Nov 5, 2020 Written by David Barlev

What to Look for in a Custom Business Application

A group of team members sitting at a table

Building a custom business application is an exciting and challenging process.

From the moment you start planning which problems to address to the hour that you finally launch your app, custom software is an adventure that deserves all the effort you can give it.

If you’ve never designed and built a business app, it is important that you know how to do it right. In this blog, we’ll talk about some of the most important things to remember when bringing your dream to life.

Why Build Your Own App?

A laptop on a tableEvery now and then, you come across an app that doesn’t do quite what you need it to. It’s frustrating, and ideas start to swirl in your head about what you would do if you had the money and time.

Then you find out how easy it is to build a custom business app, and suddenly it feels possible to make one that suits your needs.

In Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, he says, “Innovation is not born from the dream, innovation is born from the struggle.” While apps serve a variety of purposes, all of them are inspired by the wish that there were a more effective tool out there.

Your app should focus on serving a specific need while being easy to operate.

So, what are some important keys to look for in a custom business application?

Understanding Custom Business Application Development

Coming up with a good idea for an app is only the first step. The real work comes from paring that idea down to its most basic, essential parts and developing them into a complete product. Many apps fail because they try to tackle too many problems without fully developing any of them.

To you, a complex app might be a great tool, but the rest of the world wants something simpler.

Ask yourself what is the singular goal of your app. Can you reduce it down to one goal? If not, might it be worth asking if you are assigning too much to your app? How does using your app simplify its users’ lives?

Consider Uber or Lyft, apps that connect riders with drivers—nothing more. Sure, there’s a map and payment options within the app, but beyond that, not much else. These apps succeed because they only ask one question: which nearby driver can take you where you want to go?

By narrowing your app’s focus and scope, users can easily categorize what the software does for them, helping them remember to use it in the future.

An Understanding of the Demographic

A team of developersBuilding an app is a creative process, and sometimes that creativity takes the form of imagining the specifics of who will use it.

Envision the ideal user for your app. Close your eyes. What do they look like? Where do they live? What kind of person are they? These questions are important everyone uses apps differently. For example, a newspaper app will work better by alerting users with push notifications and allowing them to scroll through stories, while a magazine app highlights larger artwork with fewer things to select.

The way each user interacts with your app will change based on the way they work, how old they are, where they live, and more. Millions of dollars are spent each year figuring out which design styles best speak to any given demographic, so if you want that information, you can find it through companies like eMarketer and ContactBabel (though it will cost you).

The more you know about who is using your product, the better you’ll be able to design and market it for them to actually use. Otherwise, it becomes just another name in the App Store.

The Perfect Layout

Don’t make the mistake of building an entire app before realizing the layout needs to change. Great business apps prioritize ease of use, and these decisions can take lots of time.

Should you swipe up for a feature or push a button in the corner? Does the app store information for offline use? How many users will the program handle at a time?

Due to the sheer number of million-dollar apps out there, it’s easy to take for granted how much work goes into making an app work smoothly. Once you start designing your own, you’ll quickly see why so many hours are spent planning a layout.

If you aren’t sure about how to do it, check out a template like this one. Usually, it’s during the brainstorming that you identify issues with how something should work, so take your time and do it right.

Seamless Syncing with Other Devices

A concept piece for networkingApps that can’t easily transfer data elsewhere aren’t very useful, so make sure that you consider compatibility with many different devices early on. This can be achieved in one of two ways: by building unique apps for each end-user—desktop, tablet, or smartphone—or by using Responsive Web Design so that the app fits any screen.

If the app stores data, it’s important that you are able to export that data without needing a specific, outside program to do it. Some apps only export data with a native program, so users can’t open it without a special program.

While this drives subscriptions, it can be frustrating for anyone outside your organization who has to use the data.

Ability to Scale for More Users

Great business apps must be able to grow with the company. If they can’t, businesses risk having to start over and build an app that can handle more traffic. Instead, plan your app to support adding columns of user data infinitely so that a user increase only means buying more server space.

Native Functionality on Smartphones

More than half of web traffic occurs via smartphone. Apps need to follow suit by meshing in with each phone’s native software, rather than by only performing simple tasks that do nothing beyond the confines of the program.

By using push notifications and other phone features, your custom business app becomes a more central part of its user’s life, making it more functional and more likely to be recommended later on.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing an app does is whatever its users need it to do. Do you know how accustomed we are to exiting out of pop-up ads now? That’s because we can’t be bothered by anything that wastes our time. It is our instinct to leave when something doesn’t serve us at all.

People don’t use apps unless they serve an important purpose, be that accounting, blogging, or playing a game. What you should look for in a custom business application is an answer to a need, and the real work to be done there is identifying which need is shared by most people.

Once you think your app is ready to go, wait. Test it, then test it again. Ask friends and family for their honest feedback so you can find out what needs to happen for a successful launch of your software. The more natural it is to use your app, the more it will be used.

In the end, the best advice is to go with what feels right.

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