Do businesses need a mobile app53% of the UK population accesses the Internet via a mobile phone – and your business certainly wants to put its best foot forward when making the best impression with mobile users.

When it comes to mobile, your business has two quite simple choices:  users can either look at your website, or they can access more information via a mobile app.

An app, of course, is a piece of software specifically designed for a mobile phone or tablet. It can be designed to accommodate a smaller screen size, different ways of inputting data, and provide a more suitable experience for mobile users.

Many businesses are being encouraged to create an app, but this is a good time to be asking yourself:  does my business really need an app?

Let’s explore the options, and factors you should consider before putting the money on the table for an app.

Would a better website do the trick?

If your website doesn’t look good on a mobile phone, then the simplest answer may be to create a site using responsive web design. A responsive site resizes to fit the screen from the smallest of devices to largest of screens.  With the explosion of screen sizes, including large screen internet TVs, your first port of call may be to update your site.  

And keep in mind a responsive website is not a separate mobile site.  Your business should have one website that meets the needs of all your visitors, irrespective of whether they are on a desktop computer, a mobile phone, a tablet, a wide screen TV…

Do your customers need to take advantage of the features of the phone?

Apps are brilliant when you want to provide information based on the user’s location, use the mobile’s camera or communication features, or send users mobile notifications.  Perhaps you have a product or service that is most accessed or useful when a user is in a mobile situation.  In brief, is the “mobile” nature of the user central to the user experience?

Would an app add value to your customers?

There is absolutely nothing worse than an app that just regurgitates the information on your website. Ask instead if your app will provide additional content, or more functionality, or give a solution to a problem. One great justification for an app is that it would give a better user experience.

Do you have a requirement to access data “offline?”

Of course there so very many different types of businesses, and as a result so many different kinds of apps. One of the best B2B apps I’ve seen was a detailed product catalogue for a PIAB, a manufacturer of vacuum solutions for automated material handling and factory automation processes. The app included product information, product videos, fact sheets: a veritable cornucopia of product information.  But the great feature is that when the sales guys were in the office the app would update itself and synchronise with the latest production information. And when the sales guys were out on the road there was no need for Internet access – the latest information was stored on the mobile device, and they were always confident it would be up to date.

By the way, you can see the catalogue on the web here, and the full range of versions of the catalogue (mobile, app, web, etc) here

What will be your return on investment on the app?

Don’t let the development of an app be an emotional decision. How many mobile visitors does your website currently receive?  Does it justify the investment?  You will probably want to create different apps so that iPhone users and Android users can access it. Does it justify the investment?  Your app will probably have objectives like improving customer service, or helping the sales process, or keeping in touch with your clients.  Does it justify the investment?


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