Mind the app – reasons not to rush into building a mobile app


There is no shortage of firms who will offer to build you an app, but when the investment will be upward of £25k in fees and a great deal more in time and opportunity cost – you need to be very sure indeed that building an app is the right thing to do.

Here are a few points about why you should pause before signing off on an app project and what you should think about before going ahead or spending money and other resources elsewhere.

  1. The app may not be what you need most. The total cost of building and then promoting / distributing an app can be very high. So this is a strategic decision – has it been clearly and convincingly stated why an app could fit with your organisation and department’s strategy, what the return/outcomes could be, and what you are not going to do (alternatives you’ve discounted).
  2. An app may not be what your customer or user needs. Many apps are developed without any quantitative or qualitative data to show a customer need and how it can best be met by an app.
  3. The odds of an organisation building an app that is useful and used are low. Deloitte found that 80% of branded apps were downloaded fewer than 1,000 times.
  4. People don’t use many apps. Nielsen research found that in the US people mostly only use four favourite apps on average per day. The data for the UK is likely to be similar.
  5. You haven’t prototyped it first. Before committing budget to an app project get a prototype built and see what customers think of it. You can save a great deal of money and once you have seen how real people get things done on their mobile devices and computers you may even discover that it is unnecessary to build the app in the first place.
  6. No one has budgeted for distribution. How will your customers find out about your app? Promoting your app is essential and will involve direct marketing, PR and perhaps paid media to make sure people find out about it when they need it…
  7. A responsive mobile site is often more useful. When people want to interact with your company less often than daily, they are going to look for your information or services on Google, not the apps store. If the service is simple, a website that is responsive and usable on mobile devices will be more useful. More than 50% of web traffic to most websites now comes from mobile devices.

Further reading: Respected tech and digital analyst firm, Forrester: Five myths about mobile apps.