Does your business (actually) need an app?

Circul8 | April 3, 2019

  • Product Development

Your mobile-savvy clients want a mobile-friendly experience, and you want to give it to them. Do you take the leap and make an app or just stick with your current website? Decisions, decisions. To determine if your business needs a native app, ask yourself these 5 questions.

Native app vs web app — what’s the difference?

Native apps are designed specifically for a mobile device and are installed directly onto the device e.g. Alarm Clock. whereas web apps are accessible via a mobile web browser (e.g. your website)—all you need is an internet connection.


Q1: What problem would an app solve?

And by problem, we mean client problem. How would your app improve their experience — convenience, functionality, entertainment — and add real value to their life?

Users only choose apps that provide an attractive value proposition. They want tangible benefits like not having to move an inch to get a lift (Uber), the ability to binge watch series on-the-go (Netflix) or getting your favourite restaurants to home-deliver (Menulog).

Getting to the core of user needs is the first step to identifying whether an app is right for you. After all, if you’re asking someone to invest time in your app, the question at the centre of your whiteboard needs to be “What’s in it for them?”

Q2: What’s wrong with your website?

You might be feeling pressure from the competition, or even internally, to build a native app. But remember, you already have a ‘mobile app’ with your website. ‘Mobile-friendly’ is mandatory for business success. But, would a shiny, new native app be game-changing for the user or would it simply replicate your website?

The benefits of a well-oiled website are often undervalued.

  • Instant access via a range of browsers and devices
  • Accessibility via search engines
  • Numerous functionality options
  • Time/cost effectiveness

Take a good, hard look at how your website performs and consider investing your precious resources into further optimizing it for mobile.

Can your desired results — revenue, growth, leads — be achieved simply by improving what you’ve got?

Q3: What mobile functionality would your app utilise?

Apps that effectively utilise functions unique to smartphones are the ones that earn a spot
on home screens, functions such as:

  • Offline access
  • Push notifications
  • Hand gestures
  • Accelerometer
  • Camera

Unique smartphone functionality and interactivity empowers user experience and is something web apps just can’t match. Imagine using Google Maps from the mobile website? Yikes.  

Take for example our native app, Plant Life Balance. We were tasked by Horticulture Innovation Australia to inspire people to experiment with plants in their living space and add more green to their lives. We used augmented reality and all of the above functions to help people visualise what a variety of indoor plants would look like in their own home.

In this app case study, the creation of a native app perfectly suited the brief; however, it’s important for you not to get carried away with the idea of creating a native app when a web app would suffice. Web apps are often much more economical than mobile apps.

Q4: What’s the competition doing?

It acts as a great litmus test to see how your users might potentially respond to your app. Readily available data like downloads, reviews and ratings provide valuable insight and can shed light on whether you and your users need an app.

Analysing the competition not only reveals whether you need to play catch up and build one, but it also exposes market gaps for you to fill and address with your mobile or native app.

Q5: Can you afford it?

If you aren’t prepared to invest the time and effort, why should your clients?

Beyond build costs (which are typically not small), factors such as maintenance, legal and app store red tape all take time and money and influence your benefit/cost ratio. Do the math and your business will thank you.

We understand that answering these 5 questions isn’t straightforward and might raise other questions. Maybe you understand the users’ needs, but don’t know how to meet them, or you’ve identified a market gap, but don’t know how to fill it. Workshopping your project with us is a powerful, cost-effective tool to get the answers you need to progress your business — app or no app.

Give us a call if you want to chat your next app idea through, or download our App Landscape Report to get key insights on app development.

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