay, and TouchID. All of this allows the developer and client to take advantage of the innovations happening in our pockets and wallets. In addition, native apps generally experience better mobile behavior and are better received by users, according to surveys. However, the difference in cost and time to market may be worth discussing.
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Post-launch plan: well, you have a great idea and the plan is in place. What happens after launch? How will you collect and respond to user feedback? Who will make changes for incremental releases – the original build team or someone internal? And remember that mobile phones change frequently, with new features being added every few months. Apps are different because, unlike websites, you can’t make changes on the fly. Establishing a plan with a release schedule that allows you to add features, make changes, and continually give users a reason to open the app will help you be successful once you launch your new mobile baby into the world.