Thinking about developing an app for your small business? Make sure you read our comprehensive guide to pre-project setup.
Mobile app development is fast becoming as important as having a website.
And businesses are paying attention to this fact.
Interest in mobile app development for businesses is growing. In 2016, just 46% of small businesses had an app. By the end of 2017, that number is set to jump to nearly 70%. Your competition is getting into the app game, and so should you.
Want to learn about more mobile app development trends? Don’t miss our previous blog: ‘2017 Mobile App Development Trends: Figures Your Business Should Know’
But an app development project isn’t some cut and dry thing. Like every aspect of your business’ product and service, it’s an integral element that needs plenty of attention, investment and thought.
Looking to start mobile app development in 2017? Here is what you should know before your project even begins:
The Power of Apps as a Business Tool
If you’re considering a small business app, you may still be umming and arring about the benefits of actually developing one. Is creating a mobile app in 2017 really going to change the way your SME operates?
It may seem like we have a bit of a bias, but we would argue that the benefits of an app for a small business are significant and far reaching.
Let’s break them down into five categories:
- Marketing — Apps open your business to new avenues of marketing. Not only can you use powerful push notifications to inform customers of deals, new products and other valuable bits of information about your company, but you can also use the app to track unique customer data to better target advertising.
- Accessibility — Mobile users prefer mobile apps over websites primarily because they have better accessibility. Instead of taking the time to search for your business, users can simply open their phone and access it with a single tap. Such ease of access encourages greater use and leads to a much higher sales conversion rate than on websites.
- Visibility — The average person checks their phone 85 times a day. This means that those little apps on their homepage get viewed an awful lot. By having an app for your business, you’re able to acquire some of that valuable app real estate. But how does that benefit your business? Humans are highly influenced by their subconscious mind, which is great news for brands. While somebody might not clock your app consciously every time they open their phone, their subconscious mind starts to build up an association — one that increases awareness of your brand. This either means they’ll be more likely to think of you when in need of your products/services, or will be more inclined to use your business when coming into contact with it through other means.
- Competitiveness — Currently, less than half of small businesses have a mobile app. This means that by developing one, you’ll find you have a competitive edge over rival companies; offering accessibility and functionality they cannot. However, soon it will be the case that most businesses do indeed have an app, which means if you don’t have one, your rivals will have an edge over you. Apps benefit you in one of two ways: they either put you above your competitors, or they ensure you are on the same level as them.
- Value — Apps have the potential to add extra value to your business. Through features and functionality unavailable on websites, such as loyalty and reward programs, apps can allow customers to get more out of your business — boosting loyalty, reputation and encouraging more repeat business.
Without an app, your business fails to take advantage of these powerful tools. The simple question you have to ask yourself is: given the benefits we’ve outlined, can you afford not to develop an app?
How To Offer the Right App For Your Customers
There has to be a point to your app. There has to be a reason to its development.
This reason need not be complex.
It can be as simple as offering an enhanced user experience to customers, such as simpler eCommerce browsing, easier way of getting your company details or customisable consumer experiences.
It can also be as complex as providing a totally new product or service for your consumer base. Maybe it turns your restaurant from a dine-in only experience to a business that offers takeaway, or your hair salon into somewhere that now allows pre-bookable appointments through in-app reservation forms. Perhaps you’re establishing a digital loyalty program.
Whatever it is, your app needs to be giving your customer something they couldn’t get before. Otherwise, where is the incentive to download it?
So how do you build an app that is right for your customers?
You establish the problem that needs solving.
Perform an analysis of your brand, your business and your website. Work out where your app fits into your goals and business plan. How can it provide you benefit?
Then, look at your customers. Who is this app for? What do your customers currently need that you aren’t providing?
If you can’t find a weakness in your services, how can an app change up the game and enhance the user experience of your consumer?
The answer is different for every single business out there. Find what unique way the app platform will help you and gear your mobile app development towards it.
If you go in blind, not knowing exactly what hole your app is filling, you’ll produce something without purpose, without focus, which will fail to meet the expectations of customers. Your app will add nothing new to their experience of your business and, therefore, be wasted time, money and energy.
One of the best ways to work out exactly what people want is to ask them. This is something we’ve covered in another blog, Mobile App Design: Crucial Questions to Ask Your Customers. If you need inspiration on how to build the perfect app for your customers, go ahead and give it a read!
Why Mobile App Development Needn’t Cost a Fortune
There are two big problems that put small business owners off mobile app development. The first is a lack of technical knowledge.
Developing the code behind an app is complicated and takes advanced-level computing skills, which puts most of the population at an incredible disadvantage. The majority of business owners will simply never be able to build their own mobile app.
This then leads to the second problem: the cost of mobile app development through third parties.
It is no secret that app development companies often charge a small fortune — from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. While this may be a reasonable expense for larger corporations, small businesses are effectively priced out the market.
