How to find and work with a freelance mobile developer

Sometimes, hiring a freelance developer is the only option you have – whether it’s due to budget concerns, or the need to fill-in a missing link in your internal IT department is too pressing to conduct a search using your own resources and time.

Freelance developers come with the benefit of a lower hourly rate – but if not carefully vetted, prepared, and managed, freelancers’ benefits can be overshadowed by never-ending development cycles, un-met goals, and low-quality products.

Finding a freelance developer

When searching for a freelance developer, nothing is better than a referral from a trusted source – if that isn’t an option, however, there are a few sites online you can trust, and many you should do your best to avoid.

One such site that you can trust is TopTal. The Android and iOS developers that you’ll find on TopTal have been vetted, and only the top 3% of talent is accepted. The developers on this site all come with proven track records, and verifiable experience.

TopTal even offers their own form of freelance project management; a TopTal representative will keep track of your project’s progress, as well as making sure you remain satisfied with the level of work being produced.

Another site that heavily vets freelance developers is Hired. This company only accepts the top 5% of freelance developers, in a similar fashion as TopTal. Just like TopTal, Hired will only accept developers with extensive experience in the industry.

The last site we’re going to cover is gun.io. If you’re a company looking to fill in a skill gap in your development team, gun.io has you covered – they specialize in finding the best talent for your development and engineering departments. gun.io also, (like TopTal and Hired) vets candidates throughly, so you can expect a candidate who knows what they’re doing.

There is one issue with going the route of upper-echelon freelance talent, however: hourly rate. Due to these companies listed above doing so much vetting (and sometimes project management) of their own, you’ll be paying a much higher hourly rate than when compared to the usual rates you’ll find on a site like Upwork or Fiverr.

We also highly encourage you to make sure your freelance developer goes through your own vetting process, in order to make sure they will work well within the framework of your team or company.

Working with a freelance developer

When working with a freelance developer, the most important step you can take to ensure a productive development cycle is to quickly establish a strong line of communication – if you can afford it, face-to-face meetings are always the best way to start building the relationship necessary to develop an app.

Also, make use of as many communication tools as possible – this can include video, messaging services like Slack, phone, and of course email. Make sure to set the tone yourself – be the first one to reach out after a contract has been signed. You’ll want to make sure your project manager assigned to your freelance developer is quickly responding to communications from them – freelancers also expect clients to be responsive.

This is because if your freelance developer has a question, they won’t be able to proceed until you have answered it. Even if the project manage doesn’t have the answer in that instant, they should respond with a quick message explaining that they have seen the communication, and are working to find the answer.

If a freelance developer feels like they are being ignored, they will move on to a different project with one of their other clients – the majority of freelancers work with multiple clients – so you’ll need to be extra attentive to any questions that will arise during your app’s development.

During the building of this new business relationship, you’ll want to set clear goals for the product you expect, and the gates of approval your freelance developer should expect. It is best if you can have a clearly defined tech doc detailing the features and capabilities of the product you want.

Also make sure to provide samples of what you would like your final product to look like – this will help during the design phase from reiterating and editing work, which can severely bloat the budget of your project before it even truly begins.

Another good practice is to hire a consultant to check over the code your freelance developer has produced – you’ll want to make sure the code that is written is easily decipherable. If it isn’t, you might have to start the development process over again as soon as your app needs to be updated.

Freelance developers make a living by continuously taking on and completing projects – it is rare to find a freelancer who is willing to stay available for a single client, and because of this, you’ll most likely need to find a new freelance developer when the time comes to update your app.

For this reason you’ll want to make sure the codebase produced is incredibly robust and well-structured, or else you’ll be forced to choose between abandoning the codebase, or waiting for the freelance developer to become available again (which in some cases, can take months).

Freelancers can be either be a blessing or a burden

With careful planning, attentive management, and open communication you have a good chance of developing a great app. By ensuring your codebase is strong and easily readable, you can make sure your app stands up to the test of continuous updates.

To find out how much it cost to update an app, check out our blog on the topic.

MVP + Agile methodology

Developing a MVP app using the agile methodology of project management is a powerful combination for any enterprise, appreneur, or startup seeking to prove the validity of their idea. Before we get into this combination, however, let’s first look into what a MVP is, as well as agile methodology.

What is a MVP?

A MVP (in regards to app development) is an app that utilizes the smallest number of features possible in order to a) cut the time of production, b) reduce the total cost of development, and c) gain customer validation and insight.

MVP stands for:

Minimum – the minimum set of features a product can have while still remaining…

Viable – to provide value to customers, so they are willing to engage with the…

Product – which is ready to be used for consumption.

While a MVP app is a great way to get to market both faster and cheaper than a conventional app, the true value is the customer insight a MVP provides. Due to the utilitarian nature of a MVP app’s feature set, early adopters of your app are able to request additional features based upon the core functionality of your app, and you don’t send time backtracking and re-developing entire sections of your codebase in order to replace features your users didn’t even want.

The feedback your MVP will receive will also be much more precise and reliable than if you were to spend resources conducting preliminary product focus groups; customers will use your app in many different situations and settings, will compare its usefulness to other apps they use regularly, and will have more time to engage with your app before providing feedback.

What is Agile?

Agile is a widely-popular methodology for app development. Agile development, at its core, is about incremental improvements; teams work in sprints to complete objectives, such as “successfully implement in-app payment,” or “build out user profile UI.” During these sprints, developers will meet to discuss what they have accomplished, and what they are stuck on.

A developer’s code will be tested, and after passing code review, will be added to the true codebase of the app, known as the master branch. Once an objective has been successfully implemented, the team will move on to the next feature. Over the course of development, this process will continue until a complete app is built.

The benefits to an Agile method of development are numerous, but three stick out: speed, reliability, and adaptability. This development methodology is fast because code isn’t implemented until it is tested and reviewed, therefore creating a robust codebase, which allows for easy post-development updating.

