Thanks to the explosion of smartphones apps, it's easier than ever to stay productive while you're out of the office.
You can do nearly anything on your smartphone, from checking emails and arranging meetings to updating several social media platforms at once and working on documents.
The range of apps available to you will depend on what kind of mobile device you have. However, most popular apps are available for Apple iPhones and iPads, as well as Android phones and tablets.
If you use a Microsoft Windows Phone, you may find that you have a smaller selection of apps from which to choose.
Which are the best apps for businesses?
There are apps for every conceivable business task. You’ll find tools to help you organise your task lists and prompt you with reminders and there are apps to help you remember your passwords. There’s also plenty of choices when it comes to storing and sharing files securely on the cloud. You can even organise your thoughts with mind-mapping apps.
Social networking apps allow you to keep up with the conversations on Twitter and manage your activity on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.
There are also many location-based apps. These use GPS technology to guide you to an intended destination (always forgetting where you parked? Some apps even allow you to tag the exact spot!), but also to show potential customers where your business is located.
Can I develop my own app?
Many businesses have developed their own apps. However, think carefully before you create one for yourself or your customers.
If you want to build an app for you and your staff to use, there's an excellent chance that an app already exists to do what you need. If you haven't found it yet, it might just be that you haven't looked hard enough.
Alternatively, a mobile app can be a good way to build a closer relationship with your customers, but only if it delivers something they want and can't get elsewhere.
With over 1.5m apps available for Apple devices alone, yours must be really special to stand out. It's easy to spend a lot of money on an app that attracts very few users, so think carefully and do plenty of research before going ahead.
Successful entrepreneurs solve problems in a way that we could not have imagined. When you look around you, every product and service you use were all created to solve a problem. You wanted to get from one place to another faster, you got a car. You wanted to get from one country to another faster, you got planes.
So, look for problems in your daily life and list each one of them. Once you have an exhaustive list, then start to think on how you can resolve them and shortlist the ones that make most sense.
How do I develop my own app?
Step 1: Identify the need. Validation will prove that a demand exists for your app. You can validate your idea by using the Google Keyword Planner tool to look for the number of people seeking out what you’re trying to do. You could also build a landing page that broadly highlights your app idea and seek user interest through an email signup.
Step 2: Layout the flow and features. Validation of your app idea means that you’ve got something that people want to use. Now is the time to detail your product onto a document, or if you want to go the extra mile, use a wireframing tool.
When putting your idea down on paper, remember to be as detailed as possible. Include the flow of how the user will navigate the app as well as all the features envisioned. This will help your developer to clearly understand your expectations.
Step 3: Remove non-core features. From the flow and features document you prepared, start looking closely at features that you can remove. Offer only the core value of your app idea. Do not build features in the first version that are "nice to have" and can always be added later as an update. This will help keep the initial costs of development down and also help you get to market quicker.
Step 4: Put design first. I have heard many entrepreneurs saying they want a very basic design and want to focus on just developing an app. They are so wrong! Design is not just about how your app looks, but it’s about how a user will experience the app.
Step 5: Hire a designer/developer. Seek a development company that has great design talent and a solid development team. While hiring a developer, go online to check on their credibility and the apps that they have created. If you really liked an app they created from their portfolio, chances are, they could be the right one for your product.
Step 6: Create developer accounts. You must register for a developer account with the respective app stores to be able to sell your app through their platform. Google’s Android charges $25 a year and Apple charges $99 annually. You have the option of registering as an individual or as a company, if you already have one formed.
Step 7: Integrate analytics. Analytics help you track downloads, user engagement and retention for your mobile app. Make sure you use tools such as Flurry, which is available for free, and Localytics, that has a free and paid version.
Step 8: Get feedback quickly and improvise. Once your app goes live on the app store, the first set of customers' usage and behaviour will give you insight into how to improve and enhance your app. Enhancements and changes are constant, so keep an eye on user feedback and keep building.
Step 9: Introduce features. You built version one with limited features and only the core offering. Now is the time to evaluate and introduce the remaining features that were left out in the initial version. You will know through analytics and feedback whether the features are relevant anymore.
These steps are not sacrosanct, but rather a guideline to building your app in the most effective manner based on my experience. Once you’re ready to start, you must also know that building a mobile app is the easiest part. Getting customers is where the challenge lies.
Lisa Hunter is an experienced Marketing, Events and Project Manager. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the IT and marketing industry, delivering strategic marketing support and managing creative projects for a wide-range of clients. In this blog she shares her knowledge and experiences…we hope you enjoy it.