iPhone and Android Apps: Essential to Small Business Success?

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.

Leave this sort of app to the professionals

Generate incomeYou’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 levelsTo 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.

iPhone apps and Android apps don’t speak the same language

$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.

Having a user-friendly mobile site will prevent phones from being chucked across the room

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!

Picture Credits to Amy Swanson and

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    I totally agree with you, Amy. I only have a couple of brand apps, and they’re for big-name companies like Target and Starbucks. I don’t see the value in downloading an app for a smaller business. If I want to know some information, I’ll just look it up in my smartphone’s browser.

    When it comes to blogs, I don’t think that they need an app either. I’ll usually just open articles from Facebook or Twitter and hoped that they are optimized for mobile. There are some blogs that I love, but I’m not going to download their apps, nor do I need a ton of more apps on my already-crowded iPhone.

    • amy

      I’m right there with you, Mandy. I have some large company’s apps on my phone; Dunkin’ Donuts,, Zillow, but none from Bob’s Rib Joint or Sally’s Salon (those are the names of my imaginary small businesses 😉 )

      And for small companies, I wouldn’t think it’d be easy to swallow $30,000 on an app that people may or may not download to begin with. Yikes! Stick to a mobile-friendly site and you’ll win more customers.

      Thanks so much for your input! I really appreciate your thoughts 🙂

  2. Eric

    I’m all for mobile websites. Some are honestly very helpful and save a lot of time and thumb-typing. When you’ve got big mitts like mine, and you’re trying to surf the web on a palm-sized screen, the less work it takes to find what you’re looking for, the better.

    “Hotel Impossible” is a new favorite program of mine, simply because it’s so business-minded. For smaller hotels, it helps when they’re as web-present and accessible as their larger, corporate counterparts.

    That said, apps make absolutely no sense for me, unless they’re made for companies who can afford to throw buckets of money off into the wind. The few apps I have downloaded are usually far, far less helpful than mobile sites.

    Unless I’m really, really dying to find out what the custard du jour is at Culver’s. But that’s about it.

    • amy

      I’m with you and your love for mobile sites, Eric. With iPhones, you can always add the site to your homescreen anyways and create an app for that site or company for free. I’ve done this a few times and I love it!

      Mobile sites are a definite must for me if you ever want my business. Constantly ‘pinching’ my screen to zoom in is a hassle and even then my nail will hit the wrong button and then the exasperated sighs begin and don’t stop for several hours. Mobile sites are where I think small businesses should be focusing their budgets on, forget the apps and get some giant buttons that are easy to push!

      Thanks for reading and the comment, Eric! 🙂

  3. Jill Tooley

    $30,000 for an app? I had no idea it would be so much. I won’t pay it. (Sorry, that was a totally random “Ghostbusters” reference that no one but Alan or Joe would be likely to get).

    But seriously, that’s a huge chunk of change for a mobile app! It would take a lot for me to download just any old brand’s app — it would have to provide immense value for me to even look twice at it. I think I got the Geico one just to play the guinea pigs game, though, so I guess I can’t talk… Haha!

    I’d say the moral of the story is “use your best judgment” as a brand if you’re thinking about apps. It’s easy to say you want/need one, but you have to weigh all of the overhead costs versus the ROI in order to make it worthwhile. Great post!

  4. amy

    Talk about a big chunk of change, right?! I like your “use your best judgment” idea. If you know your customers will get a lot of use of an app, then by all means go for it. However, if you don’t want to drop that much cash then don’t. A mobile site will be a much bigger bang for your buck.

    Thank you for the awesome comment, Jill! So glad you liked it 🙂

    Ps. I’m not the least bit surprised you got the Geico app specifically to play a guinea pig related game 😉 Haha, nice!

  5. Rachel

    I agree with you, Amy — it makes way more sense to me to create a user-friendly mobile site than to spend that much time and money on an app. Talk about expensive! And as other commenters have mentioned, I think a lot of smartphone users prefer a well-designed mobile site over another app they have to download. Lots of good info here, Amy — thanks! 🙂

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