Jan 28, 2015 • Jessica Jones
Just about any function that you can think of: there’s an app for that. Most large businesses have their own apps. Heck, there’s an app to simulate using a stapler. More and more people are using apps on a regular basis - does your business need to have one? The answer is the same as it is for many of the questions that I pose on this blog: it depends.
<figcaption id="caption-attachment-3087" class="wp-caption-text">This has its own app. Should you?</figcaption></figure>
Being mobile-friendly is important, yes. For some businesses, though, having a mobile-friendly website will be more than sufficient. (Check out my blog post on mobile readiness to refresh yourself on the ways to make certain that your site is optimized for devices.) If your site is mainly informational, then having an app is unlikely to be beneficial for you. Making certain that that information is well-presented and accessible on a mobile-friendly website will be the best route for you to take.
The exception to this would be sites that are very large repositories of information - a regular user of imdb may have the app installed because it’s a little easier to navigate quickly. If you aren’t maintaining a massive database of high traffic information, however, it’s unlikely that an app would be useful for information alone.
Apps for businesses are most necessary when the site is heavily functional. If you have an ecommerce site with a large inventory and an account/login system, then a well designed app might make it easier for your customers to navigate. An app is practically a must for a bank. A restaurant may want an app if they have a backend system that allows users to make reservations online. A grocery store may want an app to use location-based features to notify a customer of deals if that customer happens to be in the area of the store.
As I said - it depends. The thing to keep in mind is that no one likes useless apps. If an app doesn’t perform a specific function for me then it’ll be deleted very quickly. If I visit a website using my phone’s browser and am prompted to download an app instead, there had better be a good reason - and “because our website sucks on mobile devices” is not a good reason. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, an app is not the answer; what you need is a new responsive design or mobile site, something optimized to make your site functional in a smartphone’s browser. Switching from the browser - which the user already has open - to the Play Store or App Store to download something just to be able to view your content in a mobile-friendly format is a lot to ask, and many users will just go to another site instead; one that they can view without having to install anything.
If you’re going to ask your users to download something, you need to provide them with a good reason. Your app needs to simplify tasks that they would choose to perform anyway, or provide them with valuable information/content/discounts that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. If you’re unsure of whether you’ll be able to accomplish this, then you probably don’t need an app.
Another important consideration is that developing a good app isn’t cheap. Developing a crappy app? That you can do on a budget, maybe even for free, but of course that’s not a great plan. There are places out there advertising that you can build your own app for little to no money; there may be exceptions, but for the most part this is a ploy to get the attention of companies who think that having any app is better than having no app, and don’t have the budget to devote to developing a good app. Don’t fall into this trap. Like abandoned social media accounts, bad apps do you more harm than good by giving users a negative impression of your company’s technological skills and ability to follow through with projects.
The short answer? If your main reason for considering an app is something along the lines of “apps are so popular,” “so many businesses have them” or “our site isn’t mobile-friendly,” then you probably want to reconsider. Your money will go a lot farther if you instead invest it into an attractive, mobile-friendly website.
Once you’ve developed that immersive retro-style open-world RPG you’ve always dreamed of? Then talk to me about downloading your app.