Mobile app development can be pricey and not everyone has the budget for it. Mel Hearse shares her cost saving DIY development experience - including her top lessons learned.
As reported by research by AIMI, 76% of Aussies are using smartphones. The Queensland Government offers more detailed information on how, mobile apps can be a great way for businesses to provide better customer service, enhance customer experiences and run their business remotely. Their app development guide advises the strong need for mobile apps solve a problem for a business or their customers and allows them to do something on the move rather than on their computer or in person.
A few examples of apps that can enhance a business include:
- A wedding planner app developed by an event planner to help clients keep track of their plans.
- A literary guide to Melbourne developed for sale by a local writer working with a guide app development specialist.
- An app to help customers design modular furniture to their own specifications, developed by a furniture maker.
Things to consider
Budget: Before your business decides to go down this road, make sure you know your budget and what your client. It can easily cost from $50,000 to $100,000 to develop unless you have strong technical skills and can develop it yourself. Having recently dreamed up an idea for an app, but having no budget to plow into it, I had a hunt on the internet and discovered there are now plenty of websites around that will allow you to self-design and self-publish, with no programming skills required (listed below).
Tools: For the App Store and iTunes Connect, which is needed to submit your app, you will need access to a Mac computer. If you don’t have one, some companies will handle this side for you – you can design your app, upload it to them, and their tech support will upload to the App Store.
Support and maintenance ongoing: Good mobile apps attract repeat usage by customers, so they need to be constantly refreshed and renewed. This means that developing an app carries ongoing costs as well as the up-front development cost.
Quality: While cost is an important consideration, quality in the eyes of the user is also important. It’s better not to develop an app than to create something on the cheap that is disappointing for users and reflects badly on your business.
DIY app building tools
Spend some time looking through and choose an option that suits your budget and the complexity of the app you want.
A DIY builder will let you drag and drop in the ‘look’ you like – bright pops of color, an architectural theme, or perhaps a simple clean look.
You’ll be able to upload logos and customise your look from the basic design. You can then select the modules you want - these are basically page types enabling different functionalities, such as enabling Facebook or Twitter connectivity, tap to call and contact buttons, pages to drop text onto or even bookings, ratings, or online ordering.
Many of these sites also allow you to outline the job specifications for the full build of your app and they will come back to you with a quote. Here are some sites to start with:
This can be cheaper than engaging a developer, as they will reduce costs by using their own software modules for the basics. The site I used for example, iBuildApp.com, will custom build a basic app from US$499.
If the DIY is going to cost you or staff many work hours, DIY may wind up being a false economy. If, however, your app is simple – standard design with few modules, and therefore requiring minimal hours, DIY can be cost effective.
As mentioned, you need to think about your ongoing support needs and what capabilities you have to maintain your app. The free option for most builders listed above will come with no support or extras. Your app is also likely to come with banner advertisements, which can be removed with a fee. The benefit of free is a way to test the market with no outlay.
You can also use the free option to get started, and upgrade your package as you go if you decide you want to. In the case of my build, I originally signed up and started under the free package as I wasn’t sure how good my final DIY product would be, or how much support I would need. By the time I was ready to go, I was confident enough in my product to spend some money before its launch. I signed on for the business package because without a Mac, I needed iBuildapp.com’s tech support to upload to the Apple Store for me (including any future updates), and I found I began to rely on them more to get App Store feedback.
Once you’ve finished your app ask someone else to test the user experience, you’d be surprised what mistakes you find once its available in-store. A poorly put together app is worse than no app at all.
When submitting your app, make sure you follow the guidelines and very strict submission requirements of the App Store and Google Play. The builder I used advised me that my original version of my app was unlikely to be accepted as it didn’t offer anything more than text pages. To enhance the app so users could benefit more from the product, I added a list of further resources, including Facebook and Twitter integration and meditation modules to improve it. After waiting four weeks, I got an email from Apple saying my app was accepted and available.
If you submitting your app yourself, you will need to sign up for a developer account and pay a one-off fee of around $25 for Google Play and $99 for the App Store. These accounts will not only be where you submit your app, it’ll be where you set up pricing, sign contracts with Apple and where you can check in any time to see your sales and any ad revenue.
Marketing your app
Once your app is available to purchase, the more marketing and advertising you do, the more likely you’ll see it downloaded and used.
Apple has strict marketing guidelines around use of their logos and devices – they encourage you to market your app but would like to see their assets being used according to their brand guidelines. If you have used your app developer to submit your app, ask them to send you a copy of the most current Apple marketing guidelines. If you have your own Apple developer account, these guidelines can be accessed when you login.
Make sure you put up links to it on your website, Facebook and Twitter pages, and if it is a money generator for you, consider hiring a PR firm or investing some of the profits into Facebook advertising to increase sales.
One last note – remember your app will require updating to stay current, so do book in a regular review in your diary!