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Top 3 Questions To Consider When Planning Your App

By Sabrina | August 5, 2021 |

So you want to build an app for your business. Before you do anything else, you need to answer a few critical questions. Don’t start an RFP (most reputable software development companies in this space do not respond to them anyway). Don’t Google developers near you. Don’t determine your budget. You’ll just end up wasting your time if you don’t have a solid answer to each of these three questions below:

1.) Is your app consumer-facing or internal?

Let’s start with a quick clarification; an “app” can either be mobile or web-based or both.

The use-case is critical to understanding the scope of your project and where your return on investment (ROI) comes from.   It can be consumer-facing (think Instagram, Uber, Facebook, Grubhub, etc) or an internal productivity tool (think of the handheld devices servers in restaurants use to take orders or workers in a shipping company scanning packages). Who is using your app shapes the entire scope of work.

This is also beneficial for when you eventually start testing your app. The earlier you identify the target audience (whether that is consumers or employees), the earlier you can start getting their feedback. We’ll touch on why end-user feedback is important in question three.

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2.) What Value does this app bring to your business?

Before any other action is taken, the Value that the app could bring must be determined. If an idea doesn’t bring value to your business, no matter how cool or innovative it is, it’s a waste of time and money. Setting specific, measurable goals for your app will allow you to measure your success.

Value for Internal Applications

For internal apps, this could be in terms of efficiency (how much more work could be done by the same number of people), quality improvements, revenue increases, improvements to customer satisfaction, and competitive landscape (are your clients using apps to improve their operations?). Only someone intimately familiar with the business and its operations and finances can determine the value. The ROI should be very easy to determine (Spending X should get me X+Y. Do your math).

Value for External (Consumer-Facing) Applications

For a consumer-facing app, the answer comes from really understanding your customers. It can even be broken down to a more specific question: What do your customers want/need from your app that they can’t get now from your business?

For example, if your business is a restaurant, and you are thinking of a food delivery app for your customers, make sure you know WHY they would go through the effort of downloading your app and using it for ordering and delivery rather than using the plethora of food ordering and delivery apps already available to them (and which they may already be using).

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3.) What app functionality will have the most impact on the business and your ROI?

This question will help determine what functionality is critical for the initial version of your app. Software projects are built in phases, and not every feature will be included in the initial release. Understanding the core functionality of your app will help guide your minimum viable product (for more information on MVPs, this article dives deeper into the concept).

Start simple and add functionality as needed or requested. By building in a phased approach, you are able to focus on the functionality that will provide the highest value. You also save costs by avoiding adding features that may end up being unnecessary. This method of lean development reduces the risk of running over budget and maximizes your ROI.

Remember when I said knowing your end-users are critical? This is where their feedback can dramatically shape your scope of work.

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Bonus Question: How do I justify the cost?

Alright, It’s no secret that custom software can be expensive. Depending on the complexity of your project and the amount of functionality required, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t let the sticker price deter you from investing in a tool that could potentially return two or three times its cost. Consider that apps have a long-time benefit (many years) and can evolve to address new or future challenges as well. The upfront costs of developing an app should be amortized over the perceived lifespan of the app.

Remember that the initial cost of development is just the beginning. We touch on a few other costs to consider (server, hosting, marketing, etc) in our article The Real Costs of Mobile App Development.

What Next?

You’ve determined what kind of app you are building, what value it’ll bring to your business and the core functionality. What now?

Talk to a technology consulting firm and get an understanding of the features and functions of the app are possible and practical. Get an idea of the initial and ongoing maintenance costs. The only way forward is to get started, so what are you waiting for?

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