Thursday, October 6, 2016

What's an App?

You may have heard the saying, 'there's an app for that' and it's true, there are millions of 'apps' created for all kinds of reasons.  So, before we go any further, what's an 'app'?

Before I could explain to my customers how valuable it might be to have an app, I knew it would necessary to answer this basic question. So, I asked a couple of web savvy folks I knew and here's what their responses were to this elusive question;

  • Sean Brandt, owner of a website design firm in Lincoln, Nebraska wrote, "Custom software developed and branded to meet the needs and wants of an organization's audience. A mobile site utilizes a browser on your mobile phone and it usually functions like your main website in design and content usually built by a web designer. A mobile app is a stand alone application on a mobile phone that has it's own graphical user interface fulfilling a specific niche pertaining to your organization that is built by an app developer.
  • Adam Bauer, Marketing Director for Zips Trucks in Iowa replied, "A mobile website is an optimized version of a main website (streamlined, simplified and sized appropriately for smaller screens).  Advantages: easier to find (search engines) and share; less expensive; easier to update; compatible across many devices..
 
I would say that both are correct. A native mobile app is an application that is downloaded and installed on a mobile device and a web app is an application, usually identical to the native app, that is accessed via a browser or by automatic redirect.


Advantages: can work offline; can utilize native functionality (camera, SMS, GPS,...); higher performance (good for interactivity or gaming); personalization to name a few.


I enjoyed the simplicity of Jeremiah Eli Schweitzer's answer when he wrote, "Something that makes something else easier."

In fact, it was this definition that helped me to realize that I have been building 'apps' or as we call them, 'modules' or 'snippets of code' that have been helping make things easier on the web since 1998 and conventional computers as far back as 1978.  

By this definition, 'apps' are nothing new.  It's the delivery of information that has been under constant evolution - from the invention of the printing press hundreds of years ago to Radio to TV to the amazing tool we all know as the 'Internet'.  The Internet has placed the world's largest library at our fingertips, but without an actual vehicle to deliver the information, it's virtually useless.  

The first vehicle to deliver information over the internet came in the form of large main frame computers.  Eventually PC's, or personal computers found their way into homes and the public began getting news and other information delivered directly to their desktop, as Dr. John Naisbitt predicted in his book Megatrends, nearly 30 years ago.  Websites carried the load to our PC's for many years, and will continue to do so while apps can be thought of as the driving force behind mobile content delivery.

Now, literally thousands of different mobile devices can be easily purchased and eventually nearly everyone will have a mobile device of some sort.  Since Apps are the programs (software) that run these devices, they can easily be seen as the engine that is driving mobile content delivery to new heights.  

In summary, here are a few of the benefits of having an app designed for your business or organization;
  • Apps deliver content to mobile devices more efficiently than a web browser.
  • Apps generally load quicker than websites, or even mobile websites.
  • Apps can be easily custom designed and updated quickly, even more easily than a website.
  • Apps are highly interactive and can pull from other native apps (GPS, Camera, etc)
  • Apps make it possible to connect via all social media sites in one place.
  • Apps are downloaded to your device, enabling access to content when a connection is not available.
  • App developers must pay a fee and abide by strict developer guidelines, therefore creating a natural filtering process of designers.

There are several other specific benefits unique to various industries that are too numerous to mention here, but we would be happy to visit with anyone interested in exploring the possibilities.  My goal for this article was to provide enough information for small business owner's to determine whether or not an app would be a profitable investment in their business.

Brian Hale has been programming computers since 1978 and is a pioneer in web based management.  He's developed over a thousand websites and applications over the past 3+ decades and has a passion for helping others.  He can be contacted at Hale Multimedia; (940) 224-6315 or brian@halemultimedia.com.