How to create a mobile app for your business

October 18, 2013

It is becoming clearer everyday that our world is becoming increasingly more mobile and, as a business owner, you need to be considering ways to make your presence evident in mobile technology. One way you can do this is via creating a mobile app. This process is nowhere near as simple as it seems, like any innovative development. This blog focuses on ways to begin thinking and implementing your ideas for your app using examples from the industry. Having an app is important; getting it right is the key to mobile success.

Getting started:

When you begin thinking about building an app, you need to think about three main things:

1. Your brand's objectives;

2. It's compatibility with different handsets;

3. The user experience.

If you can manage to incorporate each one of these elements into your app then you are on the right path. Let's look at each in a little more detail.

Your Brand:

There is no point in creating the best app in the world if it has no connection to your brand, or recognition of your brand in the app. Barclaycard created an amazing app, the Waterslide, which was an addictive, simple game but they didn't significantly promote their brand on the app. Aside from their logo, there was no journey to the place they ultimately wanted their customers to go, such as a place to open an account. Your brand needs to be the centrepiece to your app and the app you create needs to be focused on your brand and your community. Here are some traps to avoid:

Creating an app that has no relation to your brand at all - games are a tempting route to take when it comes to an app because the mobile community typically loves games. However, if a game has no relation to your brand it is unlikely to be successful in an already huge gaming app world. Look for your unique engaging angle.

Creating an app for a phone that your audience won't use - The Cooperative in the UK created an amazing app called Grown By Us that was relevant to their brand. They care about locally grown food and this app allowed users to scan the barcode of certain foods to find out which farm they come from. The problem here was that they failed to look at their demographic. Very few members of their community have an iPhone, and so the audience just wasn't there.

Creating the best app for your business but failing to advertise it - The amount of apps available in the app store is huge, meaning you really have to up your advertising to even get noticed. Around 300 new apps are developed everyday and the Apple Store grows by 20,000 apps per month. You have to prepare for advertising and make sure it is in your budget. Don't spend all your money on the app itself and then forget to promote it.


Part of the app development process will include an analysis of your mobile website traffic to see what handset most of your web visitors are using. It is important that you establish the needs of your community before you start building your app because you may need to make choices between an app for iOS or Android or create different apps for both. There are many ways you can conduct this research and one popular way is via a survey. Your survey should not be longer than 5 questions and users generally respond best to multiple choices so the survey doesn't take too long. Try to get as much useful information out of the survey as possible. You could even see how many members of your community pay for apps if you are considering putting a cost on your app. Find out what your community is interested in and willing to do to have you on their phone.

The User Experience

There are many ways that your app can contribute to the user experience and the approach you decide to take will be entirely case specific. Some companies have just reinvented the wheel with their apps whereas others have looked beyond that to create something new and useful. Here are some of the key things to consider when you are trying to decide what to do.

Think out of the box, but not too far: You want to look at your brand with fresh eyes and try to think about what would be useful for your users on their phone relating to your brand. If you are a clothing company, it might be useful for your customers to have an app with locations where they can purchase your brand with a stock list for each place. If you are a takeaway pizza restaurant you may have an app where people can visually build their own pizza and send it in to be made before they get there to pick it up. Don't get too wacky with your ideas but try to avoid the same old, same old approach.

Useful: This word has been used a lot in the paragraph above but it really deserves its own space. Your app has to be useful for it to be a success. What purpose does your app serve to your community and what will they get out of it. If you can't answer this question then you need to go back to the drawing board.

Uplifting and feel-good: People use their phones for useful information, to communicate and to waste time during their day on social media etc. If your app can give them a sense of uplift and excitement then it will become a bestseller. You might be a psychology brand that sends out daily inspiration via your app. Pinterest makes people feel good about their creative and cool personalities shaped entirely on this online platform. Games are a constant source of uplift, especially if users win and build up through the ranks.

Informative: Users enjoy feeling knowledgeable and cultured so if your app offers them this then they will keep coming back. Flipboard and other news source apps, collect information from many publications and tailor it to the user based on the users interests. Users can use this app to feel informed about the world in a cool, Flipboard interface. Travel apps are beginning to provide users with guidebooks on their phones so they can listen to an audio tour of the city they are visiting via an app.

Well targeted: All of the above apps are well targeted to their users and offer them something worth coming back for. You might offer a one-time app for those people visiting Paris for the weekend looking to listen to the history of the city. Or you might be an app that users return to everyday like Instagram, or every week like many shopping apps. Regardless, you need to know what you are and focus on that.

Have you developed an app recently and have something useful to share? Tell us about it below in the comment box.

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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