Due to these aforementioned benefits, Agile methodology has practically become a standard for developers; each dev shop will put their own twist on things, but the overall process of adding to the master branch incrementally remains largely intact. With user retention being so closely entwined with app updates, having a reliable and structured codebase like that provided by Agile is important; developers often must push out app updates on quick timetables when a new OS releases, or a new device is released to market.

MVP + Agile

Just like Agile, MVPs are based around quick development cycles, and just like MVPs, Agile methodology revolves around improving a codebase via continual, incremental updates. Due to their overlapping nature, these two methodologies fit perfectly together, and create a development environment that is both highly stable and cost efficient.

In order to successfully merge these two methodologies, you will need to make use of careful planning to ensure product market fit. While every app will face different development hurdles, and therefore travel a different path, a MVP app developed in an Agile environment should include the following steps after the initial development cycle:

1 – Testing

Testing is the number on step on this list for a reason – without it, all the following steps are based on flawed data. Apple makes conducting a beta test simple with TestFlight, a service which allows you to host an app for a limited beta test release.

This is why we recommend developing your MVP app for iOS.

This gives you the environment you need to allow beta test users to download and engage with your app. In order to ensure your beta test has enough participants, you’ll want to cultivate a following on social media beforehand.

2 – Community engagement

By engaging with your early adopters, you can drastically reduce the total cost of your app’s development through crucial customer insight. This benefit is the reason so many big names in the tech industry started out as MVPs: Google, Airbnb, Dropbox, Buffer, Uber, Facebook, and Snapchat, to name a few.

The crucial aspect to customer insight is true customer engagement. Throughout your beta test, respond to criticism and compliments alike – and when users request a feature, implement it. If a user leaves a rating and review after your MVP has launched on the App Store or Google Play, respond, and if they have requested a fix, implement that fix.

By showing this level of care, you will ensure the customer feedback you are receiving is truly insightful – while simultaneously creating an engaging and value-producing product.

3. Continual updates

Going hand-in-hand with step 2, continual updates are key to any app’s user retention metric. Users are constantly demanding new innovation and a better experience – which is a huge driving factor behind the need for UI design updates. Security risks play a significant role in this as well.

Incremental, insightful improvements

With a MVP product developed using Agile methodology, you are ensuring the development of your app is both fast and cost effective; with direct and low-cost customer insight and structured code implementations leading to robust user experiences, your app can quickly collect and retain a growing audience that both proves the value of your product and adds to it.

Improving your company’s productivity with an enterprise app

Every business stands to boost their employee productivity, and therefore their revenue through the integration of their internal systems with an enterprise platform. The development of a true enterprise platform doesn’t just mean an app your employees can access via their smartphone – in essence, enterprise platforms are designed with the purpose of optimizing your work processes, systems, and communication.

There’s never been a better time to deploy your very own enterprise app – AI enhanced analytical services are more affordable than ever before, and industry legacy systems are quickly getting outpaced by their big-data-optimized counterparts – soon, companies that don’t make use of their own enterprise platform will find their speed as a company lagging behind competition, and their employees leaving in favor of a company more engaged with its workforce.

The impact of enterprise app deployment

According to a report from software giant Adobe, companies that invest in an enterprise platform see a 35% ROI. A substantial number of companies reported increased productivity (51%), as well as better employee communication (47%), and reduced operating costs (31%).

Numbers like these are nothing to ignore – which is why, according to the same report, 67% of businesses are using an enterprise app. Many of the same problems enterprise apps help to alleviate are widespread concerns throughout different industries: 55% of companies site the need for improved communication, and 54% of companies struggle to keep up with their ever growing mobile workforce.

Enterprise apps, are, of course, the best tool for improving employee communications and connectedness – whether in the office or out in the field.

Productivity through connectivity

Over half of the companies from this report acknowledge that staying connected with their employees out in the field is a prescient issue, and according to a poll from Gallup, 70% of the workforce is disengaged – reasons reported include:

  • Lack of feedback or direction from their manage
  • Lack of socialization with their team
  • Lack of understanding of company mission and values
  • Lack of proper communication between the employee and manager
    • When you’re an employee out in the field doing maintenance on an HVAC system or switch hub, or a business developer building relationships with potential clients, it’s easy to feel detached from the company you work for.

      It’s even easier to fall out of the loop – today’s business environment is one of continuous change, every minute of every day. A business developer needs to know the latest market forecast based on stock data, the latest environmental regulations for building permits, if the potential client’s favorite team is playing that week.

      Knowing the fine details your clients will care about is key to driving sales – and no business developer has the time to keep up with all of these data points for every potential client. Building client profiles based on specific verticals that automatically aggregate pertinent data is the most efficient method of keeping your business developers who are out in the field continuously on top of their game – and continuously impressing clients with their personalized conversations and service.

      Enterprise systems do more than keeping your employees in the loop; they are highly efficient at tracking and organizing physical inventory as well. Via an enterprise platform your sales, service, and accounting departments can view the same inventory data in real time. Enterprise systems are built to work within your already existent environment, and can therefore connect the individual systems these departments use.

      For instance, if your service department sells an item to a customer at a store, your accounting team will be notified of the sale immediately before submitting a new revenue report – just as your sales manager is made aware of the change in the item lot size before shaking hands with a client who wants the same item.

      Enterprise systems don’t just connect individual departments’ ability to manage inventory – it also helps your company predict when sales will happen, and when the optimal time to order more inventory will be, based on patterns that are recognizable through big data analytics. When you can optimize your ordering times, you maximize your inventory turnaround, and increase your ability to manage more product, or more types of products.

      Big data is the key to optimization

      When combined with AI, analytics, and machine learning, big data gives enterprises the information they need in order to stay a step ahead of their competition through inferred business intelligence.

      Overwhelmingly, throughout recent years, the vast majority of data that has been created is classified as “unstructured” data – meaning it is data found in documents like emails, recordings, telecommunications, video – and only 0.5% of it has been analyzed.

