The best way to build a business app

We’ve built hundreds of apps for clients. Some of the apps have taken off while others have floundered. The issue generally isn’t the technology but rather the way it interacts with the business. These are the areas that we found made the difference when developing an app:

1. Focus on the value you want to deliver – not on how you want to deliver it

Generally you want to increase revenue or decrease costs but it’s easy to lose sight of this. Don’t get distracted by features, new tech, AI or blockchain. Write down the value you’re targeting and keep asking “will this feature help deliver that value” or is there a more effective way (and whisper quietly “it may not require any tech at all”).

2. Get really close to your end users – understand what their largest challenges are

Your colleagues are polite and won’t tell you that they’re not that excited about your app idea. Watch what they actually do, not what they tell you they do. Do they grab the colleague next to them and tell them to use your app? Or do they say “that’s really interesting” but in reality you’ve just given them something they like the idea of but never get round to using (aka a “bread maker” … sorry bread makers).

3. Ask if you should be building a mobile app, desktop app or web app (a responsive website or PWA)

How often will you use the app? Do you need it to work offline? Mobile apps are great for frequent users who want rapid access on and offline. However, downloading a mobile app is a pain and if you’re just going to use if once (eg submitting a registration form) you don’t need it on your phone – a webapp will be just fine. Fliplet allows you to create all of the above but be cautious before choosing a solution that forces you to pick one or other.

4. Assume your first idea is incorrect – it will be

It’s often hard to hear but your awesome app idea is not going to immediately change the world. Once people get their hands on it they’ll want other great features you hadn’t thought about and not use some you thought were brilliant. Anticipate this. Allow for it in your timeline. Budget to include future changes. Building awesome apps is possible but you won’t get there on your first go.

5. Prototype, test, improve, repeat

Don’t wait to do a grand-reveal of your app to a crowded auditorium only for it to fall flat on its face. Build a prototype (or a Minimum Viable Product in tech parlance) and get it in the hands of your users. Collate feedback and improve your apps. Repeat this cycle multiple times. Heed the words of Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, who said “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”

6. Be aware that maintaining an app is as important as creating it

The costs of maintaining an app are actually the biggest killers of good app ideas. You’ll need to update the app’s content, manage users, adapt it to changing business needs, ensure it works on new devices, keep it up to date with Android, iOS and web browser system updates and maintain high security levels. This can be very expensive and time consuming – especially if your business has multiple apps across multiple devices. Platforms such as Fliplet automatically keep your apps up to date and make it easy for anyone to change the app functionality.  We highly recommend this route if you’re managing two or more apps.

7. Avoid development pitfalls

Hopefully we’ve convinced you to plan for ongoing updates, feature changes and improvements (if not – go to the top of this article, start again, do not pass “Go”).  You now need a way of developing apps that allows for this. Be careful to avoid the following:

  1. Development costs that increase significantly the more you make changes.  If every time you make a change it is painfully expensive you’ll eventually stop making them and your app will not improve.
  2. A development team that will not be around once the app is “finished”. Apps need continuous improvements and updates.  The ongoing work can often be significant. If the people that built the app aren’t around to make the changes and updates you’ll be stuck.
  3. A development method that makes it hard to update your app.  You don’t want to go to the developers every time you need to make changes to the text and images. Your app should at least have a content management system that allows anyone to easily change the text within the app.  Fliplet takes this a step further by allowing anyone to make functional changes to the app such as adding entirely new screens, layouts and buttons.
  4. Slow rates of change also kill apps. If it takes you 6 months to build the first version of an app by the time you’ve taken on feedback and made the changes a year will have gone by.

Bonus point: Off the shelf (pre-built) solutions can solve many of the above challenges. They’re great if you want an app that falls within the feature set of an existing service provider. The challenge arises when you want features that are novel or bespoke to your business. Pre-built solutions are often inflexible. The best way forward is often to use a provider that offers pre-built components that you can easily extend and tweak if you wish.

8. Launch strategy

People are creatures of habit and those habits don’t change overnight. Even if your solution is better the friction of change may still mean people don’t adopt it. Similarly if you’re planning a community forum feature you’ll need to get the ball rolling with some pre-populated content and bend the arm of a few influential people to be frequent contributors. Plan your launch strategy – train up power users to help others, produce quick-start guides, make the benefits of the app obvious and easy to obtain, advertise your app internally. If you find that people still don’t adopt your app then it’s worth revisiting the fundamentals – are they really getting enough value from it – you may need to collate some more feedback.

Free consultations with Fliplet

Got a business app idea? Want to discuss it with someone? We offer free consultations to businesses with more than 100 employees. Contact us by clicking here.