By John Houghton on January 12, 2012
Everybody wants an app. Just to have it on your website makes you feel more hip, relevant, and current. Getting started with a simple app gives you experience, so that you become familiar with the process, and the possibility for developing a more sophisticated app later. You can spend a lot of time planning your app, and if it’s a major part of your mix, then you should, but here are a few quick ideas to get you started on any simple apps you might be considering.
Utility apps are popular and easy. A utility can be a calculator, clock, flashlight, notepad, and so on. Are you a real estate brokerage? Consider perhaps a loan calculator. Are you a music store? Then a metronome might be a good idea. Are you a doctor’s office? A BMI calculator might be just the right thing. What else does a doctor carry in his or her pocket? These are all potential candidates. It doesn’t matter if there are other metronomes or loan calculators out there, just make sure yours is good.
Why utility apps? Because they are useful, and they tend to get a lot of downloads. Plus you can put your brand on them. You can have users click out to your website, and you can attach promotions. It’s kind of like making custom-branded pens and giving them to your customers. Perhaps your company makes seed for grass. You can make an app that calculates how much seed is needed per 1000 square feet. Maybe you’re a networking company. You can make a network load calculator that shows when an old network is saturated and needs to be upgraded.
I think the hard part about getting into apps is getting your first one out there, so a utility app is simple and gets you some experience in the space. Your next app will be much easier because of it. What else is there?
Just as your website is a place for customers and prospects to get information, so too can your company create an app for the same purpose. You might ask, why not just create a mobile website? Well, that’s good too, but you have to be connected to view the site, and mobile users aren’t likely to type in a long URL to see what’s new at your company; however, if they have an app with an icon that occupies a spot on their device, they are more likely to fire it up when they’re looking through apps while waiting in line at the grocery store.
Why not just make an app that links to my website? On Android, you can, but with Apple iOS, they consider this too simplistic and it will be rejected on the grounds of insufficient or limited functionality. Apple wants useful apps in their store, so you have to make it useful. In your app you can have different sections like News, Products and Services, Events, Podcasts, Videos, a Twitter Feed and a place to leave comments and suggestions. You can keep it up-to-date with an open source content management system (CMS) such as Joomla.
Another feature you can add is the ability to download content for disconnected viewing (such as when you’re on an airplane). The app can be made to download all text, audio, and video, and store it on the device for hours of offline consumption.
These are just a few ideas for getting you started. Remember, you don’t have to come out with a killer app on your first iteration. Releasing a simple app at first gets you “in the game” and can pave the way for more sophisticated apps down the road.