Some of my friends' mobile screens are loaded with icons: for social media, games, news and time management; they have at least one of every type of app you can imagine. Some have so many apps that they've organised them into folders.
Is it because they're just that plugged into cyberspace and all of its utility, or do they all have mild cases of FOMO - the fear of missing out that compels them to download the latest mobile app?
Whatever their reasons for loading their mobiles up - good heavens, how much memory must their devices have? - their crowded screens prove that the market for mobile apps is growing fast.
It wasn't that long ago that businesses contented themselves with imploring you to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Now, they all want you to download their app so you can access tantalising offers and deep discounts, and stay up to date on their latest products.
Why have businesses, both online and brick-and-mortar ones, made the leap from social media promotion to having their own app? For more than a few reasons, that's for sure. Let's look at some of the main ones.
For Furthering Their Reach
The top three social media giants - Facebook, Twitter and Insta, are rather stingy when it comes to free access. They might let you see a post of two but if you want to go any further, you have to have an account with them yourself. Trouble is, not everybody Facebooks, Twitters or Instas.
Thus, businesses that rely on those social media platforms are left out of the competition for customers/clients.
This is the main reason why so many businesses, both actual and of the online variety are developing apps to represent their own businesses. After all, if you own a business, you wouldn't mind paying advertising costs if there were no other options; developing an app of their own allows them to connect with customers/clients directly.
Promote Brand Recognition and Loyalty
Who really looks at all those adverts on social media, anyway? Or, for that matter, adverts in print media, television and on billboards?
The trouble with advertising is that it creates pollution. It's literally everywhere you turn, from the bus trundling down the street to the placards inside of them. Consumers have gotten so inured to adverts that those graphic designs have become a part of the landscape. Unless they're remarkable in their composition, the most attention they garner is from graffitists defacing them.
Who, with any business sense, would budget millions to provide a canvas for graffiti artists, especially as the adverts they pay for cause more offence than an incitement to buy, these days?
By developing their own app, businesses can reach their customers/clients directly and forge a relationship of sorts with them. They can promote their goods and services without the risk of their promotion not being seen. Certainly without it being defaced.
And they can reward loyal customers/clients with prizes, special discounts and other goodies.
Ease of Use
Mobile apps allow businesses to know how their buying public feels about proposed goods and services for sale without having to organise focus groups and analyse reams of data.
For instance, clothing vendors may upload snapshots of proposed inventory to let customers vote on whether they'd buy. Knowing what to ship to retail outlets or make available through their online catalogues helps merchants keep their operations lean.
That, in turn, represents lower operating costs.
Apps make things easier for customers/clients, too. They can search the app to find what they're looking for and, if it's not available, they might make a product recommendation. Should their desired item be available, they may pay for it via the app and arrange delivery, too.
Other apps - review apps (Yelp! and others), recommendation apps (The Spoke for iOS; Shopify and others) and personal finance apps (remember Robinhood?) give customers/clients their voice in commerce, all without having to earn a marketing degree or working for a high-powered company.
In 2021 alone, app usage generated in excess of 155 billion dollars in commercial traffic. If no other reason convinces you that the app market is hot and getting hotter, that figure should.
How can you capitalise on it?
Courses for App Development
Unless you own a business, the best way for you to ride the app boom wave is to become an app designer. "Easier said than done!" you might scoff, to which app developers counter "Easier done than you thought it could be!"
If you see app development in your future, the first step to making that your reality is to learn how to code; preferably in more programming languages than one. That will increase your versatility as an app developer.
Spotify, Uber, Pinterest and Meta (Facebook) are coded at least in part in Python. That versatile and easy-to-use language might be a good place to start; it's easy to learn, too. C++ and Java are good languages to pick up on, too, especially if you want to design high-end apps with lots of bells and whistles.
Regardless of which language(s) you want to learn, you should start by mastering HTML5.
You can learn how to code on your own; the internet has plenty of sites like W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, that are jam-packed with information, how-tos and workshops. You might join their community - even now, as a novice coder, to build your network of contacts.
Or you might prefer taking courses in programming languages and app development. to help you find what you're looking for, we created a list of learning opportunities and outlets you can investigate.
You may even want to learn how to code from a Superprof programming tutor.
The Cost of Developing an App
Many of the app development courses we looked into are free of charge; they only require you to register an account. The only downside to such courses is their potentially outdated information. Thus, if you want to make app development your future, it might be worth it to pay for a top-of-the-line course.
Learning how to develop apps could be considered a part of the cost of app development but we're going to talk about how much creating an app costs. Unfortunately, it's not simply a matter of having a computer and knowing how to code.
First, you have to figure out what your app is for and what you want it to do. You'll also need to envision all of the functions and features you want it to have. For instance, if you're building a retail sales app, you'll want to include a means of accepting payment and a way for clients to message you.
And then, decide which operating systems you want your app to run on. As you well know, iOS apps don't run on Android OSs so if you want your app to be more widely available, you'll design a cross-platform app. If you want your web page to display correctly on a mobile, you have to create a web app.
Each of these options and the many more available to app creators all impact the cost of app development. And developing the app is just one part of the cost estimate; you must also plan for post-launch maintenance of your app.
We need to take a long look at each of these costs and where it's safe to shave a few pounds off your development expenses.
One way to save money is to decide, up front, what category of app you want to specialise in designing. You have many different ones to choose from:
- house and home
- personal fitness
- personal finance
That's just an abbreviated list of different app categories; there are so many others you might opt for.
All of them look, feel and work differently. Some have loads of features while others focus more on graphics and animations. Some, like medical and finance apps, necessarily plug into 'official' outlets while others may simply consist of a blog, a comments section and lots of photos.
Especially if you're starting out as an app developer, concentrating your efforts on developing one category of apps not only helps you discover, by trial and error, what works well and what doesn't, but it also lets you develop your creative style and go-to coding resources.
All that, without you getting bogged down in the endless possibilities app design offers.
Later on, once you get comfortable designing a particular app category, you can branch out to try your hand at more complex designs. Mastering them will be faster and easier because you'll already know what works and what doesn't.
Now, the only question is: which app category will you choose to make your developer debut in? Maybe in one of the most in-demand app categories?
Whether you freelance as an app developer or with an app development agency, you can be sure your app development skills will be in high demand.
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