Client: “I need an app, can you guys build one for me?”
Agency account director: “Yes, absolutely”
Agency account director (to staff): “Right, how do we build an app?”
Agency account directors and digital strategists get asked for apps all the time, and many end up saying “we can’t do that” – or worse, saying “we can do that” and regretting it almost instantly.
Now they’re committed: they’re on shaky ground and have to deliver despite that nagging lack of certainty and the fear they’ll be found out. Fortunately, discussing app development with confidence isn’t as hard as all that. We’ve put together a shortlist of questions you should ask and things you should say if you find yourself in this purely hypothetical predicament.
“Let’s see your analytics first…”
You need to know about your client’s existing visitors. If they’re mostly coming from web browsers on mobile devices, especially if they’re doing it repeatedly, does the client need an app at all? There might be a cheaper and easier option. Which leads us to…
“Is it cheaper to rebuild your mobile site?”
If your client’s website is not pulling in repeat visitors on mobile devices, it may not be well optimised for mobile – that’ll push it down the Google rankings and conceal it from customers. Clients in this situation may be better off redesigning their website to be more responsive, especially if they want an app to repeat the functionality of their website.
“Are your visitors on iOS or Android?”
A purely technical question: if an overwhelming number of the client’s visitors are using one kind of device, that’s the one for which you should be building the app.
“What problem is the app solving?”
Apps solve specific problems. Your client needs to know exactly what they want the app to do for their customers. If they can tell you this, you can start tying those problems into things that mobile devices do: take photos, report locations, track acceleration, store data, recognise images and even augment reality.
“Do you want a hybrid app, or to go native?”
Native apps are built to work on one operating system – either iOS or Android. They tend to be faster and more reliable, and they interact with the full range of functions the operating system offers, because they’re designed with those functions in mind.
Hybrid apps are built as self-contained code, which uses a series of plugins to interact with more than one device. One bout of design work and your app can run on a range of devices, opening up a wider user-base; however, it’s dependent on the plugins and can be left behind by changes to operating systems.
The choice isn’t simple – but, fortunately, we’ve offered advice on this before.
“What KPIs are you working on? What sort of conversion rates do you want?”
Key Performance Indicators are essential to the design process: they’re the measurable values by which you and your client will decide if the app is a success.
You and the client need to establish exactly what needs to be achieved with the app before it can be called a success. There’s an art to coming up with good KPIs – the short version is that they need to be devised from the ground up, rather than expressed as vague, generic ideas.
Your client also needs to define a conversion – the specific action they want their users to carry out (sign up for an email newsletter, make a purchase, share a post and so on). The conversion rate is a fraction: the total number of conversions, divided by the number of users.
“Push notifications. They’ll help. Trust us on this.”
Both iOS and Android make a big deal out of push notifications. These are messages which your app displays to users even when they’re not actively using the app, notifying them about an event of some sort and pushing them to engage with the app again.
Repeated engagement is important to build up a long-term, two-way relationship between user and app: anything encouraging this should itself be encouraged.
“You’ll fall behind without one…”
In 2013, Forbes asked “does your business need an app?” and the answer was “it depends” – specifically, it depended on what you wanted the app to achieve. By 2014, Forbes was saying “you need an app”, citing the potential for constant, developing relationships with customers, more direct access to customers (cutting out the ‘Google and see’ stage involved in reaching a website) and the need to demonstrate you are on the ball when it comes to mobile technology.
We would suggest, in 2016, that while customer development, direct access and tech knowledge are all undoubtedly important, need is perhaps too strong a word when discussing apps. However, if there’s a viable demand, your clients should definitely invest. If you’ve already covered questions 1-4, you should know whether your client is ‘app-ready’.
“…. and you can lead the field with one.”
Barclays’ Bank launched PingIt, an app for peer-to-peer lending and payment, in February 2012 – by August that year, the app had a million users. It was groundbreaking stuff, and firmly secured their status as a forward-thinking bank. And that reputation has held out: even now, PingIt is at the head of the pack, directly competing with Apple Pay. A well-designed app can make your client unique. Convince them of it.
“Even having one makes you stand out.”
Apps aren’t cheap. The most conservative estimate of development costs for a complex app stands at around £7000 ($10,000) – a more realistic appraisal with no corners cut could sit at ten to fifteen times that. Developing a custom app indicates that you have the resources to invest in it, and the confidence that you’ll see a return on that investment; it’s a sign of prestige, provided it works.
We collaborate closely with agencies to deliver on their clients’ app development needs, and we can help you through the whole process – R&D, strategy, promotion, the lot. For more information, contact us here – or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for more tips.