Starter's guide to... Apps
We talked to our clients a few months ago, and asked what they'd like to hear more about. One of the major items of feedback we got was a lot of questions about ‘Apps’: Do we need one? What are my options? How do we go about it all? So as a response, I thought I’d take some time to answer those questions and hopefully steer you in the right direction.
What is an App?
We all use phones for way more than calling people these days, this is something we’ve come to expect in modern living. I use my phone as a torch more than I use it to call people! I think the majority of you know what an App is, you probably use them all the time, Facebook, BBC News, Instagram etc. Maybe you’re aware of the difference, maybe the user experience is so good, it’s just instinctual.
What do I mean when I say App?
An App's an App, right? I want an App that does this - make it happen! Well it’s not as straightforward as that, hopefully this will shed some light…
There’s two big players in app distribution, Apple App Store (which houses over 1.2 million apps*) for all Apple products including desktop and mobile operating systems, and Google Play (which contains a staggering 1.3 million apps!*) for any and all Android devices. Of course, there's more than that too, Windows Phone store, Amazon Appstore and Blackberry World all have their place in the market.
If you want an App on an Apple product, for example, iPhone 6, it will have to be downloaded from Apple App Store. It will have to be validated by Apple, and they take a percentage of return as well. Not only that, but any App on iPhone is available to everyone, everywhere - which doesn’t work for every situation or project we come across.
If you wanted an App on an Android device, for example, a Tesco Hudl tablet, it will again have to go via the distributor, this time Google Play. However, Android do let you make your own Apps and upload them direct to a device - which gives you a level of privacy if that’s what you're after.
We’ve had some experience in this area before, about a year ago we created an App for Standard Life that required us to load a feedback App we created specifically for an event – straight to Android devices. Check this project out in more detail here.
So what does this mean for you and your business? Well – depending on what you want, Apps can cost a lot of money, and you may have to compromise on your vision if budgets and platform compatibility get in your way. As mentioned above, however, there’s a massive amount of Apps already in existence, so you may not have to re-invent the wheel. But what if you can’t find what you're looking for; you still want some user experience but you don’t have the budget? Well there is a solution.
What’s a Web App?
There’s a cheaper alternative to an app, a Web App. Effectively a spruced-up website that's made to look like an App. Technically, any product or software you use online that’s not downloaded to your device is a Web App. These can cost a lot less than the real deal – why though? There’s less interaction with the device's core features, less development time, no requirement to pay distribution prices and so on. There’s also been some fantastic advances in ‘mobile first’ technologies like Google's AngularJS. Simply, Web Apps can be pretty sweet these days.
Yes, there are pros and cons to all sides here. A Web App is less elegant, you don’t download anything from the App Store so you don’t get that feeling of purchase (even when its free), you may not recoup any revenue and depending on the level of interaction you require and any data capture, you may need an internet connection.
So where do Apps fit into your company?
If you’ve got a product to sell, Apps can help – it’s a done deal. If you’re, for example, a pensions provider, then creating useful tools like pensions calculators could help bring customers to your doorstep. But what do you do if you're trying to sell an idea? It’s a lot less clear cut when there’s not a tangible item to utilise or sell.
My advice is to think about a purpose. Is there one? Is there a requirement? Does the benefit of having an App outweigh the cost of production? Are there no products out there you can utilise, or at least trial before you jump headfirst into it?
If you’re interested in taking the next steps in producing your App, or even just want some more information before you take your ideas further – We’re always here to help.