Do you need a mobile app for your startup?

Written by

Andrew Askins

The featured image for this blog post.

Here's how you can tell

Do you even need this?

That's a question you don’t hear when you buy something.
Imagine calling a pest control service and hearing them ask, "so tell me - are you sure you need our services?" You'd never hear that from restaurants, hotels, or retail, either.
Yet in app development, this is a CRUCIAL question. If a founder is going to succeed with an app, their startup has to actually need one.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail 🔨

It gets trickier. Even if you do need an app, you may not realize there are options besides native apps. (Native apps are the kind that you download on your phone.)
There are also web apps (desktop and mobile), hybrid apps and mobile sites. You may need none or a combination of these options, depending on the problem you're trying to solve.
To find out what kind of app a founder needs - and whether they need one at all - we ask the questions below.
Quiz yourself if you're considering an app for your startup. You may need a wrench instead of that hammer. 🔧

The "5 Big Questions" Quiz 5️⃣

1. Why do you want a mobile app? 🤔
Some founders want an app because, "everyone else has one." This indicates a founder wants to be trendy but it's not solid reasoning. 🕶
If that’s your answer, dig deeper. Why else do you want an app?
If your desire for an app is all about you and your appearance - as opposed to your customer and their needs - that's a red flag. 🚩An app that’s you-centered won’t succeed. (See 2b below.)

2a. Who are your users? 👥

Are your users on desktop or mobile?
Business professionals who live at their desk are primarily desktop users. They’ll engage best with a desktop or web app. Many other professionals rely on mobile and engage software on their phones.

Where and when will your users access the app?
If your users will pull up the app while traveling, waiting in lines, or at the grocery store, a native app sounds viable. If they'll use your app whenever they're next to another screen - like their desktop - ask yourself what an app would do that a website wouldn't.

2b. What do they need to accomplish? 💪
Identify a real and painful problem that your app solves or plays a key role in solving. If you can't do that, an app isn't a good solution - at least not for now. You have more groundwork to do first.
For a native app, you have to earn real estate on the user's phone. The problem has to be painful and your solution has to be valuable.
Tip: The jobs-to-be-done framework can help you think through this. What "job" are users hiring your app to do? What types of app could do that job well?

3. How often will users load the app? 🕐
If they'll pull up the app once or twice a month, think hard about a native app. Users may forget about it or not consider it worth the space on their phone. A website or web app may be a better fit.
The most successful native apps are ones that people use often. They're also ones that take advantage of a phone's core functionalities - the camera, GPS, or sound.

4. What kind of information do you need to manage? 🗄
The more data the app handles, the more screen space the admin needs. For some of our big projects, this means our clients need both a mobile app and a web app.
In those projects, the mobile app is user-facing while the web-app is admin facing. Our founders use the web version to organize, track and review information.

5. What's your budget? 💰
Some options cost more than others, in both time and money. The resources you have will set some firm boundaries.

Pulling it all together

Check out the chart below and you'll see how these questions all work together.
The chart doesn't capture gray areas like, "what if I have a moderate amount of money?" but it outlines some major signposts. 🚦
One big assumption: I assumed you had a good answer to, "why do you want a mobile app?" 😉


Pssst: Click the image to view the full chart 😁

Want more guidance?

Set up a phone chat with me. This is my jam!          
"It’s very easy in software to convince yourself some app you just thought of is actually a brilliant idea."-Intercom
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