It seems like everywhere we go lately, businesses are suggesting that we should install their app. In daily life, we probably interact with dozens if not hundreds of businesses that have apps — so much so that as a business owner without one you can easily feel left out.
What is an App?
Typically an App is understood to be a small computer program designed to run on a smartphone. A good App will do just one thing and do it very well. It should have a very clear purpose and your customers should be able to use it without any explanation or instructions.
What is your Motivation?
The first question to ask is why do you want to build an app. In general there are several good motivations and several bad motivations.
My competitors all have apps — it seems like I’m being left behind
A guy came into my shop and offered me a great deal on building an app.
My nephew is studying computer science and needs to build an app as a class project.
I want to offer my customers a better way to communicate with my business so that I can serve them better.
I’ve got a great idea for an online service that nobody has built before and I want to see if people like it.
See if you can figure out which are good and which are bad.
So, you need an App?
Now that you’ve figured out that your motivations are good, and you still really need an app is it time to start looking for somebody to build an app for you? Well, this is where it starts getting complicated.
It turns out that there are actually two completely different ways of building an app. The first is where you put the app in an App Store and your customers install it on your phone. This is what we typically understand as building an app and this can be a slow, complex and expensive process. For a start, you’re going to have to build two of these apps — one for Apple devices and one for Android devices. Then you’ll have to get them reviewed and approved by each App Store before you being the long and difficult process of persuading your customers to install the app.
This is where you hit a big snag. Most people have far too many apps on their phone and are extremely reluctant to go to the hassle of installing another without a really compelling reason.
There is another big problem if you want to sell goods or services through your app. Both Apple and Google require a 30% commision on everything sold through their App Stores. This is somewhat acceptable for online services but is a deal-breaker for almost all physical sales. While Google can be a little more flexible than Apple, if Apple find you trying to bypass this commision in any way, they will remove your app from their platform and you’ll no longer have a business. Even businesses with the might of Amazon or Spotify have to take these terms.
A Better Way
For most business and applications, there is a better way to get started. This is that you build a Web Application. A web application is effectively a fancy web page that offers most of the capabilities of a true Mobile App but does not need to be installed.
Over the last few years, the capabilities of interactive web technology has advanced to the point where for many applications, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a web application and a native app. They can be developed at a much lower cost and the best part is that if you design it well, you only need one web application to support Android, Apple and desktop/laptop computers.
The good part of this is that all your customers need to do to install your app is go to your website. They can easily find your website on search, Google maps, Facebook campaigns or whatever other mechanism you use to get traffic. The best part of all is that if you sell something on your app, there is no need to pay Apple or Google a percentage of your sales.
A Hybrid Solution
Here at linkalist, we believe that the best solution is a hybrid web-first solution. Since you can serve all your customers with a Web Application, you should build that first as a Minimum Viable Product. You can change this much more quickly as you get a better picture of what your customers want and how they are using your service.
Once you’ve got a service up and running well, you may find that your most loyal customers are demanding features that can only be delivered with a native mobile App. If it looks as if you can get a return on your investment in building an app, this is the time to start building a native mobile App.
At linkalist, we embrace both approaches, but our advice to almost all customers is the same — build a web application first before investing time and effort in mobile apps as they provide a quicker route to market, an easier way for your customers to install and a commision-free way to sell to them.
Linkalist offers a low-cost, rapid route to market for web and mobile applications. If you want to talk to us about building any kind of App, use the sign up button or contact us by email, phone or social media.