Do you need an app as part of your digital strategy?

Is having an app necessary, is a question that is often asked, digital people. And it is not an easy question to answer. Not least of all because there is no right answer to the question. Developing an app can be very important, but it needs to be part of a broader strategy. An app should never simply be created for the sake of creating it. Unfortunately, this has been the attitude of unscrupulous digital agencies and vain CEOs – the former pushing to develop because of the additional revenue they will earn; the latter pushing for an app because it looks good and seems cool. So, what are the factors that need to be considered when developing an app? Here are a few things that you should know.

What makes it special

There is not much point in having an app if it is simply a clone of the website. Ask any of the mobile app developers Melbourne has coding on a daily basis and they will tell you that an app needs a purpose, a raison d’etre. The most successful apps all offer things that a normal website cannot. Nobody uses Uber as a website. Banking apps offer services that their websites cannot. WhatsApp is a much better app experience than it is on the laptop. The point is that an app needs to offer something special. It needs to set itself apart from the old-school website experience. And if you have this, or know what this is, then you should go ahead and develop. If you don’t yet know what the app will offer that the website won’t, then wait.

Versions

One of the trickiest things about app development is that you cannot make changes on the fly. Once the app is downloaded onto a phone, it is up to the user to upload the newest version as it becomes available. With websites, because they reside in the cloud and are visited by users, it is much easier to make changes. We are not talking content changes here, we are talking structural changes – new sections, bug fixes, redesigns, etc. Any of these things can be done simply on a website with no effects noticeable to the user. But a new version of an app involves approvals from app stores and buy-ins from users – it is much trickier.

Know the market

Another issue with apps is that because they reside on the handset they need to be built specifically for the phone. And then the question becomes if you have an Android app do you build an Apple one as well. Do you develop a product with reduced functionality that will still work for the feature phone market? These are important questions to answer as you plan your approach. And the key to deciding what to do is to understand the market and audience that you are marketing to. If it is a wealthy global audience (like an Air B&B clientele) then they will need to cater for Android and Apple operating systems. If it is an app that looks to offer mobile banking solution to unbanked Africans, then IOS will not be required as there is very low Apple penetration in the market but something that works in the feature phone space will be key.