You probably shouldn’t build a mobile app for your small business

Why? A mobile website will cost less and be more effective in most cases.

The chances are that users aren’t going to ever download your app.

There are over 3 million apps available to Android and iOS (Apple) users according to Statista. Most users already have dozens of apps on their phones, and “a staggering 42 percent of all app time spent on smartphones occurs on the individual’s single most used app. And nearly three out of every four minutes of app usage occurs on one of the individual’s top four apps.”

We don’t want yet another app on our phones

As Benedict Evans, a mobile technology analyst from Andreessen-Horowitz, says: the best quick and dirty method of determining whether or not you need to build your own app is this: are your users likely to keep your app’s shortcut on their home screens?

The home screen is the screen of icons you see when you turn on your phone, not counting any screens that you can access by swiping left or right. I, for example, have about 22 app shortcuts on my home screen. It’s packed.

I really like my local veterinarian, accountant, and pizza restaurant, but their apps are just not going to get a spot on my home screen.

Getting on the home screen

homescreenThere are two key places where your business is on the home screen, even if indirectly. These places are in web search and the web browser. The web browser is usually installed by default on smartphone home screens. Also, and perhaps more important, is the web search bar at the top. I am just a tap and some typing away from finding your mobile website.

This isn’t quite the same as having your app on my phone, but it’s good enough unless you spend the thousands of dollars necessary to make a mobile app and your app is actually compelling or useful enough for me to use regularly.

Don’t rely on your users to download your app. Your website is always there and always on…just waiting for someone to visit your URL. There’s nothing to install, no permissions required to be set, no clutter to put on their phone. They just visit your URL, and they’re in.

Where I am wrong

“But wait,” you say, “don’t native mobile apps perform better? Aren’t they faster with generally better user experience?” Yes, almost always.

However, what benefit do you gain from a fast app with great UX that nobody uses?

Instead, do the smart thing and spend your mobile app budget on optimizing your mobile responsive site. For most businesses, this is where you’ll get the most ROI.

I’m sure there are exceptions and counter-examples. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Leave a comment