July 25, 2014

10 Tips to Choosing an App Maker – For App Success

You are probably no stranger to just how valuable mobile is for business.  After all by the end of 2014 there will be more mobile phone devices in the world than people!

Just this year it was found that the time we spend connected to such devices is made up of 14% using mobile browsers, and 86% apps. If you’re among the business owners looking to take advantage of this statistic, and the flurry of other reasons you should use mobile apps, then you are probably summing up the best means to create it.

Long gone is the need for a hardened developer, with a plethora of consumer tools allowing the less code inclined to create their own mobile apps.

Here are 10 tips to choosing an app maker for app success!

  1. Can you easily integrate your company branding? – If customers are going to regularly use your app and associate it with your business it needs to be branded as such.  Does the app builder allow you to change the colors of your app? Or the font?
  2. Are there options to expand? Can you easily take your app and expand it further, for example
  3. How many app-stores can you publish to? – 7 in 10 apps are built for IOS, yet there are still huge numbers of individuals with Android, Windows and other mobile operating systems.  You don’t want to create a mobile app and then find later down the line that you can’t publish to another important app store.
  4. Is there sufficient support/help available? – A mobile app is a serious investment, whether it is created with a free tool or by a professional app company.  You want to be sure when creating your own app that there are sufficient means of support should anything go wrong.  See if you can use a demo of the tool,
  5. Is everything you NEED offered? There are dozens of app builders around but what they offer can vary significantly from one to the next. Be sure that everything you need in your app is fully offered to the standard you would expect.  So do you need GPS Check-In? Push notifications or mobile booking?
  6. Are sufficient analytic offered? – A very important and often overlooked question, if you do not have sufficient means of analyzing your apps success then you cannot understand how to improve it and you will may end up with an app that isn’t really targeted to what your customers want.   Examples include: the products that are being bought most through your app, the content that is being viewed the most, the amount of time spent in the app and number of opens each month etc..
  7. Is the app fully branded to you? Another important consideration, will the app be fully branded to your business or will it carry any other company logo’s for the right to using the app maker?  Is this something that you are adverse to?
  8. Are the apps created what you expect yours to look like? To get a true idea of whether the app maker is right for you, take a look at existing apps that have been created.  Are they what you expect yours to look like?  If not then consider looking elsewhere..
  9. In app marketing? – Are there options to automatically feed from content your blog to your app? To collect email addresses through contact-forms, or social media integration.
  10. App management (Back-end) – Apps don’t exactly manage themselves.. ensure that the app make you choose has a sophisticated back-end to allow you to make edits and improvements as and when you need.

July 25, 2014

The Trouble with Free App Creator Software – Apps for Free?

Imagine the scene; you are fast advancing on the magical castle of Vog and close to completing a side mission in your latest favorite questing game that will see you being awarded a huge amount of extra armour.  But, suddenly, find your way blocked; the game freezes, and an unhelpful banner informs you that you will have to purchase the side mission!  You got the game for free and you are now avidly spending your free time – and maybe a bit of time at work too – pursuing the evil Lord Zoot, but it doesn’t look like you are going to get near defeating him without that armor, and now you’ll have to pay for it – literally!

It’s an increasingly frequent occurrence and one that belies the apparent free-nature of many popular Apps.   Just because someone has made an App for free, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to be free to use.  Undeniably, creating an App takes time and effort and the resulting product has an inherent value, but while most people are happy with the fact that they have made something that is enjoyed by others, some feel the need to spoil an enjoyable experience by requesting money for it.  Of course, you’re not obliged to buy add-ons but it’s easy to feel as though you haven’t completed the game if you haven’t completed all the side missions, particularly those among us with serious OCD.

This is just one of the problems that you can encounter with seemingly free apps.  The other, obvious annoyance is endless ads popping up as you use your App or play a game. While they don’t actually impinge on the use of whatever you are using, they are sure annoying.  Once again, the designer of the App is leasing out a bit of space within their desktop to a series of advertisers for hard cash, hoping that you will see something you like and get onto the App store to buy it.  Of course, you can argue that by having these small intrusions, it allows designers to create an App that you can download and keep without paying for it, but wouldn’t you sooner pay a paltry amount –as small as $0.69 perhaps – and have the whole App untainted?The whole internet is fast becoming filled with adverts.  They are fast becoming an annoying addition to almost every site you visit.   From on-line newspapers to user groups and video sharing websites, advertising is becoming the norm, so should we just accept it with free Apps?

