What To Consider Before Building A Mobile App

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It’s no secret that a strong digital presence is essential to the success of a business. Now more than ever, consumers expect to have a seamless experience with a brand or product across every single channel they interact with. For brands looking to supercharge their engagement with consumers, one of the most popular tactics is building a mobile app.

Apps can be a great way to communicate with consumers, ease access to a product or service, increase sales, and drive customer engagement and retention. However, building an app or custom software is not something to be approached lightly. It is a major tech decision, and there are many steps that must be taken to build a quality app.

Business decision makers have to find the right developer to manage the project, settle on a budget, outline the features they need, and so much more. This can be a daunting venture, but also extremely beneficial to the business (and their customers) in the long run if the project is carefully planned and executed.

With this in mind, here are several things to consider before beginning the process of building a mobile app:

Selecting a mobile app developer

Picking the right developer to manage your custom project can be a long process. To begin, you need to decide if you want to hire in-house or a freelancer, both of which have benefits. An in-house software development firm will have a full team at their disposal (engineering, design, etc.); strong internal structure, software, and equipment; and most likely, a highly structured communication system in place.

A freelancer would be the best option for a company looking for a more affordable, often faster developer, potentially at the expense of accountability and structure. To find developers or companies, look on websites like Toptal or Hired (for freelance developers) and Clutch.co (for development firms).

As you weigh your options, do your research. Look at their reviews – what are their customers saying about them? Be sure to read the positive and negative feedback.

Furthermore, look at the developer’s experience and their work samples. Do they have experience working on projects similar to yours? If not, it may be worth finding a different developer or company.

Finally, as you’re meeting with software developers to gauge interest in working together, pay attention to the questions they ask. A good developer will ask questions like: Do you want your app to be on Android, Apple, or both? Do you want a native, hybrid, or web app? Do you want your app to be paid, free, or something in between (like a freemium)? And finally, a good developer will set realistic expectations for cost.

Know your budget

Building a quality app is not something that is done cheaply, nor should it be. Only the most basic, non-customizable apps cost as little as $20,000. The reality is that a solid, secure app can easily run you $250K, $500K, or even $1M (not including updates and maintenance).

Overall, you can expect to spend about one-third of your budget on building the UX itself, and the remaining two-thirds to be spent on development, testing, and getting listed on an app store. Whether you’re building an Apple or Android app, the listing process can be quite tricky with many criteria to be met – and it isn’t cheap either.

Download: IT Pro MBA: Budgeting

App development is a complex process, and it requires a dedicated team to get it done. In some cases, software development projects could require anywhere from 10 to 100 people. You’ll need coders, designers, engineers, project managers, business development reps, and other team members to get your app off the ground.

But the work doesn’t stop once the app has launched!

You’ll need customer care reps as well as dedicated bug fixers and maintenance engineers. The truth is that building a mobile app is expensive and will require a great deal of your team’s time and expertise.

What is necessary in an app? What isn’t?

Of course, there are ways to save money in the app building process. Start by identifying the most essential functionality for your app. What features are truly must-haves? Often in the app development process, there will be opportunities to choose between building custom software, or using low-code or no-code integrations to fit into the app.

The pre-built solutions may save time and money in the development process, but they do have their limitations and are not very customizable. Imagine the difference between a modular home and a custom-built house.

The modular house might be relatively inexpensive, and it might technically meet your needs, but it wasn’t actually built for you in particular. A custom home, on the other hand, is specifically designed for you every step of the way, but that customization can put a dent in your budget.

Ultimately, there isn’t one right answer when it comes to fully customized versus low- or no-code app building solutions. Your organization will need to weigh the costs and benefits, and determine exactly how much personalization you need in your app.

It could be that a low-code solution will get the job done just fine, or it could be that you need a custom solution because you have a very particular idea of what your app should be. When considering what features to include, focus on aspects like function and security.

The app needs to serve the customer and the business but must also diligently protect data and private information.

How long does it take to build a mobile app?

Finally, it’s essential to have realistic expectations about how long it takes to develop an app. App development is a time-intensive process, and businesses can often be blindsided by the reality of how long they take to build. At the absolute least, an app will take three months to develop.

However, most apps typically take anywhere from six months to a year to create. Even the listing process takes a long time; it takes about one full month just to get listed on Apple and Google’s app stores.

Building an app simply takes time, and a poorly executed product can have serious ramifications for your organization’s reputation.

If you rush the app building process, it will show, and you might be signing yourself up for a nightmare of bug fixes, maintenance, and damage control down the road.

You wouldn’t ask a doctor to rush while they perform surgery on you, nor would you ask a contractor to rush while they build your dream home. Don’t ask a software developer to rush while building your app.

Of the three things that companies often want in an app – speed, quality, low cost – you can typically only have two. If you don’t have a short timeline, low cost and quality are possible by scaling down the requirements. If you have a larger budget, speed and quality will be very achievable. If, for some reason, you are not interested in quality, then a quick and cheap app is doable – but if you do go this route, you will be limited to a freelancer or offshore developer, which can lead to significant quality and security issues.

Takeaways

Building a custom app is a tech decision that consumers and businesses shouldn’t approach lightly. It’s essential to have realistic expectations about the amount of time and cost that goes into building a strong app.

A good developer will not present merely one option, but rather take a consultative approach that provides you with choices. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right developer and team to make your software dreams a reality.

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