Apps are all the rage of late, the media are rife with stories of overnight successes and billion dollar buy outs. As such, it’s understandable we have noticed a considerable interest in our mobile app development services recently. We have received several enquiries lately along the lines of:
We need an app, how much will it cost?
As there are no published app cost guidelines and for most business people, it would be unreasonable to expect an understanding of the development process so the question of cost is understandable. Unfortunately from a developers perspective, the question is a bit like being asked “how much is a car?” and the standard response would be along the lines of “Well it depends on what you need…”.
The absolute best course of action at this point is to pick up the phone and speak to an experienced app developer (shameless plug: call us on 02380 893842). However, you may not yet be comfortable in doing such so in this post we hope to provide a bit more guidance on the subject and offer some thoughts for consideration.
We’ll come onto cost later but first of all a few questions to consider:
What do you mean by “an app”?
A common assumption when talking about “an app” is that you’re referring to an application which can be downloaded onto an iPhone or iPad via the AppStore or an equivalent for Android (via Google Play) and maybe even another derivative for Blackberry or Windows Phone. Yep, there are many different platforms you need to consider and unfortunately they all require a different development approach, you can’t use the same application and just copy it across to the other platforms.
This sounds expensive and it certainly can be, however it may be that a strategic choice of supported platforms can keep costs under control and you can expand to reach the less common ones later.
Is an app the best choice?
It’s not uncommon for tech “fads” to creep into business strategies because of the buzz and excitement surrounding a new technology or service. It’s tempting to view an app as a new means to offer an audience the information you want to tell them. But it’s important to think about what benefits an app would actually have for your users. Installing an app is a very user driven activity and as such users need real, valid motivation to do so. Purely informational apps may be best served via the web as a “responsive web site” or “web app”. This is the presentation of your content formatted to suit the device from which it is being viewed. Using modern HTML5 related development techniques can offer a much more cost effective solution as you are able to reuse the same content across many devices. You can still however, tell the marketing department it’s “an app” .
We have successfully delivered several responsive HTML5 web applications recently where the original requirement was for an app and the results have been a great success. This approach should not be viewed as a downgrade to an app, but as a more appropriate solution for many circumstances.
Why do you need an app?
The thinking should not be “we need an app”, rather “our users need an app in order to…”. Completing a sentence along those lines will put you in good stead for thinking about your app. If there is a compelling reason that your objective can be best completed via an app then it may well be worth pursuing. Think about the apps you download and more importantly, those you use regularly. Can you visualise your users exhibiting that same behaviour with your app idea? Think about the traits of some of the popular apps, they entertain, they engage, they offer an improved mechanism for users to perform a task. Does your app do this?
What is the goal you actually want to achieve?
- Make more sales?
- Gain new customers?
- Raise company awareness?
- Improve corporate image?
- Add value to existing customers?
- Make money?
- Engage with your existing customers?
Being brutally honest about your objective will help you decide on the best course of action. Often the objective is defined after the decision to commission an app when there could be several significantly more cost effective approaches to achieving the same objective. Which leads us on to cost, no doubt the reason many of you have ended up here.
How much will it cost?
Without beating around the bush, apps are not cheap to develop. App developers command high salaries, the software development tools to build them are expensive, as is the hardware to run them on, skilled designers who understand the platform are also costly and every aspect takes time, a lot of attention to detail, testing and a tight feedback loop with customers and users all of which needs to be managed.
Sticking with the “how much is a car?” concept is actually quite fitting. You could probably get hold of a rusty old Metro for under a thousand pounds, but you wouldn’t want to rely on it to get you to your wedding. Likewise, bank balance permitting you can fork out several hundred thousand pounds for a supercar. But that might be a bit OTT for picking up a pint of milk from the local shops. Be honest with your developer about your budget and there is likely a solution to fit.
Apps are a great opportunity for many businesses and clearly many are seeing huge successes with them. Our intention is not to deter businesses from investing in apps but to highlight some of the considerations that should be given attention in order to increase your apps chances of success.
Work out your objective, decide on the best approach to achieve that objective and consider your budget accordingly. In a lot of cases, a responsive web application will fit the bill and offer much better return on investment. However, sometimes only a native app will offer the absolute best experience required.