So, you want to build a mobile app for your business? Before you start it’s a good idea to be aware of the eight key steps in the process, and here they are.
1. Choose the right development partner.
Beware of working with a purely technical company who has the ability to do the computer wizardry behind the scenes but doesn’t fully understand your business priorities. Such companies will deliver to you a great technical and functional app but it may not be commercially viable. Speak with the developer before you get started: do you get the sense they are commercially minded and understand your business goals? If you’re expecting increased revenues, greater footfall, a certain level of return on investment or another objective, are they explaining to you how the app will help achieve that?
2. Identify which of these two development approaches suits you.
a. Low-cost, out-of-the-box app: small businesses may want to consider an app builder solution which can deliver an app customised with your business look and feel at a fraction of the cost and time of a bespoke app. I usually recommend starting with this option (which we offer at Smartfitapps), since it lets you quickly trial an app in a relative low risk/cost way to demonstrate a return on investment. It’s always possible to invest and upgrade the app later as you prove a return on your investment.
b. Bespoke developed app: Larger businesses may require an app to do more complicated things such as integrate with business systems (e.g.your electronic point-of-sale, customer database or another system). If you need this kind of integration, your development partner can cater for this.
3. Review concepts and wireframes.
Your development partner should show you visual samples that give a sense of how the final mobile app will look and operate. This is important: you wouldn’t build a house without seeing any plans first. This step ensures you know what is proposed and what you are getting for your investment.
4. Development and test.
Before development commences, ensure your app partner can develop, at minimum, for Google Android, for Apple iOS, for phones and for tablets all together in same development. If they develop only for one platform, you could be hit with double the costs to then launch on another platform at a later date. Once development is complete, your app partner must test the app thoroughly and flawlessly before handing over to you for review.
5. Review and sign off the finished app.
This is an important prelaunch phase in which you as the customer must review the developed app. Let the developer know now if there is anything you really need changed or improved before you sign off for launch.
6. Launch in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Your development partner should do this step for you, as there are complicated Apple and Google guidelines that must be adhered to. Ensure your app partner accepts responsibility for ensuring that the app will be accepted by the various app stores.
7. Create a discovery program.
Development only brings you half-way to your goal of making a successful app. It’s critical to plan how your desired audience will discover your app, otherwise it may just sit in the app stores undiscovered. I recommend a five-pronged approach depending on your budget, and your app partner should help you with this stage. I’ve devoted a whole separate blog to this issue which you can see here, covering my full five-part plan for promoting an app.
8. Measure, improve and create engagement.
Ensure that your app partner offers you a good apps analytics capability: you must be able to measure statistics of your app to know how to refine and improve it. Your development partner should let you know volume of downloads, unique visits/usage levels, where your customers are (anonymised for data privacy), and any additional information you require to manage your business.
It cannot be stressed enough that Step Seven (your discovery program) is vital to the uptake of your mobile app – but there’s an even more important step, and that’s the thinking that needs to go into your whole app project. Have a very clear idea of the business benefits you hope to gain from your app, and then you’re ready for Step One. If you need assistance figuring this out, do challenge your app partner to provide a proposal. It’s only by setting in advance your business goals for the app that you can hope to measure success after the fact.
If you’ve gone through the development process for a mobile app already, what advice would you offer to someone just starting out?
Mike Creaven is managing director of Smartfitapps (http://www.smartfitapps.com)
Keywords: app store, play store, android, iPhone, iPad, Apple, mobile app, mobile app analytics, mobile app development, business apps