3 criteria for choosing the best alternative business app options


We have entered a golden age of digital business tools. Of today app they are designed to work well with each other, to look good on multiple devices, to provide seamless access to cloud-based databases, and to be combined into customizable products via APIs and SDKs. Plus, it’s easier than ever to find browser-based SaaS, mobile app, and integration components to meet nearly all of our operational needs, often with dozens of options in a certain category.

Choose your best alternative business app options

The best alternative business app

New tools are being conceptualized, developed and brought to market on a constant basis, and the virtually endless choices can be overwhelming. Small business owners today find themselves arguing between the “big boys” and the new, often cheaper, “unfavorable” alternatives. Like entrepreneurs, we are no longer forced to stick with faceless multinational giants churning out “good enough” products.

Of today small business works on a variety of app types from a diverse set of software vendors. We even have seemingly endless websites and communities dedicated to indexing, comparing and reviewing these products. Welcome to the age of choice.

This plethora of options, however, makes due diligence a challenge to say the least. You need to do enough research and comparison to make sure you select the best tool for your business.

Of course, you too have little time. Of course. So don’t overthink your decision making. Keep your search limited to these three criteria and the best apps for your business needs are likely to turn out.

1. Does it do everything you need?

For each instrument category, start by building a comparison table, in which you will break down your options feature by feature. Even if you don’t intend to use every single feature right now, you’re hoping your business will evolve and grow, so it’s a good idea to include features that others consider important, especially in relation to scalability.

Compile your chart using information readily available on the web, selecting some industry leaders and some new disrupters. While many smaller or newer apps offer all the features you need, not all of them offer everything, so do your homework.

For example, until recently, the number of project management platform options was reasonably limited. Basecamp was the established leader in the industry, and not just by a little. But then hungry losers like Trello and Asana broke the scene by capturing significant enough market share that Basecamp abandoned more and more customers. Today, project management tools come in all shapes, sizes, and prices, so when you’re ready to take the plunge, look at the features first. Consider both storage and functional capabilities. You can also find an in-depth comparison of the features side-by-side of the two.

By examining a biggie and an underdog side-by-side, you can determine if the established market leader deserves your loyalty, or if he doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard any more, than the newbies on the scene. Your ideal is to draw a comparison like this with every tool that makes the final cut in your consideration.

2. Is it accessible as it should be?

Some lesser-known digital products are losers for good reason. Maybe they are missing, or they are faulty or unresponsive on your mobile. Or maybe their interfaces aren’t intuitive and pleasant enough to use.

Take the time tracking and billing category for example. Freshbooks established itself as a leader in small business accounting software in 2008. This Toronto-based product reigned supreme for a full five years. But over the past 18 months, several more reasonably priced options have emerged. Now QuickBooks, a comprehensive account accounting platform, is also trying to innovate quickly enough to keep up.

An accessibility assessment should be relatively easy to perform, as most SaaS options offer free trials. By all means: accept them on that offer and follow their demos. Check if you like working in the app environment. Does it seem intuitive to you, based on your preferences and your way of thinking and working? Does it match your style? If it’s a web app, does it look good on your mobile device? If not, is there a mobile version available? Are you addicted to your iPad, but this app doesn’t integrate well with the rest of your Apple apps? You prefer to get your payments through Stripe, but it only supports PayPal? Is the app made to handle the types of customizations and integrations you are looking for? If you’re looking for add-ons, is there a developer community or ecosystem that offers these options?

While it may seem like an intimidating amount of homework, taking an app for a test drive isn’t as strenuous as it sounds. You will have an idea whether or not it “catches” you rather quickly. Finding a Freshbooks alternative is easy. Just look at the first loser app on your list and play it. Invoice Ninja, for example, actually has a button on its homepage labeled “Test Drive” and their promise “Forever Free” lowers the barriers to thorough due diligence.

3. Is the support included, helpful, thoughtful, and avoidable?

When investigating losing apps, make sure you’re able to access support, or at least a solid, searchable knowledge base to fill in the gaps when you need guidance. Again, test drive. Does the app support staff respond to your emails and tickets? Do they offer live chat support if that’s your preferred method of interacting?

Think of yourself as an app user. Are you inclined to figure it all out on your own or do you depend on a good deal of hand-holding? If you’re the “Why won’t it work? I need it to work NOW! “Like, maybe you need to use an app that offers 24/7 live chat support. On the other hand, an app with a highly intuitive interface or scope of extremely restricted functionality will naturally need less support.

To understand how support can make a big difference to an entire vertical business, let’s take a moment to take it back a few years to when visual content marketing got big. Until a few years ago, small businesses typically hired graphic designers to create all of their brand marketing materials, from logos to websites.

Photoshop, the go-to app for graphic designers, costs a few hundred dollars, but it made sense, since only professionals needed it and used it all day. Created by Adobe, a large company, Photoshop support was sorely lacking. Replies took days and often did not appear at all.

Recently, however, entrepreneurs running their own marketing have realized the need for branded “paper” graphics for social sharing and hero images for blog post titles. But hiring an expert to create such a large volume of images with such a short duration doesn’t make sense. Hence the rise of specialized web apps like Canva and PicMonkey, both launched in 2012 to meet the same niche demand. These new tools have eliminated the need for an experienced designer to make fast, consumer-friendly images and infographics. They are extremely simple and intuitive for anyone to use and yes, they both offer extensive tutorial resources as well. Additionally, PicMonkey boasts a knowledge base and email support.

So think about what your support needs might be for each type of app you are looking for. Are you a person on the phone? Does the app also provide a phone number? If you’re not comfortable communicating electronically and prefer a live person, is he available? Many of us prefer to contact us via social media channels. When you Tweet their support division, are they ready to respond with helpful responses? Do they make any support service guarantees on their website? It costs more? This is critical information to collect and compare.

The right choices are out there

Choices abound! After all, this is the age of the consumer.

While it may be difficult to choose the ideal work tools while avoiding the paralysis of overwhelm, self-knowledge and the driving test are your keys. First, find out what you need. Then, review the leaders and emerging in each category, keeping your workflow specifics in mind as you go.

Spend the time doing the necessary tasks on feature comparison, accessibility, and support. It’s a worthwhile investment – at the end of this process, you’ll be able to conduct business more easily and efficiently than ever. ?


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