Here at Sidebench, we get calls everyday from people who are inquiring about our process for developing native applications. Some people want an app to be made because they want the exposure that comes with it. Others hope it will help validate their business. Some think it will cultivate customer loyalty. But before coming to these conclusions, one should take a step back and ask “do I really need a mobile application at all?” and “what’s the point of an app?”. Sometimes, the old-school website-only approach can be sufficient if you aren’t prepared to take the dive into the treacherous abyss that is the mobile app world. If you are 100% set on creating an app for your business, have a look at this article on whether you should go?hybrid or native.
So which is right for you? Website only? App only? Both? The answer varies from case to case, but a simple rule to remember is that websites are generally better for content and apps are usually better for specific scenarios or use-cases. But there is more to think about than this simple rule. This article will outline a couple of things to consider when deciding on making your mobile app.
Firstly, refer to the aforementioned rule of content vs. use-cases. Websites heavy in text, video, or other content that is more easily consumed on a big screen than a mobile phone screen usually shouldn’t be turned into a native app. Apps need to be thought of as pieces of software designed to fix a problem, not marketing tools that can be thrown around without regard for their actual, tangible use. Think about the apps that you use every day: how many of them are essentially a website in app-form? Probably none (and the ones that are,?have poor UX). Websites and apps fill different niches and should be treated as such. Don’t make an app version of your website just because you think it will bring more users or downloads because it won’t. Make your app with a use case, or multiple use cases, in mind. Differentiate your app from your website, don’t make it a replacement. And most of all, don’t make a content heavy app. There is no point and you would be better off spending your money elsewhere on things like traditional marketing or other operational expenses. We are saying these things based on two of our principles.
Principle 1: We only use interesting, useful, and unique mobile applications. And we only make things that we would use.
Principle 2: Apps are standalone pieces of software. Yes, they may tie in with websites or other software, but from an end-user’s view, we want the apps we create to be standout, standalone, and outstanding.
Like most things, there is an exception to the rule above and that is e-commerce sites. A good e-commerce site has an app alternative. The app, however, needs to be designed with a different use case in mind. E-commerce sites need to blatantly advertise as many products as they can to visitors. This is because many times a user got to their site via a Google search for a specific product type. These users know generally what they are looking for, but might not be 100% certain and thus may have alternatives in mind. An e-commerce app, however, is specifically downloaded by users and when they launch the app it is often because they want to search that specific marketplace for the product. The design of the user experience needs to keep these differences in mind when creating the product.
A great mobile app version of an e-commerce site will also offer unique features. Target has a map feature that allows users to plan their trips in the stores ahead of time, for example. Incentives other than just quick access to your site can really boost your apps desirability. Again, even though the content vs. use-case rule isn’t fully in effect with e-commerce sites as it is with other kinds of sites, there is still a point where a difference needs to be established.
Next, you should analyze when and why your website attracts visitors. Is it a site that has a large user base with the same users returning multiple times in a week like Facebook or Reddit? Then an app might be a great investment. But, if it’s a site that is often clicked through from a broad Google search like WikiHow or Quora, then maybe putting money into your SEO would be a better option than making an app. Users who don’t have a specific use case in mind for your app won’t download it — or if they do download it they won’t use it. Yes, a user might want to figure out how to build a photography light box and WikiHow might have the answers, but Google has more answers, so that user will probably use their Google app (or Chrome) to search their question. They might even go to?WikiHow.com, but they probably wouldn’t have gone directly to the WikiHow app. This brings us back to the point of having a unique use case: no one wants two apps for the same thing.
Finally, apps can provide certain aspects of usability that are simply better than a website. They can be designed to look better, be more interactive and smooth, and can be designed to fit specific screen sizes or operating systems that allow for a multitude of other potential design possibilities. All of this, of course, means apps cost more than websites as more work goes into them and more development is required to fit various devices’ specifications.
This leads us to our next app-making piece of advice:?building a cheap app can do more harm than good. The app’s design, function, and stability are all a direct example of your company or product’s public image, don’t skip where it matters. It may be hard to get your app noticed in the sea of mobile applications on the internet, but if it is noticed it will be because of a mix of a few things: impeccable design, great coding, capitalization of a niche market, and helpful/fun use-case.
Finding the right people to build your app is essential. It doesn’t matter how much you pay for your app to be developed, if the firm who takes on the task doesn’t care about what your mobile application is trying to achieve then they won’t do as good a job when making it. This is important when deciding if you ultimately even want an app to be made. If you stick with a website, you have much less risk involved. It’s cheaper, easier to change once it has been rolled out to the public, and often, is easier to market and for users to find. But, if you want to take your idea or business to the next level and have a perfect, well-rounded user experience on multiple devices, then the cost of an app is what you might have to pay.
Ultimately, there are alternatives to native mobile apps that are cheaper. Web apps can be designed very well and have almost all of the functionalities of a mobile app. Web sites can even be saved to users’ home screens on iOS allowing them easy access from their mobile devices. Hybrid apps are essentially a combination of web and native applications. You can read more about the differences between the two?here. In the end, if you want the perfect user experience on web and mobile, you will need both a website and a native application.
Our advice is to find a design team that will sit down with you to sort out every single issue before a single line of code is written. An?in depth discovery process?is essential for success. Keep in mind the reason why you are making the app, and?definitely don’t skimp on paying for a well-made mobile application. Then make sure the development team that is working on your project is one that is well versed in the creation of your specific application type, and is one that can implement the designer’s ideals with ease and fluidity. Finally, remember that the point of an app is to be a simple, helpful tool that can place your company directly into the hands of your customers. The design and stability of your customer facing application highlight the culture, care, and quality of your company overall.