Recently I was talking to a friend who was doing project management on a mobile phone app for a department within the Catalan government. Voicing his many general frustrations with working for the government, there was one particular issue that caught my ear.
He stated that all they seemed to know about the project when they approached him was that they “needed” an app. Loosely, they knew they could do something with maps in the city of Barcelona, but most importantly they “needed” an app.
Let me be absolutely clear, no one needs an app.
What people do need is to solve problems, or simplify elements of one’s business or job. These are the starting points. No one would say “I need a shovel”, then go out and buy a shovel without knowing what you’re going to use it for. If you need to dig a small hole, you buy a shovel. That said once you know the size of the hole you need, you might decide that a shovel is the wrong tool.
I know “apps” are in fashion but a useless app built only for the sake of “having an app” is not only a waste of money, but can reflect negatively on your product overall. Asking your consumers to download an app when they visit your site builds expectations, and if when they decide to download it all they get is the same content you have on your website already, but in a smaller, less convenient form, you’re not thinking of your consumer, but rather your ego.
That said, there are a lot of things today that could and would benefit from having an app, but rather than thinking about the app first, figure out the problem, develop a solution and consider whether an “app” is the best way to solve the problem.