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The Custom Software Conundrum

William Mapp | 7/14/2017, 6 a.m.
We live in the world of the app and the web. Thanks to smartphones, the iPhone especially, the proliferation of ...
William Mapp is the CEO of Studio Codeworks, Inc. and author of the Small Business Owner’s Guide to Technology. You can send questions directly to him at will@studiocodeworks.com, and follow him at Twitter.com/WilliamMapp3 Courtesy Logo

We live in the world of the app and the web. Thanks to smartphones, the iPhone especially, the proliferation of apps have reached saturated levels of consciousness. There are apps for all industries, all walks of life, and for all people.

We are, or already have been, reached a critical mass of apps in which people no longer want to download them and install them. Yet, many small business owners see the app as another income pipeline for their operations. A couple of years ago, I heralded the app and preached its merits to all that listened. But in this era of LTE, I am very hesitant to encourage small business owners to build custom mobile apps.

I can’t prevent you from wanting to build a custom mobile app, but if you do, I’m going to give you some quick tips for evaluating why and with whom you should hire to build it. Note. This doesn’t apply to games.

First, take a very hard look at your business and determine if your customers or personnel who are on the go will benefit from a custom mobile experience. If you’re in sales or field service, custom experiences are definitely big opportunities for custom mobile applications. Many sales or field service industries have proprietary processes that can be hard to generalize and custom apps may make sense if you can’t alter existing software. But, if you want to give your customers or personnel access to data only or scheduling, there are many existing platforms and applications available for that. In these cases your email system may already have features built-in and are already on your phone.

Secondly, determine if a web application makes more sense than a mobile application. Web developers have gotten super sophisticated in the last couple of years and can build web applications (not sites) that closely look like and mimic the behavior of Android and iOS experiences. Instead of building an app that requires downloads from the App Store, a mobile-first web application may be the way to go.

Thirdly, evaluate whom you will hire and expect to pay. In general, you will always get what you pay for. The better software developers and companies work for money. Sometimes you can get away with a money/equity split if your idea is compelling, but compelling ideas are few and far between. Evaluate a developer by looking at their portfolio on the App Store and verifying their references. Check out the App Reviews as well. I instantly subtract one star and five-star reviews but read the nuances users take time to express in 2 to 4 star reviews. If an app constantly gets mediocre reviews either the app or the idea is mediocre. There is one caveat. If the app looks cheap, that may be the reason for low reviews the publisher didn’t want to invest the time and money to build a pro application.

Most software in the world is custom, and we do help many small business owners realize their dreams by building custom software for them. But we take the time to educate them on how good software is designed and written and help them understand that like any other construction project, quality costs quality money.

Next month I’ll share with you the next technological frontier your company should start getting prepared for.

William Mapp is the CEO of Studio Codeworks, Inc. and author of the Small Business Owner’s Guide to Technology. You can purchase The Guide at Amazon.com. You can send questions directly to Will at will@studiocodeworks.com, and follow him on the social webs at Twitter.com/WilliamMapp3.