Do-It-Yourself Mobile Apps for Small Business

By James Alan Miller | Posted March 31, 2011

Working at Home

The mobile market has grown so big and so fast that savvy small business owners realize participation in that market is no longer optional, but essential, to doing business. But developing mobile apps for Android-or Apple iOS-based smartphones and tablets takes technical skills and money that many small business owners don't have ready access to. What to do?

A good option is to check out GenWi's subscription-based iSites platform, a browser-based system that lets you easily create mobile applications with little or no development knowledge -- and for little cash up front.

Develop Your Own Mobile Apps

You can develop two basic types of mobile apps with the iSites platform: Web apps -- called instant apps in GenWi's parlance -- and native apps. Think of Web apps as mini-websites (they even have their own URLs) that have been formatted for smartphones. Consequently, a mobile device must be connected to the Internet  to access a Web app's content.


Add RSS feeds to iSite mobile apps; mobile tools
You can add up to 25 RSS feeds to your iSite mobile app.
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Native apps are the kind you download from mobile-application storefronts such as Apple's iTunes App Store (for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) or the Android Market for Google-based smartphones and tablets. These types of apps run directly on the mobile device and don't require an Internet connection to deliver full functionality.

Available only for the iPhone and iPod touch, iSites-developed Web apps are nearly indistinguishable from native apps in use and appearance -- as long as the mobile device is connected to the Internet. GenWi plans to extend Web apps to the iPad and to Android-based mobile devices in the near future. Currently, if you attempt to access an iSites-developed Web app from the browser of any unsupported mobile device, they get the same "share" message you'd get when doing so from a desktop.

One thing to keep in mind: the apps you develop in iSites aren't going to be the most sophisticated in the world. But that’s okay. They do a good job providing businesses with the mobile presence required in today’s mobile-focused world.

The Web apps, which sport an iPhone look-and-feel, are sharp and professional-looking enough to well-represent any small business that wants to reach out to and interact with customers who are on the move.

Choose the Right Plan for Each Mobile App

The mobile platform you reach (iOS or Android), and how you reach it (Web apps or native apps), depends on which iSites plan you choose for the mobile app you develop.

Once you sign up for an iSites account, you can develop as many mobile apps as you like. However, you must choose a monthly pricing and feature plan for each individual application. Should you create more than a couple of apps, particularly of the native variety -- and, perhaps, with iSites' full complement of ecommerce features enabled -- the service could get expensive quickly.

The iSites Basic plan runs a reasonable $25 per month. With it, you can develop a mobile app that’s both a Web app and a native app for Android devices.  You must submit your mobile app for inclusion in the Android Market to enable the latter, however, which requires signing up for a $25 developer account with Google. Additional Basic plan features include access to the iSites App Management and Ad Control systems.

A $49 per month Premium plan adds support for native iOS apps. You must submit to apps to Apple for inclusion in the App Store after registering as a developer for $99. Both Apple and Google take a 30-percent cut of any apps you sell through their storefronts.

Lastly, the $99 per month Pro plan adds in full-service technical support -- the other plans limit support to the iSites forums -- and help with App Store and Android Market submissions. This means GenWi will help get your native application up on the appropriate storefronts and, therefore, into the hands of end-users and customers.

Push notifications that let you quickly alert users of your mobile app on content updates and additions are included at this level as well.  The Pro plan also lets you integrate localized coupons into your app, which adds value and can be an additional source of income.



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