If you’re a publisher and want to be relevant in today’s smartphone-driven world, then yes, you probably need an app. “But wait,” you might protest, “I already have a responsive website!” Great!
Responsive web design, which adapts your site to fit a range of devices, is critical to your site’s success (when done right). But mobile apps are growing at an astounding rate, and not having one is a surefire way to fall behind the competition.
Here are six compelling reasons to convince you to get on board with the trend.
Smartphones are the present and the future of technology.
It’s predicted that 6.1 billion smartphones will be in use worldwide by 2020. These numbers represent a huge segment (upwards of 70%) of the world’s projected population, all of whom will be using app-enabled mobile devices within the next five years.
Apps aren’t just a fun option for smartphone users; the technology relies on them. From alarms to social media to tracking your fitness and reading the news, just about everything you do on a smartphone happens in an app. So when we say that 70% of the world will soon be using smartphones, we mean that 70% of the world will soon be using apps on a daily (if not hourly) basis. This doesn’t even take tablet usage into consideration, but the trend is clear: mobile apps are booming.
An app puts your website in front of potential and current users.
The visibility an app offers is two-fold. First, having an app on the market can help to expand your audience. Nearly all mobile applications are acquired and downloaded through the App Store for iPhones and iPads and Google Play for Android devices. Positioning your app in just these two shops puts your brand in reach of millions of users.
Once an app has been downloaded, it becomes a part of a user’s daily experience. Think about how often you scroll through your apps. You probably don’t use every app every day, but you do see its icon with each passing swipe. This familiarity, even if it’s subconscious, is a powerful tool in keeping your brand at the front of your audience’s mind.
An app makes it easy for your audience to enjoy (and share) your content.
The accessibility of apps is a key factor in their success. Users don’t want to jump through a bunch of hoops to get to your website and its features. Opening a window, remembering the address, and typing it in (or searching for it) creates a barrier of time and effort that keeps some people away. With an app, no digital gymnastics are required; your content is right there, literally at their fingertips.
Apps also make sharing easy. Optimized to work seamlessly with the other tools on a user’s smartphone or tablet, good apps allow a user to send your content to their social media networks and other contacts with just the tap of the finger, driving more traffic and new users to your site.
Having an app sets you apart.
You could say that apps are today where websites were 20 years ago.
Nobody is writing articles like this about why you need a website or a blog anymore. It’s become an accepted part of doing business in the modern age, and thousands of tools and templates are available to help even the most tech-averse individual build their website on WordPress. Apps are still early in this process.
Having an app for your website at this stage is still likely to position you ahead of your competition, elevating your brand and adding unique value to your website, while improving the experience for your readers on mobile.
Apps increase audience engagement and retention.
Every business, whether in real life or online, is built on connection. Push notifications are one of the most valuable tools of mobile apps, boasting an open rate of 90%.
This is higher than any other communication method currently available, and it is driving that valuable connection in the smartphone age.
Using push notifications in your app, you can inform your users of updates and special features or send custom messages.
These reminders keep your brand present and fresh in your audience’s mind, resulting in repeated visits and increased engagement.
Apps get you closer to your audience.
Finally, apps offer a personalized user experience. Where a website is global, an app is local. It is stored on an individual’s phone with its corresponding data, settings, and login information.
Apps have the potential to track and remember a person’s interactions and settings, allowing the user to maximize their own experience. This in turn can increase their personal satisfaction with your brand and your website, a key catalyst for their loyalty.
How you can build an app for your website
We trust that you’re convinced of your own need for an app by now, so it’s time for part two: how to get it.
Ultimately, the process is “simple”: decide what you want, sketch it out, build a prototype, test it, code the real thing, tweak it, and release it. But simple does not mean easy; it’s important to consider the costs in terms of time and money before you plan your next move.
Building an app from scratch
A recent survey discovered that apps take, on average, 18 weeks to build. That’s a little more than four months, and it can stretch far longer – up to a year – for complex projects.
A lot happens in that time to take an app from concept to market. That “simple” process we mentioned is actually a long series of steps, which starts with just defining the goal and purpose of your app.
Let’s assume you manage a blog or a media-focused website without any type of commerce built in (the target audience around here). For you, the goal is probably pretty simple: to create an accessible home for your content that encourages user engagement and traffic – essentially, a summary of the reasons to have an app we outlined above.
With that goal in mind, you’d sketch out your app. There’s no need to be an artist; this is a rough interpretation of how you’d like your app to look and to work, and it should be combined with the next step, which is research.
As you imagine and plan, look at other apps to find design inspiration, learn about the technical requirements to support all your features, decide how to market your app and, if you desire, how to monetize it as well.
You might also look at your competition, determining what existing apps are similar to the one you plan to build. This step is especially important for function-driven apps; to be successful, you have to offer something unique. Continuing on the assumption that you’re building a content-driven app, examining your competitors’ apps can offer inspiration as well as information.
Now it’s time to create a prototype, define the code that will make up your app’s back end, and test it. This is a good time to engage your family, friends, or even a test group to try out your prototype and give you honest feedback. Assuming all goes well, you can really get to work.
With your testers’ feedback in mind, it’s time to build the back end, design the look of each page and feature, and test again. A few more tweaks later, and you should be ready for release.
Building from scratch gives you full control over the design, features, and functionality and can result in an amazing app. But all this comes at a high cost, especially if you don’t have the knowledge and skills to do it yourself.
On average, the total development of a new app costs between $37,000 and $170,000 USD, and it goes up from there, with some apps reaching half a million dollars to produce. Plus, you’ll also need to budget time and money for updates; you’ll need to keep up with evolving technology and consumer needs to stay competitive, even after you send your completed app to market.
Using an app builder to develop your app
The ROI for an app varies from business to business, and many websites don’t yet have the resources or the potential returns to justify such a large expense of time and money. Truthfully, most businesses don’t need a 100% custom-built app anyway.
One of the best ways to drastically reduce expenses and create an app quickly is by using an app builder. These low cost tools offer a range of pre-built features, templates, and customization options to give you a functional app for your business or website quickly and inexpensively.
We should note that not all app builders are created equally, and it’s important to the success of your app that you choose wisely. Keep the goal of your app in mind and do your research. Check out each app builder’s existing clients and the apps they’ve created. Consider the quality, features, ease of use, your need for analytics and monetization options, and the price.
Decide if their design aesthetic matches that of your website, what ongoing services you need, and if their tools work with your website’s existing platform.
MobiLoud is the only app builder developing native apps exclusively for WordPress blogs and news sites.
Using the MobiLoud plugin, you can quickly develop an app with all the features you need – full integration with your site, push notifications, one-click comments, analytics and monetization, and more.
With the latest MobiLoud Canvas, you can now build an app for any kind of website, adding push notifications, native navigation features, content preloading, offline use and many other benefits, including of course the ability to publish your app on the App Stores and get your own space on your users’ home screen.
Plus, you can customize the look and feel of your MobiLoud-built app, enjoy ongoing support, and you can try it for free.
With affordable app creation resources available, there’s really no excuse to remain app-less! If you’ve already created an app, with MobiLoud or another app builder, or if you created a custom app, what did you learn in the process? What has been the biggest benefit to having your app?