      Enterprises, unsurprisingly, sit on a proverbial mountain of this unstructured data – and via predictive analytics and other forms of data aggregation systems, these companies can access and analyze big data more intricately and faster than ever before.

      Through big data, companies can recognize patterns that interrupt workflow and productivity that might otherwise be unrecognizable without viewing the problem with the scope big data analytics makes possible.

      Take, for instance, the decision of UPS to not make left turns; they invested in a software that mapped the United States (as well as most of the world), in order to nearly eradicate left turns from their parcel delivery truck routes. This decision ended up saving the company over 20 million gallons of fuel every year. Without big data, creating these avenues for efficiency is impossible, or less efficient than it would be with big data integration.

      Venture ahead via enterprise platforms

      Improving your company’s productivity requires more than just a mobile app – a truly integrated system must work within your enterprise environment as soon as it is deployed. For more about proper deployment, visit our blog on the topic: Enterprise app development.

      An enterprise platform gives your company the ability to improve productivity, communications, systems management, and employee loyalty via one system – and simultaneously gives you a leg up on your competition.

Onshore vs. offshore: Cost vs. value

We live in a truly global age – theoretically, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up your phone and video chatting someone in Nepal, other than the fact that you probably don’t have a contact that lives in Nepal (or, if you’re reading this from Nepal, video chatting with someone in Paris, Texas).

If you’re reading this from the US, there’s a few good reasons you don’t have a contact who lives in Nepal (unless you do have a contact who lives in Nepal): time, distance, and language. It’s pretty difficult to create a relationship with someone who’s asleep when you’re awake, lives 6,000 miles away, and doesn’t speak the same language as you.

As this piece published by Medium states, offshore software development can potentially be four times cheaper than software built in the US or Europe, but for the reasons listed above – and more which we’ll cover below – when put into practice, offshore development usually ends up costing you more money.

Why? As we’ve written about before, the cost of app development (and any form of software development, in fact) comes down to the following equation: feature set + scale + hourly rate = total development cost.

Yes, hourly rate is one of the major determining factors to the cost of development, and yes, offshore development tends to be cheaper than onshore – but, so too are feature set and scale included in the equation. Development of an app’s feature set requires significant communication between developers and clients, and as distance increases, so to does your operating scale.

Distance = time

Unsurprisingly, the majority of differences between onshore and offshore development arise from distance more than anything else – even if both parties are speaking the same native language, a choppy wi-fi signal, when transmitted internationally, can cause major disruption to communication comprehension. This problem is of course compounded when accounting for language barriers.

There’s more to distance than its purely physical definition – cultural distance is a major disruptor to the time it takes to develop an app. UI design is a language unto itself, and depending on what culture your designer is from, you many not be supplied with a UI that fits the tastes of your target market.

Take, for instance, this app made for the Brazilian market. For many users in less-digitally-developed countries, smartphones are their only method of accessing the internet. Therefore, apps are designed to do as many things as possible, and utilize bright color palettes to convey feeling rather than responsiveness and tight animations that exemplify onshore UI design.

This does mean, however, that when creating an app that is to be used across multiple countries and cultures, it’s best to find designers from each region to create region-specific layouts, in order to best attract your individual niche markets.

Finally, as we previously mentioned above, there is always the logistical aspect of developing an app with someone half-a-world away. Questions about current build iterations usually come up at the beginning of the day, not the end – which when working with a team on a 12-hour time delay, can equate to a full day of work lost for that particular developer.

If a developer has a question at the start of their day for you, and your day doesn’t start for another twelve, there’s no way for that developer to progress – full-day-delays can lead to adding an entire extra week onto your development timeline over the course of a project measured in weeks; and for projects measured in months, entire extra seasons can be added onto your turn-around time.

Communication

An iOS app developed in India is written using the same language as one developed in the US. Software languages don’t change depending on the developer’s geographical location – but documentation does.

Clear documentation is absolutely necessary to a successful software handoff – if you’re a company with your own internal IT department, you might be forced to spend significant amounts of time either reading tens of thousands of lines of code, or talking to your offshore development team for clarification.

Improper documentation doesn’t just cause problems during development – it causes deployment issues during updates as well. It’s smart to estimate your time spent communicating with your offshore team will take four times as long as it would when compared to an on-shore team, when accounting for delays caused by language barriers and timezone differences.

Logistics

Working closely with an offshore developer can create nightmarish amounts of red tape. Scheduling a meeting with an offshore developer can mean paying for multiple international tickets, hotel expenses, meals, visas, and much more. It shouldn’t cost your company thousands of dollars to hold one face-to-face client meeting.

There’s a reason in-person meetings are so important – meeting with a potential business partner in real life is the best way to determine whether or not you should place your trust in them. Placing your trust in a company that has no personal connection to you can lead to some severe repercussions, especially when paired with the more lax security and privacy laws offshore developers are subjected to.

IPs are also less protected when developed offshore, and if your intellectual property is stolen, your international legal fees can add substantial bloat to your operational budget.

Everyone knows the old saying “you get what you pay for,” and in regards to offshore vs. onshore development, this adage still rings true. Domestic developers have more of a stake in maintaining their reputation with clients, as offshore developers have the ability to move from project to project without repercussion – meaning the quality of your app’s code can suffer over time as it deteriorates from lack of updates.

With a domestic developer, you’re much more likely to receive an upgradable, adaptable, and understandable codebase for your app – don’t sacrifice long-term stability for short term profits.

How much does it cost to build an app like Waze?

How much does it cost to make an app like Waze?

Feature set + scale + hourly rate = total development cost. This equation serves as a high-level overview of the factors that influence the cost of developing an app. All of these variables are influenced by time.

The more features an app has, the more time it takes to plan, design, and build. The larger the apps scale, the more time is spent building and testing networks and servers. The higher the hourly rate, the more valuable your time becomes.

