How to build a mobile app for your business

Out-sourcing your app development to one of the many new app design companies that have sprung up could be an option. Or you can investigate the growing number of app development services that allow you to design and build an app with nothing more than your favourite Internet browser.

However, these later services simply take your existing web content and repackage this as a standalone app. If you want to create a bespoke app for your business, hiring an app designer is usually the most efficient route to use.

Which operating system you want to develop your app for will also have a major bearing on the route you take. Developers for iPhone clearly dominate the marketplace at the moment, but developers do exist for all the other major operating systems as well.

App development tools

Apple now has an incredibly comprehensive iOS Development Program that any company can join. Note this will cost your business $99 a year. For this subscription you gain access to the iOS SDK (Software Development Kit) and the plethora of tools and associated materials on the iOS developers' website.

Before your business signs up, it's a good idea to view many of the videos that are available on the iOS developers' web pages, as they will give you a clear idea about how Apps are built for Apple's devices. The App Store Resource Center is particularly useful as it gives a clear overview of the entire App submission process – something that is important to thoroughly understand. And once enrolled your company can participate in the App development forums that can be a massive source of help and advice from other App developers.

Of course Apple is not the only App kid on the block. The other major players in the mobile devices market include Android that continues to grow in numbers, BlackBerry and the Windows mobile operating system that Nokia have recently announced they will develop smartphones for round out the market as it stands at the moment. Just as with Apple, each platform has its own supporting resources website where you can download the SDK and also a plethora of other materials.

Small businesses in particular may not have the in-house resources to construct their apps, which will mean looking for either an individual app designer, or contracting an app design company. Whichever route you take, it's vital that you choose the company or person your business works with carefully.

Websites like Forrst, Behance and Dribble showcase the best work being created by a huge range of developers. Browsing these sites can often enable you to compile a shortlist of potential developers to initially contact about creating your app.

You should of course still perform due diligence with any designer or company you have on your shortlist. Look at apps they have already created. Try and look for designers that have created apps in the category your business is interested in. You can then go and download these apps yourself and test them firsthand.

Also take some time talking to any designer or agency about how they approach app development. In this respect hiring an app developer is very much like hiring a consultant. It's vital that your working relationship is built on trust and all parties clearly understand their responsibilities.

No formal agreement should be made between your company and the app designers without a contract being signed. The contract should clearly layout the terms of the app building project including any penalty clauses for late delivery of the finished app. Your business may also want to include an NDA or none disclosure agreement that your app developers sign to ensure that no commercially sensitive information they may have access to during the app design process is leaked to any competing businesses.