How do you create a great mobile App?

Planning to create a great mobile application?

Mobile Apps have become a vital part of marketing strategy for businesses that are looking to develop their brand. For some businesses, a good mobile App is more important than a website.

Until around five years ago, websites were the most important online tool for businesses. However, the growth of the smartphone market, which has been driven by rapid advancements in hardware technology and software design, means that today more people are accessing the internet on mobile devices than on traditional desktop computers. It is estimated that around five billion people own a mobile device; this represents 77% of the world’s population. Every business should, therefore, be concentrating on providing a service for customers on mobile.

Why are Apps important?

Apps have several advantages over a website. Even if a website has been designed so that it is responsive and loads fast over mobile Internet, it is still usually inferior to a well-designed App. Of course, you should not build an App instead of a website; an App should be developed in addition to a good, mobile-friendly website.

The first benefit of an App is that it is installed on a mobile device and this greatly reduces the bandwidth costs of accessing information. With a website, information needs to be downloaded to the phone every time a person requests a new URL. This is quick on a wireless connection but can be very slow when roaming and relying on a mobile Internet service. Even if the mobile is only ever connected to 3G, an App can download updates in the background so that users are not left waiting for information to update when they need it. Also, there are still many places that are not covered by a mobile Internet service. With Apps the only live information that needs to be delivered to the phone is the specific data that is needed to answer a customer’s question. Often, all of the information is present at all times; many Apps will just update information over a wireless connection.

Because the information is stored, Apps can provide a far superior service. Many Apps store videos, details maps, images and vast amounts of data. Some of the largest Apps are the navigation Apps; these store details of road maps and can take up around 2 Gb of space. It would be impossible to download this information on the move – many mobile Internet providers set a monthly bandwidth cap below 1 Gb.

Apps also provide a simple way to attract customers’ attention through advertising. If an App of general use is designed, some of the space within the App can be used to advertise services. This is because Apps are interactive and good Apps provide personalized information. This can then be used to target more specific adverts to individuals.

How to make an App

Making an App is a complex process that is complicated further by the various different mobile platforms on the market. For example, App developers need to decide if they are going to create an App for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile or Blackberry.

First a business needs to draw up a plan for the app and create a specification document. An App must have a clear purpose. This could be a marketing-based objective, i.e. to raise awareness of a company or brand, or it could be to allow existing customers an easier way to make future orders.

The system that is chosen will dictate the software language chosen. Some software is compatible across multiple platforms and this is preferable, but it usually comes with a greater development cost. However, if an App is going to be successful it does need to be muilti-platform compatible.

There are several frameworks that provide multi-platform development. For example, RhoMobile is based on the Ruby programming language and creates Apps that work on Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, iPhone and RIM. Similarly, PhoneGap uses HTML and JavaScript (languages used on standard websites) to create apps that can work on Android, Palm, Symbian, BlackBerry, iPhone, iTouch and iPad devices.

This is by no means a complete list; there are many other options available. But the first step in development is to decide on platforms and programming language. This is where the skills of a software development house come in to play. Software developers such as Worry Free Labs have extensive experience in developing Apps across a wide range of business so understand clearly the platforms and software that best help achieve different goals. A good software developer is also able to provide a critique of a company’s App specification and research the market to check that better solutions are not already widely available.

The App market is now starting to become saturated and the latest reports indicate that fewer people are now downloading new Apps. This is not because people have stopped using them but because there is now an app that meets almost every need. However, this does not mean that a new app that uses the latest technology cannot provide huge benefits for a business by engaging with a new generation of users.

Image Source: Mobility and applications concept