Tablet and Smartphone apps are all the rage and app building is a popular offering for digital agencies. As consumers, we use them for everything from coffee loyalty cards to checking the traffic and bus timetable. But there are a lot of apps in the market that sit there gathering dust with nary a use after download. Plus, we’ve all had that experience of an app turning the whole smart phone haywire.
So how can you ensure that an app is right for your business? How can you ensure the app you create is useful now and into the future, without making phone usage hard for those who download it?
Strap yourself in, people! Webcoda is about to get ‘appy with you and app building.
Do you really need an app?
The first steps to understanding if the app building process is one you need to undertake is identifying if apps are actually needed in your business.
Beyond the whole cool idea of pocket portability, the best apps solve a consumer problem. They alleviate pain in some way and make life simpler.
To define your consumer pain points is to make the start on an app that is worthwhile.
Common ways an app can bridge the gap are:
Allowing ease of payment when on the go and/or as an easier alternative to existing payment methods online or off – a great example of this is Paywave
Educating your customers while making donations simpler – such as our FIT app for Jeans for Jeans day
Reducing the amount of paper (e.g. loyalty and discount cards) carried in a wallet such as coffee cards
Providing location based information that enhances the customer experience e.g. Nordstrom in-store iPads or Westfield maps
Making it easier for customers to research and/or find products at a location or on the couch via the iPad – e.g. shopping for IKEA on the iPad or our work with LJ Hooker
Sharing real time information such as event timetables, public transport info etc such as Transport NSW or Vivid Festival app
Integrating the web and existing systems so that information can be shared in real time – such as our work for GPT
Creating the opportunity for gamification and play- e.g. Easter egg hunts at a physical event, Pokémon Go style play
Allowing consumers to access you product on their terms e.g. streaming digital radio on the bus or scanning QR codes at an art gallery to hear about a painting
Community building and content sharing ala Meetup, Instagram or Facebook
What this usually boils down to is making your product more accessible when it matters the most. A great way to think about things is whether someone would open your app if they are bored on the couch with iPad in hand or use it to kill time or get some short tasks done while waiting for a friend to have coffee or at the bus stop.
Managing app building processes
If there was ever a process that really needed to start from a kernel of minimum viable product, it’s app building. Apps need to be efficient so they remain useful for the long term. As consumers, we have an expectation that the pocket portability goes hand in hand with speed, immediate access and simple to use.
What you want with an app is something that is:
Going to update well when your operating system does
That isn’t going to take up much space on a smart phone or tablet
Able to be used quickly and simply
Very streamlined in terms of navigation
Pop up and distraction free
Hardy and able to cope with working with other apps accessing the same operating system
In short, you need the world’s cleanest code (not to be confused with clean coal).
To manage this properly, you need to use the right framework. Defining the ideas, developing the cases and user stories, making sure it works upon deployment and ensuring that its future proof is paramount.
Making the app building process work at Webcoda means using Adobe PhoneGap. This quality baseline for app building means that we can create apps that speak in Java, HTML and CSS formats effectively. It means that compiling the code is simple and that any bugs can be spotted well before they ever hit the App Store or Google Play.
Plus, by using a trusted base that makes compiling and submission part and parcel of their every day processes, it means you can deploy to the App Store and Google Play quickly and efficiently. And that deployment doesn’t become the dreaded “either or” platform question.
Adobe PhoneGap also allows you the flexibility to create a myriad of features without worrying about code breaks, compatibility and update issues. It uses a plug-in library that adds features that are tried and tested that app developers can select and integrate. This means it minimises those odd bits of code that might be created in an open source environment that doesn’t play nicely with others. And we always know what we can and can’t realistically do with an app build as result.
Then it’s a case of using our powers combined to identify the pain point(s) your app is looking to solve, followed by creating the right features to help alleviate that pain. Compiling and testing is a big part across all platforms and smartphones and tablets. Then comes ensuring it is working as you expect and solving that original pain point before release.
After the app building comes the marketing
One area a lot of great apps fall down is their marketing. You can build the best app in the world, but it is a market that has a lot of options. So ensuring you cut through that clutter is super important.
What are the ways you can ensure that any app you build gets the usage you expect?
Well, that’s topic of our next blog on app building. So you’ll have to tune in and find out!