As with any important communications expense, before you build an app for your organization, you need to determine if the app can provide something far and above what the mobile web cannot. Here’s a checklist that outlines the key reasons to do so:
Five Reasons to Build a Mobile App
- Apps provide the richest mobile experiences.
By developing a native app designed for specific smartphone features, you can deliver exceptional functionality that mobile sites cannot. Examples include tapping to a device’s GPS, accelerometer, photos, and microphone. Simply put, native apps can interact with users’ devices more fully in ways that a website cannot.
- Apps can deliver offline access. Mobile users are by nature accessing your content on the go, but what if a Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t available? Websites won’t work when you’re offline, but you can build apps to work just fine without a connection. Apps can be made to run without a connection at all (i.e., a convention session scheduler) or to run with content that’s downloaded when you’re online and stored for future use (i.e., a news reader that’s refreshed with new content).
- Apps maximize usability. Since apps are developed and optimized for specific device delivery (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.), an app can inherently tap into existing interface tools on each device so usability is ideal (the interfaces will feel more normal to users if they use native elements).
- Apps facilitate sales. If you want to generate revenue from app sales, it is easier to go through an existing app store (like iTunes for the Amazon Appstore for Android) where there is already a pay-wall and centralized marketplace. Smartphone users are already familiar and comfortable buying through these marketplaces, and you can tap into the ease of monetization without inventing your own mobile commerce tools.
- Apps are ideal for focused content/feature delivery. App are best for content and/or tasks that have a singular or very finite focus (like looking up members or keeping track of sessions at a conference) while a mobile website is more of a general information tool that can cover the same variety of topics as your desktop website.
Keep in mind that creating mobile apps are much different in terms of cost, time frame and delivery to different smartphone devices than building a mobile website, so make sure you spend ample time upfront to determine if an app truly meets your audience needs as well as satisfies your communications goals before getting started.