These days, every company is racing to develop their own mobile app to differentiate their company from their competitors and to establish a strong presence in the mobile world. Apps offer great advantages for organizations such as additional revenue stream, improvement of customer service, and optimization of processes.
However, a lot of companies go into mobile app development with misguided goals. Most of the time it is because their competitors are doing it or “it would be cool” to have an app. These types of mindsets are the culprit for a lot of failed app development projects. And let’s be honest, failing in your app project means wasting a lot of time and resources of your company.
If you are thinking of proposing a mobile app for your organization, let this article help you decide if your organization truly needs a mobile app. You can go through the decision-tree diagram below and read the factors each of the questions represents.
Goal setting is very important for any project. It gives you a clear picture of your end product and helps you limit unnecessary and costly mistakes.
The first question “Will your app idea solve a problem that a mobile-friendly site can?” is two-pronged. First, it asks if you have a goal for developing an app. Second, it asks if you are choosing the right medium to solve that problem.
Successful apps like Airbnb and Uber started with the goal of solving a problem. For AirBNB, it’s to help tourists find cheaper and more authentic accommodations. For Uber, the original goal was to provide a safer, more reliable, and convenient way to travel using the existing network of drivers. By focusing on solving these problems, these companies were able to develop apps that address every concern of the market.
Think of a problem that you need to solve for your organization or your audience. Now, think if a mobile app is the best vehicle to solve that problem. Some people are excited about owning a mobile app without thinking if it's better built as a mobile-friendly site.
Mobile sites now offer a great range of robust functionalities like shopping, booking, editing, etc. In fact, popular apps like Instagram and AirBNB have website versions that offer the same experience.
If your idea can be built using a website, then it should be your primary option.
Developing a mobile app typically takes several months. Just the scoping or the initial stage of planning takes two to three weeks. You can just imagine how many more months it will take for designers to create the UX and interface, developers to code your app, and QA to test your app on every stage. If you are expecting your app to perform more complicated functionalities and you want it to be available on both iOS and Android, it’s safe to say that development hours can multiply by twofold or threefold. Let’s not dive into the bureaucracy in organizations in approving and deciding project details because that’s a whole separate discussion.
Needless to say, app development takes a lot of patience and long-term planning. If the goal for your app is related to an event that will happen in weeks or a couple of months, it’s best to consider creating a different digital asset or just an MVP.
Timing plays a huge role in the success of an app, if another company releases the same app before you, it will be more difficult to compete and you’ll end up spending more money on marketing and advertising. This is the reason why most startup companies with limited capital and are constantly monitored by bigger companies, typically release an MVP first to test out the market.
Developing a mobile app is costly since you have to employ the services of highly-skilled individuals and these developers are commonly paid by the hour. The more complicated an app is, the longer it will take to be developed and the more money you need to spend.
And mobile app costs don't only cover the initial development. Most companies don’t take into account the budget for the other stages such as deployment, support, maintenance, and marketing. A Forrester research found that the costs of development for the first two years only represent 35% of the total spend. The other hidden costs are necessary to ensure that your app consistently meets the demands of its users and more people download and use it.
Just to illustrate the other costs in having a mobile app, here are a few more items that you need to consider in the budget:
Moving into non-technical spending, marketing your app should also be factored into the budget. To increase awareness and be the preferred app out of tens or hundreds of apps offering the same functionality, marketing should be factored into your budget. According to BusinessofApps, you will typically need at least USD 10,000 for an app go-to-market strategy alone.
If your organization can’t spend on these, it’s safe to say that it doesn’t make sense to spend on developing an app. In a study by CBInsights, they found that 29% of unsuccessful apps attribute their failure to running out of budget.
Considering how much more expensive building a mobile app is compared to a website, it should also bring in a considerable return on investment for your company. For some app projects without a clear ROI in the early stages, companies must determine how much they can afford to lose by developing an MVP that can potentially lead to nothing.
For apps that won’t directly support sales, it should be able to support the other aspects of the company like consumer data gathering, customer support, customer retention, employee efficiency, and productivity etc., to reduce operational costs or improve profit down the line. A great example of this is the UPS app. While the initial goals of the app are simply to provide better visibility of the shipments and optimize the request for the pick-up process, it has helped in improving the trust with the brand and reduced costs to maintain a call center.
If these are the goals of your mobile app, ensure that they can be met by your end-product and that they are measurable. If it’s not, consider building an MVP first to test if it will work. Set initial KPIs that the MVP has to meet and see if it’s worth pursuing.
In other words, ask yourself if your app idea will truly make an impact on your business.
As with any other product, you need to know if there’s enough market interest before you create a mobile app. After all, the number one reason why apps fail (42%) is because of the lack of market research. Remember that apps take up valuable space in phones’ memory and take a while to download, making it less convenient than accessing a website. Downloading yours should be worth their while.
Your company can ask your clients or customers directly about their challenges in dealing with you or using your products or services. You can also invest in developing an MVP first if you want more substantial market research without developing the complete version of your app idea.
Another question to ask is if it will be used multiple times. According to a Quettra study, the average mobile app loses 77% of users within just three days. In simpler terms, it’s common for people to lose interest in apps, more so if it doesn’t offer much value. If you are expecting them to use it only once like a contest or a registration, a website could be a better solution.
Let’s take a measurement conversion app as an example. For people who regularly need to convert like bakers, architects, designers, supply managers, etc., installing an app is ideal. But for regular people who need to convert once every quarter, they would prefer typing the inquiry on search engines. The question is - is there enough audience who will download and regularly use your app?
The goals of your mobile app will determine the functionalities it will need. For instance, if the goal of your app is to encourage users to be more physically active by monitoring the number of steps daily, it will need to have access to the GPS on the phone.
Access to GPS, phone camera, acceleration, recorder, contacts, and working offline are some of the functionalities that only a mobile app can have. If one or more of these are essential in delivering the intended outcome of the mobile app, then you should build a mobile app.
There’s also an exception if the functionality can still be built on a mobile website. If it will require more complex computing, a mobile site might be able to do it but loading it will take time, resulting in terrible user experience. Making an app will give you access to the processing power of the phone. Great examples of this are games and real time animated dashboards.
Last and probably one of the most overlooked factors in deciding whether to build a mobile app or not are the restrictions on rules and regulations. This pertains to both the app distribution platform and your target locations.
Building a mobile app is a separate process from submitting one to Google Play and App Store. Some companies struggle with having their app approved which can cause financial loss or worse not launching their app at all. Hey.com is one of the most high profile companies that have been rejected by Apple AppStore which led to the antitrust hearing in the US congress.
Both platforms have their own rules and regulations in accepting an app.
To know if your app idea will pass, better review the guidelines first. Here are the links:
Google Developer Policy Center
Just to give you a brief idea, here are some of the non-development reasons why Google or Apple may reject your submission:
Another consideration is the possible compliance with the local regulations of your target country. Europe created GDPR a few years ago to make sure that tech companies don’t abuse the collection, use, and distribution of data. Both Google Play and App Store already require this for all app submissions even if you are not operating or targeting European countries. Note that some countries have more specific laws related to distributing or operating an app. Google has a guide specific to Japan and Korea. It’s best to study these laws or bills especially if it will affect the final product. If it’s in a grey area, try building an MVP first.
Though everything is going towards the direction of mobile, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is the right time for everyone to build a mobile app. Moreover, not every idea is ideal to be translated into a mobile app. There are alternatives like a mobile-friendly site or an MVP to test your idea first without wasting your organization’s resources.
Get in touch with Prototype today to get our advice on your mobile app idea for your organization.
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