Expert view: To app, or not to app? That is the question...

InsightFeatures Fri 6th Aug 2021 by Katrina Bell

Expert view: To app, or not to app? That is the question...

Expert view: To app, or not to app? That is the question...

Feature by Katrina Bell | Fri 6th Aug 2021

Katrina founded boutique digital agency Aardvark Multimedia in 2003, and has been a B2B journalist for over 25 years. She was the author of the Web Dr column for Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business magazine focussing on online marketing strategies for KBB businesses. More

If you have an itch to create an app for your business, it’s vital that you ask yourself some serious questions before you take the plunge, says our web expert Katrina Bell.

In a grossly oversaturated market, the aim is to create that unicorn app that will not just be downloaded, but used. When you consider that the Apple App Store has 1.96m apps available to download your first thing to consider is why you think you need an app? Do you want an app because it is a bright, shiny toy and you worry that your business is not taking the next high-tech step? 

If you suspect you are suffering from some technology-based form of FOMO (fear of missing out), bear in mind the app landscape is littered with expensive white elephants – users spend around 90% of their time on their mobile on apps, but typically only use nine on a daily basis, and 30 a month, which will include tools such as Mail or Messages, which come baked into all phones.

So here are four questions to ask yourself:

1. Can the content that makes you the most money on your website have a better engagement and user experience in an app on a regular basis? Trade clients may well enjoy the experience of dashboarding all their interactions with your sales and support departments for convenience. Those are guaranteed value-added options. The best apps are always task-oriented and benefit from being a closed environment. The flipside is that a fully mobile-optimised website can almost always achieve the same. Factor in the duplication of resources and significantly reduced maintenance with one platform, and the extra drain of an app starts to look like a heavy load.

2. Can you define where your business processes have a problem that an app can solve? Then creating a closed ecosystem that those users will immediately see the benefit of using will be another vote for a separate app. But is that outlay going to work hard enough to solve it?

3. How and where does your core customer interact with your services? A deep dive on your analytics will answer that in minutes, but what they actually get done on a regular basis is the data you need to assess.  

4. Would you know a good app developer if you saw one? When you consider the amount of spam in your inbox for self-styled experts, recommendations can only get you so far. Just because one of your business peers has a killer app doesn’t mean the process wasn’t tortuous, ruinously expensive and ultimately pointless. Google is not your friend in the recruitment process, so consider reaching out to brands with existing apps and asking how it went for them. It’s counterintuitive given the competitive marketplace these days, but how else are you going to find the right developer for you?

There are app-building tools such as BuildFire, that claim to offer a DIY-build cross-platform app, as opposed to a native app that is device-specific, and to that I say, give it a go if you have an afternoon free to lose. Or an in-house tech genius. 

My final answer is not so much a hard no, but actually a strong suggestion to be cautious, as well as investing a good amount of time asking the right questions before you jump. The process might actually turn out to be just a great stepping-off point for your website’s next iteration.

Tags: insight, features, apps

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