A year and a half after Apple launched its iPhone App Store, there are over 100,000 apps available, the Store has already seen more than 2 billion total downloads, and the App Store is now being discussed as Apple’s most important invention ever.
Those staggering numbers could inspire even the least tech-savvy business owner to hop on the iPhone-app-bandwagon.
Hundreds of small firms and freelancers are now specializing in building apps specifically for the iPhone. These developers take your vision, combine it with their knowledge of Apple’s platform, and come up with a program that should create a compelling and interactive experience for your clients.
Want to get in on the action? We consulted a few developers to find out how to ensure that your app dev experience goes smoothly, what you should expect to spend, and what you should know before going into the process.
Before you embark on the search for a developer, there are a few important factors to consider about what an app will do for your business, and how you should approach the development process.
Ryan Unger, Partner and Creative Director of Punchkick Interactive, advises, 'Before investing in an iPhone app, step back and ask the tough business questions about why you are developing it, who your audience is, and if it is the best medium to reach your target market.'
Pete Nofelt, Co-Founder of Perk Mobile, also suggests that you 'spend some time thinking of what the app is NOT about.'
While you are planning, consider this: 'The key to success with iPhone and mobile apps is taking 5% of what might be possible in a desktop experience and focusing on delivering that in a very easy to use app. That 5% must deliver real value to the end user or they'll never launch it a second time,' according to Alex Bratton, of LexTech. He indicates three specific questions to consider before you sit down with an app developer:
1. What is the key benefit I want a user to get from using this app?
2. What other apps exist that are competitive and why will mine be different?
3. What is this app going to do for my business?
Figuring out these elements before you dive in will focus your project and make you better able to provide your developer with precise guidelines for what you want.
Our experts were adamant in highlighting that it is not a good idea to meet with a developer without having at least some sense of the way you want your app to work.
You don't need the specifics worked out completely, but you should come to the table with a clear vision for your end goal. Raven Zachary, President of Small Society, adds, 'It's not uncommon for a developer or organisation to help refine an idea. Are you looking for someone to execute on your vision or to collaborate with? The more clarity you can provide, the easier it's going to be for someone to estimate the effort to bring it to market.'
Nofelt advises, 'Don't be afraid to ask 'How do we do this?' or 'Is this possible on the iPhone?' Beyond getting an answer, it's a great way to see if the developer is able solve complex issues or discuss technical details in a straightforward manner.'
Some developers will want more specific information. David Leary, a freelance developer based in Virginia, says, 'Before you meet with the developer, you should have a very clear goal of exactly what the app will do, how it will function, if you will want updates, how much you will charge for the app, and the budget and price you are willing to pay to have it developed.'
App development is not cheap, and the price will reflect the scope of the project and the skill of the developer. The base price to develop a simple app with a less experienced developer is around $20,000, while the cost of a more complex program with a seasoned developer can go upwards of $100,000.
Zachary says, 'Cost varies widely by the scope of the project. For larger efforts, don't be surprised if an app costs in the range of the high five figures or the low six figures. Smaller apps might only cost $15-$30k. If you're looking for an iPhone developer that has had several years of experience... expect to pay in the range of $125 to $175 an hour for this level of talent.'
Unger adds that one can 'expect 80% of all professionally managed apps to cost between $25,000 and $50,000.' According to him, that estimate should be all-inclusive, covering 'the user-interface design, functional architecture, quality assurance testing, adherence to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines where needed (which can be critical for getting approval from Apple), submission to the store, and warranted bug fixing post-deployment.'
Nofelt cautions, 'The base level price for a from-scratch project is now about $20,000 due to the level of competition. Anything super below that probably raises red flags,' a point which Zachary re-iterates nicely: 'Do it right or do it cheap -- rarely can you do both.'
- Be sure that an app is a good choice for you before you start developing -- they are not necessarily a great medium for every business
- You need to come to the table with a clear vision of your app, which your developer can then help refine
- Freelancers and agencies can both be found online
- Assess a developer's experience with Cocoa development and Apple's platform, and be sure to review their portfolio to make sure you like what they've done in the past; passion and good communication are also important qualities for this intense process
- Apps will range from $20K to $100K, and take anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on the scope of your project
- Outline a timeline for the project, allowing for review and testing, but be careful not to rush to produce a shoddy app.
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