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DIY Apps for Small Business – Part 1

Yes, you can REALLY build an app all by yourself!

Evidence is coming in from all different sources and reports — Businesses who have a mobile marketing strategy and who are using in-house apps are cutting expenses, making more sales, improving productivity, building customer relationships and ultimately improving their revenue.  These businesses are capitalizing on the fact that more are buying smartphones (and mobile devices) every day.


45% of American adults own smartphones. They are particularly popular with young adults and those living in relatively higher income households; 66% of those ages 18-29 own smartphones, and 68% of those living in households earning $75,000 also own them.

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project – Smartphone Habits


In previous articles we discussed the different types of custom apps that make sense for small businesses to have — now it’s time to talk about HOW to get it done and what to look for in an App Development Tool.


Do you need a Developer to have a Good App?

One way to have a custom app created for your business is to hire someone to do it.  But for cash-conscious small businesses, “enlisting the choice services of a custom developer could be a foolhardy move, primarily because of the untold costs it can incur.”  If you are a start-up or a company that is working on a bootstrap budget, this is definitely not the best option – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a high quality app made for your business.  “Small business owners eager to create mobile apps—whether to market services to customers or improve internal productivity — are finding a growing array of alternatives to hiring professional programmers.”


DIY App Development Tools

There are a growing number of app development tools available today that make it possible for a person to create their own apps – without any knowledge of coding languages or previous experience.  Today DIY programs can produce mobile apps that can rival those created by a developer – at a SIGNIFICANT portion of the expense.  There are even some tools that allow you to create a small app for ZERO cost – yes, some DIY programs are actually free.


But before you go rushing to build your first app, in order to find the “best” fit for your business, there are several factors that you will need to consider:

  • What platform (type of mobile device) will your App run on?
  • Who will be using your App? Will it be for consumers or for in-house use?
  • Does the DIY development tool have features that are RELEVANT to your needs?
  • How do you want people to learn about your App? How will you promote it?
  • Do you want your app to offer an “upgrade” version that provides your consumers with something worth buying?
  • How much do you want to spend to get started and to maintain the app?
  • What will your app do to maximize the ROI (minimally to cover the cost)?
  • How does the DIY fee compare to what it would cost to hire a developer?
  • How much time do you want to put into development?  How hard will it be to learn the program and does it require specialized knowledge or coding?
  • Will you want your app to be made available in the “Big App Stores” from the start (it costs more to get listed in the 3rd Party Apps stores) – or will it be okay to start out with access through your website and QR codes/print marketing?


Just in case you didn’t know…   There are essentially two kinds of apps. Native apps are written for specific operating systems — Apple’s iOS, for example, or Google’s Android — and are installed directly on a device. They are available through online stores like iTunes or Google Play. Mobile Web apps run on a device’s Web browser — and because of that can be slower — but they work on a variety of systems. There is no app store for the mobile Web so those apps can be harder for consumers to find.  When you select a DIY app program, you will have to take into consideration what operating system the apps will work on – and whether you are going to want to have you app available to the general public in the app stores.


One more IMPORTANT thing to consider… 

Would you actually enjoy the process of developing your own App? 

If not, doing it yourself may not be the most cost-effective solution!  Depending upon your skills, work schedule and interests, it could end up “costing” you more in the value of your time than it would have been to hire someone.  If your time is limited (or you have no interest in actually building the app), you may want to consider a “blended” approach. Pick a DIY program that has the features that you like and that is within your budget and hire someone to build it.  By using a DIY tool, once the app is created you should be able to make quick changes and updates by yourself.  For ideas on where to find a low cost independent contractor, check out our Dummy’s Guide to Hiring a Geek.

Stay tuned for Part 2

Now that we have covered how the type of app you want to create will affect the Development Tool that you use, next  we will help you find one that is a fit for your needs (including a list of the top DIY App Tools for small businesses).

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About Anne Balke

Outside of my freelance work as a writer, I provide business consulting, web design and online marketing services for small businesses – from one small business owner, to another. As an entrepreneur who has been through the struggles of learning how to succeed when resources were limited, I understand what it is like to build a small business from the ground up. My formal training is in Psychology and this background gives me a unique perspective on the world of marketing and behavior. I have been a work-at-home mother since 2002 and absolutely love the freedom that being self employed provides.