Apps are essential for many businesses, but not every organization needs one. Before you hire a developer to create an app for your organization, think strategically about the purpose and functionality of that app.
What is an app?
First, let’s cover the different types of apps in the marketplace. There are three important terms to define: website app, native app, and hybrid.
Website apps, often called a “web app,” are designed to be used with web browsers. A good example of a website app is Tweetdeck. For the User Experience, website apps are focused more on functionality versus websites, which are focused more on content and presentation.
Native apps are designed to work with specific operating systems, such as iOS or Android. Native apps can use the mobile device’s technology to enhance their functions. A good example of this is the American Airlines app that also integrates with the apple watch. It contains functions like boarding passes, check in, and even allows you to change seats using your phone.
Facebook on a native app looks like the example on the left. Facebook as a mobile web app looks like the example on the right.
Hybrid apps are web-written apps that are contained within the shell of a native app. The app accesses the internet through a browser that resides within the shell of the native app. A great example of this is Netflix.
If you develop an app, the type of app you make will depend on the purpose of your organizational needs, the functions you define are necessary for an app.
Why would you need an app, as opposed to a responsive website?
Before we answer this question, let’s clarify what a responsive website is. A responsive website is a website that is helpful and easy to read and navigate whether a user is visiting on a desktop, a tablet, or a smartphone
So, if my website is responsive, do I also need an app?
You should only think about developing an app if the app will add something that your website cannot offer. Apple will typically not approve apps that are simply duplicates of websites. Your app must add value for your user. If the app merely replicates your website, the app is just going to take up valuable storage space on the user’s phone.
Try this exercise to determine if your app will add value: List the functions of your website next to the functions of the app you would create. Are they the same or different?
If they are all the same, come up with new functions for your app in order to make it worth your investment. A good way to think of ideas is to visit some responsive websites and compare them against their corresponding apps. What differences do you notice?
Common features we see as high-value additions in native apps are: Push notifications, faster performance, QR code reading, and advanced access to phone hardware like the camera, microphone, or compass. Apps aren’t only for B2C. There are several B2B apps we have created that streamline business processes and save companies money.
When determining whether you need an app, think about what kind of app is best for your business, and what functions the app will add that your website does not have. Answering those two questions will guide you to your decision.