Thanks to the slogan There’s an App For That and the surging iOS, Android and BlackBerry markets, it seems like practically every company has a mobile app or is moving towards for mobile application development. In fact, in many ways, the mobile app today is what the website was ten years ago one of those tools that has transferred from being a luxury into a necessity for businesses of all sizes.
Of course, wanting an app & building and designing an application are two very different things. In fact, even companies and brands that already have a strong online presence often struggle with crafting and optimizing their mobile applications. The discipline of mobile design can differ in many fundamental ways from traditional or even digital design and these differences are often what can separate a killer mobile application from a mobile app that fails to deliver.
Here are five considerations you should keep in mind when venturing into mobile application development.
DO YOU REALLY NEED AN APP?
Do you really need a mobile or native app? Wanting an app because everyone else has one, or because it seems like the it thing right now, is not needing one. A mobile app addresses a specific user need when he or she is away from the computer. If your target audience will probably access your information from the comfort of their own homes or offices, you should probably consider a website.
ANDROID APP, BLACKBERRY APP OR IPHONE APP?
One of the greatest challenges with mobile apps is that there isn’t just one set of specifications to design and develop for. There are Android, BlackBerry OS, Apple iOS, Symbian and Windows Phone 7 operating systems, just to name a few. And each of these different operating systems has its own technical specifications. Yes iPhone is the obvious choice, but before you rush to build the iPhone app, consider your customers. If they are mainly business users then you may have more Blackberry than iPhone users. Having multiple apps is ideal; however, the cost of making apps for so many different platforms can quickly add up. Determining the one or two most popular platforms used by your target audience and creating apps for those, or creating a mobile website or web app, are much more efficient and cost effective alternatives.
DO YOU KNOW YOUR USERS WELL?
Anyone who builds software inevitably spends more time with developers than with users especially if your users are in some of the more hard to reach spots on earth. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked by technical details that the user doesn’t care about but that developers love to discuss. The user cares about cost, simplicity, and the user cares about whether the software gets the job done. That’s what you should care about, too.
WHAT ARE THE APPS’CORE FUNCTIONS?
You don’t need to cram everything from your website into your app. Telling the world about your company, displaying lots of images and offering in-depth information about your business are all jobs for your website. Apps need to focus on a couple of tasks (or even just one) to keep their appearance and functionality for users as simple and straightforward as possible. Remember, your users will access this app on a tiny screen with few navigation options. Your goal should be to create a sleek yet simple interface that allows the app’s usability and functionality to shine through.
WHO WILL BUILD IT?
It’s unlikely you have the right development skills in-house or want to build an in-house team, so you’ll have to for a vendor with mobile application development experience. Outsourcing your mobile application development to an offshore partner is a good way to ensure that your application is designed and developed by experts who have the technological insight as well as business perspective to take complete ownership of your product.