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App development: what you need to know – part 3

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BY David Merenda

{App Developer}

7 June 2018

Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you’ve come this far you’re well on your way to understanding app development and are already miles ahead of most. This final part is going to jump around a bit and go through both some short and simple answers to common questions, and some interesting facts for both startups and businesses.

The FAQ section on our app page covers the following most asked questions so I won’t touch on them here:

  • How much does an app cost?
  • Will you steal my idea?
  • 5 Things you must do before calling us
  • How do I know my idea is good?
  • Will my app make me rich?

Let’s get into it!

Tell people about your idea

Passion is one of the biggest driving factors in a successful app. If you’re not excited about your app why would someone else be? If you’re not keen on sharing your idea with others then check out our designer Nick’s full post here and maybe he can change your mind.

Analytics

If your app has analytics then use them to further the development of your app and its direction going forward. There are professions dedicated to understanding and using user data to further an app but you can use them to make some high-level assumptions on how users are interacting with your app. For example, your users may be primarily using your app for a single purpose even though there are a few different bits of functionality available. Try to understand their reasoning and even reach out to them.

Talk to your users

If you don’t who will? As mentioned in the previous point it’s highly beneficial to talk to your users to receive feedback and let them know their voice is being heard. A user is more likely to praise and mention your app in the future if they have a memorable interaction with your company. Not only that but your users are the ones interacting with your app in the intended or unintended ways. This could help you shape the direction your app moves in the future.

Future Development & Improvements

If your app isn’t performing well don’t just continue to tack on more functionality and features that your market may not even want. You may have a grand idea of where your app is heading but that’s useless if it goes against what your market actually need or want. Improvements should be justified and thoroughly thought about before being implemented. The time and cost associated with justifying an improvement are far less than actually developing it so that should be your first port of call.

I’ve heard Apple are strict?

This generally shouldn’t be anything you need you need to worry about. Developers should express early on if they have any concerns about your app not being suitable for the App Store. Currently, Apple is turning around their App Store submissions in a reasonably fast manner, so the wait for your app to be accepted by Apple tends to be around 1 or 2 days (a huge improvement compared to the weeks it could take in the past).

How long does it take to create an app?

App development length can vary starting at around one month and can take up to 6 months or even more depending on a number of factors. The main thing that affects the development time of an app is the functionality required and how far into the process you are already. For example, if you have a clear simple vision, documented functionality and are responsive and ready to roll we could get your app up and running in a month.

How can I fund my app?

There’s a bunch of ways that people normally go about funding their app idea. The obvious is from their own pocket but this normally comes from a misunderstanding on how much apps cost to develop. Funding an app yourself is al well and good if you have the cash flow, but in most situations, this isn’t the case. If you are looking to fund an app yourself then going for an MVP and/or a scoping stage and then using that to look for further investment is your best bet. There’s tons of investors or companies looking to get into the app game and your app could be just what they’re looking for. From Angel funds to investors this is where the big bucks lie if you’re serious about your idea and are happy to share the cut. Another common way to fund your app would be through a business endorsement or sponsorship. This comes into play more when you think about monetisation of your app but can also help get your app off the ground. Lastly, there’s heaps of government and private grants floating around that your idea probably fits into so have a look around and see what you can find.

Who owns the IP (Intellectual Property)?

This can vary depending on the company you choose to develop your app. For our projects, you’ll own the intellectual property of the app once finished.

Should I outsource my development overseas?

Outsourcing tendings to be hit-or-miss, depending on what you want and your expectations on the quality, timeframe and communication. Outsourcing can be a way to save money at the expense of time, quality and sanity. That being said it’s not all bad and you can get something up and running fairly quickly and in a cost efficient manner to test a market or idea. It’s normally hard to engage an overseas team yourself without having the knowledge of what goes into an app and the ins and outs of the development cycle.

Who should I pick to develop my app?

The biggest thing is a company you trust and know will be able to execute on your idea to a standard you’re happy with. Some things to consider are their location, communication skills, experience in similar apps, technical skills, design style, attitude, value proposition and their core values. At the end of the day working with a company you like and are on the same page as will make all the difference even if it’s at a greater dollar value.

How do you make an app?

Apps are made using free software readily available on both Mac and Windows computers. The software provides you with a huge array of tools to speed up the development of your app but the fundamental creation will be done using a programming language within the software. A programming language is similar to a normal written language with it’s own flow and logic. The main concept behind making an app is the connection of what the users actually see on the screen (the UI) to the logic behind them (the programming language).

Why do apps cost so much?

Like anything else that’s highly labour intensive, it takes time, and time is money. It’s easy enough to think of what you want to do but turning that into a reality is far more complicated. For example, if you have a 10 page app you’ll need the following time at a minimum:

  • 3 Days of design (3.3 screens a day on average)
  • 3 Weeks of development (A screen every 1.5 days)
  • 3 Days of testing and bug fixing

Already we’re up to weeks of full time work and once you add in meetings, project management, back and forth and releasing the app you’re looking at much more.
Even at a low rate of $50 per hour that’s more than $10k and in reality no app is going to be only 10 pages once you take into account alternate flows and edge cases. $50 an hour also isn’t a reasonable rate once you look at overheads and other costs an agency comes up against.