This is what makes giving an exact estimate in regards to the question “how much does it cost to develop x app?” impossible – depending on who makes it, and the scale of the app being made, your development costs can vary drastically. If Waze were only available in a single city, the shift in scale would equal a huge reduction in operating costs – but so too would the app’s revenue tank.

Speaking of revenue, let’s go over where Waze stands right now, and how it got there:

The second most popular mapping app in the US

Waze is a real-time navigation app that provides directions based on real-time data provided by its users. In 2013, Waze boasted over 36 million users, and was bought out by Google in the same year for about one billion dollars. Currently, Waze is home to more than 110 million monthly active users, and makes an annual revenue estimated at $37.7 million.

The digital navigation market is big, and growing: the industry is expected to produce over $34 billion in revenue by the year 2021. Navigation apps stand to make a lot of money in the coming years, especially with the rise in proximity marketing campaigns being utilized by local businesses.

What makes Waze go?

Waze, as we stated above, makes use of crowdsourced, user-fed information to provide navigation and directions that avoid road hazards like traffic, construction, speed traps, and other things on the road that can lead to a delay in travel.

There’s a lot more that the app does. Let’s go through the entire feature set:

Register / Log in

It may seem like an unnecessary step for a navigation app, but Waze smartly added gamification to their app. Users can travel to certain locations to pick up candy, which gives them points. As users gain points, they level up, and as they level up, they gain access to new features that improve their experience within the app. None of these features are critical to the function of the app itself, but provide little bonuses. In order for the app to keep track of a user’s level and points, they must be able to create an account, which would then connect to a data table hosted on a remote server.

GPS / Mapping / Navigation / Turn-by-turn voice directions

Waze uses its own SDK to provide GPS mapping and navigation services, and integrates with voice to provide users with audio-based directions.

Native integrations

Waze integrates with the device’s native camera functionality as well as the photo storage folder, so users can take and upload photos of current traffic conditions.

Real-time updating and machine learning

As the app collects users’ information about current road conditions, the app will send out alerts via in-app messaging to warn users in the same area about the road hazards. The app then uses machine learning to suggest the fastest, most optimal route based on their current location and destination.

Social integrations

Waze allows its users to connect their Facebook and Instagram to their Waze profile. Via this social integration, users can interact via DMs sent through Waze to either Facebook or Instagram. Through this social media integration, Waze users are able to find their friends in order to give them a ride without leaving the app.

User ratings and reviews

Users are able to rate and review businesses and locations they visited on their road trip, therefore providing other Waze users with useful information in the future. These ratings and reviews would need to be stored in a data table located on a remote server that is accessible to all users.

Ridesharing

Waze does utilize ridesharing, but it does it differently when compared to apps like Uber or Lyft. By utilizing machine learning, this service, dubbed Waze Rider, learns a user’s most frequent routes, and then matches them up with other Waze users, creating a carpool.

Planned drive

Users are able to plan out a drive in advance by entering in their departure and destination, as well as their travel dates. Waze, using machine learning, will then give the user a pre-planned route based on the dates given and time of day. This helps users plan ahead while being sure that the conditions they are planning for will be the ones they actually face.

Google Calendar Synchronization

Waze can sync with a user’s google calendar, automatically creating a list with the user’s appointments for their drive.

Spotify integration

Waze users can integrate their Spotify account so they can listen to music while receiving directions, and can receive directions while listening to music.

All in all, to develop the features listed above into one cohesive app, your total cost would range from $250,000 to $500,000 – this high cost is mainly due to the features that rely on machine learning – AI isn’t cheap. While the development and implementation of an AI enhanced machine learning feature can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $250,000, the other features Waze makes use of still account for a significant portion of the app’s development cost.

It all comes down to maintenance

The true cost of an app like Waze comes after development ends – providing maintenance and updates to your app is a continuous task – and for an app that relies so heavily on real-time updating, server maintenance and optimization will be an ever-growing addition to your budget. These costs are necessary to the longevity of your app, and without updates, your app will soon begin to dwindle.

Want to know how much it costs to update an app? Or, check out how much it costs to implement real-time updates.

Enterprise app development

Enterprise app development is more than simply building an app for a business – an enterprise developer must account for a multitude of challenges, including complex and vast internal systems, legacy software, manual processes, deploying within an already existing environment, and much more.

Having the ability to quickly integrate a corporation’s highly intricate and intertwined internal business systems within a single mobile software solution requires an entirely different skill set than other forms of software development; it necessitates that the developer understands both the corporation’s systems as well as their app’s system architecture.

In short, there’s a big difference between developing an app for an entrepreneur with an idea, or an enterprise level business with a plan for complete mobile integration throughout their existing systems.

Developing for enterprise

Successful deployment in an enterprise environment is akin to changing a car’s tire while maintaining speed – but with careful planning, clear documentation, and the creation of replicative test environments, it can be achieved.

The following are processes most enterprises should consider when planning for the development of a system-integrating app:

  • Change management
  • Project management
  • Approval gates
  • Environment integration

Also be aware that for your own internal IT department, a software development project precludes the signs of increased risk and systems maintenance – below, you’ll find steps your development partner can take in order to minimize the burden put on your own IT department.

Enterprise structure

Structuring an app to the enterprise environment requires significant communication and documentation – the ultimate goal of any enterprise software development is to ensure your development partner properly manages the project, so you own IT department can continue to focus on ITSM and ITIL.

In order to achieve this, your development partner should always provide you with a statement of work that covers all assumptions – this helps to ensure time spent in development is used efficiently, and helps alleviate speed bumps if changes arise such as an increase in burn rate.

There is no such thing as too much documentation – it’s a good idea to make it a rule that in order for any change to pass through your change approval and governance gates, the change must include supporting documentation. This helps to take some of the burden of learning an entirely new system away from your internal IT department.

