Now that you’ve read through the applications presented in the previous chapter, it’s likely that you’ve come up with some ideas for methods you can use to bring wireless customers to your business. And, of course, there are many more applications available in addition to the ones we’ve described, and there are new ones coming every day.
But, what if you have an idea for your own unique application? Well, it certainly is possible to create your own applications targeted to your business and your customer base. It takes some know how, but it happens every day. Many of today’s hottest wide use applications began as a simple idea by a single user targeted to his specific need. Twitter is a great example. The creator of Twitter simply wanted a way to know what his best friends were up to and to keep them abreast of his activities. He likely had no idea that his little application would become one of the hottest on the web.
This book is certainly not intended to provide technical specifics and coding details for creating wireless applications. But, if you have the interest in creating your own application, hopefully the data provided in this chapter will give you some direction on where to start. Here are some basics about creating wireless applications.
WAP is one of the major open international standards for application layer network communications in the wireless world. Its primary use is enabling internet access from wireless devices. Browsers on mobile phones are WAP browsers. WAP browsers provide all the same services of a computer based web browser, though they are simplified. The simplification allows them to work on mobile phones with their smaller screens. If you plan to create an application for a wireless device it must be housed on a WAP capable website. The WAP standard was developed specifically to allow interoperability between the many different network technologies and software devices that are inherent in the mobile network. Because wireless companies operate on several different technologies (CDMA, TDMA, GSM), WAP was the answer to bridging the technology gap for internet access. Think of WAP as a gateway that sits between a mobile phone and the server that houses your website/application.
In order to create a WAP capable website, the website must be written in, or dynamically converted to, WML, so that it can be viewed with a WAP browser. Wireless Markup Language is based on the language XML, but has been modified to be able to work with devices that use WAP. WML was essentially the first markup language designed to work with WAP devices.
However, as technology increases, we’re finding that other markup languages are being used with WAP, including XHTML and even standard HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). These markup languages are very similar to WML, but require higher processing power from the mobile device. Therefore, WML is still one of the safest and simplest bets for optimizing a website for wireless devices, though it has some limitations that can be overcome once programmers can move strictly to XHTML or HTML. But, for today, there are still too many mobile devices out there that simply don’t have the processing power required to work with those markup languages.
For the purposes of this book, we’re assuming that you’re not an expert in WAP or WML. The information above is intended to give you a very basic understanding of the programming skills required to create a wireless application. Hopefully, now, you have some understanding of the skills you need in a programmer and you can talk to them somewhat effectively.
Assuming you will be finding a programmer to write the code needed for your actual application, your job is determining what you want the application to do, how the user will interact with it and what benefit it will bring to your business. In developing the idea for your application consider some of the following options:
Depending upon the type of business you’re in, a device designed to allow others to keep in touch could be great. Do your customers have a need to talk to each other because they’re likely in similar industries? Can they share product information and user tips? Think Twitter on a smaller scale, and targeted to only to a specific group of people.
You’d be amazed at the audience you can gain through mobile phone games. Mobile games aren’t just for kids – you’d be amazed at the number of business users playing games on their mobile devices while waiting at the airport. Consider creating a game that is compatible with your overall business. For example, if you sell tennis equipment, create a tennis game or an application that measures the accuracy and speed of your serve. Users will come to your site to play the game, but they may leave with a virtual shopping cart full of products.
A web favorite of ours is LOL. This site hosts galleries of pictures including one of dogs, one of cats and even one of celebrities. You can download pictures that you like, along with funny captions. Or, you can create your own captions for the pictures. You can view the pictures online from your desktop or your mobile phone and you can download the pictures for storage in your own gallery or as wallpaper. This site is free to users and supported by advertisers. However, wouldn’t it be great to host something similar on a business website? A gallery of pet pictures would be great on a veterinarian’s website. Or, how about a cute baby picture gallery on a baby clothing boutique’s website? Visitors to your site could even upload their own pictures to add to the gallery.
We mentioned a mortgage calculator earlier in an earlier chapter, but such tools bear mentioning again. Useful tools that relate to your business are a great way to get users to your site through an application. How about a materials calculator for a company that sells lumber? Or, a food and beverage calculator for party planning on a catering website?
Tools are a particularly effective method of advertising, simply because they are useful. In today’s world, it is more difficult than ever to get a buyer’s attention. We’re basically blind to billboards and deaf to television and radio ads because we’ve heard and seen too much of them. Even the original web ads, those huge banners, have become a thing of the past because users hate them. But, subtle advertising as part of a useful tool or tip is a successful method of gaining a buyer’s attention, and is likely to be even more effective over the next several years.
“Do it yourself” applications are also great ways to improve business. Many photo shops, for example, will allow you to create your own cards, calendars and keepsakes right on their site. You simply upload the pictures you want to use, choose a template and order and pay online. The items can then be shipped directly to you.
As you can see, the possibilities for creating your own applications as advertising devices for mobile users are nearly endless. Spend some time reviewing the suggestions here as well as searching online for more ideas. Once you have a list of possible applications in mind, you can sit down with a programmer to determine the costs, timeframe and materials required to get the job done. Applications are short term investments that can bring in new and repeat business over a long period of time.