Even the simplest apps can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take months to complete. For a business keen to jump into the mobile space or an entrepreneur itching to get their product to market, the cost and timeframe can be frustrating and prohibitive.
There are, however, ways to do it faster and cheaper, if you know what you are doing and go into it prepared.
An app is usually made by a team of designers and developers, each an expert in their field. The average mid-sized project takes between 8 and 16 weeks to complete and costs between $50,000 and $150,000. The labour cost is by far the most expensive aspect, accounting for more than 90 per cent of the total cost.
It might be tempting to save costs by taking the project offshore. In practice, though, this rarely results in any kind of saving. Here’s how you DO save when developing an app.
Offshore development often ends up being more expensive in the long run and usually takes a lot longer. The most common issues with offshore development include poor communication and often unresponsive developers; poor quality code; buggy apps that need repair or re-build; timeframe blowouts; and a lot more project management and oversight required by the customer.
Be aware that many local app development companies in Australia actually send their development work offshore, so ask the company where their development work is done before you commence working with them.
Avoid low quotes
In app development, you undoubtedly get what you pay for. If one quote is a lot lower than the others, it’s usually a sign that the developer either doesn’t fully understand the project or that they outsource development offshore.
Minimum viable product (MVP)
You’ll hear a lot about MVPs on your app development journey, and for good reason. Releasing a simple, bare-bones version of your app first, before spending more time and money on a fully-featured version, enables you to validate your product and minimise risk. Keep it simple by cutting out all of the nice-to-have features until you have established that there is actually a market for your product.
Cross-platform frameworks used to be horrible. Tools like Phonegap, Xamarin, Ionic and Cordova cut down development time but the apps were clunky, slow and unresponsive compared with their native cousins. Then React Native came along and changed everything.
Used by tech giants like Facebook, Instagram, Air BnB, Skype and Uber Eats, React Native enables you to write a single code base and deploy to both iOS and Android, saving you about half the time and cost of developing separately for each platform. If you plan on supporting both iOS and Android, make sure your developer works in React Native.
Don’t do agile
Many companies tout agile, or “agilish”, models and methodologies. True agile is great for experimentation and the evolution of your product but if you are on a limited budget, it’s a luxury you can’t afford. Keeping costs down means thoroughly planning and scoping the project in advance with your developer and agreeing to a fixed price for delivery of the completed app.
The app development process usually starts with a strategy workshop, where you and the developer spend a day or two together fleshing out how the app will work. This may seem unnecessary, especially if you’ve already supplied them with a thorough project brief. The reality is, though, that a good developer will be able to add a lot more value than you may think and suggest compromises that could drastically reduce development cost. Workshopping with a developer before they commence work can easily save you thousands of dollars.
App development is expensive and there is no getting around that fact. But, if you do it right you can avoid the unexpected blowouts and get your app onto the App Store faster and cheaper.
Joe Russell, Co-Founder and Director, DreamWalk App Development