How to Create an App for your Business
It's expensive to have a custom app developed but, if you're willing to make a few compromises, it's possible to create your own app using one of the many services available online. The general quality of these services is poor, especially if you eliminate those that charge a monthly subscription for allowing you to continue distributing your app. I used iBuildApp.com because it not only offers a free, ad-supported version of its service, but also because it's the most fully featured. Not every business should have an app. If you're an online shop, for example, there's little point trying to sell your products using an app since none of the online builders offers ecommerce functionality — the time would be better spent making the main site mobile-friendly. An enterprise that's aimed primarily at desktop/laptop users should concentrate on them first, although in that case you need to take care because the number of mobile internet users is increasing rapidly.
TO APP OR NOT TO APP
So, who should have an app? If you're a local business — for example if you sell products online for local collection or offer an online service with a local aspect — then having an app can be very useful. However, the best use for an app is often as another channel for your existing marketing efforts. For example, if you have a blog, a YouTube channel or a Facebook page, all of these will be generating data that can be easily incorporated, live, into your app and updated automatically. MakingYourOwnCandles has its own blog (www.makingyourowncandlesblog.co.uk) which attracts several thousand visitors a month and around half of all mailing list signups — plus it helps boost the search engine rankings of the main site by linking to it. We also have our own YouTube channels, so an app that brings these to a smartphone is ideal. One final thing — if you want your app to be widely used (and you do) then it needs to be submitted to the Apple App Store or Google Play. Since it's much easier, and cheaper, to submit to Google's service, we're using that, and targeting the hundreds of millions of Android smartphones and tablets.
Start by heading to iBuildApp.com and clicking the Create Your App NOW! button. You can sign in using your Facebook account or register an account on the site. Click the Create App button and, on the following screen, select a template for your app. You can change just about anything so, in most cases, Custom is the right choice here. If you prefer, you can click the View More Templates button to see a big gallery of premium templates — most of which available for a few pounds. Click the Use It button to select your template.
You'll now be asked to select a name for your app — make sure your keywords are included! Click Create and you'll be taken to the "Customize your app" screen. This is where you'll spend the majority of your time. You can edit the background (I used a plain white colour), upload your logo and edit the text to appear on the front screen. In the Manage Navigation section, you can add and delete sections for your app. For example, we added the RSS feed from our WordPress blog as a "Tips" section and our YouTube feed as a "Video" section. We also added contact icons and a Facebook icon. Click Save & Complete when you've finished.
You can now fill in the information that will appear when your app is uploaded to your chosen app store. Again, make sure you get your keywords in! Bear in mind that you'll have the opportunity to edit this when you actually upload the app. You need to provide a 1,024 x 1,024 size version of your app icon so that iBuildApp.com can generate all the required icon sizes for your platform. Click Continue. On the next screen you'll generate a certificate for the app and a Google Maps API (even though we're not using Maps in our app). Click Continue and iBuildApp will build your app.
YOU HAVE AN APP!
After a few minutes, the app should appear in your control panel. You can now download it. To submit it to Google Play, you need an Android Developers Account, which costs $25 per year. Go to htps://pIaygpoge.com/app/publish/signup and use your Google account. The process is painless, fast and cheap - three words that don't necessarily apply to Apple Developer registration. Once you've registered, you'll be able to log in to your Developer Dashboard and submit your app to Google Play. This should take a few minutes (again, the Apple process takes at least a week as they manually review all apps) and, within hours, your app will be available in each country you choose. Congratulations, you're an app publisher!