Just going to come right out with it…
No, you don’t need a fucking app for your business.
Our team build apps, and I’m still here telling you there is a very real chance you don’t need one.
Every other week, someone calls me with an app idea, or asks about creating an app for their business. Every time, my first action is to try to talk them out of it. It’s usually pretty easy when you explain how much a real* app costs. But if after many-a-question, they are still adamant they need an app… that’s when we talk shop. It very rarely gets to that point.
* A real app is one that isn’t just loads their website in a hidden browser… which people legit try to sell people
A little experiment
Get out your phone.
Scroll through your home screens and take note of every app which is not:
- A utility like a calendar, email, note taking, todo app
- Communication app like social media or messaging
- A global service like Uber, AirBnb
- A local app like TripAdvisor, Yelp
Chances are you’ll have pretty much nothing else. Unless it’s something you downloaded because someone asked you to, and you forgot about it (feel free to uninstall it now).
What you won’t find much of are apps for your local accountant or flower shop. That’s because they have no real value to the end user. Local business don’t need apps.
But let’s say you’re not a local business. You’ve got an app idea that fits one of the above categories and isn’t just an app for the sake of an app…
There’s still a pretty good chance you don’t need it.
Things are changing…
Moving towards web apps
First, to make sure that we’re on the same page, a “web app” looks like a website. You open it in a browser, but it’s usually custom built for a specific purpose. It’s software of the internet. Think online accounting, project management, whatever.
The main ammo I use to talk people out of phone apps is that the lines between web apps and phone apps is blurring. Fast.
There’s a few things contributing to this.
1. Code runs in the browser
Websites were once the kind of thing where you click a link and then wait for the next page to load. Those days are going away.
Now, so much of the functionality can run in the browser. You can use a “website” as if it were an app – meaning it is very responsive and things change as soon as you click them. In the background, it does whatever processing it needs to do without you having to wait.
2. Everything is online
Many “apps” are just a website that load in a hidden browser. The only way you’d know the difference is if you had no internet connection. But the way things are connected now… most phone apps don’t even work without the internet.
The point here is that one of the main benefits of an app (offline capability) often isn’t even possible.
On the other hand, web technology is getting to the point where you can actually store data in the browser for when the connection drops out.
3. They look the same
The visual components Google provide to build web apps are almost identical to the Android interface. When built properly, if you couldn’t see the URL bar most people wouldn’t recognise the difference.
4. Completely capable
These are all things you can do within a web browser:
- GPS Location
- Upload photos / take photos with the phone camera
- Launch a phone call
- Store things so that it continues to work when internet connection drops out
These are things many people think you need an app for. Those lines are a-blurrin’.
When an app makes sense
All this said, there’s still sometimes an app makes sense. That’s usually if you fall into one of those categories mentioned earlier.
It comes down to one big question – Is there a <strong>much better experience</strong> for the end user if you create an app?
The middle ground
Apps are expensive. Even if you have something that should definitely be an app, there’s a middleground that can ease the financial burden.
That is to build a responsive web app first. People can open this with whatever browser they are using, and you don’t need to go through all the BS of getting app store approval. You can even create a shortcut to a web app on your home screen with an icon that looks just like the other apps on your phone.
If you plan on building a phone app later, make it apparent to your developer. If they developer your web app with this in mind and create an open back end (API), a phone app will later be able to hook into this. You’ll have the best of both worlds.