“Apps” are the new thing, and everyone from President Barack Obama to local business owners are getting in on the action. But anyone who’s ever written Software can tell you that good Apps, just like Desktop Applications, or even Web Sites, take a LOT of work.
False hopes of finding someone willing to do the work for cheap, have folks “going overseas,” via Off-Shore companies in India, Russia, and indeed anywhere you’ll find Technology folks willing to work for a fraction of the rates charged by U.S.-based resources. Afterall, if these folks do the same thing Americans charge $50 to $100+ per hour for, what could possibly go wrong?
The true cost of Free (cheap)
Indeed there are people all over the planet capable of doing good work. But there are also people all over the world who are desperate, and when contrasted with domestic rates for similar work, it’s not surprising that people abroad will work for far less money. That, in and of itself, isn’t the problem.
The problem comes when things like different Timezones and Languages come into play. A very typical scenario involves missed deadlines, complete misunderstandings of requirements, and resulting “products” that at worst, end up being a complete waste of time and money. Sometimes it’s not that bad, but inevitably, as with any software project, Communication is paramount, and chances are, if you’re selecting a vendor, purely based on price, you’ll get exactly what you pay for, but not what you need or want.
One example, from a recent prospective client of mine, was an “app” that was supposed to be released as a native iOS App (written in Objective-C, using the iOS SDK), and a native Android App (written in Java). What was delivered, was a “cross-plaftorm,” HTML (*not* HTML5, mind you) mini-website that acted like an App. Needless to say, Apple was not impressed, and rejected the app at least twice before it was brought to me. The Android Marketplace on the other hand, accepted the HTML app as-is. But the actual Android users of the app are nonplussed at the lack of functionality and poor design. In the end, neither platform was properly built for, and the client isn’t happy. Oh, and he’ll never get a dime back of the money he wired to India.
Ultimately, this particular prospective client was so focused on money, and the fact that he had already wasted tens of thousands of dollars of his client’s money, that he wasn’t realistic about accepting the fact that the app needed to be completely re-written. The fact that the budget for the re-write was coming out of his own pocket was too much for him to deal with. In the end, he wasn’t realistic about the work that needed to be done, and what it realistically should cost. He still wanted something for nothing (especially since he’d gotten screwed the first time), and ultimately, I wasn’t able to help him for what he was willing to pay.
By the time he said “I wish I had found someone like you locally before I sent the work to India,” the damage was done, and his budget was gone.
If you’re considering the same approach, you may want to do a bit more homework on the process and the pitfalls of working with *any* vendor, not to mention one with whom you’ll have no legal remedies or recourse, should things go horribly wrong.
What is the goal of your App?
If you’re tantalized by sending Push Notifications to Users every time you have something new to promote, and you want an app that will allow you to alert your user of all your great deals, you may need some coaching on what’s possible, what’s worth spending the money on, and what will likely be ultimately approved (or with the description above, rejected) by Apple.
Let’s face it, all the neat features of Apps these days (In-App purchases, Push Notifications, etc.) make having an app, a very attractive proposition for small businesses, and individual entrepreneurs alike. But the reality is that a cheap, poorly implemented product not only isn’t good for any business’ image, but it’s not something Consumers are going to be happy about paying for. And features like Push Notifications aren’t cheap; they require a third-party service with ongoing costs.
In fact, what constitutes an App that will be approved by Apple (Android’s Marketplace is almost completely devoid of the same level of requirements) changes over time. An app that would have been approved a year ago, may not pass muster today (say an Art Gallery app, for instance). This fact, and Apple’s approval process in general, is another reason you’ll want someone local (or at least on the same continent) to help you through the process.
Gimmick or Gadget?
Is your app an actual functional piece of software that provides the User with lasting value? Or is it a cute parlor trick, lacking in any real functionality? It’s important to note that the bar (at least according to Apple), has been raised way higher than the plethora of Fart Apps that made some of the early money of the (mobile) App era.
And while that may seem trivial (of course you’re not building a Fart app), it’s important to realize that an Idea is only a *small* part of the equation. Successful apps are successful in part because they’re based on a great idea, but more so because the people who have developed those apps have had the experience, understanding (of Apple’s Guidelines), and ability to create something better than average. If your app isn’t “better than average,” you may be in for a difficult time getting the app approved and in the App Store.
Woohoo! We’re in the App Store! – Now what?
As exciting as it is to get an app approved and on the App Store, it’s only the first step. You’ll need to get your app in front of lots of eyeballs before you start seeing any consistent revenue. And that’s not an easy thing to do.
Marketing apps has become it’s own industry, and there are almost as many people offering App Marketing Services as there are people offering App Development Services. And good marketing, as with good development, isn’t generally (save for the 0.0001% of folks who luck out) a cheap prospect.
How much is the success of your app worth?
It always surprises me when I talk with people who say something like the following,
“I’ve got this Killer idea for an app, and $1,000 to spend on it”
I get that we all have limitations to our budgets. But step back for a minute and think about this kind of position. It says that despite how “killer” the idea is, the person is only willing to spend an absolute minimum on it. Is it any wonder that the end result may not be the Killer success you hope for? It may sound silly, but this mentality, that one can simply hire someone to build an app, pay them the equivalent of $5/hr, and then reap Millions of dollars, is ridiculous, and if you’re caught in that belief, do yourself a favor and reconsider.
“But people are making money on small apps all the time,” you may be thinking. And you’d be right. But it’s the people building the apps who are making that money, generally speaking, NOT the person who hired someone to build an app. And in today’s “I can get it for cheaper” world, not only are these apps not Best Sellers, but they’re the bain of any decent App Developer’s existence. It makes it that much harder to help people when they’ve spent money, have little to nothing to show for it, but need help getting their product/app to market.
If you really have a great idea, and you find the right resource to help you build it, why wouldn’t you want to give it every opportunity of succeeding? If you think that you’ll be one of the 0.0001% of people who strike it rich on Apps, and aren’t willing to spend a reasonable amount of money to see it built and marketed properly, I can tell you, from experience, that you probably won’t find the App riches you’re expecting.