Summary: As many businesses venture into mobile apps for the first time, they’re entering uncharted waters. Misconceptions still surround mobile app development. Many businesses venture into mobile app development with false beliefs…that could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Learn about some of the most common misconceptions and how to avoid them.
I remember back when smartphones first rolled around. Back then, many businesses viewed them with uncertainty. Was this the next big thing, or a passing trend?
These days, I don’t need to convince you that mobile is here to stay. I don’t need to explain how mobile is changing the business world. You’ve seen all the stats. You see the impact of smartphones in your day to day life.
Now, the mobile conversation has changed. The question has changed from “if” to “how.” Now, businesses are trying to figure out how to capitalize on mobile, and integrate it into their operations.
For many, that involves mobile apps of some kind. Now, I’m not saying that every business needs an app in the app store. For some, they just need a mobile web interface into their ERP system. For others, they need cross-platform apps for their customers. Your needs will vary depending on your business and goals.
The problem is, mobile is uncharted territory for most businesses. As they venture into the world of mobile apps, many don’t quite understand the ins and outs of mobile apps. They head into the project with many misconceptions about enterprise mobile apps–which lead to failed projects and wasted resources.
How can you avoid these misconceptions? First, you must understand what they are and plan for them in your project. What are they? This topic is so broad, that I’ll be breaking it up into two articles. While we’ll cover more in a future article, today let’s explore the first 5 common misconceptions businesses have about mobile apps:
1. Any mobile app is better than none
With any major trend (like mobile apps), many businesses make the same mistake: They adopt the trend, simply so they don’t miss out. After all, you don’t want to fall behind while your competition capitalizes on mobile…right?
The answer: Yes and no. Of course, you don’t want to ignore the mobile app trend. As illustrated in this article, mobile apps offer many advantages.
However, you never want to build a mobile app without a clear objective. Creating a mobile app that doesn’t serve a business need is just a waste of time and money. As explained below, relevance is the most important criteria.
“The honest answer is that what you build will never be more important than why you build,” says Uri Soroka, COO of Intellectsoft. “So perhaps the better question is: Why do you want a mobile app in the first place? Remember that relevance is the most important criteria. Selecting one objective that perfectly aligns with your company’s priorities will be more powerful than focusing on a few generic targets you felt obligated to include.”
2. More features = better app
Look around at some of the most popular apps available today. What makes them popular? Sure, they have a great interface, and they’re easy to use. But, they also understand the golden rule of mobile apps: Less is more.
It’s a common mistake found in many business mobile apps: They try to do too much. They try to cram every feature possible into the app. What happens? As explained below, it hurts adoption and usability.
“Businesses always try to cram too many features into their apps, often making them hard to use and expensive to maintain,” says John Geletka, EVP of Digital Strategy at Duffy. “A slow, cumbersome app that can do everything, really does nothing for the business if people don’t use it and can’t find the features. Multiple apps should be designed focused around key tasks. It’s not a bad thing to have 8-10 business apps, each performing a specific function around something CRM, sales enablement or training. We’ve found that usage goes up and maintenance goes down in this scenario. iOS and Android are designed to support an ecosystem of apps, and users understand how to operate in this environment.”
3. Development is a one-time cost
Another common misconception: The mobile app project is over once the app is complete.
Nothing is further from the truth.
In fact, one could argue that the real work begins once the development is complete. A mobile app is long term commitment. You must fix bugs, build new features that your users request, and keep the app current with platform changes.
“The most common misconception companies have is that building an app is a one-time deal or that costs would necessarily decrease significantly after the first release,” says Robbie Abed, Director of Product Strategy, Y Media Labs. “The app you will launch will, by definition, be the minimum viable product you can create in a limited time and with limited resources. Sure, you may have success with it or it may be a complete disaster. Either way, once customers react to it you will need to react back and constantly innovate to stay ahead of your competition and to respond to your customers’ ever changing needs. The rule of thumb is that for every 10 dollars you spend to launch an app you should expect at least 5 dollars for continuous app support and enhancements.”
What does this mean for your business? It means that the question of choosing a development approach or partner is quite important. If you outsource the work to an outside firm, you’d better choose wisely. It’s a long-term decision, as they will be maintaining your app for years to come.
4. Integration is easy
One of the most common problems we see in businesses today: Data siloes. Data lives in separate systems across the business. These systems don’t communicate with each other. As a result, data analysis is difficult and time consuming–often requiring spreadsheets and manual effort.
The problem is, some companies make the same mistake with mobile. They either don’t plan for integration with backend systems, or assume it will be easy. Their finished app is just another data silo that can’t communicate with existing systems. As explained below, this isn’t a step you can overlook. Not only is it critically important, it often takes more effort than you think.
“The biggest misconception among businesses is integration,” says Tom Ortega, Principal at Omega Ortega. “Everyone, no matter the size of the organization, thinks it will be cake to integrate. In my experience, integration is actually 75% of the development time.
In an enterprise, it’s integration with their existing middle tier and/or backends. They are of the impression that the solutions are robust enough, but quickly discover they are not. Should the app require new services, it is time consuming to get both the app developer and developer of those services on the same page.”
5. Native vs. mobile web is an “either/or” choice
The debate has raged for years: Native, hybrid, or mobile web? Which mobile app option is best for your business? There are great arguments on both sides.
The only problem: It’s the wrong question.
In fact, I’d argue that it’s a pointless argument altogether. Do you need a native app? That depends on your company, needs, budget, and goals. Is hybrid a better choice? It depends on what you need in the app. (By the way, I’ve put together a handy chart if you’re asking these questions.)
However, do you need a mobile web app? Well, let me ask you a couple of questions: Does your business use web applications? Or, do you already have (or plan to build) native mobile apps? If the answer to either question is “yes”, then you need mobile web versions of those apps.
Why? Any business application you create or use today must work across all platforms. These days, you don’t know how users will access your applications, and you can’t control it. Maybe they’ll use a PC. Maybe they’ll use a mobile device. Regardless, modern application must adapt to the device on which they’re viewed.
Or, suppose that you provide your customers with a native mobile app. What if your customers want to access the information in that app, but they don’t want to download yet another app on their device? Or, what if your app isn’t available on their platform? That’s why you always need a mobile web version as a fallback option.
For instance, look at popular apps like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Gmail. They offer cross-platform native apps, but also provide full-featured mobile web apps as well. Why? They understand one important fact: These days, mobile web apps are table stakes. You need one as a fallback, even if you’re creating a native app.
These are just 5 misconceptions businesses commonly believe about mobile apps. We’ll cover 5 more in the next few weeks. Would you add anything to this list? If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.
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