Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

CIE News

Bringing First Class Apps to Small Business

By Nikki Kroushl on May 10, 2016

We live in a world where 72% of smart phone users check their phones at least once per hour, and the average user spends almost 70 hours per month using mobile apps. For businesses and communities, app development is becoming a more and more attractive way to engage people.

William Mansfield is a remote Senior Technical Architect at New York-based marketing firm MRY with 15 years of programming experience and 5 years of mobile app development experience. His May 18th seminar at the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, “Bringing First-Class Mobile Apps to Small Communities,” aims to teach entrepreneurs and start-ups how to develop mobile apps without sacrificing too much of their budget. 

As a preview of Mansfield’s seminar, here’s what he has to say about mobile apps and small businesses.

Interactive media is important for every business.

In 2016, interactive websites, active social media presences, and other technology and media accommodations are basic expectations of every company. “People expect to have a high-quality experience wherever they go, and they don’t want it to be newspaper-like, they want it to be media-rich,” says Mansfield.

“I don’t think a mobile app is a destination or a target to be hitting just to hit it—you have to have a particular need,” Mansfield says, warning against creating an app that is basically a mobile version of a company’s website. “People feel like they’re inviting you into their home by inviting you into their phone.”

If there’s no content exclusive to an app, there’s no reason to have one. Having a functional app, however, can be great for client engagement.

The three most important elements of any mobile app:

  1. Engagement. Engagement measures how the app engages with a user and how successful that engagement is. Without engaging material, an app has no function. “The first thing you figure out [when developing a mobile app] is what kind of engagement the app is going to have for the user,” Mansfield says.
  2. Integrity. People must trust an app: they need to know that it will do what it is supposed to do. “If an app says it needs location permissions to give directions, but actually uses that permission to send targeted ads, the user will lose trust in the app,” Mansfield says. “Users are smart, and as soon as the integrity is broken, the app itself will fail.”
  3. Simplicity. App developers should design an app according to user expectations and make it as simple for people to use as possible. This is important not only for the success of the product, but for its development. “The more complexities that exist in the UI, the harder it is to execute,” Mansfield says.

A small business can develop an impressive mobile app without impressive funds.

“Each app has a different thing it wants to accomplish,” Mansfield says, “and every type has a different strategy.” If you’re making a game, for example, development requires a totally different strategy than it does if you’re making an interactive app, a calendar app, or a data-driven app.


(Cristiano Betta via Flickr)

Each category of apps has “tricks of the trade” for development without spending big. To find the specific “tricks” for each type, as well as a wealth of other information on app development for small businesses and communities, come to Mansfield’s seminar on Wednesday, May 18th, at 5 p.m., which will be followed by a networking reception. This is a program from the CIE that you don’t want to miss, so register now.

William Mansfield’s latest product is Haven, an app for managing user experiences in communities. It will launch May 16th, two days before his seminar at the CIE.

“In The LEGO Movie, there’s this notion of the ‘Master Builder,’” Mansfield says. “That’s sort of the energy I get from writing software. That’s what I like the most—being able to push out a product that people can use.”

William Mansfield