mobile app
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By Drew Johnson

Small businesses succeed by paying attention to the smallest of details. Without this granular focus, a small business will not separate itself from the services offered by competitors in a meaningful way. This is not news to a successful small business owner, so it should come as no surprise that honing in on the specifics is a requirement for a successful mobile app as well.

Here are some of the specifics to focus on when designing a mobile app for your small business.

Know Your Business Needs

Before beginning the app design and development process, take the time to accurately assess the needs of your business. For starters, decide whether your business simply needs a mobile website, a mobile app or all of the above. Determining the best strategy for your mobile needs requires a firm understanding of your goals.

However, do take note of the fact that small businesses with mobile apps are poised to tap into the ever-expanding mobile marketplace in uniquely beneficial ways. Small business apps are no longer just a way for a small business to increase brand prestige. A recent survey showed that 62 percent of businesses surveyed already had a business app or were in the process of developing one. Twenty percent of those businesses used their app for branding, but 30 percent built apps that generate small business revenue. And, 50 percent use their app for improved customer support and engagement.

Whether you need brand prestige, increased revenue or improved customer support, it is easier than ever to develop a small business app that meets those needs.

Understand Your Target Markets

Part of designing an effective small business app hinges on knowing who the target audience of the business is. Just as important, you need to know how they are going to interact with an app. For example, if your small business is a fitness and lifestyle brand, an app that keeps your users sedentary is probably not going to have massive appeal. Take advantage of a smartphone’s GPS functionality and provide an app with trackable fitness goals, on the other hand, and your app is poised to be a winner.

In other words, make the app as easy to use and as beneficial as possible for your target audience.

Stick With Proven User Interfaces That Work

Expanding on the idea of making your app accessible, you aren’t reinventing the wheel when developing a small business app. There are plenty of existing UI (user interface) conventions and best practices that will give your app the polish it needs.

Whether you are designing an Android app or an iOS app, there are detailed guidelines for how to develop a great app on every mobile platform. Android’s UI team offers helpful User Interface Guidelines, while iOS also offers an extensive set of iOS Human Interface Guidelines. Utilizing this expertise goes a long way toward developing a quality app. Sometimes, it is best to go with what’s proven to work instead of going at it alone. That is especially true for small businesses that need a small business app.

Be Aware That Phone Size Affects the User Experience

Developing a mobile app cannot be treated as a one-size-fits all approach. Even when you reduce the analysis to a single manufacturer such as Apple, there are a wide range of devices that come in a number of sizes.

As such, the UI needs to be scalable in order to ensure a quality user experience no matter the size or resolution of their mobile device.

Design an App With Touch Functionality

Without touch functionality, the potential of a mobile app is wasted. Users hold their mobile device in their hands, which practically demands having a touch functional app. Paying careful attention to the app’s button layout and touch interaction will pay off greatly in the form of providing a better user experience.

When interacting with your app is a true pleasure for an end user, the odds increase that they will interact with your app on a regular basis. Consider implementing helpful touch functions such as swiping, pinch gestures and visual cues that inform the user that an item within the app has been touched and/or selected.

Take the Initiative to Stand Out in a Crowded App Marketplace

Finally, after you have taken the time to carefully design a compelling app, you need to get it the attention it deserves by:

  • Using relevant keywords in your app name and description, which affects visibility in store searches
  • Encouraging and incentivizing user reviews that will help spread the word about your app’s quality for your business
  • Offering a business email address in your store description, which will promote the idea of frustrated customers contacting you for support directly
  • This can help dissuade a frustrated customer from leaving a negative app review on the store for all to see

By considering these steps in your app development process, a small business will increase the odds that its small business app receives the success and acclaim it deserves.

Drew Johnson is cofounder and co-CEO of App Partner, a Brooklyn-based mobile agency. Johnson’s responsibilities include advising App Partner’s clients on their mobile strategic initiatives as well as overseeing the company’s business development efforts and day-to-day operations. To date, his company has led and supported the launch of more than 200 unique mobile applications generating tens of millions of downloads