These days it seems like there is an app for just about everything. The reason why I say this is because it is pretty much fact. We can quickly download apps in a few seconds and use them wherever we go. From apps loaded with cooking tips to online banking apps that let us do our banking from home, all help to make every part of our modern lives easier.
And why do companies spend all their time creating such useful apps? Well, because of the money of course.
There are now numerous app based internet companies that are worth in excess of $1 billion each. A recent article published by Business Insider aimed at highlighting the explosion of billion-dollar apps listed just a few of the “billion-dollar startups didn’t exist 5 years ago”.
The list includes the popular app Slack which is now used by software developers and businesses around the globe. In less than 5 years Slack has gained a market valuation of $3.8 billion. Also on the list is Snapchat, a picture messaging app that is now worth in excess of $16 billion.
Though these apps are the fortunate few to have hit the big time, the vast majority of apps that cover their own particular unique niche do succeed. A well designed and stable app can even claw out a place for itself in an over saturated market. The real trick is knowing just how to do that.
In this article, I aim to cover tips on how to make a travel app. Firstly, I will examine why it is a great time to create an app for travel and give a few examples of the different forms they can take. After this, I will cover in more detail the challenges and rewards of creating a good travel app along with explaining how to do so.
Why build a travel app?
I remember when I was about to embark on a trip to Canada back in 2002. I was 22 and planned to travel across the country from coast to coast. I bought a huge backpack and began loading in everything I thought I would need.
Have you ever seen the Mr. Bean sketch where he tries to pack all his holiday stuff into his tiny suitcase? Well, it was kind of like that for me too. Despite throwing away most of my books, warm clothing, and CD’s (yes, those were the days), I still had roughly 35 kg to carry.
These days I travel with roughly 18kg even though I still bring the same amount of clothes. The reason for this is simple; technology. Gone are my heavy guidebooks and the 3 or 4 other books I used to carry. Gone are my CD pouches, CD player and my heavy camera too. Gone are my maps and torch, and instead I have my trusty smartphone. Even though these days I bring far more music, information and good reads with me, the advent of the smartphone has cut the weight I have to carry in half, making life on the road far easier.
Thanks to my map app I never get lost or have to worry about finding a restaurant, hotel, or anything else. Thanks to a flight app I always find the cheapest tickets to my next destination and thanks to my in-built 16 MP camera I always get really clear photos. Some people would argue that all this somehow makes travel more boring, but whether or not they are right, the truth is that none of us can resist things that make our lives that little bit easier. And there is nothing better than a good travel app to do just that.
What kind of travel app is best?
Travel apps cover a wide spectrum of uses. While it might be a pain for users, no one app has the whole market covered. Even a site such as Trip Advisor doesn’t cover everything which is great news for all those app developers out there.
The kind of travel app that you choose to build will obviously depend on your specific aims and requirements. If you run a travel agency, for example, and wish to create an app that drives customers to book hotel packages through your company then you will need one that can operate as an integrated part of your existing systems. This will be a different set of challenges from a travel app that aims to act as a travel diary, for example.
Here are the main types of travel apps being used today:
- Hotel booking – Skyscanner
- Flight booking –KAYAK
- Trip planner – TripIt
- Guidebook – Guides by Lonely Planet
- Map – Google Maps / Maps Me
- Weather forecast – OpenWeatherMap
- Taxi / Bus / Train booking – Uber
- Feedback / Review – Trip Advisor
- Translator – Google Translate
- Social Media – Facebook
Planning a great travel app
As with any app, making sure that you plan it well really can make all the difference between success and failure. During the planning phase these are the main things to consider:
Do you really need a travel app?
Before you begin anything you should take a moment to think about whether or not you really need a travel app in the first place. Since developing any app certainly is not cheap, you should try to assess how much benefit it will bring your company. For those people who wish to add an app to their existing online website, ask yourself the question whether or not it is worth it, especially if your app will still require people to book through the site.
What do you want your travel app to do?
This may sound like an obvious point but it is one that is surprisingly overlooked. Too often have I been involved in developing an app and been asked to incorporate a slew of additional features at the last minute because a client has not thought through the project properly.
Before you begin you should fully assess your who your potential users are and what their needs might be. There are lots of ways you can do this without leaking your idea. These include approaching friends or workmates and brainstorming your ideas. You can also research existing apps to see what kind of client base they have and how their app meets their needs.
Defining exactly what you want the app to do and considering how the app might need to evolve after it is up and running is extremely important. This will help your developers plan out the project so that it can be completed more quickly and efficiently, something which will help to keep cost and time overruns down and also help to reduce the chance of bugs or functionality problems etc.
During this stage, you also want to outline all the features that you will need to incorporate into your app as well as deciding on whether you want it to be a web, native or hybrid app.
