The market for smartphones and tablets has exploded over the last few years, with 68% of Americans using a smartphone every day. Along with this growth, the number of apps available for mobile devices has increased exponentially. The average American smartphone user has 33 apps, and as of March 2017, the Android and Apple stores featured a combined total of 5 million apps. It's no wonder so many business owners are asking themselves, "Would an app help my company grow?"

The answer depends on how you want to interact with your customers through their mobile devices and what services you'd like to make available to them. Here are a few questions you'll want to consider before investing in an app:

1. Do you need access to hardware in your customers’ mobile devices that can only be accessed through an app?

For example, smartphones are equipped with accelerometers that track users’ movements and provide feedback about how many steps they take per day. Fitness apps access this data and report to users on their level of activity. Apps can also access the GPS built into mobile devices (think Google Maps or Uber) to give their users directions to specific locations and estimate arrival times. Other companies, especially social media sites, use apps to send push notifications, access the device’s camera, or see the user’s contact list. If the service you want to provide requires access to these types of hardware, you might need an app.

2. Is there a behavior that needs to be repeated regularly and securely without logging in?

At Midwestern Interactive, our staff uses time tracking software when we work on different projects, which we access through an app. It would be really annoying if we had to log-in to a website every time we wanted to track a new project. Instead, we can open the app and touch a start or stop button. There may be some processes your customers or employees perform regularly that could be simplified by developing an app.

3. Is it worth the extra step for the user to download?

Lots of companies have apps for their online stores. But the reality is, most users don't want to take the time to visit the app store, search for an app, and download it before they can even start shopping for your products and services. They'd rather browse a responsive website that's designed to provide an enjoyable viewing experience on their mobile device and skip the downloading step.

4. Is it in your budget?

In the long-term and the short-term, apps are expensive. They need to be designed and developed to work across multiple platforms on multiple devices, which is time-intensive. They also require extensive updates every time Apple or Android changes something, and each update needs to be tested multiple times on multiple devices before a new version of the app can be released. More time translates into higher costs for you.

Most businesses can expect to spend at least 30-40% more building an app than they would spend building a responsive website. And most of them will still need a responsive website in addition to the app. If you're not sure your business needs an app or you don't have the budget for both an app and a website, an app may not be your best investment.

However, if you're thinking an app could position you to better serve your customers by giving you access to the hardware on their mobile devices, we can build an app for that. If you're thinking an app could simplify repetitive tasks for your employees or customers, we can build an app for that. If you want to offer a product or service through an app that makes the extra step of downloading worth it for your customers, we can build an app for that. Midwestern Interactive has a team of designers and developers who are fully capable of building apps for Android and Apple that work across any platform or device.

But if you're not sure your business really needs an app or you don't have the budget for one, we’ve got solutions for you, too. We're experts in responsive website design and for the vast majority of our clients, that's a better option than building an app. A well-designed responsive website is attractive and accessible from any mobile device and can probably accomplish everything you'd want an app to do (for less money, too).

Whether your business needs an app, a responsive website, or both, let's talk about how Midwestern Interactive can partner with you to make your products and services more accessible to mobile customers.

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