Do you really need an app?

Do you really need an app?

The app market is booming and shows no sign of slowing down. Over the next three years, Statista expects the market’s total value to increase by a shade under 10%. This is enormous. In large part, the growth is driven by an understanding that apps are the future of software delivery. They are valuable business tools that can grow your customer base, extend your brand reach and offer customers world-class digital experiences.

However, sometimes an app is not the right choice for your company. It may be that your business goals are better met with other technology. Or your available budget is not sufficient to finance the complex app you desire and require. Or you have not considered revenue streams.

This is the first question we ask when we speak with potential new partners. Trying to ensure that their dreams and budgets align with an app-based solution.

But how do we determine if this is the case? How do you know when an app is the right choice?

In this article, we examine the main reasons for creating an app and take an in-depth look at five key considerations that may help you come to an informed decision.


Why develop an app?

There are several excellent reasons to develop an app for your business. But there are more than a few bad ones, too. To avoid making a mistake and developing an app for the wrong reason, take time to carefully consider the project’s purpose. What is your primary goal? And how are you justifying the investment?


Below, we have drawn up a list of common reasons for developing an app. It is by no means exhaustive. But it does cover the most popular and convincing motivations for investing in app development.

  • Generate revenue
  • Facilitate delivery of a new product or service
  • Add value to a business
  • Improve a user’s life
  • Improve data capture
  • Replace paperwork
  • Increase process efficiency
  • Encourage communication
  • Increase customer loyalty.


Your app may fulfil several of these roles. It may focus on just one. However, if you struggle to define the app’s purpose, it is a good sign you should reconsider the project and whether an app is necessary right now.


Consideration One – Are you aware of the complexities of app development?

Coming up with an idea for an app is simple. Realising that vision is more challenging. There is much more to the process than most people realise. Understanding the process and establishing realistic expectations will help you decide whether developing an app is a good choice.

Let’s examine a few factors you should consider before committing to a project.


Performing due diligence

All app owners need to perform a suitable level of due diligence for the project. This includes researching the competition by looking at similar apps and services, looking into payment provider risk and considering insurance. These are all critical components in a comprehensive risk management strategy and will help ensure your project goes to plan


Finding the right partner

Like any industry, the digital development sector has its fair share of cowboys. Out for a quick buck and not equipped to deliver the standard of product you expect, they can completely derail a development project. Finding the right partner to help you develop your idea is essential. As is thoroughly checking each developer’s IP terms. You do not want to invest considerable amounts into an app only to discover you do not own it outright.


Rules and regulations

It may be a less glamorous aspect of app development, but keeping the right side of the many rules and regulations surrounding digital technology will ensure you do not get burned. All businesses must fulfil their legal obligations and need to think about user T&Cs, privacy policies and data regulations, such as GDPR and the CCPA. There are also Apple’s and Android’s app store guidelines to abide by.

As a business owner, you need to be certain that you have the time and resources required to fulfil all your planning and preparatory obligations. A great app is built on solid foundations and skipping these key steps may endanger the project.


Consideration Two – Do your aims, budget and development methods match up?

Apps are significant investments. They can deliver a financial return directly (as a revenue stream) or indirectly (via increased brand exposure). Either way, you must be clear about how you expect the app to benefit your business.

These considerations will also affect the way you choose to develop your app. For instance, an in-house development team will be committed and build skills that deliver long-term value to your business. However, they will be working with a limited skill set. And it may be a long time before they complete the project.

On the other hand, working with UK-based development specialists might be more expensive, but you benefit from considerable experience and an extensive skill set. The development timeline is typically shorter, too. It means UK development teams are perfect for complex app projects or collaborating on a long-term digital strategy.

You could also choose an off-shore development team. This is a higher-risk approach and requires close and careful management. But it is quick and can be a cost-effective short-term solution.

Essentially, the crucial consideration is whether your chosen approach matches your aims. If you are developing a complex app, do you have the budget to work with a UK-based developer? If you are working on a tighter budget, do you have the human resources to closely manage an off-shore team? Does your preferred app deliver a high-quality app within the required timeframe?