And what is the alternative?   Because anyone can use App creator free software, it doesn’t mean that they are competent to do it, and with the rise in cheap and free Apps hitting the on-line stores many are notably lower quality.  Poor graphics, badly synched parts and irritating features are not the characteristics that you want when downloading a new App, but they are all becoming more prevalent.  Of course, we would all like our Apps to be seamless and Ad-free, but that is something that must be paid for and professional games and App designers are generally expensive commodities.  The alternative is to use less professionally forged items, and that is where all of the problems cited in this article start to become apparent.

There is a way round it; you can make your own Apps for free but take some time to research whichever free App creator you use, and figure out how to use it properly rather than just throw parts together.  By doing that you will gain users respect and start to get a following.  Once you have people routinely downloading your wares, perhaps you can start charging a little for them.

July 24, 2014

Planning your app before using an app builder

It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment, to take something that is free and think it less important, to think: “Well it doesn’t matter it’s only free”.   The fact of the matter is that mobile apps are becoming an important part of our day to day lives, an effective mobile app can be a huge asset to businesses, but it can also be a dead weight in the water, to no valuable purpose.

Free app builders are just one of the means that allow the majority of us without a corporate-sized wallet to take advantage of this growing consumer market, though simply creating the app is not enough.

You need to know whether there is a genuine need for a mobile app from your consumers, whether they would use it, and what features they would expect.

Just because it might be free, doesn’t mean you want to be wasting the time creating and marketing an app that your customers don’t want, or won’t use.

So with that in mind,

Here are 5 steps you should take before using a free app maker, to ensure your app’s success:

Is there a need?  Will customers use it? – The most important step, and should be taken before anything else.  Do any of your competitors offer a mobile app?  How does it benefit their customers?  Consider creating a poll on your Facebook page asking whether customers would use a mobile app, or what features they would most like to see in one.

What are the goals of your app? – Understanding what you want to gain out of your mobile app will help you gear it better towards your goals.   Are you looking to create greater customer loyalty, create a new stream of revenue, or simply fend off competitors.   Once you understand the goals of your mobile app you can then make better decisions as to the feature sets to use, and how you present/market your app.

Decide what’s important to you – With mobile, less is definitely more.  One of the biggest troubles designers often have with mobile is trying to cram everything into those tiny screens.   Make it clear on the purpose of the app, if it’s for customers to more easily book appointments, then focus on that.  There’s no point distracting your customer too much with less important information that isn’t going to make a sale, or isn’t going to encourage their brand loyalty. Give an incentive for customers to come back to the app, (and keep it on their device!) such as exclusive mobile loyalty discounts or occasional push notifications.

Consider app analysis – As with any marketing, if you do not keep on top of your marketing analysis then you may well spend a long time miss-marketing the wrong product. How are you going to track the responsiveness of your mobile app?  How many people do you aim to be using the app and by when?

How will you support the mobile app – Lastly consider what existing platforms you have available to market and support your mobile app, do you have a sufficient social following to market the app to?   How are you going to encourage new downloads of the app and let your customers know that it exists?

A mobile app can be a hugely valuable asset, once you have created your app using an app builder, there are no ongoing-costs, unlike traditional advertising methods such as newspapers, once you’ve paid for your ad and it has been shown then it is gone.  Whereas a mobile app can continue to gain you repeat custom again and again.

Mobile apps can be very powerful marketing tools, yet many will remain un-used in the app store, those that thrive are the ones that are well thought out and with a lot of effort behind them!

July 24, 2014

Do Mobile Devices Hinder When you Make Your Own Apps?

Phones have changed from being simple handsets for making telephone calls into multitasking tools that can help run our lives.  We can now read everything from emails to classic books; we can check our diaries and check documents on the go.  They have transformed into the devices that go way beyond the dreams of even those in the industry, let alone the general user.  But just because they can do lots of things well, does that also translate into aspects of design? Is it a credible notion to think that we can create complex Apps on something as small as a smartphone or do you need the extra power and versatility of a PC or Mac?

