Expo Notes: The business of making apps for your business

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Have a business and want to tap into the burgeoning market for mobile apps? Kyle Richter, iOS developer and founder of Dragon Forged Software, discussed how entrepreneurs can expand their business with apps during a tech talk at last week’s Macworld | iWorld event.

Richter pointed out just how fast the iOS ecosystem was growing—Apple sold 16.2 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2011, close to double the 8.7 million sold in the same quarter the previous year. iPad sales also doubled compared to the year-ago quarter. (The numbers would have been even more eye-popping for 2012—last week, Apple reported quarterly records for both iPhone and iPad sales.) Richter also highlighted how 52 percent of mobile users were using iOS, making it quite a lucrative market.

Before businesses even considere creating an app, though, Richter advised that they first craft an online presence by creating profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. This enhances a brand and makes people more aware of a company’s services. Businesses should also check to make sure that their online data is up-to-date and maintain their websites to contain the latest information; that includes removing Flash from any Web portals to ensure a smooth experience for anyone browsing from an iOS device.

Once a business commits to an iOS app, Richter says it will need to decide what kind of app to create—one that showcases products, delivers content, or generates sales.

Then it’s a matter of finding the right developer for the app. That can prove a challenge, so Richter suggested looking for an app you consider well designed and getting in touch with the creator. Ask them questions like how long it would take to create the app and any difficulties they encountered. When talking to app developers, get everything in writing, Richter said, and don’t necessarily go for the cheapest bid.

Should app owners need any more help, Richter pointed out that Apple maintains a Business Team at every Apple store that can answer questions and provide assistance. Certified Apple specialists around the country could be of use as well, along with Apple’s own support community, where questions were always being posted. Richter also suggested conferences focused on mobile and iOS apps: They provide a place to network with developers and get in-person assistance from people who faced the same issues in launching an app for their business.

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