Doing so will also both simplify and quicken the process of ultimately handing off management of your new enterprise software to your internal IT department – the proverbial changing of the tire.

Before any development begins, it’s important to make sure your BSA has throughly run through the entirety of the proposed app’s feature set, systems architecture, process structure, and risk assessment. After the entirety of the tech stack is defined (define your tech stack as early as possible), and requirements gathering is complete (for enterprise apps, this usually consists of large quantities of data aggregation), development can begin.

Deploying in the enterprise environment

Most enterprise systems are spread out across multiple environments – requiring communication between multiple types of applications, devices, APIs, and data.

Gone are the days when an ESB (enterprise service bus) would suffice – this centralized methodology of technology and teams causes a bottleneck in the flow of information and delay integration between the components of your business systems. A distributed system architecture with multiple reusable endpoints such as this is both more robust and more adaptive than the old ESB model as well.

In order to effectively integrate with an environment that allows for communication between multiple systems and layers, you’ll need to ensure your development partner allocates enough time to test your under-development app in a replicative environment. If your environment exists on premise or in the cloud, you’ll need to account for that during testing. Utilizing all devices that will be integrated – from routers to smartphones – is essential too.

To fully integrate your various systems, you’ll need to make use of messaging, application connectors, data streams, enterprise integration patterns, and APIs throughout your enterprise environment – depending on your data and architecture needs, some of these may be unnecessary.

Messaging

Messaging provides a channel for the various components in a distributed system through which to communicate with each other. This allows components to both send and receive messages in different languages, compliers, and even operating systems – messages can all be read with the use of one unified format and protocol.

Application connectors

These architectural elements provide the rules for how components interact with each other. Because they are standard class connections that are customizable to APIs, they can be quickly integrated with new endpoints.

Data streams

Aptly named, data streams provide an avenue for a continuous flow of data that applications distributed throughout your architecture can add to or consume from, independent of the data that is being transferred.

Enterprise integrations patterns

Referred to as EIPs, these are collections of solutions to common integration problems – these rely heavily on proper and through software documentation.

Application programming interfaces

APIs are a set of tools, definitions, and protocols that provides functionality in the form of a feature set by communicating with, and requesting data from a different set of software that does not require implementation.

How to choose your enterprise development partner

While it may be tough to convince your CFO, it’s much more important to pick the development company with a robust management structure and portfolio over the developer with the lower hourly rate.

Knowing your app is properly managed during development is a much better factor for determining the total cost of its development than comparing hourly rates. Mismanaged software can lead to delays measured in months, or sometimes, even years.

Take this example of the nationally-renowned web dev company Accenture and their mismanagement of website redevelopment for the car rental company Hertz. Hertz paid the web developer $32 million – and still didn’t have a functional website.

If you want to ensure smooth development for your enterprise-level app, always choose the partner that displays the most knowledge about your specific needs as a business. If you’d like examples of how enterprise apps can improve your company’s efficiency, culture, and other aspects, we’ve written quite a few on the topic:

Hiring an app agency vs. an app freelancer

What is the more cost effective option; an app development agency, or a freelance app developer? While there’s plenty of pros and cons to assign to either, it is our belief that ultimately, when presented with the entirety of an app’s lifecycle, hiring an app development agency is the better choice.

Why? Because apps are never truly finished products – they exist in a medium that necessitates constant and continuous improvement. When your product exists in a space that sees users demanding the best features, the fastest loading times, and the most up-to-date UI, you need to ensure your app’s code is accessible, modifiable, and organized.

Below, you’ll find the pros of cons of hiring an app development agency versus a freelance app developer, via a comparison of both options throughout each step in the development process:

Finding an agency vs. finding a freelancer

Whether you’re searching for a freelancer or a development agency, you’ll want to begin online – however, do your best to stay away from Google or other search engines.

For freelance app developers, sites like UpWork or Clutch or The Manifest. All of these sites function very similarly; you can search for developers based on certain criteria, and find contact information (whether through the aggregate site or their own) in order to begin the vetting process.

While it’s (usually) easier to find a freelance developer, you’ll find development agencies are (again, usually) more responsive.

Hiring an agency vs. hiring a freelancer

The difference in vetting a freelance app developer versus an app development agency marks where the process starts to noticeably deviate depending on which route you take. You’ll find freelancers’ CVs and portfolios to be very skillset driven – this is because freelance developers tend to specialize in developing one type of app.

App development agencies, on the other hand, will usually focus on presenting potential clients with examples of past projects and experience – this is because agencies employ a team of developers who each specialize in different aspects of app development – this diversity of knowledge allows agencies to work on a wider array of apps.

Agencies rely on steady clients, and therefore tend to take NDAs (and business partnerships in general) more seriously than freelancers – freelancers are, however, more likely to adjust to client demands.

Agency capability vs. freelancer capability

The complexity, scale, and scope of your app will largely determine if freelance development is even a viable option. As previously mentioned, freelancers tend to specialize in developing one type of app: such as eCommerce, productivity, or event apps, for example. Not only does this specialization narrow freelancers’ capabilities to the development of a single type of app, it often means freelancers are only capable of deploying in one environment, and developing for one platform.

Development agencies, however, will make use of the multiple skill sets available to them. These full-stack agencies can create any app, large or small, for any system, and for either platform: Android, or iOS (because Android and iOS utilize different code bases, it is exceedingly rare to find a freelancer capable of developing both Android and iOS apps).

Even when coding for a single platform, programming an app requires two different skillsets – frontend and backend development. For this reason, app agencies will employ programmers for both; frontend developers build out the UI and connect the functionality of the app’s features to the UI. Backend developers program the app’s logic architecture, set-up and implement servers, and connect APIs to their respective endpoints.

Agencies also utilize other tangential skillsets in order to improve the quality of the product that is developed; UI/UX designers create the visual design and flow of the app, providing a roadmap for the frontend developers – QA engineers create test environments in order to throughly analyze the robustness of an app before its initial launch, and project managers ensure every task is completed on time and in order, therefore maintaining a consistent and efficient development schedule.

