Serious businesses always have well-designed websites. In fact, having a digital presence is now considered essential to success. With more and more people working remotely, using eCommerce websites for shopping, and dating online, companies should build a mobile app or website in order to remain relevant. 

Mobile app usage now makes up more than 50% of all internet traffic. There are millions of online companies competing to be seen by a public with an increasingly limited attention span and patience. Being in front of your customer where and when they are ready to make a purchase has never been more important. 

The good news for startups and other businesses with limited funds (or, who have financially savvy owners) is that you don’t (necessarily) need to hire an expensive team of software developers to create an app. It’s hard enough to learn how to fund a business without worrying about mobile app development costs. 

Technically, you CAN build your own app without being a coding expert. Your customers will be happier, and you will benefit from it too. After all, there is nothing better than being able to remotely manage every aspect of your business from the palm of your hand.

1. Does your company need a mobile app?

In 2020, convenience is key. Aside from choosing the best marketing automation platform to stay connected to your customers, investing in a mobile app could be an important move for a growing business

Deciding to launch your own mobile app is a big decision. It’s recommended that you first begin with a well-designed website that will give clients and future customers information about your products or services. Once the website goes live, check the stats on your website using Google Analytics or a similar tool. How many people are accessing your website from a mobile app?

Certain B2B companies may not need mobile apps because most of their transactions are occurring when people are at their office, already in front of a computer and not checking their mobile phones (or at least not in front of the boss!). Conducting market research and knowing your audience will be an important first step to determining whether you want to invest time and money into a mobile app right now.

2. Map out app functionality

It’s your company, and you need to make sure that the app is created to be user-friendly for the client demographic you know so well. Increasing mobile website speed to reduce loading time is essential, as well as creating an engaging user experience. 

Believe it or not, this is something you can do with little to no knowledge of mobile app design. It’s an important first step regardless of whether you are hiring a professional team or designing the mobile app yourself. 

How do you want the mobile app to flow? How do you envision the toolbars and display of the home page? How many features will users be able to see without having to log in? Will you use your mobile app as a landing page to capture potential leads and ask them for an email address?

Will the app be more informative or will there be a direct call to action when users download the app? Would you like to create a page where clients can pay their bill online? What is the overall goal of your mobile app and how can you create one that is both functional and engaging?

These are all questions that you can answer without a degree in software engineering.

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3. Hire a team or do it yourself

The problem is that creating an app is not as easy as watching a video and signing up for a WordPress account. Mobile apps must be able to run smoothly on WiFi or 4G (5G soon) and be compatible with different types of smartphones. Whereas websites can rely more on text, mobile apps are traditionally more focused on graphics and video.

Hire a development team

Creating an app often requires calling in a team of developers, which can cost $10k or more. Furthermore, while these developers will bring your app to life, you will still be responsible for overseeing the design and functionality.

Many mobile app developers will take advantage of the naivete of their clients. They may charge them for unnecessary work or limit the amount of control the business owner has over the project. Entrepreneur Jillian Darlington, the creator of the app MomCo, interviewed many mobile app developers before choosing the right team. “Being a mom and being a woman, sometimes the tech industry is brutal for us,” she explains, as she describes how she brought the MomCo app to life.

It took a lot of research and an app that she carefully fully planned herself before she felt comfortable working with mobile app developers for her brand. However, for most businesses, this expense is absolutely worth it. Having your mobile app in the hands of experts who can bring your vision to life is priceless.

It’s also great to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your app was developed by professionals with a deep understanding of cybersecurity. By hiring a team of mobile app engineers, you can focus on other parts of your business and leave the stress of your mobile app design to the experts.

For some business owners, investing in a professional team of mobile app developers is worth it. Businesses that already have a large and healthy cash flow or have obtained additional funding might not think twice about the expense. But what if you are a small business or startup on a strict budget?

Do it yourself

For some companies, however, the time and expense of hiring a team to design a mobile app are prohibitive. 

There are some downsides to creating your own app. Mobile app security considerations are taken more seriously by professional developers. Trusting an online platform to develop your app may not give your company the cybersecurity attention it deserves. It is certainly not the best option for companies in the healthcare or personal finance industry. 

4. If you do it yourself, choose a platform

Platforms like AirTable, Appy Pie, and Nintex offer platforms that enable users to build their own apps, without having to work with any of the codes in the background. Similar to the blocks from WordPress, these apps translate the mobile app building code language into user-friendly design choices. You can use these three apps for free, although there is a premium subscription option.

The designer of the app can select different templates and load their own graphics and text into the mobile app. Most platforms have ample templates to work with, so you don’t have to worry about your mobile app seeming too generic! With the ability to customize your app slightly, it’s a great starting place for a company that wants to roll out a mobile app on a trial run. If your self-designed mobile app is a huge success, you may want to invest in having your own mobile app design team to increase speed and create a unique user experience.

Other mobile app development platforms involve a nominal fee, usually around $5-25 per month. Quickbase, a favored choice of Fortune 500 companies, offers state-of-the-art mobile app designing resources and customer support for a fee of $500 a month. This app will create a very professional looking app for you and also make sure your smartphone app is not at risk of infecting users.

While this may sound more pricey than the $25 options, this is actually very affordable when you consider the money you will save. Investing in a platform that allows you to have full control over your app means that you don’t have to worry about a huge bill coming your way every time you need to update your app.

A pricier build-your-own app platform might be the right choice for larger online retainers, health-tech apps, and fintech apps, all of which deal with large amounts of sensitive customer data. Case in point: roughly 72% of popular stock apps were built with either Quickbase, Power BI, or Power Apps as a backend.

5. Just build it

With so many mobile app development platforms available, there is no excuse for your business not to have one. You thought you were cutting edge for having a nicely designed website? Think again, because the year is 2020 and most people access the internet through their smartphones.

We hope you’ve found this article useful in your decision about whether or not to invest in a mobile app for your company. While taking the time to learn the ins and outs of a build-your-own-app service will take a little bit of time, the payoff will be huge when you save money and maintain full control over your business.

AvatarNahla Davies

Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.