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Brian Spero writes about business development, technology, and finance on the popular blog, Money Crashers.


With over 100 million (and counting) smartphones on the streets in the U.S. alone, it’s no wonder small business owners everywhere are mulling over the idea of developing a mobile app. From improving customer service and support to delivering targeted offers to local customers,† mobile apps have a plethora of uses. If you are considering a mobile app for growing your small business, here are seven essential things to know before initiating the process:


1. Why You Want It
Motivation for developing a mobile app must emanate from a deeper need than simply keeping up with the Joneses. Business owners should have a definitive reason for wanting an app, whether it solves a logistical problem, helps customers be more productive, or provides the direct ability to increase streams of revenue. An app should never mimic a website, but provide an extra benefit to your consumers or team in a package that can be interfaced with anytime, anywhere from an appropriate device.


2. That It’s Worth the Investment
While the majority of small business apps are available to the public for free, they can be costly to develop and promote. It’s important to confirm that you will see value commensurate with your investment, and diligently investigate potential cost-effective alternatives to achieving the same goals. Many small businesses can see more impressive ROI on a mobile ad campaign than having its own app, while for others, optimizing a website for mobile can achieve the goal of improving the user experience for clients using handheld devices.


3. What Else Is Out There
When considering developing a mobile app for your small business, let your competitors be the crash test dummies. After you have a clear vision for the product you wish to produce, try out existing apps from within your industry and beyond to identify shortcomings in your concept, while searching for inspiration in how to best serve your customers. By taking a closer look at the apps that are already out there, you can provide all of the most valuable features, while simultaneously supplying additional benefits that trump the competition.


4. The Trappings of a Successful App
For whatever purpose your app will serve, there are “best practice” attributes with which you should be familiar. From simple navigation and branded design, to push notifications and single-click sharing and purchasing, learning what a great app looks and feels like ensures that your concept is optimized for success. Most of all, a successful app takes no time to master, is visually appealing, and provides a service that previously wasn’t possible.


5. It’s Just Step One
When conceptualizing a first small business app, fight the urge to address all of your wants, needs, and crazy whims, remaining focused on the essential solution. The keep-it-simple strategy is typically best for maintaining a reasonable development budget, while also avoiding needless complexities that ultimately muddle the user experience. Apps are built to be improved, altered, and expanded, so stay within the budget and on task, understanding this is only the first of many versions to come.


6. Your Design Options
The cost of developing a mobile app often exceeds the short-term payoff for a small business, as it can cost thousands of dollars to hire a dedicated app developer. However, by taking the time to investigate the growing number of cost-effective DIY and out-of-the-box solutions, reputable off-shore providers, and up-and-coming freelance talent willing to work for less in order to build their client portfolio, you can get exactly what you need at a cost that fits your budget.


7. How to Find The Right Developer
When the do-it-yourself route isn’t in the cards, finding a developer can be a challenging process that’s crucial to get right. It’s a major benefit going in having a set budget, well-developed concept, and either sketches or examples of the expectations of your finished product. While word-of-mouth referrals are desirable, you can narrow down broad Google search results based on client reviews and recommendations, impressions of online portfolios, and capabilities in designing for specific mobile platforms. It’s always wise to check references as if you were hiring a full-time member of your staff, and to make budgetary limitations, functionality and performance requirements, and deadlines for delivery contractually clear.


Final Thoughts
While mobile apps aren’t for everyone, a winning concept for the right small business can be the key to improved productivity and dynamic streams of increased revenue. By addressing a specific need, studying the industry, and identifying the appropriate development solution, small business owners can keep their operations on the cutting edge while realizing a favorable return on investment.


What else should small business owners consider when developing a mobile app? Let us know in the comments below!



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