A few weeks ago, I started a two-part article for businesses who are considering building their own mobile apps. As mentioned in that article, smartphones and tablets are spreading faster than any other technology in history. As businesses rush to take advantage of this trend, they often dive into mobile without a proper understanding of their options.
In part one, we focused on 4 essential questions to ask before building a mobile business app. Today, I’d like to finish up this two-part article with 4 more questions your business should ask before building mobile apps, which you can find below:
Which mobile devices are your target audience using? Is this likely to change in the future?
Why is this such a critical question? It helps you determine what type of application to build. If your target audience uses a broad range of mobile devices and platforms, then you’ll want to avoid the native approach and go with mobile web apps or hybrid apps.
Why is that? Native apps only work on the platform for which they were built. Reaching multiple platforms with native apps requires the development of multiple native apps…which is incredibly expensive and time consuming. On the flip side, one mobile web app automatically works across all platforms, making it the ideal choice for cross-platform development.
Even if your audience uses the same platform and device, consider the second part of the question: Is this likely to change in the future? For instance, suppose your internal sales force currently uses iPhones. Sure, you could build native iPhone apps, but what happens if your company switches to a new platform in a few years? If you’ve built native apps, you must redo everything.
Here’s a great example: One of our m-Power customers develops software for trucking companies, and they needed to build mobile apps for their customers. However, they had no way of knowing which device each trucker used. What did they do? They built mobile web apps, which instantly reached all platforms…both now and in the future.
How does it integrate with existing business applications?
Ignoring integration is one of the biggest mistakes your company can make with mobile apps. After all, the last thing any company needs is another disparate system. If your mobile apps don’t communicate with your existing business apps in real-time, you’re only opening your company up to data errors and difficult maintenance.
For instance, suppose you built a mobile app that let your sales staff check stock levels on their smartphones. If that app doesn’t communicate in real-time with your existing systems, your sales staff runs the risk of communicating false information to your customers.
What hardware capabilities does the app need?
Does your application need to access any of the device’s hardware sensors, like the GPS sensor, gyroscope, microphone, or camera? If so, that could go a long way in determining your mobile app options.
How so? If your app requires full access to the device’s hardware, you’ll need to take the native or hybrid approach. If you need limited access to the device’s hardware, mobile web apps might suit your needs. As outlined in this article, mobile web apps can access most every hardware sensor, with a few exceptions. They still cannot access the microphone or camera (yet they can upload images taken with the camera).
What’s your plan for tablets?
While the term “mobile apps” generally refers to smartphones, don’t forget about tablets. According to a recent study, 31% of adults in the US now own a tablet. Considering the fact that the iPad–which triggered the current tablet craze–was released just 3 short years ago, those numbers are amazing.
So, what’s your plan for tablets? While some companies just use their smartphone apps on tablets, I don’t condone this approach. Why? First, it just looks bad. It looks like the company didn’t really make an effort to build a good tablet app. Second, it wastes a great opportunity to utilize the tablet’s larger screen size.
While smartphone and tablet usage are exploding right now, don’t jump into mobile apps unless you truly understand your options. Many companies have unnecessarily wasted countless hours (and dollars) either building apps they didn’t need, or building the wrong type of mobile app.
If you have any questions about mobile apps, we’d love to help. Just send us a note and tell us what’s on your plate, and we’ll help you understand which mobile app approach works best for your needs.