When you hire a freelance developer, you are relegating all of these tasks onto either the freelancer, yourself, or your company. As an example – while a freelance developer might be efficient at developing the systems necessary for the entire feature set of an eCommerce app, they might not be the best UI/UX designer.

A freelance developer, in this situation, would most likely make use of an app design template (meaning your app will look cookie-cutter) – or run the risk of designing the app themselves – or, if their client was willing to pay for it, bring on a supplemental freelance designer.

Agency app management vs. freelance app management

Due to the nature of their work, freelancers tend to move from client to client very quickly – small projects have quick turn around times. Your app’s lifecycle is neither short or hands-off, however. All apps require updates for aesthetic purposes, improved security, and new feature implementation. Continual analysis of your app’s status via analytics and crash reporting is a necessary task as well – and with every update released by Google Play or the App Store, your app will need to follow suit. Even updates for changes as simple as new screen resolutions require time spent in development.

Agencies have this app lifecycle management structure built in to both their build teams and business model – freelancers generally don’t.

The cost of an agency vs. the cost of a freelancer

For all of the reasons stated above, the lower hourly rate freelancers are known for doesn’t equate to more cost effective development. For a freelancer to successfully develop the entirety of an app, they must have a mastery of a wide array of skills – and when they are lacking in an area of development, must spend time learning said skill, adding to the overall time your app spends in development, and bloating your budget.

Agencies specialize in producing complex apps efficiently; freelancers specialize in client acquisition, not app lifecycle management.

How much does it cost to update an app?

“An app is never finished.”

This quote is un-attributable because most every app developer has said it – it’s a constant in the world of programming – software isn’t complete until it’s dead. From websites to operating systems, updates are an inescapable necessity.

In fact, it’s safe to assume you’ll spend one-fifth of your total development cost every year updating your app – so if your app cost $50,000 to develop, you can expect to spend about $10,000 a year on updates.

That might sound like a lot of money – and it is. If you want your app to be a top performer in terms of user retention, conversions, and revenue, however, you’ll need to be prepared to absorb the costs associated with updating your app. Based on this graph from SensorTower, you can see the industry average back in 2014 was to update an app well over once a month:

This is a correlation that has only grown in recent years – the most successful apps today release an update one to four times every month.

Why do apps update so frequently? There are a few different answers:

Updates are a form of marketing

Updates are among your strongest marketing tools – right up there with push notifications and proximity marketing. Updates are so powerful because they convey a few messages simultaneously:

  1. Serve as a reminder that your app exists
  2. Inform your users about value added to the app
  3. Provide a free CTA with immediate value for the user

Updates will also create a notification tag on their settings icon – both Android and iOS operating systems are designed to make users aware of their available updates, so users are sure to be made aware of the added value you are giving them.

Finding the right voice and message through push notifications can be incredibly difficult, but updates can be plain and straightforward – they inherently come with free value for the customer.

Design and device trends

Keeping up with UI trends is a constant task of not only keeping your sights on what your competitors are doing, but also what the top twenty apps on the App Store or Google Play are doing as well.

This is because the competition in your category might not be staying up to date with their design choices as well – it’s always best to seek out the top performers and study what they’re doing. Keep a close eye on design aspects like:

  • Where buttons are located on the screen
  • Use of negative space
  • Transitions
  • How information is displayed

Design trends are always changing, and users are more likely to abandon an app than they are to stick by its side – if there’s an app out there that does what you do, but looks better, you’ll begin to lose users to it.

For more about keeping up with design trends, check out:

The same goes for device trends – mainly concerning higher screen resolutions. For every new screen size that hits the market, you’ll need to update your app in order to fit on those new devices. Keeping up with these trends is important to the health of your app – early adopters of new device models are usually power users, so if you aren’t catering to their needs, your app’s metrics will begin to drop substantially.

Security

Unfortunately, there will always be someone who is trying to exploit vulnerabilities in your app’s code – especially if your app deals with sensitive user data like payments or personal information. Luckily, updates can help mitigate these risks.

There is no way to build an un-crackable app. No matter what, someone out there will find a way to exploit a previously-unnoticed vulnerability if given enough time. An oft-sought out type of app for hackers to exploit are those that work in eCommerce – so if your app exists in this domain, make sure you are updating your security regularly.

Users take security very seriously. Take, for example, the fallout from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal: One in ten American users completely deleted their Facebook profile, and a staggering 26% deleted the mobile app from their smartphone.

When payment information is stolen, the response is even stronger. For this reason especially, eCommerce apps must be vigilant when it comes to the security of their users.

Bug Fixing

While the goal of any app is to launch without any bugs, they do sometimes happen. There’s many reasons for this – some bugs appear through situations that would be nearly impossible to test for, such as scalability issues, or new devices coming to market that don’t properly mesh with the code that makes your app run.

It’s a virtual guarantee that eventually, your app will run into a bug – what happens next is up to you. Users are fickle, and will abandon your app if they continue to run into bugs. In order to keep your users, you’ll need to fix the bug as quickly as possible.

New Features

Along with new device and design trends come new features – two big ones right now being location services and real-time updating. A good example is the order tracker popularized by Dominos Pizza. Dominos’ customers became familiar with their order tracker, and then began to expect it on other online ordering platforms.

Now, online food delivery platforms all make use of this order tracker – if they didn’t utilize it, users would abandon their app in favor of one that does. New features mean added value – always plan to add more value.

Show your users you care

What looks better – a website with a regularly updated blog and content, or an obviously three-year-old website that’s still touting an award from 2016? When shown the latter, you’ll probably begin to question if the company is still in operation.

Users want to know the app they are investing their time into is there for the long haul – by updating your app regularly, you implicitly show them that your app is here to stay. It also shows that your app is worth looking at and using – if you care enough to update it, there must surely be value that makes the update worth it.

