A young man sits with his elbows on the table and looks at the smartphone in his hands. The man wears a dark blue windbreaker and glasses. He has neatly combed black hair and is looking at his phone with a neutral expression.
Apps have different costs and programming requirements depending on the operating system they'll work on and whether the app will run by itself or through a browser. — Getty Images/Images By Tang Ming Tung

Small business apps are growing in popularity — nearly half of small businesses have a mobile app, and 27% plan to create one. A small business app can help you connect with your customers and grow your business. Here are five steps to develop an app for your business.

Do your research

Before you get started, you need to clarify your ideas about your app. Think about your target audience and what they need — what problem does your small business app solve for them?

Once you know why you’re creating the app, you can research and devise a plan. Every month, 70,000 new apps are released in the Google Play store, and 36,000 new apps are released in the App Store. How will your app stand out?

Market research will help you determine whether your app idea is viable and meets the user's needs. Competitor research will help you find ways to differentiate your app and make it unique.

[Read more: 4 Steps to Assessing Your Competitors’ Strengths and Weaknesses]

Come up with a budget

Next, you need to create a realistic budget. Look at your business’s cash flow and assets and determine how much you’re willing to spend. Once you know how much you’re able to spend, you can choose the type of mobile app you’ll create and decide on a development platform.

[Read more: How to Create a Budget for Your Business]

Decide what kind of app you’re going to create

There are three types of mobile apps you can create:

  • Native apps: Native apps are created for one specific operating system, like iOS or Android. Since they are designed for one platform, the app development process is more straightforward and the app can be launched sooner. However, if you build an iOS app and a year later want an Android version, you’ll have to start all over.
  • Web apps: A web app is software that runs through a web browser. Since it’s web-based, the app development process is fairly simple and the app doesn’t have to be updated as frequently. However, if one of your customers loses internet access, they won’t be able to access your app.
  • Hybrid apps: A hybrid app combines elements of native and web apps. It is quicker and easier to build than a native app, but it doesn’t perform as well.

Think about your target audience and what they need — what problem does your small business app solve for them?

Build a team

Building an app yourself is possible, but most small businesses will outsource this step to several freelancers or an agency. Many different stages go into making an app, so it’s a good idea to have the following individuals on your team:

  • Product manager: A product manager oversees the entire project — this person comes up with a roadmap and deadlines and keeps the team on track.
  • UX/UI designer: This individual designs the graphics and animations and ensures that the app is functional and meets the user’s needs.
  • Mobile developer: A mobile developer specializes in designing, building, and maintaining the mobile app.
  • Quality assurance analyst: This person tests the app to ensure it runs smoothly and fixes any problems, such as bugs or UX errors.

[Read more: What Is a Head of Product?]

Test your app

Once your app is completed, it must undergo rigorous testing to ensure it works correctly. This is one of the most tedious but also one of the most essential parts of the app development process. Mobile apps are very competitive, so you don’t want to launch an app that doesn’t work.

You’ll want to check the front-end and back-end functionality of the app to ensure it looks and performs correctly. And you'll want to see that the app works on the operating system it was designed for, whether that’s iOS devices, Android devices, or both.

You also want to see whether the app downloads correctly and check the operating size. And you should check the mobile security to ensure it keeps user data safe.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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