The Washington Post

How to build a mobile app for your small business


Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of young entrepreneurs.

Q: How did your company build its mobile app (external service, your own skills, something else?)

(David Paul Morris/BLOOMBERG)

Derek Shanahan, co-founder of Foodtree in Vancouver, B.C.:

We built our Foodtree iPhone app with the help of Steam Clock Software, a local contractor who specializes in top-quality iOS apps.

I think that, ideally, most teams would aim to bring their mobile development in-house, but small teams don’t always have experienced mobile engineers on staff. Outsourcing — either locally or overseas — is increasingly effective, affordable, and capable of producing great products.

Brenton Gieser, co-founder of JoynIn in San Francisco:

Mobile is no longer a competitive advantage; it’s a necessity. Once you realize that computing itself is making a drastic shift to mobile platform, you will align your resources accordingly. At JoynIn, we witnessed this shift happen right in front of us, as our users began migrating from our Web site to our mobile apps. One of our users told us that they will never use JoynIn on a desktop again, and many commented that they didn’t even own a computer!

In creating the JoynIn mobile app, we not only hired a part-time developer who specialized in mobile, but we also had our chief developer, who specialized in backend Web development, learn iOS almost overnight. We knew that in order to compete in our field, we needed to truly own all our mobile properties and have the ability to iterate as early and as often as possible. For any company that’s looking to build consumer — or even enterprise — technology, first consider a mobile strategy in which you hire mobile developers.”

Kevin Tighe II, co-founder and CEO of INFLITE in Los Angeles:

Today, it is extremely important for a Web company to develop their mobile strategy early. For those that are not ready to build a mobile application, consider a mobile version of your Web site that displays content that is easy to navigate and digest on a smartphone.

INFLITE recently created an iOS app, but we have not yet released it to the marketplace. In most cases, the more you can do in-house, the lower your costs will be. We had our lead graphic designer work with our lead developer to decide the core functionalities and design the user interface. Once those pieces were finalized, we handed them to an outside mobile development team to create the application.

A great place to find a mobile developer is through recommendations from trusted colleagues or through Web sites like 99designs. When choosing a team, it is essential that all details of the application are discussed, so there are no surprises upon completion. Keep in mind that the first version of the app should test the core functionality; adding unneeded bells and whistles will increase costs and development time without adding much to the user experience.


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