Are apps overrated?

Thinking of developing a mobile app for your business? It’s estimated that 75bn apps will be downloaded worldwide this year, so how do you ensure that your app succeeds with your target users, without costing a fortune, flopping, or risking damage to your brand? 

Here are the ten key points to consider before embarking on app development, to help ensure the best chance for success.

1. Apps for apps’ sake?

The first step is to identify exactly what the app’s for, and what you want it to achieve. Is it to enhance customers’ interactions with you, improve your brand presence, or generate revenue through paid downloads, in-app advertising or purchases? These are all good reasons for developing apps. However, if you just want a mobile version of your website, then create a responsive site: an app should enhance what your website offers, not copy it.

2. Know your users

Will the app’s users be web-savvy or novices? What will their usage patterns be, and on what devices? When do you expect them to use the app, and for how long? These questions will help you to define and design your app to ensure it’s both useful and usable.

3. What’ll it do?

Successful apps are simple, usable and reliable. It’s better to launch a simple application that does one thing well, than one that does several things badly. The more focused the app’s purpose, the better.

4. Content matters

Apps generally either consume content, or create it. If they are consuming content, it’s vital to know where that content comes from. How it gets into the app influences the size of the app, and the complexity of making it. Embedding content makes apps harder to update, but simpler to build. Downloading content remotely makes coding more complex, but updates easier.

5. Intuitive interfaces 

Users are accustomed to well-designed, functional apps: counter-intuitive design only hinders adoption. It’s quicker, cheaper and easier to test a paper or HTML-based mock-up of an interface than to develop the app and discover that users don’t like the interface. 

Also, remember that different devices and platforms have certain idioms which users become used to – so ensure your app fits users’ expectations.

6. Choosing partners 

Developing an app can seem daunting, so you need to establish if you need to bring in a partner to undertake some or all the project.

When choosing a partner, remember that app development is more than just programming. The partner should take you through concept creation and definition, user interface design, development, app testing, launch, social media integration, analytics and ongoing support. Look at the partner’s experience, their customers and references, and ask how they will work with you. Also, be clear on what is and what isn’t included in the budget.

7. All yours 

Unless agreed up front for “commercial reasons”, it’s critical that you launch the app under your company name, not the developer’s, to avoid confusing users. If you create a great app, it should have your brand all over it. 

8. Source code 

Ensure that you own the source code. You’ve paid for it, after all! Also ensure you actually receive it too, as this gives you more options for maintenance and making future releases.

9. Live long 

An app’s lifespan could be several years, but it will need updating to keep it fresh and functional on new devices and platforms. You need a roadmap for the life of your app. Also, review your app’s app store rating for direct feedback from users, which gives you valuable input to direct future updates.

10. Marketing & monetisation

It isn’t enough just to launch a great app and hope it succeeds. Plan the launch and promotion of your app as part of your overall marketing strategy. Also consider pricing: inevitably, free downloads are more popular than paid ones, so only charge if the app truly adds value through content or functionality.

Garry Partington is the CEO of Apadmi.

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