It's becoming just as important to be able to connect with your customers directly through their mobile devices as it is to have a company Web site. That's great, but it's not for everyone and building a mobile app isn't as simple as converting your existing Web site or application into a mobile app. Planning, methods for the app to obtain and share data, and the mobile app itself all need to be created.
When you build a mobile app, you are essentially building two applications - a Web app (minimally as a way to centrally store the information your app needs, but possibly with a fully featured dashboard for the users) and a mobile app. The reason is that mobile devices can’t talk directly with other mobile devices (at least not without some manual user interaction), instead using a Web application to act as the intermediary and central storage.
For a mobile app strategy to work long-term, you’ll need to, with the right developer, plan accordingly. What are the most important features that you need available over mobile devices? Will you be sending notifications to your users’ mobile device? These are questions that need to be answered, regardless of platform, and will be answered with your Dev Team over the course of your project. Ultimately, they need the information necessary to build the Web app in such a way that it’s easy to connect a mobile app.
Most modern Web apps, when built from scratch, are architected with the communication methods necessary to provide data to any outside system through what is called an API. These methods allow information to be consumed and presented by any interface, whether it’s another Web app, a mobile app, or some third-party. Apps that are part of a project started 1-2 years ago (or less, depending on the experience of the developer that created it) may not have these communication methods in place and will need to be modified to allow a mobile app can connect and obtain information from your central storage.
Now You’re Ready
Once the Web app has the necessary communication methods and you know what your mobile app needs to do, it’s time to start building it. This is something that takes not only time, but requires a great deal of testing to ensure the app works on a multitude of platforms - particularly when developing for the Android ecosystem, in which there are literally hundreds of devices, each with different screen sizes and capabilities.
When you're ready to undertake this addition to your business, it's important to understand that a mobile app is more than just application development in a controlled environment - it's product development and you're installing the product on a wide variety of devices. Microsoft Word, much like Rome, wasn't built in a day and it's important to set reasonable expectations for the budget and the timeframe to deliver a mobile app. Finding a cheap, fast alternative may not leave you with the right solution.
The more information you can provide a developer, the easier it will be for them to hit the mark and deliver exactly what you're asking for. Be prepared to stay involved and provide feedback throughout the process.