3 steps to help you decide if an app will work for your business.

When Apple debuted the iPhone way back in 2007, the then CEO coined the phrase “there’s an app for that” and they introduced the app store to the world. We’re now 13 years past that and he’s right, with both of the leading phone systems having independent stores and everyone has an app, whether they need one or not.

Small businesses may look at this trend and want to get into that. But there are things you need to consider before delving into getting an app, space on a customer’s phone and a place on their home screen is sacred.

Step 1. Find out what you want an app to do.

The single most important thing you need to work out is what you want the main functionality to be. A lot of small businesses cram a lot of things into their apps and hope something sticks, but this will make it a large file size, confusing, and deter people from downloading it.

There also needs to be something unique, that only works via the app and cannot be replicated on a website. Linking to something in the store is a good idea and an example of this being used well is how Asda uses their scan and shop to bring your favorites or real-life regularly purchased items into your online shopping experience.

Something to avoid is the creation of an app for the sake of it, for example, if you own a website that has all the basic functions you need to convert someone then you should focus your efforts on improving that. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen a lot of organisations turn to apps when they don’t really need to and they’ve been trashed in reviews for it.

Once you have the basic idea, you can start figuring out the build and who you need to work with to make your app a reality.

Step 2. Ask your customers if they want it

Once you’ve got your idea down, the next thing you need to think about is whether your customers will actually use it. Sometimes your target market might not even use a website that often, so it’s unlikely they’d go the extra step of getting an app.

Small focus groups or online surveys of your current customers will give you a great indication of the appetite for a mobile app, asking questions about what they’d like to see in it, how often they’d use it and whether they’d do more through it is good – it might convince people to convert more often.

This, to me, is a required second step because it helps you refine your initial idea. You may find out that your idea could be improved upon or changed a little bit to suit the wider audience.

Step 3. Work out your user flow.

Just like your website has a user flow so too should your app, because they are both fundamentally the same thing, just coming through in different mediums or with different features. You should be thinking about things including when it opens what is the first page they see? How do they work through your conversion methods? What happens if there’s an error, and how do they navigate to the most important pages?

This will help you when you start the creative brief or the design because it will dictate how some things display, where things sit, and what gets highlighted in a list of importance. If you don’t know where to start then this great post by LucidChart may help, the image below, taken from the same post, is a great example of a basic user flow diagram, it specifically focuses on the creation of documents and accounts but shows how they expect users to visit their website.

An example of a user flow diagram used for an app or website.

Do you need to do all 3 of these, and are there more steps?

It is recommened to go through all three steps before you embark on your journey. It will save you a lot of time and money in the long run as creation of mobile applications can be expensive and you don’t want to get halfway down the road and realise that your customers won’t use it.

There are also plenty more steps to consider as you go on your journey, but these are a good starter if you are considering the application route. You may even find out more things you could do to improve your other digital assets and decide that your time and money is much better spent on your website.

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