The short answer to this is that it doesn’t really matter what you make your own Apps for free on as there are fewer and fewer App creation software programs that actually install anything on whatever device you are using.  The cloud is becoming the place for everyone to have a little corner tucked away to store and download those little projects that you have been dreaming of starting.   The cloud offers a new avenue in computing where data is stored away from your device and access by you as though it were a remote hard drive on part of your network.  In the early days of computing and the internet, programs had to be stored and operated locally – meaning on your device – which took a huge toll on memory devices that weren’t huge anyway.  The first real smart phones had SD card memory that was measured in a few megabytes, so taking up that precious room with programs and applications would eat into the area that you had left for storing messages and contact details, and holding large amounts of music and videos was simply not practical.

But technology marches on relentlessly and advances in microelectronics not only made devices faster, but also improved solid-state memory where a small SD chip could store 64 gigabytes of data and storage became less of an issue.  Many programs are now designed to be unloaded onto the cloud and simply accessed when required through your internet connection.  This is increasingly the case with relatively simple programs like App creator free software; the unpacked files are not huge in the first place and are designed to run remote of your device so, even with all the memory you now have on your mobile, storage of Apps is never an issue.

So with the storage size of a mobile device plainly not an issue, does it physical size make any real difference when creating an App?  Does the fact that the only pointing and maneuvering device you have is your finger a real issue?  Again, a few years ago it would have been as the first generation of touchscreens relied on a different technology that was a lot less precise than the screens of today. The initial designs of touchscreen relied on touch to connect two conductive layers to signify and ‘event’ happening, which the operating system of the phone took as a command.  The technology was very poor and the devices were haphazard in operation, sometimes needing several very precisely placed ‘stabs’ to operate a function.  Touchscreens soon moved over to the capacities type which relies on interference of a surface layer to operate and have many times the precision of the conductive screens.  Carrying out precision operations such as building an App on a capacities device is easy and so not a barrier to making things like Apps.

With no real exclusion on memory and with mobile devices becoming increasingly precise in operation,making your own App for free on something as small as a mobile phone is not only viable, but also fun and, with the Cloud, a function you can share with friends and colleagues.

July 23, 2014

Planning a New App – Create an App for your Business

Unless you are a professional designer and spend all your day thinking of news designs and enhancements, ideas come to most of us in flashes of inspiration.  You find yourself doing something such as filing a report to your boss by email, and suddenly think – this would be so much easier if I had an app to do it for me.  So it might be and it may well a more efficient way of working, but to just launch into making an App for free with one of the internet’s App creation software programs, it might be worth stepping back and doing a bit of planning first.  Before you start fiddling with skins and elements, it would be best to work through a few basic questions and see if what you have is truly original and worthwhile, or will it just become another unused app that people turn away from.  Some of the obvious questions to think about are:

What are you goals?  Is your idea actually something that could become a viable seller or do you want to create an App simply because you can and it would give you some kind of bragging rights amongst your peers?  Is this something that people are really going to want and will find useful and thus become one of those essential Apps that everyone has at their fingertips?  If  you can truthfully answer ‘yes’ to anything other than you just want to have your name out there, then it is probably worth pursuing.

Determine who will want it. While you can easily make your own App for free, there will still be a certain amount of cost in terms of your time and effort, and possibly marketing efforts that you will have to expand. You may need to construct a website to promote your App, which will have a material cost, so you need to be assured that you will recoup some of this cost through either direct sales or in-App advertising.   But neither of those routes will result in any money if no one wants your App. You need to try to determine how many units you are likely to shift and at what price to see if it is a viable option in the first place.

Understand what already exists. Just because you haven’t seen something similar – or even the same – as your App, doesn’t mean that there isn’t an App that fills the niche that you are looking at admirably already.  There is a section of design called “Me Too” denoting a design which is unashamedly very similar in form, fit, and function as something already on the market and it has been designed to make the most of a high selling product area.  If the market are that you are hoping to sell your App in is already being serviced, it’s unlikely that a new App will make much of an impression, or generate significant sales, unless it has something about it that sets it aside from other Apps doing the same thing.

Break the problem down. Having big ideas is great, but you may struggle if the area that you are trying to fill requires an App that is complex both in operation and in coding.   Generally, App creator free software does lots of things well but starts to show a few cracks as your App becomes more complex.  Typically, many of the larger and more complex Apps are constructed using purpose-written code rather than being constructed from the addition blocks that most free App creators have.  Once you have sketched out your App idea, start to break it down and see how simple you can make it.  The simpler it is, the more likely it is that you will be able to make it in a free App creator.

If you have a viable idea, it is advisable to follow these few simple rules right at the beginning to make sure that you construct something that is useful and usable, rather than an unsightly mess that no one wants to buy.