How can I be sure people will find me on the App Store or Google Play?

If you’re looking for organic traffic this all revolves around what people see on the app store and when. If you’re familiar with websites and the basics of how Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) works the concept is similar. There’s a concept called App Store Optimisation (ASO). It relies on analysing, testing and modifying the information that’s displayed on your app store listing such as your app’s name, subtitle, category, description and images so that your app appears in more results and more users are tempted to give it a try.
Outside of organic traffic, you can direct users to your App Store or Google Play listing through traditional marketing and digital marketing facets such as online ads and community engagement.

How hard would it be for me to learn coding and do it myself?

Learning to code is similar to learning a language so depending on your mindset and understanding it could be quite quick. There’s a massive amount of resources and courses online that you can use to learn to code and make an app yourself as well as courses run by both TAFE and Uni. This is a whole post in itself but if you’re looking to just make a simple app but not actually understand the whys behind it then you could mash something together pretty quick yourself. That being said I couldn’t attest to the quality, stability and reliability of it. At the end of the day anyone could build their own house but would you trust it to keep you warm at night and not fall down in a storm?

How could I test my app idea before sinking a tonne of money into it?

This is a big one that we try to advocate. Don’t waste money if you haven’t tested the waters. There’s heaps of ways to do it but if you can test your app idea with an Instagram account, Facebook group or website that’s what we’d recommend. Sometimes even setting up your idea in a manual form or looking for public feedback can validate an idea well before you spend a cent.

How much will my app cost on an ongoing basis?

A standalone app generally won’t incur any ongoing costs after its development other than the cost to keep it up and available to the public on the App store (currently $99 USD). If your app is going to involve some sort of backend then you’d be looking at hosting costs that could be around $50/month. Other third-party services can also add extra ongoing costs.

How much work will my app be on an ongoing basis?

This is really broken down into two sides, operation work and business work. Depending on the functionality and automation developed into your app your operation work will vary. Some apps may need no operation as they don’t have any backend system or integration that requirements management. Others may require constant attention and updates to keep the app working and relevant as intended. The other side is business work and you can really never do enough of this. If you’re not prepared to treat your app like a business and put in the effort then you probably can expect the same amount of returns from your users.

What can I do to keep app costs down?

The best way to keep costs down is to keep your idea simple. Do people really need a coffee booking app that also has an alarm, saves their location and lets them chat with other app users?
Other ways to reduce cost would be to develop on a single platform first and to come prepared with as much information as possible as to what you want to be developed.

How can I turn my app into a business?

An app is a business so treat it like one! Read more about it in part 2 here.

Do you have to build a second app for tablets?

Unless you want a completely different experience generally a new app won’t be required for tablets. Only minor interface tweaks will be needed to bring the app in line with the bigger screen sizes. That being said it’s always good to rethink the user experience on a tablet as there’s much more screen real estate to play with and this will take more time than just some basic tweaks but won’t require creating the app from scratch.

Can I buy an app template?

App templates are available and many companies use them to pump out apps at a fast speed and low quality. You’ve probably downloaded apps for two different restaurants and noticed they look very similar. That’ll be because they were probably developed by the same company using a template with just the colors and content having been changed.
Templates come with a few major setbacks of limited functionality and rigid designs that won’t let you express your brand or idea to its fullest. You should be careful when engaging with developers as some may not tell you that they’re using a template when you’re expecting something completely custom.

Should I really be building an app, or do I need a website? What’s the difference?

Apps aren’t for everyone and for everything. If you’re building an app for the sake of it then it might not be the best decision. If your idea fits well within the bounds of an app and has a huge benefit to be readily available on someones phone then an apps probably for you. The main difference between a website and an app is the accessibility and experience they offer. Apps must be first downloaded by a user and therefore take a bigger amount of commitment than just browsing to a website. If your intention is to allow users to view your existing website on their phones then looking at a responsive website is probably the way to go. The biggest upside of a mobile website is they’re far cheaper to develop and work on both iOS and Android. On the flip side apps normally offer a more streamlined user experience and allow for better engagement and a faster repeat experience.

What causes apps to fail? What can I do to avoid my app failing as a business?

Many apps fail due to a lack of motivation and effort from the owners end. This comes back to apps being a business and how you should treat it like one. Businesses can fail for many different reasons, the biggest being a lack of funding and clients/users. Things you can do to avoid your app failing are making sure your idea is tested, you market your app, have a solid monetisation and business model and engage with your users. You can read more about these concepts here.

It’s good to keep in mind that many apps succeed and are well off without being the next Snapchat or Instagram and everyone’s looking to get something different out of their app so a failure to one person might be a success to another.

Got any other questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. Want some more reading? We’ve got tons of information on our blog that may pique your interest!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Merenda

David is our lead iOS developer, and an integral member of the team. He very quickly proved that he could punch above his weight with his coding expertise and project management skills. He has a fine eye for detail and never misses a trick. Clients immediately get that David knows his stuff, instilling confidence right from that first meeting.

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