So you want a mobile app...

mobile phone with app screen

Mobile applications, or “apps,” have taken over large parts of our lives. They are everywhere. Some measure how far we walk, others tell us what to eat, and some even tell us when to relax.

For businesses, mobile apps can build customer loyalty in ways email and printed marketing materials cannot. So it’s no surprise that many companies are coming to Ventures seeking our help in developing a mobile app.

Before taking this step, however, it’s good to consider a few important questions.

Do I really need an app?
Apps can be expensive and time-consuming to build, so be sure you have a plan in place to monetize the app for your company. And beware, research shows 23 percent of apps are only used once, so make sure your app is continuously delivering real value to your customers, or they’re likely to delete it soon after they install it.

Do I need a native app or a mobile responsive webpage?
Once downloaded, native apps integrate themselves with the software and hardware of your phone or other mobile device, meaning they can access the camera, microphone and other features on your phone. Native apps can also send you push notifications, such as the latest news headlines or information about an upcoming sale, and they allow for data storage and can work even when you are offline. Finally, native apps also let you put your company’s name and logo directly on your customer’s phone screen and in the app store.

Responsive webpages, on the other hand, are basically a new skin on your existing website. The skin has information that allows items on the page to disappear or change size based on the user’s screen size. Mobile-friendly responsive webpages cannot work offline, are unable to send push notifications, do not allow for data storage and can’t access the features of your phone. However, responsive webpages are less expensive to develop and their technology continues to improve, making them an alternative to native apps worth considering, depending on your needs.

Next Steps
If you decide you need a native app, the next step is to ask yourself whether you’d like your app developed in Android (Google Play), iOS (Apple) or both. To have your app available in the Google Play and Apple Stores, it will need to be compatible with both platforms. Cross-platform methods that work on both iOS and Android are becoming viable for a majority of apps, but more resource-intensive apps may still need a custom app written for each platform. Currently, there are approximately 3 million apps available in the Google Play store and roughly 2 million in the Apple Store. We recommend your app be available in both.

There’s much more to the process, including designing your app, but these are the initial steps we think you should take. An app can be a big boost to your business, but it’s wise to make sure it’s the most cost-effective step for your business before diving in.

Ready to move on to the next step? Contact Ryan McDonald to discover how Rose-Hulman Ventures can help.