App-ly Common Sense to App Development

The amount of time consumers spend interacting with mobile apps in the U.S. is growing. In fact, Flurry Analy tics report that between Dec. 2011 and Dec. 2012 that number grew by 35 percent. By their measurement, U.S. consumers are also spending more time in apps than on the Web. Does this mean we should all be racing to build apps? Well, yes and no. We look to several industry experts to gain some common, yet overlooked, sense in this app-building journey, as well as some inspiration.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Do we need an app?

"I'd wager the majority of business needs can be solved by HTML responsive design, with a mobile- first mindset," said Seth Banks, Founder of Cashboard. "Responsive design lowers the barrier to mobile and offers more bang for your buck than building an app for the App Store or Google Play. Frameworks like Gumby.css make responsive design dead easy. We leveraged this framework for our recent redesign, and we've seen a huge spike in conversions since. In my mind, apps are the realm of software companies. They're overkill for your average retailer or Web business."

What's the user's incentive to download and use the app?

"Too many companies build apps that are nothing but a mini-version of their sales portal, which is fine if you're Walmart or Target," said Ron Rule, CEO of Coracent. "If you're selling trinkets from a shop down by the beach, you don't need an app, just a good mobile website."

How will you monetize the app?

"There are a number of ways to monetize an application, but if the customer does not have a clear plan, or we can't help them quickly arrive at one, it is usually a good sign that they shouldn't spend money to build it," said Ryan Stemkoski, interactive director at Zipline Interactive.

Questions to Ask a Developer

What services do you specialize in?

"You want to avoid shops that simply don't offer the expertise you're looking for," said Jay Melone, CEO at DigitalXBridge. "However, also beware of the shops that promise everything under the sun. They'll either be a large agency with a hefty budget or trying to be everything to everyone, with no specific area of expertise."

What are the prices of past projects?

"Most developers will have a portfolio of their best apps, so ask them what the cost was of the ones they're showing you," said Rule. "If your budget is $10,000, it doesn't matter how great someone's $50,000 app was; you need to know what they can do within your budget."

B2C App Inspiration

Experts Speak: for more app inspiration (including B2B apps), visit

"Uber is a good B2C app, and a great example of a mobile application that seems simple, but in fact has a very complex back-end, because it involves exchanging money and geolocation. For an app like Uber, an organization should pick their dev firm very carefully, ensuring they have experience in this field."

- Sean Ziolko, Designer at ÄKTA

"Most inspiring B2C app is Square. Accepting mobile payments is just pure brilliance. This app makes it easier to set up a store without getting entangled with usurious and dated payment processors."

- Joshua R. Simmons, CEO of Bluebird Interactive

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