It seems like you can’t go a day without reading an article about how creating an app for your small business is an absolute must. People use their iPhone and Android apps for a variety of reasons for work and fun and everything in between. I’m a rather skeptical person from time to time and figured I’d challenge that claim and see if it was actually worth it. The results were quite surprising.
Here’s a list of questions that I had and ones that I’m assuming other small business owners would have too. Without any further ado, let’s go!
What’s the difference between having a mobile site and an app?
A mobile website is an optimized version of your existing website which can be easily seen and navigated on a smartphone equipped with internet browsing know-how.
An app is “a software application that must be written in the native language of a particular platform.” Current smartphone platforms include: iOS (Apple), Android (Google), Windows Mobile (Microsoft), and BlackBerry (for now). These are downloaded and can be used offline for customers to use anytime, not just when they’re near WiFi.
What are the basic reasons for creating an app?
The reasons depend on what your goals are that you want to accomplish.
Generate income – You’re doing this by: charging for downloading the app, allowing customers to purchase within the app, or by allowing advertising on it. For most small businesses, this is not the route to take. Chances are though you have some of these examples on your smartphone right now: Words with Friends, Draw Something, or Angry Birds. Seriously, leave this type up to the professionals, aka Zynga.
Increase marketing, branding and customer service levels – To get your name out there and have customers always have your company in their pocket, this is what most businesses are doing. Examples include: TGI Friday’s which allows its app users the ability to check out their menu and pay their bill all on their phone. Target allows users to see lists of nearby Target stores that have your item in stock.
How much does it cost to create an app?
Unfortunately, there’s no standard for apps so there isn’t an average price. It seems that you can expect to pay at least $10,000 for a basic app and $20,000 for an app worth it for customers to use. A general working figure is $30,000 to design, implement, and deploy a brand-quality iPhone app.
$30,000 for an app? That includes apps for all the other platforms as well, right? Right?!
Sadly, no. Since all the platforms are different that means a unique app must be created for each and every platform, which means a big chunk of change is going to be charged to your account. An iPhone app won’t work on an Android phone and an Android app won’t function on a BlackBerry. Each platform needs its own special code for the app.
If you’re creating an app purely for marketing purposes you MUST decide if the reach you’ll get is big enough to warrant the costs. You may think to save money you’ll just focus on one platform, but how many potential customers are you leaving out? You don’t want to get iPhone users mad at you for ignoring them and creating an Android app, nor do you want to alienate the Android users in creating only an iPhone app. You really can’t pick and choose; you’re either all in or out.
Any final advice?
You may have been reading articles telling you that you need to have an app for smartphone users or else you’ll be obsolete in a matter of months. Take that advice with a grain of salt. Having a mobile site will make more of a difference for your small business than a unique app available for download ever could.
Put your app creation money into making sure your site is properly optimized for mobile viewing. Avoid a lot of Flash elements and large pictures since some customers may not be able to view it or it will take so long for them to view it that they’ll lose interest and click out before it loads. Keep it clean, have large buttons, and make it easy to navigate and you’ll make more of an impact than you ever thought possible.
Don’t get sucked into thinking that you need to create an app in order to stay relevant in today’s world. Really, you don’t need one. Smartphone usage is on the rise and will only continue to increase over the next years, so focus on creating the best mobile site you can and leave the ‘app creation’ to the bored college students out there.
Would you frequent a business any more often than you currently do now if they had an app? Would you ever buy an app from a company that you shop at? Smartphone users, do you have any advice for companies out there regarding their mobile site? Sound off below!