3 Questions to Answer Before Building a Mobile App

About a week ago, I checked in on my friend Kiki L’italien’s newly redesigned blog and saw a sweet little hand-drawn cartoon with just a one-sentence post: “Turn this photo into a blog post.” The drawing showed a woman balancing two things in her two hands: “existing budget” and “mobile app.”

balance mobile needs with existing budget

Posted with permission from Kiki L'italien

I took this as a challenge to fellow bloggers to consider this topic and weigh in via their own blogs. Since I’d been thinking for a while about starting a blog, this was my call to action: Get this blog started, and answer Kiki’s challenge. As it turns out, I went back to Kiki’s blog a few days ago and found that the one-sentence “challenge” had been removed, and a short poston the subject of mobile apps had replaced it; what I had thought was Kiki’s call-to-action to other bloggers was, in fact, a note to herself. But by then, it was too late to stop me. So here are my thoughts on the same topic.

Are you getting pressured to launch a mobile app for your association? Board members or your boss telling you “We need an app” (but perhaps not saying what the app would do)? Or maybe you’ve realized how many people use smartphones and you’re thinking it’s time to launch an app, either to help keep in touch with members and supporters or just to prove that you’re keeping up with the times?

Stop. Before you go off and start working on a mobile app, let me ask you three questions:

  • Is your website mobile-friendly?
  • Have you tested all of your email templates thoroughly to make sure they render well on mobile devices?
  • Have you asked your members (or other audience/s) how they use their mobile devices?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as big a proponent of mobile, including apps, as anyone. But if you haven’t put resources into making sure your website and emails are mobile-friendly, I can almost guarantee that a mobile app is the wrong way to spend precious resources. If you survey your audience, I’ll bet you’ll find that more people are accessing email and the Internet on their mobile devices than are using apps.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be thinking about apps, and perhaps planning for apps. App usage is going to continue expanding, and you don’t want to wake up one day and find yourself left way behind.

But in a world of finite resources, we all need to prioritize. And optimizing your emails and websites for mobile accessibility is almost certainly going to prove less expensive than building and maintaining a mobile app. So start where the payoff will be greatest. (But keep thinking about those apps in the meantime. And if you haven’t already done it, or haven’t done it recently, ask your audience how they use mobile, as well as other electronic communications technologies and tools. You need that information.)

One thought on “3 Questions to Answer Before Building a Mobile App

  1. Congratulations on your new blog! This is a fabulous start and I can’t wait to watch and learn from you as you go along! Thanks for mentioning my post (the post you mentioned was originally meant as a challenge as you had guessed, but I always think no one *really* reads my blog).

    Love it!

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