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Two Considerations to Confront the Mystery of Mobile App Development

Posted by Don Crow on Oct 22, 2012 10:12:42 AM

Ever notice how easy it is to find articles online that tout how easy it is to build a mobile app?

No? Then take a moment – in a new window mind you – to consult the Google-machine for info on how to build a mobile app.

Articles about, “6 tools, 9 tools, and building a mobile app in 5 minutes,” fill the first several pages of results. Paid links litter the pages with the promise of easily and cheaply built mobile apps.

But, how many of those do you actually believe?

Better yet, how many of those outline how to go about finding someone to build your marvelous mobile app, AND how much you can expect to pay? It’s almost like there’s a conspiracy to keep it all a mystery for any app development beyond drag-and-drop template tools.

Mystery? There really shouldn't be more mystery than any other software development project.

If you yourself cannot design, code and deliver your mobile app idea, you’re going to have to enlist the help of others. [NOTE: “you” in this sense is for both Corporate IT resources, and small business owners/managers]

Enlisting others is a tricky, and sometimes dangerous situation. If your company IT team doesn't have the in-house talent to fulfill your mobile app idea(s), then here’s a couple of considerations to help get you started.

1. Determine what the app, (a) must do, and (b) could do.

This is important for both you and the end development team. This should also be one of the first things your attorneys and sourcing teams ask for so they can effectively write contracts and RFPs. You’ll have a much better relationship with the development team if you are both in agreement on what is the minimum viable product, and what features you will build into later releases. No one on either side likes scope creep.

I’m a strong proponent of getting the minimum product to market and then letting your users determine the future builds. It’s been the core design and feature-set plan for Golf Joust, and I believe it works well for most boot-strapped start-ups.

Also, having a road map for what your app could do will help when you begin pricing out the full development of your app. Here again, clearly determining your requirements and desired outcome will ultimately determine if you need a custom developed solution or if you can make a lower cost off-the-shelf product work.

AND, let’s not forget what this planning exercise coupled with your customer or buyer personas will tell your development team when it comes to what platform to focus on first: iOS (Apple) or Android (Google).

2. Determine your budget for both the development and roll-out.

Be realistic. The aforementioned articles painting mobile app development as, “so easy anyone can do it!” are misleading and misinformed. True, you can take a template and an off-the-shelf solution and change the colors, drop in some logos and artwork and perform basic to moderate tasks. But, you miss a lot of control over your experience and output by taking the stock approach.

Keep in mind the cost of IT infrastructure as you determine cloud or server based storage and the number of APIs required.

Low budget and low expectations? Off-the-shelf could be your best bet.

But, if you want an immersive customer experience that is branded and involves mobile commerce, you better have #1 nailed down and have your finance approval authority to spend some cash.

  • Offshore will very likely be your lowest cost option – but will require dedicated project manager(s)
  • Freelancers abound, not only in the US, but globally – again a lower cost option, but no less cumbersome for internal resources
  • Dedicated development shops are the safest bet according to the lawyers – but the price reflects the additional horsepower, expertise and infrastructure

Prices? It’s a complicated menu that goes from $15/hour to $200/hour. With that kind of spread, it’s easy to see why some folks do in fact turn to off-the-shelf solutions and sacrifice quality of experience and control over data.

Some articles suggest $30,000 as the entry point. That seems modest to me.

And last point on budget: plan to spend money on getting the app marketed. I don’t think you have to spend your way to the top as one recent Venture Capitalist told me, but I do believe you've got to have a smart plan to engage influential users and markets early and often. Both take a solid plan and at least some money.

To conclude, mobile app development should be equal parts planning, design, build and delivery. There shouldn't be mystery involved when you get past the lure of easy results and focus on what you can do to help the end developers produce the best possible product for launch.

Two points: app requirements and budget, each with lots of considerations but they’re both lessons I've learned along the way and things I hope will help you the next time you are plotting your next mobile app build.

AUTHOR NOTE: My featured image was taken from an article about the greatest Hitchcock films, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/9443826/From-Topaz-to-Psycho-top-52-Hitchcock-films.html. To me, Mr. Hitchcock represents the best in mystery and suspense, and with it Halloween and Walking Dead season at Verge Pipe Media, he seemed an appropriate image for this post. Enjoy!

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Author: is Founder & CEO at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

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