Many companies want to create an app. But where do you begin? There’s so much to consider. It’s important to do it on the front end, because adding details after a contract has been signed with a developer can cost significantly more money.
Here are some tips businesses you should consider when designing an app:
3 Major Avenues to Develop
Once you’ve decided to create an app, there are three major avenues to design and develop an app.
1. The cheapest entry-level format is going online to companies that allow consumers and companies to develop their own iPhone apps using their content management system. This means you don’t have to know code or do analytics. Many are free or relatively inexpensive (ie $500-$2,000) to create, but generally share a percent of the royalties. AppMakr, Mobile Roadie and Sutro Media are just a few.
2. The mid-level plan is hiring a developer at a small firm. This will usually charge $5,000-$10,000 per project, depending on the features. Make sure the design work is being done in-house – you want to speak directly to whoever will be creating your app, and you don’t want it to be farmed out.
3. The most expensive option is hiring a digital advertising agency like Razorfish, which has high end clients like Mercedes-Benz USA, Best Buy and Victoria’s Secret, OMD, which Adweek Named the 2009 Global Agency of the Year, and JWT.
5 Fundamental Questions to Ask
Every company or business entrepreneur needs to ask themselves these essential questions before they decide which avenue, company is best for their needs.
1. What problem you want to solve? It doesn’t matter the industry you’re in, look to solve a simple problem in a fun way, with good design to make it useful.
2. How easily can my content be translated into mobile?
3. What’s the point?
4. How would you develop content differently for mobile than the web?
5. What do you want to do on the mobile front that is completely unique and original? It is important to take inventory of your assets and decide how to leverage them when talking about goals, said Brad Spirrison, editor of Appolicious, whose site rates and recommends apps. Remember the reasons people search and use a mobile device compared to the Internet are completely different. Which means you can’t just shrink down information that is on a website and port it over to an app and expect it to work.
Make it a Game
Games have always been the most popular types of apps. There’s a way to blend business with games. It’s what Mutual Mobile, an app development, strategy and design company in Austin, Texas did for Audi. They made an app game out of virtual testing driving an Audi. “Because of the high resolution it actually feels like you are on a sample test drive,” said Mutual Mobile CEO John Arrow, which lead to driving more customers into an actual test drive of the vehicle.
Consider Your Audience
Determining who your audience is is an important necessity to figuring out how the app should be created, and on what platform. “The joke is that the iPad changed the way people sit,” said Arrow, whose company launched in August 2008 and is now the biggest mobile develop and design consulting firm in the U.S. “It’s really true four out of five people use the iPad as a consumption conduit.” It’s changing how people shop, because “it doesn’t make it feel like work.” Since iPads are a big Christmas and holiday gift this year, and users are more likely to shop and browse catalogues compared to those who are browsing on iPhones, Arrow said.
Lost in Translation
A lot of great failures happen because a company tries to do a perfect translation from a website on to mobile. One example is Amazon.com. “With their first mobile app, they tried to do a perfect translation on to mobile and it didn’t work,” Arrow said. “Why would a user want to purchase on their phone rather than a computer? Nine out 10 buy that way, since it is easier to purchase on computer than phone.” Unless there is some reason, like being able to scan an item at Target while shopping and cross reference it against other store prices.
“It’s hard to do a traditional Google search on a phone, so any company creating an app needs to anticipate the type of information a consumer, client or user is going to want to know based on where how the consumer is using the information,” Spirrison said. “It’s about serving up information in pre-package formats, rather than requiring the consumer to dig.”
Design the App that taps into a niche market. It’s part of the reason, said Philip Tadros, founder of Doejo, the Chicago-based company that developed the well-known Texthog app. The app works because it solves a problem, and the concept was developed for multiple platforms from texting, Twitter and iPhone. Tadros has helped launch 15 apps in the past three years, including BookYap which aggregates books from Amazon to help users buy and review books on their cell phone and Watermelon Express which helps with ACT test. Another example is FHinspector, which allows firemen to use the GPS in to track and update inspections and permits on their iPad. This diminishes time because they can track pending inspections in their area to review while on the road.
Keep it Simple
“Don’t worry about trying to get it perfect, make it well-designed, helpful and get it out the door,” Tadros said. “Don’t over think it.” That’s because companies can update based on feedback. Simply put, said Arrow: “Don’t build the Swiss Army knife, just build the sharpest knife.”
Dawn Reiss http://www.mediabistro.com/dawnreiss is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about everything from eating crickets in Cambodia to the trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.