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4 essential questions to ask before building a mobile business app (part 1)

EducationSummary: As businesses rush to build mobile apps, they often dive into the project without proper planning, or without an adequate understanding of their mobile app options. As you might imagine, this causes problems. It produces the wrong type of mobile app, or mobile apps that the company doesn’t really need–wasting time and money in the process. Learn the questions you should ask to avoid these problems.

photo credit: FirmBee via pixabay cc
photo credit: FirmBee via pixabay cc

Mobile application adoption is growing rapidly in the business world. Recent research finds that 82% of technology decision makers view apps as integral to their organization.

The problem: Mobile applications are still uncharted territory for businesses. Many jump into mobile app development without understanding the ins and outs of a successful mobile app.

The result: Studies find that nearly 80% of enterprise mobile apps are abandoned after their first use.

To make matters worse, developing a mobile app isn’t cheap. While cost varies dramatically depending on the application, surveys find an enterprise app ranges from $25k – over $1,000,000, with an average cost of $271,000.

Think about that for a minute. All of the time and expense of building an enterprise mobile app goes to waste 80% of the time.


In many cases, these businesses aren’t asking the right questions before they start their projects. They’re diving in, without a true understanding of what they need.

What questions should you ask before building a mobile app for your business? This topic is so broad, that we’ll split it up into two articles. Today, let’s explore the first 4 questions you must ask before building a mobile app.

1. Is Your Mobile App a ‘Vitamin’ or ‘Painkiller?’

It’s a mistake made by many companies these days: They come up with an idea, turn it into an app, and then wonder why their users don’t use it.

The problem: Their app doesn’t solve a problem that their users are trying to solve. It doesn’t address the user’s pain. As explained below, that’s one of the most important aspects of any successful mobile app.

“Is Your Mobile App a ‘Vitamin’ or ‘Painkiller?’, asks Ian Naylor, CEO at AppInstitute. “It’s vital to understand the problems your product is addressing. Vitamin Products are nice to have, but not must haves. These products will generally be low priority and so the marketing message and price point need to reflect this. Painkiller Products are must haves. They’re addressing a real pain point in a business and so the language should address this and generally the pricing can be more aggressive. Coupling these points with the persona’s and perspective of the users can make a huge impact to a product’s success. For example, the closer the painkiller is to the decision maker, the bigger the take-up.”

Now, there’s one caveat to this point: Don’t guess what problem the users want to solve. It’s easy to look at the user’s problem, and assume you know how to fix it. However, the “pain point” must come straight from the users. Talk to the app’s target audience, and try to truly understand the problem they’re facing. Only then can you create a “painkiller” app.

2. How does a mobile app support a higher level business goal we have?

Let’s assume your app idea is truly a “painkiller” for your customers/prospects. Does that mean you should jump right in and build it? Not necessarily. It’s possible that your app might solve a pain point, but not help your business.

The question you must ask is, “How much is this application worth to my business?” What’s the payback?

Now, the payback isn’t necessarily revenue. It could be areas like productivity, customer engagement, automation, and far more. But, as explained below, any successful app must support a larger business initiative.

“This question is critical because often, businesses just feel compelled to be “mobile”, due to technology and competitor trends, so they make an app,” says Zack Naylor, CEO & co-founder at Aurelius. “But, it fails because they failed to appropriately define exactly how creating a mobile app should some how support a larger business initiative (like acquiring new customers, deepening relationships, extending the value of another one of their products, etc.)”

3. Will My Mobile App Produce a Compelling Experience that Only a Native App can Provide?

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc
photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

Many businesses make the same mistake when considering mobile apps: They equate mobile apps to native apps.

However, they don’t realize (or willfully ignore) that the native approach is just one of three different mobile app options. It’s also the most expensive and time consuming approach.

Do you really need a native app? It all depends on your business and the goals for your app. I won’t get into all of the different options here, but we have a handy comparison chart here, which goes into more detail about each option.

The point is this: Never assume you need a native app. As explained below, unless your app needs an experience that only a native app can provide, you’re often better off with a different option.

“We see many businesses build a native app that is just a copy of their web site,” says Terence Channon, Managing Director, Saltmines Group. “If something can be done equally well via a mobile site, then the additional programming and investment to have an app is likely not worthwhile – and furthermore, customers won’t want to use it. An app for a restaurant that has the hours of operation and a menu? That can be done via a mobile site – and easier for a customer to access. Welcoming the customer via the native app when they walk into the venue based on their location, that is more compelling. Make sure the app offers a unique experience that justifies the user investing time and phone space to download and use.”

4. What platform are you going to develop in?

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous question. If you choose the mobile web approach, the answer is easy. It’s already cross platform.

However, those that choose the native approach are often hit with a harsh realization. Converting an app from one platform the next is not easy. Building apps for different platforms requires completely separate applications.

Do you need an application that works across all platforms? Generally speaking, the answer is “yes,” but it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your app.

“Once you know what you trying to achieve you need to choose a platform to develop on,” says Grant Price, Ceo of Opinion Orange. “If money is not your issue are you can get your developer to create your app from the ground up but it can be costly. If money is a concern choosing a coding platform will help speed up the process and save costs. Different platforms have different strengths and limitations. That’s why knowing what you want to achieve is important.”


These are the first four questions you must ask before building an enterprise mobile app. Stay tuned, as we’ll cover more in an upcoming article. 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.

5 thoughts on “4 essential questions to ask before building a mobile business app (part 1)”

  1. Very useful tips, I like the valuable information you provide for your articles, Thanks for posting such an informative and helpful information. I love this website. An impressive and interesting information about – 4 essential questions to ask before building a mobile business app.

    I am slightly sure this information is really helpful for the app owner to make a revolutionary application which will help to consumers like a “Vitamin’ or ‘Painkiller”


  2. Today’s generation is fond of working on mobile apps. Statistically, in 2015 there were about 2000 million global users who spend about 51% of total time per day on mobile media. Business Mobile Applications based on ERP are the best option for service providers to connect with audience. Business ERP apps are excellent tool to increase revenue for your business.

    Great Article, It really gives proper collaboration to understand the main theme step by step, keep it up.

  3. Before the development of an application, it should be decided about the platform on which it is going to be made and also about the features. The features going to be added should have some uniqueness in it. These are the basic points that must be asked or looked after before starting the project.

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