Mobile apps are the 'in' thing. About 119,000 new apps were added to the Apple App store last year. However, the question I always want to answer is - do you really need a mobile app to make your idea a reality?
Why would you make it an app?
Apps are very powerful things. You can do so much with one. Just look at your own phone and you can do anything from take and edit a photo, create videos, pay someone from your bank account, buy something at a store, listen to music - even make a phone call!
If your target user is on the go and the problem that you're solving for them involves activities away from a desk, then an app works. Also, if you need to use some the standard features on a smartphone - like the camera, someone's contacts, GPS location, a microphone - all these things make a mobile app worthwhile. Being mobile has opened up lots of opportunities to take things on the road, but it's not the only way for people to do things.
When it doesn't make sense to build a mobile app
In many cases, people have an idea that they want to deliver on a mobile app when one isn't required. Sometimes, it may be that there is already an existing tool that can solve the problem, but a person just assumes an app will fix it. Other times, it's just a matter of understanding the technology and what it's good for.
If the problem to be solved involves a person sitting at a desk, then a web-based platform may be more appropriate. Displaying things on a computer or laptop screen has lots of advantages. The size of the screen fits more stuff - this makes it easier to do more complex tasks. If there is a lot of content to display - tables, text, images, video - then it's easier to do this on a big screen. Ever tried to work on a spreadsheet from a mobile phone?! If your idea involves anything like that, then skip the mobile app!
Why you want to avoid building a mobile app
The main challenge with mobile apps is they can get expensive to build, run and maintain. Without getting into the different ways of building a mobile app, the costs come from having to develop and test for different phone operating systems (mainly iOS and Android) and screen sizes. Also, you have to update your app with each operating system update. This all adds up over time.
The other issue is that people expect a lot from apps - but they don't want to pay for it. When was the last time you paid more than $2.99 for an app?! If I look at the apps in my own phone - minus a couple of games - I've paid for about two of them. Sometimes the economics of mobile apps means you have to sell a lot of them to cover your costs and make money, which doesn't make it an attractive opportunity.
If mobile access is key, then there are other options other than a mobile app which you can explore. There are "mobile web apps" or "mobile websites" (<ahref="https: www.qantas.com"="" target="blank">qantas.com is a good example). These websites are designed specifically for mobile devices, but require an Internet connection. If you open the website on a laptop or computer, you'll see a different screen versus opening it on a phone. It will look more like a mobile app, and in some cases, there may be different functionality. There are also "progressive web apps" that can be downloaded from a website onto your phone. They can be used off-line, but more importantly, then can provide a seamless mobile app experience without having to be developed as a traditional app. So, before you go out and ask a developer to build you a mobile app, ask yourself - do you really need one?</ahref="https:>
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