Consideration Three – How are you going to make money?

Once you have considered outgoings, you need to flip the conversation on its head and think about income. How is your app going to make money? Most apps we develop do not generate direct revenue. But all apps attempt to add value in some way or another.


If you are looking to generate direct revenue, you have a couple of options:

  • Up-front download charge – users pay to download the app.
  • Subscription model – users pay a monthly fee for access to the app or certain services.
  • In-app purchases – users buy products through the app.
  • Freemium model – basic features are free and more advanced features are paid. This is the most popular model and is also often delivered on a subscription basis.


However, free apps can also generate revenue. For instance, by:

  • In-app advertising – selling advertising space in the app. This is more effective if advertisers can target specific users.
  • Data sales – data is valuable and many businesses will pay for an insight into how your users behave.
  • User base – if your user base overlaps with another organisation’s target demographic, you can sell your app as an effective lead generation mechanism.
  • Tech IP – develop an app that performs a high-value service or provides access to a significant number of engaged users and the actual IP on which the product is built can become extremely valuable.
  • Brand value – some apps increase brand reach and introduce your products and services to an entirely new audience. While the concrete value of this is difficult to quantify, you must look for ways to ensure it represents a worthwhile ROI.
  • Customer Loyalty – ensure long term stickiness with your customers by delivering a compelling solutionthey engage with on a regular basis.


Again, the main consideration here is working out whether your preferred revenue model(s) will achieve the desired outcomes. Is the app financially feasible? If your goal is greater brand reach, how will you measure performance and determine project success?


Consideration Four – Technology Stack?

The technology you use to develop your final app solution can vary drastically in cost and suitability. One of the main considerations is whether a web app or native (app store) app is the right frontend decision. We covered this in more detail in our previous blog post. You could also consider developing the app yourself using a no-code solution. There is plenty more information in our blog about these options, but we’ll summarise below:



Web based platforms which allow inexperienced users to develop an app in a similar way to using Wix/Wordpress to develop a website. They have a fixed feature set and limited integrations, so may prevent you from providing your customers with a truly unique, tailored app.



A website style solution which is tailored to delivering a mobile-focused user experience. By being instantly available they avoid the download overhead of a native app, but have limited offline capabilities and cannot deliver the same level of customer experience especially with limitations around PUSH notifications.


Native Apps/Cross-platform

Apps delivered and downloaded via the app store(s) provide the best performance and access to device features (e.g. GPS, camera, etc). They are more costly to develop and support but are uncompromising when it comes to the quality of the product.


Consideration Five – Can you sustain a long-term approach?

Our final key consideration is whether you can sustain app maintenance over a long period. Development is not a time-limited process. Apps need to be maintained, updated and improved over time to continue delivering value.

There are two types of long-term maintenance:


User feedback

You perform this type of maintenance in response to user-generated feedback. This can include bug fixes, providing support, introducing new, in-demand features or adapting the design to offer a superior User Experience.


Infrastructure updates

Both Apple and Google (and the various tertiary solution providers) update their app platforms and frequently introduce new design,performance and security updates. This often necessitates app updates. Similarly, you need to regularly update your dependencies to guarantee digital security and prevent technical issues from arising.

Usually, we recommend budgeting 20-30% of the total development cost for basic annual support and maintenance work. Is this feasible for your business?


What next?

Understanding everything that is involved in app development is a challenge. Knowing whether developing an app is the right decision for your business is even more so. Asking yourself the five questions we listed in this article is an excellent way to approach the problem.


If you still aren’t sure if you would like some professional support in the decision making, we recommend contacting our account managers and developers to discuss and explore the idea further. 

Here at The Distance, we benefit from more than a decade of experience and have designed and developed apps for numerous high-profile clients, including the Eurotunnel, NHS, AstraZeneca, PGA Tour and Bentley. To learn more about how we can help your business, check out our success stories or get in touch and speak to a member of our talented team.