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Do I Need an App? 5 Questions Your Business Should Ask

We get phone calls all the time from a prospect asking “Do I need an app?” The call typically starts with a statement like “My boss said we need an app, so I did a Google search and found your company.” Typically, we ask a few questions to assess whether the prospect really needs an app or if a mobile-friendly website is more appropriate.

Here are five things to consider when deciding between a mobile app and a website.

1. What is the purpose of your app or website?

When asking “do I need an app,” think about your customer. What do they need? What will satisfy that need best? An app or a mobile-friendly website? Almost everyone is connected today, so it’s hard to imagine a user who needs access to your site, but can’t.

If users often find themselves accessing your content when they are offline, it might make sense to provide an app. For example, news or entertainment apps that let you download for offline reading, listening or watching. There are also apps that let you download maps, guides, or tips to use offline. This is especially useful when people are traveling or hiking, and prefer to download content beforehand to avoid using data.

Apps can be very convenient for users, but only if a user feels your app warrants a permanent spot on their phone. This leads to the next question.

2. How frequently do users interact with your content?

Will users need to be logged in to see personal information or access rewards? Cutting out the need to log in every time you access the app improves the overall user experience.

A great example of a highly interactive app is the Starbucks app. Coffee lovers are usually on-the-go and want to get in and out fast. The ability to order her venti-red-eye-no-whip-mocha via the app saves time and gives the customer a sense of “cutting the line” to get her personalized order. Reloading a Starbucks card via the app and finding stores near you are other notable features–all of which fulfill the needs of Starbucks customers. And that makes the app a no-brainer in earning a permanent spot on their phones.

starbucks ecommerce app

3. Will you use built-in functionality?

An app’s advantage is that it can interact with functionality already built into your smartphone. If your big idea involves accessing a user’s camera, using GPS (like the Downtown Cincinnati app), or push notifications, you may want to consider an app.

Uber is a great example. When a user chooses a route and driver, the app taps into the driver’s iPhone and its GPS functionality to inform the user of the driver’s location and how long it will take them to arrive. Additionally, to-the-minute updates give the ability view information in real time. Push notifications alert the user when their selected driver has reached the pick-up location.

Now I know we can’t all be as cool as Uber, but their app demonstrates a service that uses those built-in phone features–making it a service that needs an app. If your business doesn’t plan to make use of a smartphone’s functionality, an app may be overkill.

uber mobile app gps functionality

4. How frequently will information need to be updated?

Apps are notoriously tedious–and expensive–to update and maintain. Unless you plan on building a content delivery system to supply real-time content updates to your application, you’ll be committing to a build-test-release cycle. This can make deploying even the simplest of content changes a long and drawn-out process.  

Each change to your app requires a new version, and each new version requires a new submission to the App Store / Play Store, followed by a review process before it can be sent out to your users. And once the new version is available, you still have to rely on your customers to update.

If you’re updating information more frequently than once a quarter a native application is likely going to cause more problems than good for your business.

5. What is your budget?

Although “out of the box” options exist, apps tend to be expensive, especially if custom development is required for both iPhone and Android. An app can cost $50,000-100,000 or more. Plus, you can expect additional costs to make periodic updates and enhancements. Oh, and when new versions of the phones or new operating systems are rolled out, you’ll be scrambling to make sure the app works properly. Be sure to consider your ongoing budget when asking, “do I need an app?”

So, do I need an app?

Maybe. Want to talk about an app or mobile-friendly website? Please give us a call or get a free assessment of your current website.