Deciding whether you need an app for your business is a big step. They’re not cheap and you have to be sure that what you create will really be of benefit before you venture down this path.

How do you decide which type of app to have built, what aspect of your business is suitable for app development and who do you talk to about it.

We know apps are big and we know mobile marketing can no longer be ignored, but it’s also not something you want to just do for the sake of it. It does require some knowledge and preparation before you part with your hard earned dollars.

Turning your website into an app is rather a waste of time and money, particularly if your site is already responsive.

But there could be aspects of your business that lend themselves to apps and this is what you should be thinking about.

Maybe you have some customer or client admin procedures that could be converted to an app and provided to clients and customers to make using your services easier, more streamlined and less work.

Maybe you update customers or subscribers or clients with regular information. Maybe an app that delivers this content regularly, even push notifies, is an option for you.

Or maybe you are an educator and have a client base that you’re training or coaching. An app that delivers that content as it’s created for the session could be ideal.

Or maybe you have a community idea you want to create and an app will bring your members together.

Whatever the reason for your app, it will be a better experience and less costly and time consuming if you plan well in advance before you start talking to developers.

Firstly you have to think about what type of app to build and also consider your budget. The cost for each type of app varies dramatically. Also, depending on what you want your app to do will have a large bearing on the type you choose. Lets look at the three types of apps…

Native Apps

These are apps built specifically for the various platforms – IOS or Android being the two predominant platforms accounting for about 90% of the market. Native apps live on the devices they are created for and are accessed through the home screen, and are generally installed through the app store (Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store).

Apps built for the platforms are the most expensive but the fastest and the most versatile. They also enable the integration of the native phone and tablet features such as cameras, GPS, contacts, calendars etc.  They can also incorporate gestures (standard operating system gestures or app defined gestures such as swipe, pinch etc.). Native apps can also be accessed offline and the data added sent once the device is online again. They also have access to the devices notification system.

Each app for each platform needs to be built individually and costs can start around $8,000 an app. Because they are native, and each platform operates independently, you could end up creating mroe than one app if you go native.

HTML5 Apps

These are essentially mobile web apps. They are not real apps in the true sense of the word but rather websites, built on mobile templates and accessed like an app.

Because these are websites, they do not live on the device, but are accessed via an icon linked to the site URL. Installation is the same as if you added a website to your home screen as a bookmark.

Web apps generally can only be accessed when the device is online and rarely have access to all the devices’ native features, however there are exceptions. Users can generally swipe horizontally, and due to browser caching, some aspects of the web app can be accessed offline. In addition, GPS is also generally available as it’s also available via the web.

If the other native features and gestures are not necessary for the type of app you want, then a HTML5 web based app is a much cheaper alternative and quicker to implement.

Hybrid Apps

This type of app has cross platform capability, which means it will work on all operating systems. The beauty of hybrid apps is that they can also access the  device’s native capabilities such as accelerometer, camera, GPS and local storage.

Hybrid apps, like native apps, run on the mobile devices and are written with web technologies such as HTML5, CSS and Javascript in conjunction with mobile implementations. They are hosted or run inside a native container on the mobile device. A perfect union of web technology and native execution.

Hybrid apps are ideal for people who want to an app for a web page. By building a hybrid app you can wrap the web page inside it without spending significant dollars developing a native app. Hybrid apps are built using platforms such as PhoneGap and Sencha Touch.

Apps are definitely worthwhile if they are created for the right reasons and to perform very specific tasks. App vs Web consumption has increased dramatically since 2010 and it shows no signs of letting up. If aspects of your business or services could be delivered via an app, it’s definitely worth the effort and investment.

I recently interviewed a young Australian entrepreneur whose passion for apps opened a new business opportunity for him. Brandon Cowan started Crazy Dog Apps in November 2010 to follow his dreams and turn his own app ideas into reality. Since then he’s made apps for businesses and individuals.

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