Nowadays, it is hard to imagine life without smartphones and the mobile apps that accompany them. Advertising campaigns involving them appear almost everywhere. A simple example can be made of mobile banking in Poland and the growing popularity of payments through applications such as Blik and Android Pay, to which Apple Pay will soon join. However, before investing in your first mobile application to support and develop your business, let me answer a few questions you may have and to provide you with some important facts regarding the mobile industry.
Since you have decided to spend a few minutes of your precious time reading this article, I would like to first point out that this article is primarily geared towards people who have never before had contact with developing software for mobile devices. Certainly, for some of you, the issues raised in this article will seem obvious. This has been written as a result of many years of observation and experience cooperating with both investors and clients that had little-to-no knowledge of the IT industry. It is my aim in writing this to provide a foundation of knowledge that can be widely understood by anyone intending to start their adventure with ‘mobiles’.
Who invests in mobile technology?
More and more small and medium-sized companies are deciding to invest in mobile technologies following an acknowledgement of how they can significantly benefit the expansion of a modern business. Mobile applications are now used in gastronomy, furniture, cosmetics, automotive, e-commerce, and many other markets. Access to the latest technologies and appropriate tools has created an optimal environment for local brands, who can now afford to create their own applications or have them developed by an agency specialising in this area.
The first step in the development of any mobile project is to find a reliable partner that will fulfil your vision.
An experienced and well-coordinated team will be able to create the ideal mobile product within 2 to 5 months. Of course, this does depend on the client’s needs and how complex the application is expected to be. Within the IT sector, the most sought-after specialists are those with a wide range of skills and who are capable of multi-tasking. If you have everything carefully planned and can gather an interdisciplinary team consisting of several people whose competences can be combined with a high level of commitment, you will have obtained a recipe for guaranteed success. In the case of a simple app, this team might consist of only two people, whereas in more complex projects there could be as many as ten team members.
How much does it cost?
It is quite obvious that the more people involved in the project, the higher the costs of its implementation. The timeframe should also be considered, which should be as short as possible. Some may think that the cost of creating a simple application that is counted into the thousands of pounds is too much. Let’s not kid ourselves, developers are among the best-earning professionals in the world, and the demand for their services only continues to grow.
Certainly, there will be those who think of employing a student to create a valuable product for them whilst simultaneously saving on cost. However, the chances of creating a valuable app could not be much farther from the truth. Working on a mobile application is a team-based job. One person will not be able to design, program and test everything in a reasonable time frame, let’s say in two months. Writing an application for one’s own needs is one thing but meeting a client’s needs is a completely different story. Remember that by using the services of a software development company, you are also paying for the ‘know how’, which constitutes the invaluable knowledge about how to deliver software with the highest possible business value. An accomplished developer who has a portfolio of professional projects and has experience in self-publishing has surely learnt techniques and ways to minimise risk that are of very high value.
An investment with quick returns. Although not necessarily…
Being a local entrepreneur, for whom the costs of a mobile app investment may outweigh any potential profits does not constitute a good strategy for success. However, if you run a company generating large profits, with a focus on modernisation and making long-term investments, it is worth considering different possibilities for improving customer service and sales processes.
Mobile apps can, for example, be an effective tool for fulfilling the goals of a loyalty program. Here comes to mind a popular chain of drugstores, whose sellers ask me each time “do you have the app?”. With the help of applications, we can also arrange appointments with the family doctor, organise transportation, book hotel rooms, shop with delivery to our homes and, of course, order food. We even find applications that monitor our sleep and help to improve our overall sleep quality. Examples of their use can be counted in the tens, hundreds, or perhaps even in the thousands.
The following quote illustrates perfectly the current situation on the market.
… we need everything, we just haven’t discovered what these needs are yet.
Users download tens of millions of applications every day and this number is increasing all the time. This gives us a huge opportunity to exploit its potential to benefit us in every area of our life, all with just a smartphone in our hand.
Technology in business
Many companies decide to publish their applications on Google Play or the App Store with the aim to improve the quality of their services and acquire new customers. Arguably, mobile technologies have become an integral part of modern business management. Indeed often, dedicated mobile applications serve as an internal tool for managing customer relations, inventories and other key areas of a business’s activity.
If you feel the need to improve your business through the use of mobile devices, it is worth seeking advice from an experienced and specialised professional from this industry.
Do you know what you want to achieve through a mobile app?
Fundamentally, all you need to do is answer one very simple, yet important question – Why do I need a mobile app?
Do, or do not, there is no try.
When talking to an interactive agency or software house, it is important that they know your expectations, what is your goal and what you aim to achieve by creating a mobile application. Certainly, it will help your future partner to be able to adapt the product to your expectations.
Very often we only have a general outline of how a given functionality should work, but we do not know what tools will need to be used. When creating their first application, many stakeholders think that they know what is best, which can not only lead to some serious communication problems but may result in the reduced quality and usability of the product. If you decide to use the services of an external company, after verifying their competences, be sure to have confidence in them and let their professionals solve the problems for you.
When implementing most projects, two methodologies are most commonly used; waterfall and agile. In the waterfall approach, the complete project plan must be prepared in advance, preferably with all the possible functionalities that will be carried out already established. Agile methodology, on the other hand, is used when it is not known exactly what the final product should look like and when those involved are prepared for changes during the project. In addition to the different work methodologies, the project may also involve the adoption of various forms of financial settlement for the work done.
Who will use your app?
Many people who asked me to develop a mobile app for them were not able to separate their own needs from the needs of the target group. It is hard to imagine the start of a serious economic activity without prior examination and undertaking market research. Similarly, the development of any software should be preceded by usability studies (User Experience). Of course, at the design stage, we will never be able to predict all dependencies and user expectations. As such, most development projects will be subject to further adjustments, once the effects of a developers hard – but pleasant – work has been published. Neglecting this process may result in a worthless product whose only key user is the main stakeholder.
If you want your app to be useful, it is imperative to listen to the opinions and expectations of your target group. In a sense, the intention is to create a tool that solves problems and facilitates everyday life. The key to success for achieving this goal is to carefully diagnose the needs of potential users.
Diagnosis and prognosis
Approximately 6 million mobile apps are currently available on Google Play and the App Store. It is quite unlikely that your product will match the popularity of apps such as Spotify or Waze which currently sit at several million downloads on the counter. However, in my opinion, is not about creating an app that will compete with the most popular apps, but one that will truly support and develop your business. Today, no-one is looking through phonebooks to search for retail and service companies. Instead, users start with a computer, the Internet and a Google search. Responsive websites are obligatory if we want to be noticed on the web and mobile apps simply complement this. I would even argue that having an available mobile app for your brand is slowly becoming the de-facto standard. Taking into account the ever-broadening range of simple-to-use tools for the creation of such solutions, the market is becoming ever more saturated.
In a similar way to which TV sets 50 years ago were considered as luxury goods, yet over the years became available for everyone, now mobile apps – once very expensive in production – have become available at your fingertips.