Nine tips for creating the best mobile solution for your company

With customers always on the move and companies seeking more ways to stay top of mind, many businesses are shifting their focus towards mobile. The popularity of Android, iOS and simple web apps is causing the mobile landscape to be splintered, leaving companies confused on what the best way to reach their consumers is. On Wednesday morning members of the Illinois Technology Association hosted a panel to answer these questions and discuss the future of the mobile industry.

There is no one size fits all solution to conquering the mobile space, especially if you have a limited budget or limited access to developers. Ultimately, the most important thing is providing a seamless experience for the customer regardless of the platform.

Here are nine tips we gathered from the panel that included speakers from Google, GrubHub, Ethervision and Appolicious:

1.Keep it simple:
Start by mastering one or two things and work on doing them really, really well. “You have to stand out and you have to do what you do well. Keep it simple at first, you can always add features and let feedback guide you to the next step,” said Randall Cross, President of Ethervision. To choose the correct features, Cross recommends having a concrete understanding of who your customer is and how you can connect with them.

2.Stay focused
“They key is not to do three apps poorly but to do one app really well,” said Mike Evans, the co-founder of GrubHub. Don’t invest in a large audience that you can’t satisfy. “If you are fortunate to get a user to sample your application it better work well,” said Brad Spirrison, Managing Editor and Vice President of Content Services at Appolicious.

3. Master one platform at a time
Creating an app should be like writing a short poem, not a book. This means keeping the user interface simple and being able trust that the suggested task could be completed by anyone whose hands the app ends up in, regardless of their level of knowledge.  Because you can’t put every component of your company into an app, Spirrison recommends choosing one thing and making it really engaging, cool and simple to use. Eventually, you will want to have a presence on all platforms to get universal critical mass. Remember apply user feedback and refine the app before porting it to a new platform.

4. Make marketing a part of your budget:
The panel agreed that while there is the most opportunity on iOS, there is also the most competition. Because of this high level of competition you must plan smartly from the beginning and set aside a separate budget for marketing that will help your apps get noticed. “There are no waves anymore, there are no reporters coming when you launch an app,” Cross said.

5. If you have the budget, go native
“The experience you get natively is always better, faster, more seamless and responsive,” Cross said. Because the gap between technology of web apps and native apps has not yet closed, native apps still function better.

6.Recognize you are in the entertainment field
When building apps you want to capture the users imagination and generate “aha” moments. According to Cross, the key to success when trying to enter this entertainment economy is putting emphasis on making the brand fun and simple to use and starting to think in pictures because people don’t like to read.

7. Connect with the community
Niche-oriented apps that really resonate with a small community are typically successful. “There is an inherent community that really gets it. One way to separate from the crowd is to highlight the most passion-producing feature of your app. This will stimulate word of mouth through social channels,” Spirrison said. Keep in mind it takes time and energy to identify these communities.

8. Measure your success
To make sure you meet your goals, set up metrics to measure success before you launch your app. Figuring out what is important and asking why your company needs a mobile presence will help you stay focused and realize what user experience features you want to highlight. “Ask yourself: ‘Do a lot of downloads really equal success?’ Or ‘Do you want to focus on satisfied customers?’” said Justin Hartung, Enterprise Deployment Manager at Google. “Just having a presence is not useful. You need to accomplish a business goal,” Evans said.

9. Use Web Apps as free advertising
Web apps are cheap, can run well on pretty much any platform and are good when your audience has to do something quickly. Evans highlighted another perk of web apps during the panel, explaining that Grub Hub uses it as a form of advertising. Because Google’s mobile Adsense tags are easier to do on the web, you can use your web app to increase conversation rates to your native app. How do they do this? By simply letting users of the web app know the native app exists and prompting them to download it.