What OS platform(s) do you want your travel app to operate with?
An important consideration that will have a big effect on both cost and development time as well as the what developers you hire, is operating system compatibility. According to Statista, by the 2nd quarter of 2017, Android had a commanding 87.7% share of the global OS market while iOS had 12.1%.
While this certainly makes Android the most attractive market for software developers, recent research has shown that iOS users actually spend more on their apps. Most software developers try to create apps for these two OS systems then add compatibility for other ones at a later date. If you are on a tight budget then good advice is to start with Android and then later focus on iOS. This is a more expensive way of doing things in the long run but it helps keep startup costs down initially.
Apps cost a lot to develop. Depending on the complexity the majority of apps cost anywhere from $25,000 upwards. More complex apps such as Twitter can cost in excess of $1,000,000. So before you begin you will need to gain a realistic assessment of how much your app is going to cost and whether you can afford it. For more details regarding this, you can contact a reputable software development company like DevTeamSpace.com to get a detailed quote.
In this article, you can learn more about how to estimate a project.
Checking out your competitors is a must. Not only will their apps and business models give you lots of new ideas but will also act as a motivation that yours can be just as successful. Your app should always try to be unique or at least have some unique features that make it even more useful than the competition. You can’t simply make a carbon copy of Uber, for example, and expect your app to be the next best thing.
Choose the best developer or development team
I’ve seen plenty of really great ideas get bogged down in the development phase thanks to poor programmers. By poor, I mean unmotivated, overworked, unreliable, and those few who write bad code. Choosing the best developer or development team is one of the main pillars of the success of your app.
A good developer should be enthusiastic and dedicated to your project. Experience is also important though you should take care to avoid any developer who believes their experience means that no matter what their way of doing things is best.
For larger projects employing a development team is a must. When interviewing prospective dev teams you should always investigate how much experience they have and what kind of client update procedure they implement. Insist on weekly updates and reports such as the ones used by companies like DevTeamSpace. These will help you keep the project in line and on schedule.
For a good read on how to measure your development teams productivity click this link.
Developing your travel app
If you choose to go it alone and not use a professional development team then you will need to do a lot of further planning about how you plan to build your app. You will need to firstly have a series of meetings at which you will need to go through the app and its features to establish how best to go about developing them.
Don’t let your haste to get the app up and running allow you to push for too tight deadlines. Listen to your developers who should be able to give realistic deadlines for each sprint of development. Be sure to ask developers to factor in test times as you need to make sure that each feature is working before moving onto the next. Keep in mind that the average app takes anywhere from 3 months to a year to develop properly.
By the end of these meetings, you should have developed a through ‘roadmap’ that details what features will be developed when and by whom. By the final meeting, your developers should have agreed to what platforms they intend to use and all be happy with their individual tasks.
Implementation and testing
After initiating your road-map it is vital that the project manager maintains a good level of oversight. Set up communication channels so that the entire team and the management can easily update one another and voice any concerns. Apps such as Slack allow for dedicated communication channels just for this purpose.
You should hold weekly meetings during which the entire team can be updated about the projects progress as well as brainstorming any problems. Don’t fall into the trap of having daily meetings as these distract team members and actually can demotivate them as well.
At the end of each development sprint, each feature should be assessed and tested to make sure that it is fully functional. It is a good idea to involve the whole team at this stage as it allows them to see how other parts of the project are developing.
For a good overview of the best steps to app development you can read this guide.
Marketing and monetizing your app
By the time your app is ready you should have already hyped its release in all the right places. Social media, forums, web and newspaper articles, along with advertising are all vital to getting your project off to a good start. For more information on how to market your travel app, you can read this interesting article.
There are lots of inventive ways apps choose to make money. Membership fees are the most traditional way but they do tend to limit the number of users interesting in using an app.
A good majority of travel alps make money by taking a commission from the services they provide. Uber, Booking.com, and Agoda all operate such business models. Some travel apps allow customers to purchase products directly from them to generate revenue in this way. All the airline apps operate in this way.
Other ways to make money include adding adverts to your app. This allows third-party companies to display their products through your app for which you will receive a commission. Similarly, click through traffic whereby your app redirects a user to that company’s site works the same way.
My Final Thought
Developing any app is a mammoth task, particularly for those companies who decide not to outsource the project to a development team. But while no app in history has ever been created without a little blood, sweat, and tears, the feeling of seeing all your hard work going live is worth every bit.
While for some the knowledge that their app is out there improving people’s lives is the most fulfilling part, the day that it begins to generate revenue is certainly a big buzz for all concerned. Provided your project is built on passion and hard work then there is a good chance that one day soon, you could be one of the next companies to feature on the $1 billion list
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