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How to Talk Apps to Clients

How to Talk Apps to Clients

Teaching clients how web apps work, what they do, and what they won't do is a great way to manage your professional liability as a web app developer.

Friday, March 7, 2014/Categories: business-liability-insurance

Business News Daily raises an important point for mobile app developers: your clients may want a "mobile presence,” but have no idea what that means.

Indeed, all IT professionals face this fundamental challenge with clients. For any given situation, there are many IT solutions that can fix it. However, most clients have only a basic knowledge of technology issues, and don't know which solution will work best.

As a developer or IT consultant, your job is really about communication and education as much as it is about sales. You need to help your clients understand their options and make sure they know exactly what they’re getting. Just as important, you need to make sure clients know what they aren't getting.

This brings us to mobile apps. Your clients might want a stronger mobile presence, but there are many ways to achieve this. Some won't be cost effective, and others won't really make sense for smaller clients. The first step to building a mobile app for clients is making sure they understand their options.

Mobile Apps 101: How Developers Can Help Clients Make Informed Decisions

Does any industry deal with more "buyer’s remorse" than the tech industry? A mobile developer can build a custom app for a client only to have them say this isn't what I thought it would be.

Sadly, when a client expects one thing and gets another (or has unrealistic expectations about an app), you can end up getting sued. Software errors and omissions lawsuits often come from these situations. A client sues you claiming you didn't deliver a certain product, when in reality, the client didn't understand what they asked for in the first place.

Here's what you can do to avoid these miscommunications. When talking with clients, make sure you ask the following questions:

  • Which devices are you targeting? It sounds basic, but many clients won't understand that an "iPhone app" won't work on an Android device. Seriously. Make sure to explain to clients that you'll probably need to build two apps if they want to reach Android and Apple users. They probably don’t know the difference between iOS, Java, and HTML5. Explain that various devices require different programs and coding.
  • What do you expect to get out of an app? As you know, apps need a function. They need to offer something to their users. That can be information, social networking, entertainment, or access to goods and services. Apps can be digital storefronts, which offer more convenience to users. (Digital payments do come with risk. Make sure to read "Wearable Wallets = Losable, Hackable Wallets" to learn more about the risks of mobile payments.)
  • Do you want a mobile-compatible website? Some clients won't know that you can design a website specifically for mobile platforms. Their current site might look nice on their desktop, but be difficult to navigate on a touch screen.
  • Are you interested in less expensive options (if any)? For some small businesses, it doesn't make sense to build their own app. But they can take advantage of existing apps. Small businesses will want to make sure that they are listed in relevant directory-type apps.
  • How do you plan on promoting / incorporating your app? You can build a great app, but if your client doesn't promote it, the app will flop. You don't want to be on the hook for low downloads and sales. Clients need to understand they play a key role in an app's success.

Note to mobile app developers: These questions are all designed for clients who want an app for their customers, but the same issues apply to clients who want enterprise software. For instance, if your client wants mobile apps for their employees to use, make sure they know that some software won't be compatible between Android and Apple devices. (For more on educating clients about their employees' use of mobile devices see, "What Flappy Birds Can Teach You about Mobile Device Security.")

Mobile App Liability: Sales, Profits, and Data Breaches

Clients can sue mobile app developers blaming their software for lost profits, low sales, and data breaches. If an app doesn't deliver strong results, a client can file an Errors and Omissions lawsuit against you. If a flaw in Java or Android software leads to a data breach, you can be held liable.

As a mobile app developer, you need E&O Insurance to cover your professional and software liabilities. To learn more, check out these E&O cost estimates for IT contractors and developers.

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