Having a mobile presence is more or less essential for business success in today's world. Whether you just have a mobile-optimized website, or a full-scale dedicated mobile application for your business, your customers should be able to easily find you wherever they are, from any device.
"With smartphones and tablets, people have a computer in their pockets when they're out and about," said Robert Grossberg, CEO of mobile game development company TreSensa. "[Mobile devices] are where people are engaging with content, so businesses want a mobile strategy."
Grossberg said the problem many businesses have with mobile strategy development is determining what is most effective, both in terms of reach and cost. Creating a mobile app isn't the right path for every company, but if it's something you're considering, ask yourself the following questions before you invest the time and effort. [13 Best App Makers of 2014]
What do I want to gain from my app?
If you want to create an app for your business, the first thing to ask yourself is what you hope to get out of it. Is it to bring people into your store? To get them to visit your website? Or are you simply chasing the trend?
"Many businesses waste a lot of resources because they think people will just come to their app," Grossberg told Business News Daily. "It's trendy to say that you have a mobile app, but if your goal is just to have that mobile presence, you'll create something that no one will ever see."
Small businesses should set a clear goal to focus on before beginning app development, he said.
Should I make my own app, or become part of an existing app?
Many businesses begin the app development process without considering the amount of time and money they will need to invest in the process. Becoming part of an existing app — for example, a directory-type app that lists businesses in your industry — can be an easier, less expensive way to claim your segment of the mobile market. The app creator can do the heavy technical work while also providing you with the opportunity to connect with its larger network of users.
If you do want to create your own native app, make sure you have a plan to continually update and work on it.
"Don't underestimate the ongoing maintenance," he said. "Constantly engage with the app, and as you're planning it in the first place, think about what you want to add over time."
iOS, Android or HTML5?
Once you've made the decision to develop an app and figured out your end-goal for it, the final step is to determine what platform you want to use. When businesses choose to create an app for only iOS or Android, they end up missing half the market, but building an app on both major platforms requires two different sets of technical skills, Grossberg said. While an app creator can make it much easier to develop an app on multiple platforms, including Windows Phone and Blackberry, maintaining a multiplatform presence will end up costing you more. HTML5 Web-based apps may not be as visible as those in major platform app stores, but they are compatible on mobile browsers of any operating system, as well as desktop browsers.
No matter what platform you choose, it's important not to take on too much too soon, regardless of your technical skill level.
"There are a lot of different solutions [for app development]," Grossberg said. "Keep it simple and work on it in quick, bite-size chunks."
Originally published on Business News Daily.