We’re going to assume that you haven’t developed a digital product before – even if you have, it’s reasonable to assume that you have some app development questions. Since we’ve built just about everything, we want to cover some of the most common queries we encounter in our line of work.
Building an app is a considerable investment as it has the potential to drastically change your business or even be a successful business in itself. Like any big decision, it’s a lot easier when you know what you’re up against, though you might not always love the answer. Here, we’re going to cover a handful of pressing questions most find themselves asking when seriously considering an app.
Q&A: 7 common app development questions
Let’s just jump in, shall we? Below are the most common questions we hear as we lead up to the start of a project.
1. Do I actually need a mobile app and what else is there?
What draws you to an app? You can build software to solve just about any problem but it’s also a responsibility. It could be that are less involved solutions that might suit your needs, so it’s important to first establish that an app is the best choice for the problem you’re trying to solve. Just because all the cool kids are doing it doesn’t mean that it will work for you if you don’t have solid answers (or at least, good theories) to address questions such as ‘who is your audience’ and ‘why will they use your app?’ It’s a big investment that often takes a while to pay off, plus it needs to be maintained over time so if you’re not planning for the long term so it’s best to be prepared for the road ahead on top of being sure that an app is what you want.
Keep in mind, some ideas don’t transpose to effective software so it’s important to recognize when testing indicates low engagement. Pay attention to your user behavior during testing to build to their needs and understand when results show it might be best to step back and rethink your solution. There are also times different digital products like a website might be the better option which is something to factor into the decision-making process.
2. How much does an app cost and how long does it take to build?
Perhaps the biggest of the app development questions we’re asked is, “How much will it cost?” To give our readers an idea of what goes into a serious app development endeavor, we’ve put together this handy infographic that details the various costs that go into digital product development and some deeper insights.
Simple apps with a few screens and minimal logic that an undergrad can build in a few weeks might only cost $5000 but business-centric apps that need the utmost attention to detail, functionality, and security are much pricey to build and market. Not only does it cost a hefty sum to get started, but there are also ongoing maintenance costs to consider which is especially important as only a few apps that go viral after release are profitable at first. This means you need to be prepared for the time it takes to get an MVP to the market as well as the time it takes to “warm up” after being released to the market.
Right behind the cost query is the matter of how long it takes to get to the market, which we discussed after the infographic. It can take between two and six months to get an MVP to market but you should be shooting for the former by keeping your first iteration minimal, as the name suggests.
3. Should I hire an agency or build my own team?
Deciding between an agency and assembling a team depends on your ability to vet the skills of the individuals you’ll need to build, support, and market your product. The reason most businesses go with an agency over contracting a crew of individuals is that it’s a turnkey solution and there’s usually a trail of breadcrumbs you can follow to learn about their capabilities.
Then, there’s Adam who you found on Upwork that has a good rate and a solid history, both on and off the platform. Adam does great on most projects but there’s some he buries from his portfolio because things didn’t pan out because of team dysfunction, sometimes involving him. The point is, you can’t always expect everyone you select to vibe where the possibility for serious disruption is much greater. For example, we know who plays best together so we can assign teams to projects accordingly.
Of course, agencies aren’t always perfect and some are better than others. When talking with an agency, make sure you understand how to assess a proposal – both the actual content and the meta – to get a good grasp on if they’re a fit before moving forward.
4. Should I build for iOS or Android?
Or… why not both? Today, cross-platform frameworks like our favorite, React Native, stand out as an optimal choice as it allows us to develop a native app for each platform using mostly (i.e. about 80%) of the same code. This gives you maximum exposure which is ideal for apps designed to generate revenue and businesses such as healthcare to ensure no one is left out. It will cost a bit more but it gives you two products in the end but it’s much less expensive when compared to developing two separate apps from the ground up using different frameworks.
With that said, there are some cases where there’s little to no reason to target both platforms. For example, you could be building an app like the barista app we built for Cirque Coffee which acts as a viewer for customer mobile orders – the idea was to run the app on inexpensive Android tablets which are more cost-effective for the organization than outfitting locations with iPads.
Now, if your goal is to create an app that targets an audience that’s most likely to casually spend money on a product or service, you may want to stick with just iOS app development, at least at first. The numbers show that iOS users are more likely to spend money in an app for virtually every market. This is ultimately more expensive than just building two from the start, but it gives you time to learn more about your audience to fine-tune your offering. Plus, if your app is doing well, there will some anticipation which usually means the subsequent app will often perform well out the gate.
5. How do I know I’m building something users want?
While not the most common of the app development questions we’re asked, it is the most important. Going back to point to one, you’ve identified that an app is in your best interest but how well it will perform can be unclear. This is why we use a Design Sprint as it allows us to turn over all the stones, get things on paper, and test a prototype with real people to see and listen to how they respond. Start building interest early if you get a green light to build the product and encourage feedback as this works to both help you gauge performance and it helps attract attention.
6. What’s the best way to make money in an app?
You should at least have some idea and no it can’t be from the peanuts you’re paid to run ads. Think bigger as people will open their wallets when they see value in your offerings. You can have a freemium app, but you’ll need to offer some feature or service that users can obtain through either in-app purchases (IAP) or in-app subscriptions (IAS) to generate revenue.
For apps that are designed to augment a business, like a healthcare booking app, you can measure value in terms of metrics like retention rates. Just remember, an app isn’t going to bring about a miracle if it’s not adopted and used accordingly, nor will it solve underlying issues with your organization. If people are leaving your practice because they’re still spending too much time at your office because you try to squeeze in too many visits or accept walk-ins to the point of significant disruption to your scheduled patients then don’t blame the app.
7. How do I market an app once it’s launched?
If you’re waiting until after the app is launched to begin marketing, you’ve probably screwed up. We like to call attention to the bopdrop app we developed that received thousands of downloads on its first day and broke the App Store’s ‘top app’ list. Though the marketing was unconventional as the founder, Matt Krause, did a lot of it himself by tapping into his network to spread the word while the app was in development, the takeaway here is that your need to plant the seed with your target audience before the app is publicly available.
Once it’s out there, you’ll need tools for ASO and SEO, along with people to generate content for different channels. If you’re lucky, big names might come to you or name drop your business in their article, like our client JAXJOX as you can see in this Forbes article. Still, ongoing marketing and a regular stream of informative content that can draw users to your platform is simply part of the game so make sure you have a team who is actively working to generate attention to your product.
We shed light on the shadows cast by app development questions
At Blue Label Labs we believe in using the most sophisticated tools on the market to leverage our successes and deliver the best product possible. Poetry aside, we want our clients to understand the scope of what goes into app ownership as it can end up being a burden if you fail to deliver in some regard. Get in touch with us to learn more about app ownership and how we can turn your idea into a valuable digital asset.
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