Updates are a powerful user retention tool – despite their cost, app updates are necessary to your app’s longevity, and publishers stand to loose more by not updating their app than by spending capital in order to do so.

How much does it cost to build an app like UberEats?

How much does it cost to make an app like UberEats? Just like every app, the cost of development comes down to three deciding factors: feature set, time, and hourly rate. If this sounds similar to our last blog, How much does it cost to build an app like Uber?, it’s because this formula is a constant across all apps.

As we also went over in our blog about the cost of developing an app like Uber, the most expensive part of any app is actually post-development. This is due to app marketplace standards dictating the need for developers to provide continuous maintenance and update to an app’s code, infrastructure, and UI.

User retention is key to an app’s success – especially for an app with a business model like UberEats. Let’s look into the feature set that provides the platform for an app like UberEats.

First off, we need to segment the app into four different apps, those being an individual app for the customers, the restaurants, the delivery drivers, and the administrators. It is common practice for apps that require different feature sets to interact with a particular user to have different screen show depending on what the type of user is currently engaging with it – effectively creating individual apps.

To continue using the example from our previous blog, Uber; once a user selects that they are a rider, they are brought to the rider app – the same is true for drivers – once “driver” is selected, they are brought to the driver app. Both of these apps work in tandem with each other, but offer completely different feature sets, and thus show different screens.

As previously stated, an app like UberEats would be split into four different apps:

UberEats’ feature set

Customer app

Register / Log-in

Apps like UberEats make use of a login feature – this means users can save their delivery address, payment, and other info their account, therefore speeding up the process and bringing more value to the user.

Search Menu

For the user side of an app like UberEats, it is absolutely necessary to include a search function. In order for this search function to work, it must be able to search through the individual data points of your backend servers that house your restaurant data – proper logic and organization of your backend system is critical to decrease the time it takes the app to search through these data points.

Cart

A family simple feature, the cart allows users to keep track of what they have already added to their order.

Payment Integration

Payment services give users the ability to pay their driver directly though the app using a credit or debit card, as well as promotional codes – this feature is usually achieved through payment service APIs like Stripe or PayPal.

Order Tracking

Order tracking is a quality-of-life feature users have come to expect in the past few years – in order for this feature to be successfully implemented, a few different features must be used: GPS, and real-time updating.

Rating and Reviews

Users are able to leave ratings and reviews for restaurants that are aggregated in a database that can be remotely accessed by other users – this requires a connection to your backend servers.

UI

The UI is the layer of the app the users interact with; for UberEats’ customers, this would be to order food and put in the necessary delivery and payment info.

Delivery app

Register / Log-in

Delivery drivers use their account to keep track of payments and orders – accounts are also necessary when payments are involved; deliver drivers have their account info and payment info tied digitally together in the app.

Order Management

In order for delivery drivers to keep track of where an order needs to go, they need some way to manage the orders they currently have – in order for an app like UberEats to be able to tell a driver where a specific order must go, it needs to be able to access the backend servers remotely – it also needs access to GPS and mapping, as well as location services and navigation.

Updating of order status

The delivery side of the app must constantly provide the customer with real-time updates as to the driver’s current location – to do this, it must connect to the backend servers and provide location data taken from the app’s GPS, mapping, location services, and navigation features.

Restaurant app

Register / Log-in

Restaurants need to be able to create an account for the app as well – this is so they can update menus and other information as it changes.

Order Management

Restaurants need a way to manage their orders as well – this is put in place so the restaurant doesn’t need to contact the customer with a question; the order management system provides all the details they need to make the order – a feature like this would require sharing data over a remote server between the customer app, the restaurant app, and the delivery app.

Updating the order status

Just like the delivery portion of the app, users have come to expect to be informed as to the current status of their order while it is being prepared – just like the delivery app, this would require real-time updating over a remote server.

Admin app

Admin Log-in

This would function the same as any other log-in feature, but it would provide access to the administration portion of the app.

Restaurant management

This feature would give the administrator access to the data tables that create the organization structure that houses restaurant data – after a restaurant joins the app, the administrator would add their profile here.

Payment management

This feature, which can be achieved through API integration, is necessary to the processing of payments.

The cost of developing this four-in-one food ordering app would range anywhere between $100,000 to $250,000, and sometimes even more. Scale plays a large role in determining the development cost of your app.

Also keep in mind that an app like UberEats that requires the participation of individual businesses has to budget for the acquisition of those businesses. It is easiest to start with smaller, local businesses and move up as your platform gains traction in the market.

UberEats’ tech stack

In the same vein as our previous blog about Uber, UberEats exists mostly on the backend – while the simple UI exudes simplicity, the backend systems required to handle so much real-time updating and data sharing would be both extensive and costly.

Storing and transferring data, whether it happens through physical servers or via the Cloud (which is still stored on physical servers somewhere anyway), is expensive, and requires significant infrastructure and time spent optimizing the organization of data.

In order to create and maintain a stable backend, you must invest significant time and resources – both infrastructure and human.

UberEats’ maintenance and updating costs

The costs of maintaining and updating an app comes down to the total collective salary of your entire development team.

This cost is necessary to an app like UberEats, however – only the best apps stay on top. In fact, the average mobile user in the US will spend 90% of their time engaging with their personal top five apps.

UberEats knows what keeps their app in users’ personal top five apps is the experience it provides – and this is why they spend so much money maintaining and updating their app. If their servers are unresponsive, or provide outdated data, users will move on to a different app without these issues. If their app doesn’t keep up design trends and new device screen resolutions, users will, again, abandon their app in favor of one that does.

An app is never finished

This is why the cost of developing one never has a set number – the longer your app is around, the more money you will spend on it – but these should be measured against the lifetime profit of your app.

While the coding and design of your app’s feature set are one-time investments, keeping your backend running and your frontend up-to-snuff will constitute continual, regular costs, as they are necessary to maintaining and increasing your app’s user retention.