But times are changing, and SMEs need no longer fear the financial implications of developing an app.
When apps first hit the market, they were new, complicated and terribly expensive to make. Now, though, as the technology that is used to create apps becomes more accessible and older, apps become cheaper to develop.
Those who continue to charge excessive amounts for apps no longer represent the entire market. Mobile app development is now available and affordable for all small businesses.
Companies like us here at Apps4U now exist, offering affordable app development packages. Where an app would previously have cost you thousands, we can build it for hundreds. If excessive prices were the biggest factor stopping your mobile app development dreams, get in touch with Apps4U now. We’ll build you an app to fit your budget.
How to Design a Great App
A good app is all about good design. The fancy coding behind it is all well and good, but if your app does not flow correctly, or if it isn’t easy and intuitive to operate, people just will not use it.
Great app design is at the core of every successful app, but how do you ensure your mobile app design is strong enough to keep customers engaged?
The first step comes before you even start thinking about what your own app will look like. Go onto the app store and look at apps. Look at your competitor’s app, look at the apps of big corporations and other small businesses. See what others are doing. Then, try them out. What works and what doesn’t?
Then, you need to plan. Don’t just pile up ideas in your head. Put them into a visualised design, either on paper or on a computer program. Map out every single page of the app you intend to develop.
This is the best way to not only see how your app will look, but to also test it out.
It’s important to remember that the key to good app design, above functionality and appearance, is convenience, ease of use and navigation. App fluidity is paramount. Make sure you can move through your app easily, that everything that needs to be available to customers can be done so with ease.
Once you’ve got the flow of your app down, it is then time to think about the aesthetics. Getting into how the app looks over how it feels too early can leave you in danger of getting side-tracked but, of course, the visual elements are important.
We’d definitely recommend using colours, fonts and images that relate to your other business materials, as to ensure strong brand association. Again, it’s all about keeping things simple. Our top tips for good athletic app design are:
- Short, snappy language
- Reliance on images over text
- A limited colour palette
- Muted colour tones and strong contrasts
While we’ve given you a number of tips on how to design a good mobile app, we haven’t mentioned much about what you should avoid. Here the top three mistakes we see in apps — and ones you should avoid like the plague.
- Overly Complex: An app should be simple to use. It’s what people like; it’s what gets the engagement and the downloads. Too often, we see small businesses trying to include everything, which overburdens the app and detracts from the simplicity of the platform. Keep your app design straightforward and only include what you need.
- Ugly Design: An ugly or cheap-looking design does not inspire repeat use. Customers are used to quality apps, which means you need to be matching not only your local rivals, but big-name competitors. There are standards in the app world, so make sure you meet them. Consider looking like a modern website over an old, boxy HTML one. The difference is night and day, and you want to be on the right side of this chasm of quality.
- Trying Too Hard: Some mobile app developers try to stand out from the crowd when creating an app, in an attempt to encourage downloads and make their app more memorable. But again, like quality, people expect to see certain things in an app and deviation often leads to frustration. Ensure your app design works and looks like an app should. Don’t get so creative and ‘innovative’ that you change the very dynamic of app operation — for example, messing with touch interaction. Customers will not appreciate having to figure out how your app works.
Which Platform to Develop Your App On
In 2017, you basically have two options for web app development platforms: Android and iOS.
HTML5 also has its merits, but as Apple owns 12.1% of the smartphone market and Android 87.5%, only 0.4% is left for HTML5. At Apps4U, we offer development on HTML5, but Android and iOS are the primary focus.
If you only want to create an app for one operating system, you have to choose: Android or iOS.
Given that Android accounts for 87% of the market, you might be thinking it’s a no-brainer to put your app on the Google Play Store. Yet, despite the massive difference the market, the Apple App Store is much more profitable than Google Play.
So the Apple App Store is where you should be going then, right?
Well, don’t get carried away just yet.
While the Google Play Store does not achieve the same revenue as Apple’s marketplace, it sees a significantly higher number of downloads. It is also closing in on Apple for the title of the highest revenue figures, too, with some predicting it could overtake the tech giant as early as 2018.
So where do you develop your app? Well, it depends on what you are after:
- If you are looking for downloads, Android is your best bet.
- If you want your app to make money, iOS is where the cash is at.
But, where you really want to be is where your customers are.
At Apps4U, we are specialists in app development for small businesses. So, we hope you take our word for it when we say there is real value in developing an app for both platforms.
If developed at the same time, costs of dual-platform development can be severely reduced to those that are almost negligible. Then, if your app exists on both marketplaces, you have access to 99.6% of the consumer market and needn’t worry about making such tough choices.
Heard all you need to hear? Ready to start developing your mobile app? Apps4U is an affordable mobile app development company that specialises in creating apps for small businesses that don’t break the bank. Contact our team when you’re ready to reap the rewards of a mobile app.