Does your business need an app?

So how can a small business owner – whose expertise does not lie in programming or coding (or doesn’t have the inclination to learn) – create a custom app for their company?

Whether you’re building the app in-house, or outsourcing the job, there are certain questions business owners must ask themselves before spending huge amounts of time and money on app technology.

Does your company REALLY need an app?

All too often, small businesses apply for apps to be created when all they really need is a mobile-optimised website to increase their mobile presence. If your app doesn’t incorporate smart phone functionality, it probably isn’t worth the investment. In fact, if it doesn’t take advantage of ‘native’ mobile features (i.e. the basic functions of the phone) – such as the camera, GPS, or ‘PUSH’ notifications, it will probably be rejected by Apple. Think about whether the point of your app is to use phone functions – if it’s not, there isn’t a lot of point creating it.

How much data are you sending and receiving through this app?

Mobile apps don’t rely nearly as heavily on the internet, so if the point of your app is to send and receive huge amounts of information, it is a better idea than a mobile website. On the other hand, if the point of your mobile presence is so your users can access the most recent information, and you plan on making frequent updates, a mobile website will suffice. Updating an app can be a laborious process, as these have to go through the app store’s approval processes.

Are you trying to raise your ‘web presence’ and boost your SEO?

Do you want to drive traffic to your site and increase visibility among search engines? If so, stick with a mobile website. Mobile websites are much more ‘findable’ because their pages can be displayed in search results. Apps are part of a closed environment and won’t directly affect your search ratings.

This comes back to an important question – are you an established enough brand that people will search for your app? If not, you cannot expect a huge volume of downloads. And so another reason not to invest in one, potentially.

How much can I expect to pay?

Mobile or responsive design is quicker to develop than an app, and only needs one code base to work across all devices. For this reason, broadly speaking, it costs less to create. But how much do apps actually cost?

The more phone functions it integrates and services it links these to, and the more data being sent back and forth – the higher the price tag.

Between £6,000 and £10,000 will get you a basic app which uses native features in the simplest way, e.g. an app which allows you to take and submit a photo.

Paying between £10,000 to £15,000 would buy you a more complicated app. This would connect to different services and phone features, such as GPS and your handset’s camera.

Anything upwards from £15,000 would yet again integrate more phone functions.
For example, an app which allows you to upload an image of a car number plate, recognise the number plate and contact the DVLA to get the car’s details, allowing the app owner to store information on the driver.

Remember, if the point of your app is to boost following and SEO, this might be an expensive waste of time. But if your app is to provide a service through the actual functions of the phone – often for an established or niche following – it might be the best investment you ever make.