So You Want To Build An App For Your Company? Read This First!

Mobile Internet traffic has surpassed desktops and that gap between the two is set to increase even more as the cost of mobile phones keep coming down and wireless speeds keep going up. In Malaysia, there are more mobile phones than there are people! With 5G technology being rolled out globally, mobile data speeds are set to increase tremendously.

It's natural for companies to get excited about the prospect of increasing business via mobile devices and many clients have asked us about creating mobile apps for their businesses. Here are a few things to consider before diving in to create a mobile app for your business.
What needs will your app be fulfilling? Is your app something your clients will use on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, or perhaps even longer than that?
Is it going to be a necessity or merely a "nice to have"? Some of the more popular "necessary apps" are banking/e-wallets, ride hailing, utilities, news, maps/navigation, social, chats, video and music apps. We're sure most of you have one or two apps from each of the categories on your phones and if you checked with your friends, you would all likely have similar downloaded apps.

Before building an app, ask yourself, (if you were not a staff/owner of the company) would you seriously download this app? If your honest answer is 'Yes', then will it be an app that you would need to use daily, weekly or monthly? If your app is not something people reach for every single day or at least on a regular basis, then it may not be an app worth building.

The other angle to consider is if the app needs to use the functionalities on the phone such as the gyroscope, GPS, thumbprint authentication, camera, etc. If it doesn't, again, perhaps building an app may not be the best place to allocate your budget. But there's still a way to be present on mobiles for your customers. We'll show you how a little later.
The cost of creating an app is generally higher than that of building a website. In the past, different programming languages were required for different platforms.
For example, Apple phones on the iOS platform use Objective C while phones on the Android platform use Java. As such, the digital team building the app would need to split into 2 groups to create the app for these different platforms.

More recently, there have been new solutions such as Ionic and React Native which require only 1 set of codes which can deploy the app to both the different platforms. While this has made work a lot easier without the need for maintaining 2 sets of codes, there are limitations to these hybrid solutions, which we won't go into here.

Suffice to say, improvements are constantly being made and in time, these solutions will likely be as good as writing codes in their native languages. Unless your app is going to be very complex, having built-in hybrid solutions should work well and help to bring costs down.
Budget for the future
Mobile phone operating systems are consistently being updated.
As such, you will need to ensure that your app meets the minimum requirements of the latest operating systems or it could be removed from the app listing. While compatibility with older apps is generally maintained through updates, there will come a time when the operating system will no longer support your app. Instead of flushing your app down the increasingly full app toilet, remember to budget for additional update development costs so your app meets current requirements and remains relevant to your customers.
What's the alternative?
In the simplest sense, it's a website which is responsive where it detects that the user is browsing your website on a mobile device and then displays the mobile version of your website.
The website can be designed to have the same layout and experience as an app. The only way to tell them apart is from the address bar on top of the browser but other than that, you won't be able to tell them apart.
As you can see from these few mobile web examples of some of the largest companies, their mobile websites look very similar to the apps they have on the app store.
They function exactly as the app does and the only difference is that rather than having to first download the app, the user only needs to type in the URL (or search on Google) and that user will be taken to the website that works exactly like the app.

Maintaining a mobile website is a lot more cost efficient as it can be viewed on any web browser (eg Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc) and works across all devices (mobile, desktop, tablet, etc.) with just a single code. There are many free online tools to help check the quality of your mobile site and they even make recommendations on how you can improve the performance of your site.
Well-built mobile apps are definitely useful and have the potential to become daily go-to apps that are frequently used by many people. However, very few apps achieve that level of engagement. The fact is that there are a few million apps on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, so the question you have to ask yourself is - how is your app going to stand out? Test the waters by launching a mobile website first to gauge the public's response and usage. Make tweaks to your site in response to feedback and see if there is a need for you to create a standalone app. Now, at least you can make an informed decision before allocating a chunk of your budget towards an app.