Building An App? The Key Questions To Ask First

The temptation to create an app is great, but is there a genuine business case for one? Here are the most important questions to ask of your business before you start an app-build.

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The temptation to create an app is great, but is there a genuine business case for one? Here are the most important questions to ask of your business before you start an app-build.


Building An App? The Key Questions To Ask First

The temptation to create an app is great, but is there a genuine business case for one? Here are the most important questions to ask of your business before you start an app-build.

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Businesses large and small are rushing to launch mobile apps for employees, business partners and customers, but many of these fail for various reasons. You should stop and ask yourself these big and burning questions before you proceed.

Since the explosion of the first iPhone, we as humans have been ever eager to explore more interconnectivity, more cellular data, and more video. This, unsurprisingly, spread into the enterprise world in the late 2000s, knocking BlackBerry from its perch and bringing about the era of the so-called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

For employees, this was great. They were using their own device for their own stuff, as well as work, and being more productive on-the-go.

It has been a different story for businesses though, with many left in a panic on managing this influx. They did, however, at least see these mobile devices as an opportunity to launch apps to improve productivity, sales and more.

However, some of these earliest apps – from start-ups and much larger companies – have failed miserably. They’ve had poor user interfaces, no user engagement and security, while there has been no way of judging the return on investment (ROI). In short, they’ve been a disaster from start to finish.

Do you need it?

A mobile app might sound like a fanciful idea, but the first question you need to ask is ‘do you need it?’ It’s a serious question and one which often goes ignored, as companies chase the buzz that mobile devices brings.

As part of this question, you should think carefully about if and how it will add to your business, and if there are any other technological problems you should tackle first, like a website that is not optimised for mobile viewers.

Who’s it for?

Another pertinent question after whether you even need an app is ‘who is it for?’

When thinking about this question, you should consider what problem the app will solve for users, if it does this better than an alternative, and what kind of things should they say or do when they use the app.

Get thinking about that user – what devices and platforms do they use, what other competing apps might they use? To get a better idea of this, do some research prior to design and development and tailor your creation accordingly.

How will they use it?

Do your research. Understand what it is you want in a mobile application. What features and capabilities are you expecting from the finished product, and what do you think the three or four core features should be?

This last point is very important, because there are numerous mobile applications – in the consumer and enterprise spaces – where creators haven’t worked out the functional features.

If the development is left open-ended and lacks requirements, then you are more likely to get something you didn’t expect. You wouldn’t ask a contractor to remodel your bathroom without giving them your requirements would you? You should think the same about mobile app development.

Hipster businessman in cafe

Apps are great, but only if they are relevant to your specific audience

Do you build in-house or commission a third-party?

You need to carefully consider who should build the application, and whether that’s done in-house, using your own developers, or via a third-party app development house which may have more access to more skills and resources.

If you go with a third-party, you need to ask them questions like how the project will be handled, what is the methodology used for project management and execution, will you have direct access to your point of contact, how will project progress and changes be communicated, what is their definition of a successful project, and if there a clear procedure for billing any unexpected adds-on.

You should ask them to provide recent references and samples of work, and get them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). You’ll also want them to consult your design team on logos, colours, fonts and other matters.

Android or iOS?

Most businesses tend to start with iOS, before migrating to Android and (much later) Windows. Much of it will depend on budget of course, but you should also consider reach, impact and the skills of your development team.

And if you are releasing the same app across numerous platforms, do you have a timeline for that?

How much will it cost?

Building a mobile app can cost anyway from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds, depending on functionality and the project time.

You’ll need to think carefully about how much you intend to spend, with some room for error and new phases of development. Having well-written requirements will help you prioritize and stay in budget.

As part of this, have you thought about a monetisation strategy? Will it cost money to download the app, for example, or will it require a subscription or have in-app advertising?

How will you judge ROI?

How are you going to judge if the app is a successful? In a market of free and freemium apps, financial reward often isn’t the main motivation so you’ll need other metrics to judge, whether that’s as a CEO, CFO, CIO or board member.

Consult with senior management, the development team (which may need to incorporate some analytics into the app so you can judge the ROI) and other lines of business, and develop these metrics.

What will make this app a success in your stakeholders’ eyes? It might be an increase in the number of users or the number in orders.

Will it be secure?

Security is a big concern with mobile – it’s another layer of attack for cyber-criminals. Make sure you get it right, or you could be losing data – and that will lose you revenues and brand reputation.

What sensitive information will be gathered within your app and how will it be securely stored? Most developer companies should be able to work with you on this and recommend the best solution based on your product.

Who are your stakeholders? 

Who is the final decision maker on the app? If there are two, then which one can overrule the other?

What’s the long-term plan?

Like any business plan or strategy, you need to ask yourself what’s the long-term goal. Have you thought about all the consequences, good and bad, and what kind of time schedule you plan to adhere to? For example, would you perhaps plan to move to Android if your iOS app was successful, and financially rewarding, after 12 months?

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Building An App? The Key Questions To Ask First

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