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Why do you need a mobile app and what are the options?

Why build a mobile app?

Mobile apps are programs that work on smartphones or tablets, providing valuable tools to your customers and prospects. There are more than a million mobile apps in use, each offering a wide variety of services that cannot be provided by a website alone.

A Gallup Poll recently reported that more than half the population checks their phone multiple times every hour and the remaining half check at least once an hour. Ericsson, a large phone manufacturer, tells us that 90 percent of people over the age of 6 will have a mobile phone by 2020. Here's the clincher, at least for me. Nearly a third of google's ad revenue is already being generated via ads shown on mobile devices. That is a huge amount of potentially lost exposure, if you don't have a presence across those devices. Add to that the potential to attract, convert and retain more customers, and you have a compelling reason to build a mobile app.

A well designed and thought through mobile app should attract more customers to your band, increase brand loyalty, deeply engage users, provide you with valuable feedback about your prospects and customers, improve customer service, reduce your costs, create new revenue streams and much more. Great mobile apps are super quick to download and automatically update. The very best are built for specific platforms and exploit the additional functionality of the mobile device - such as camera, geolocation, messaging, etc. - to provide additional services that traditional websites cannot. At the very least, your website should be capable of being used on a mobile device - google made this an essential requirement for SEO purposes. The best mobile app designers will help you navigate the options and select the best type of app for your needs and budget.

What are the options?

At the very high end of mobile app development and design, we have so called native apps. They are built to work on just one platform. Web apps, derived from standard websites, are more basic and typically require lower budgets.

Native mobile apps

As the name implies, a native app is developed to work on a specific platform and optimise the user experience on that platform. The most widely used is the Android platform, followed by IOS/Apple and then then Windows and Blackberry in that order. Because they are designed for specific platforms, native apps typically optimise the user experience - they are faster, perform better and often look like they are an integral part of the device. On the flip side, they are more expensive to build and to cover the whole market you'll need to build separate apps for each platform. You will probably need an android developer and an IOS developer if you want to cover a substantial part of the total market.

Hybrid Mobile Apps

A more affordable option to native mobile apps, hybrid mobile apps can be installed on any device and can be run via a web browser. They use the HTML5 language - they are not as reliable, fast or as smooth as native apps. Although some of the giants of the web - including facebook and linkedin - started off with HTML5 hybrid mobile apps, they have since abandoned them in favour of native apps. Having said that, HTML5 still remains popular with many organisations that have less demanding content update and other requirements. Simply put, not having to build a separate app for each platform is still a compelling reason to go for a hybrid.

Traditional Web Apps, Responsive Web Apps and Adaptive Web Apps

A traditional web app will simply adapt to the screen size of the device that the website is being viewed on. A responsive web app takes on a different design depending on the device it is opened on - the app changes it appearance based on the device being used to view it. Adaptive web apps retain the same design as a web app but tend to better fit the screen size of mobile devices. In general, web apps cost less and are easier to develop (but they cannot use the additional hardware on the device - for example, camera. Also, they wont be available in app stores, denying your app a valuable channel to market.

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