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5 Questions to Ask Before Developing a Mobile App

Mobile is critical in today's market. Before you dive in, here are the factors to consider.
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There’s no denying that mobile is the new digital benchmark and trendsetter for brands across the board. Global corporations and small to medium businesses alike are incorporating mobile apps into their business strategy. But prior to diving into a mobile development project, businesses should ask these five questions:

To outsource or not? While developing in house or outsourcing are viable and can result in a great end product, the strategic advantage of each rests with the nuances of a business and the specific objectives for a project.

Developing apps through an in-house team provides greater control and direction over a project. Increased collaboration inevitably results from a team working in proximity. However, in-house mobile development teams are typically more expensive than an outsourced equivalent.

Related: To Outsource or Not? That Is the Question.

Businesses that outsource mobile app development benefit from economical resources, less overhead and the luxury of retaining management focus. But outsourcing inevitably results in less control over the project. That said, popular software such as Skype and websites such as were outsourced in their early days.

Which device to developer for? More than 60 percent of Americans own smartphones and global tablet ownership will reach 905 million by 2017. With such a multitude of choices, device fragmentation is a major challenge for mobile projects. Analyzing existing traffic to a company website will help with assessing an audience in terms of device preference.

If a majority of shoppers access a site from Android phones, the mobile app in question should be built on Android. Another point to consider is that iPhone and iPad users are likely to spend more than Android users. Despite Android representing a substantial market share, Apple users pack a statistically larger transactional punch. Also keep in mind that tablet users of all types boast more transactions than smartphones.

What should the app do? Once a business identifies the ideal development process and platform, the team can begin contemplating functionality. Whether it be mobile shopping or filing expense reports, a centralized focus is key.

Related: A Step-by-Step Guide To Building Your First Mobile App

Will the app be a comprehensive ‘kitchen sink’ for customers, meaning they can interact in every way with a brand, similar to a website? Another approach centers on simplicity. Amazon’s mobile app, for instance, is streamlined for ‘Buy It Now’ transactions rather than for reading reviews, selling used products or customer service.

The same approach is effective when building internal business apps. Rather than create one app to handle document authorization, expense reporting and sick leave requests, it can be more efficient to create isolated apps that integrate when needed.

Businesses must know what their mobile user base wants to accomplish. One way to assess the objective is to analyze the top actions taken by mobile visitors browsing the existing website.

Can existing infrastructure handle the increased traffic? Another important aspect to keep in mind when developing a mobile app is the need for integration with backend systems and pre-existing infrastructure. If a brand is building a mobile ecommerce app, due diligence in regards to melding with an ecommerce system is crucial. Businesses must consider the capacity of existing systems to handle additional transactions and traffic.

Will design be a priority? At this point in the planning process, decisions about platforms, device type, development language and functionality requirements should be set in stone. One of the final aspects for creating a value-generating mobile app rests with end-user experience and aesthetic design. Average smartphone users download a rotating roster of around 25 apps. With hundreds of thousands of apps competing for space on customer smartphones, an app must stand out in all regards.

For apps in today’s market, design has become central to popularity and effectiveness. Intuitive interface controls and elegant transitions are mandatory. When any two apps accomplish a similar task or function, the lone differentiator rests with visual design and user experience. On top of the visual and interactive experience for the mobile app, additional aspects such as the app's performance, data consumption and storage size are crucial.

By taking a methodical approach towards conception, setting objectives and actual production and development, businesses can take the mystery out of identifying a successful mobile strategy -- at least for the most part.

Related: Mobile Commerce Has Completely Exploded (Infographic)