How much does it cost to make an app like Uber?

How much does it cost to make an app like Uber? The cost of app development (no matter if you’re building a game, fitness, or social app) comes down to three distinct factors: feature set, scale, and hourly rate.

Every app’s feature set is a combination of different features that provide a cohesive user experience; while the code that makes these features work is technically the same whether one user is engaging with the app, or 100 users are, the scale of an app has significant costs on your backend and server maintenance costs – not to mention API calls and other data transfer costs.

While your app’s feature set will make up the majority of your initial development costs, scalability and maintenance will easily overshadow these investment costs over the course of your app’s lifecycle.

For an app like Uber, which boasts 80 million users spread across 77 countries, scalability is literally a huge issue – so much so that Uber employs 2000 engineers – a full third of their total employees.

This isn’t to say all of an app’s reoccurring costs come from backend management – the app marketplace demands continuous improvements to an app’s UX and UI – meaning designers are needed to improve upon existing features and ideate new ones, and engineers are needed to code these updates.

In short, development for an app like Uber is never done. For as long as that app is available on the App Store or Google Play, there will be reoccurring costs. With these costs, however, come profits; the more time and effort is put into improving your app’s UX (design and feature set), the higher these profits will usually be.

Uber’s feature set

Uber makes use of the following features to provide a working app:

Geolocation

Geolocation is used to provide both riders and drivers with real-time locations of each other.

GPS/Navigation

GPS/Navigation is used to provide drivers with optimal routes.

Push Notifications

Push notifications are used to provide riders with updates about their ride, or other info when the user isn’t engaging with app directly.

In-app Messaging

In-app messages are used to provide riders with updates about their ride when the user is currently engaged with the app.

Payments

Payment services give users the ability to pay their driver directly though the app using a credit or debit card, as well as promotional codes.

Register/Log-in

Most apps utilize some sort of log-in feature via email or social media account.

Messaging

Not to be confused with in-app messaging, this feature gives drivers and riders the ability to directly message each other.

Price estimate calculator

By using data from the GPS/Navigation feature, the app provides riders with a pre-estimate of how much their ride will cost – this is influenced distance, time of day, and location.

Ratings and reviews

Users are able to leave ratings and reviews for drivers that are aggregated in a database that can be remotely accessed by other users.

UI

The UI is the layer of the app the riders and drivers interact with – for Uber riders, this is mainly used for booking rides and paying drivers, and for Uber drivers, it is mainly used to accept riders and follow routes.

If we were to add up the costs of developing these features, and not include the costs associated with maintaining those features, the initial costs would total anywhere between $100,000 – $300,000 depending on the hourly rate of the development team in question.

This might seem like a heavy upfront investment, but consider the potential for revenue available to you – Uber’s revenue was $11.27 billion in 2018.

Uber’s tech stack

Virtually every app (other than an extremely simple app) utilizes both a front and back end – and Uber is no exception. Much like an iceberg, Uber’s front end, while making up the layer users see, is dwarfed by its hidden-from-view back end.

While all of Uber’s backend functionality can be achieved through API integration, a backend is still required to provide the logic for the API calls. For an app at the scale of Uber, however, heavy reliance on third-party APIs can bring about exponential additional costs; GPS and mapping APIs, for instance, base their pricing on the number of API calls made – which when paired with the real-time updating that Uber utilizes, creates a significant operating cost.

Third party API integration, while expensive, can still come out as the cheaper option when compared to building your own custom system – many backend systems rely on physical infrastructure to run. Continuing with the previous example, third party GPS and mapping APIs are plentiful for a reason – significant physical infrastructure is necessary to the operation of mapping systems – everything from servers to satellites.

In order for Uber to function on a daily basis, its core functionalities – geolocation, mapping, GPS, and payments – require a significant amount of data to transfer through the app’s servers. All of its features, other than its UI layer, require some sort of data transfer in order to function.

Due to this heavy reliance on servers, backend maintenance is paramount to Uber’s success.

Uber’s maintenance and updating costs

The costs of maintaining and updating an app comes down to the total collective salary of your software and hardware engineers, as well as your UI designers. It might seem unthinkable to employ 2000 engineers like Uber does – but there’s a very good reason for an app with the scale of Uber to do so.

As loading times increase, user retention plummets. The same goes for any hiccup in the UX of an app – if there’s an app that provides even a slightly better experience in one step of the entire process, users will gravitate towards it in favor of the slightly-less-optimized one.

While many of Uber’s engineers are undoubtably updating and maintaining the frontend of Uber, there are plenty also continuously working to improve and optimize the backend architecture of the app.

Even if a week’s worth of work for an entire development team results in the increase of data transfer speeds by one hundredth of a second, the impact is significant when millions of transfer requests are made every hour. Those hundredths of a second add up when multiplied by a million over and over again – and users will notice their load times decrease, bringing them more value.

If the salary of every engineer on your team is $100K, and you were to maintain an app like Uber, your yearly operational costs would be at least $200 million (this number is based purely on salary, and doesn’t include the operational costs associated with employing 2000 engineers).

These costs are necessary to an app like Uber, however – only the best apps stay on top. In fact, the average mobile user in the US will spend 90% of their time engaging with their personal top five apps.

Uber knows what keeps their app in users’ personal top five apps is the experience it provides – and this is why they spend so much money maintaining and updating their app. If their servers are unresponsive, or provide outdated data, users will move on to a different app without these issues. If their app doesn’t keep up design trends and new device screen resolutions, users will, again, abandon their app in favor of one that does.

Operational costs are forever

Just like diamonds (and plastic), the task of updating and maintaining your app is forever present – and so to will the associated costs continue on.

While the coding and design of your app’s feature set are one-time investments, keeping your backend running and your frontend up-to-snuff will constitute continual, regular costs, as they are necessary to maintaining and increasing your app’s user retention.