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Building a mobile app? Ask yourself these 5 questions

It’s a question we hear often from business owners: “Do we need a mobile app?” And for those aware of the recent explosion in mobile app usage, the tempting answer is ‘yes’. There are over 1 billion smartphone users in the world, and in just three years that number is expected to double. But is increased mobile usage a big enough reason to build an app?

There are as many apps in app stores today as there are smartphones in the world. So, perhaps the question isn’t “Do we need an app?” but “Is there need for another?”

If you are about to build, ask yourself these 5 questions.

1. Is there a need?
When building an app for business, your first question should be: are you meeting a need or are you fulfilling a desire? It’s the difference between something that solves a problem and something that’s just cool. Now, there’s nothing wrong with apps that are just cool, but if you’re building for business make sure your solution is useful.

2.  Who’s going to use your app?
As with any new business proposition, you should ask yourself: what is your target market? Is your app’s purpose to attract new customers or engage existing customers? And who will benefit from your app? With all kinds of software, the end user isn’t always the person using the app. Let’s say, for example, your app’s purpose is to increase the productivity of mobile workers. In that case, it’s the users’ organization that benefits from your solution. Knowing this will inform your marketing.

3. How will it work?
One of the most important ingredients in good mobile app design is user experience. Start by mocking up the way your app might look and work using pen and paper. It’s the best way to convey your app idea to your app developer. If you’re collaborating with a developer remotely, considering using video conferencing tools like PGi’s iMeet to discuss and share files. Then you’ll need to make a decision on platform. To choose from, there’s Apple’s App Store, Google Play, BlackBerry World and Windows Phone — and you’ll need to research the best platform for your app.

4. Who will build it and how much will it cost?
Building a mobile app isn’t a cheap exercise, so spend some time before you spend some money on finding the right developer for you. There are many places to look, including online marketplaces, like Elance, where you can find and manage contractors; design and development agencies are likely to be expensive, or you can give students the chance to work on your app by contacting colleges and universities. Most app stores link to developers’ website, so if you find an app you like, consider getting in touch.

5. How will you market your app?
Having the best app in the world won’t mean much if no-one uses it. How will you make sure that people can find it? Having a roadmap for development will ensure a steady rollout of new features, keeping existing users happy, but also give you the excuse to shout about your app again, so that’s something to consider too.

San Sharma (@sansharma) is community manager at WorkSnug, a mobile app and website that helps you find laptop-friendly workspaces near you.

Photo Credit: jm3 via Compfight cc

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