Tips For Developing An App On A Budget
Building an app isn’t cheap. To save some dough, many appsters make the mistake of sacrificing app quality or, worse, hiring cheap-but-inexperienced designers and developers. Instead of cutting corners that will likely turn out to be more expensive in the long run, try cutting costs by cutting out all the fat. A great way to do this is by taking the startup approach of creating a “minimal viable product,” or MVP.
In a nutshell, a MVP is a product built with minimum features that are just enough for the product to be viable for release and testing for the purpose of learning more about the product and its potential in the fastest, most effortless way possible.
Now that we’ve got that collective “huh?” out of the way, this is what it means for you: building a MVP app will allow you to take your big world-changing app idea and shrink it down to something you can afford to build.
Using this strategy, you can bring your app idea into fruition with a smaller budget in a shorter amount of time. For your first iteration, you’ll have a bare-bones app that will allow you to test the basics and functionality of your idea, all while buying you time to get more funding and gain the knowledge necessary for perfecting the final product.
Your grand vision might be a smorgasbord of game-ified features with points, leaderboards, and rewards topped off with heaps of in-app purchases, but those aren’t worthwhile to invest in until you know the core concept of your app strikes a chord and works. There’s no point in building a whole monetization engine with in-app purchases in your MVP if you don’t yet know if people would be even interested in using the app. – Bobby Gill, founder of the New York based app development company, Blue Label Labs.
Tips to Lower App Development Costs
- Support a single platform.
In a perfect world, every app would be available for the iPhone, Android, or any other platform that may be available at the time — except that you’ll have to tack on about 50% of the original cost to take an iPhone app and rebuild it for Android. Building for multiple platforms is neither a cost-effective nor efficient way to develop an app in its initial stages. Instagram and Foursquare both started as iOS apps and developed them into successful products before even venturing out into the Android market. So, pick one platform and stick to it, then branch out in the future when you’ve already seen some demand.
- Be Smart About Your Development Team
You are not going to create an app for free and for most companies, having your own internal development team is not an option. That means you are going to have to outsource the work to a contractor or app development company.
You need to be smart about this decision. Hiring a cheap app developer can be an attractive option, but it might not serve you well. You have to balance the cost of the service with the capabilities of the team. If you hire a developer only to find that they can’t meet the demands of the project, that is money wasted.
- Simplify design.
An app’s design shouldn’t be too complicated. For one, it’s good practice in creating the best user experience possible. Simpler designs will also save you both time and money because it won’t require you to design customized, graphics-heavy interfaces or create your own Photoshop files. Don’t be afraid to use out-of-the-box colors, fonts, and UI elements for faster, more efficient turnaround. The more you can take from the platform, the better.
- Pick one social network.
Because sharing capabilities pull data from external systems, it takes a lot more work to integrate multiple social networks into one app. For its first iteration, pick one major network (e.g., Facebook or Twitter) and nothing else. This should be enough to give you an idea of how users behave socially and which other networks would be best suited. (Trust me, you don’t need to implement every social network known to man — your app doesn’t need Instagram AND Pinterest, especially if it doesn’t even deal with images!)
- Forget Push Notifications
Skipping push notifications can be one way to control the costs of developing an app. It seems like a simple feature, but it can add a significant amount of time and money to the process. Of course, some apps might need push notifications to deliver on the promise, but if it is not crucial, this is one feature that should be considered for cutting. It can always be added in a future iteration if need be.
- Choose a screen orientation.
You know having both landscape and portrait view isn’t free, right? Apps don’t just magically transform their orientation based on whether your device is being held vertically or on its side. Someone actually has to design and code it that way. So, pick one orientation, usually portrait, and build for that in your MVP.
- Implement a feedback system.
No matter what you do, don’t ever get rid of insights. While it’s painful to cut features you love, it will hurt much more to not have any analytics or feedback mechanisms to tell you how your app is performing and what people think about it. You’ll need to invest in enough instrumentation (i.e., Flurry), app management, crash logs, and end-user support systems to get the most out of your first iteration. After all, this is what a MVP is designed to do – get you feedback on how customers use your product, help you realize what features and support you really need, and show you where your app is at its best and where it’s at its worst.
- Set Reasonable Deadlines
It is understandable if you want to get your app developed and on the market as soon as possible. With that said, tight deadlines can add to the costs. Not only that, tight deadlines can affect the finished product and increase the chance that there will be bugs or mistakes in the app you release. If you can be flexible about the release date of the app, it will cut the costs considerably.
- Use Automated Testing Solutions
There is no substitution for having humans test your app, but you can save time and cut costs by using automated testing solutions. Automated testing will allow you to run more tests at a lower cost and it will also reduce some of the human error that can come with manually testing an app. You might still need real humans to use the app to get an accurate assessment of the user experience, but automated testing can be good for testing things like functionality and reliability.
Note that a MVP or bare-bones app doesn’t mean a dull, featureless app. It just means picking and choosing the most important features that’s good enough for a first release so early adopters or beta testers can try it out and give you reliable, constructive feedback you can use for the final product. It’s about understanding the difference between must-have features and a want-to-have features. It’s about building a basic foundation and growing it into an app masterpiece.