TECH & INNOVATION

App development – how to develop an app.

Jerry Staple

AUTHOR

Jerry Staple

Technical Director
Technology , Innovation, the Future

Since the explosion of the smartphone and apps, “I need an app” is a turn of phrase we have heard countless times but our immediate response always remains the same – “Do you really need an app”?

It seems that everyone has at least one idea for the next big thing and we have all seen in the media the extortionate high valuations apportioned to tech based start ups i.e. Snapchat 10bn and Uber 25bn however, contrary to popular belief, the “build and they shall come” mantra doesn’t work. I have been extensively involved in app development and over the 6 years have developed and worked on in excess of 50+ native apps for iOS and Android with budgets ranging from £4,000 to £120,000. We have seen apps flourish with 10,000s of downloads and on the flip side have seen apps bomb with under 50 downloads (lifetime). An app should be treated like any other business and, as the cost of app development can be high, it is imperative that if you are embarking on a mobile app based project you should consider the following:

They know because that’s what your competitors and other businesses and brands they are experiencing are doing.

The genie is out of the bottle and humans now know that it is possible for businesses and brands to provide them with a great customer experience.

With that knowledge how do you face reality and shape your products and services?

You could do nothing and try and convince your audience that you are an ‘authentic’, ‘warts and all’ type of business where unpredictability and basic service is part of the experience. You need to be really confident in your product and it may work for a BBQ Restaurant or Hipster Bar (but don’t be fooled, it takes effort to create that rough and ready experience), however it would be a risky strategy in areas like retail or financial services.

The second option is to take a walk in your customers’ shoes and shape your product/services through their eyes and exceed their expectations with service, data, technology and design. Make it easy for them to interact with you and make them feel good about it. This is not an extra thing to worry about or a short-term tactic, it’s just good business. That style of thinking needs to be built into your culture and strategy. If it isn’t, your customers will simply go elsewhere, at break-neck speed!

Do you really need an app?

An app should be treated like any other business and you should conduct your own feasibility studies, market research and business plan.

Just because it is an app these steps should not be ignored.

Target Audience?

The identification of the Target Audience (user personas) is one of the most fundamental parts in the development of the app. The more you can be specific the better. On many occasions I have witnessed entrepreneurs who failed to identify the app customer resulting in a severe lack of downloads and an app which is an ultimate flop. Often, this scenario could have been easily avoided if the correct customer base had been identified and targeted.

Platform

Where do you want your app?

  • iTunes ?
  • Google play?
  • Windows Store?
  • Via the Web?

This will determine how the app will be developed. In relation to an agile approach I would always advise clients to develop the core minimum functionality (Minimum Viable Product) for a first release and focus on one platform then launch, test, gather feedback and then to release the app on other platforms only when the model has been perfected. Do not duplicate especially if going native (see below).

It has been a common trend that companies would release an iOS version first then follow up, after feedback and refinements, with an Android version. This still seems to be the case today.

Pricing Strategies

How is the app going to make money? Are you going to charge or use a Freemium type model?

Freemium Apps

Freemium is a pricing strategy by which a product or service (primarily digital content) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for proprietary features, functionality, or virtual goods.

Samples

A very effective strategy is a Try before you buy type model whereby the user is provided with just enough functionality to whet their appetite, free of charge, then the app requires them to upgrade in order to receive the full version.

There are many other models so always confirm the pricing model that is right for the nature of the app.

Native / Hybrid or HTML 5 App?

It is paramount that you know the difference between a Native, Hybrid and a HTML 5 type app. Due to skillset and limitations, certain companies will be proposing Native and certain companies will be proposing Hybrid. There is a big difference in development costs and performance between these categories so this is always the first question I ask when scoping a mobile project. It is imperative you ask how the app is going to be developed with the developer or company.

Native Apps

Native is specific to the mobile platform (iOS, Android or Windows) and is developed using the tools and language that the platform support (Objective C, Swift with XCode or Java with Eclipse or Android Studio). Native apps will look and perform the best and will run on the device.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are written with web technologies (HTML, JavaScript, CSS) then downloaded from the respective app store and run within a Native container (Wrapper) directly on the device.

HTML 5 / Mobile Web Apps

HTML 5 apps are written with web technologies (HTML, Javascript,CSS) and will run via the browser on the specific device. HTML 5 apps will run cross platform (desktop, any device) however there are certain limitations and restrictions to device features such as camera, calendar and geo-location etc.

An example of a HTML 5 app we developed can be seen here:

http://promslive.bbc.co.uk/

Do not just compare costs as you will not be comparing like for like and I have seen companies suffer because of this who have then had to commission a total rewrite of the app to meet their requirements.

How much to develop an app?

Set yourself a realistic budget for the design and development of your app. If you have a å£250 budget then don’t expect to get Candy Crush!

Be upfront about the budget, as most reputable app companies will work with you to develop the best product they can, in line with your budget or at least give you a realistic expectation of what you can expect for your budget.

App Versions / Support & Maintenance

The major players (Apple, Google, Microsoft) are updating their platforms / software far quicker these days and the time for software releases (firmware) has been significantly reduced. Once your app has developed you will need to take this into consideration as the app development company will develop it for the latest release or an agreed software version i.e. iOS 8.1.

Although major players try their very best to incorporate backward compliance, into software releases, there still may be times when some elements of your developed app do not work and you will therefore need to arrange for the developer to update at your cost.

I would advise that you arrange a support and maintenance agreement with the app development company which will give you piece of mind if there are any bugs or small changes required once built.

I would also advise to do your homework in relation to the selection of a reputable app development company, as the standard of development will dramatically vary depending on who you select. A reputable company will be slightly more expensive however they are professional, accountable and will have knowledge and experience far superior to that of a freelance app developer and in the long term this will save you a lot of money.

Jerry Staple

Technical Director of Origin Digital

 

Find out more about how you can develop an app.

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