Richmond Inno’s Tech Madness

When we first heard we were officially nominated to be a competitor in Richmond Inno’s Tech Madness, we were honestly floored. While we’re proud of our work culture, our partners’ ideas, and the apps we build, we do our best to remain humble – when you’re a small tech company, there’s no time to pat yourself on the back. You either stay hungry, or you go by the wayside.

Out of our five guiding principles, being humble is the first and most important tenant we stick by, so it’s a little weird to write a blog post such as this – but another guiding principle of ours is to always remain grateful – for every opportunity, every learning experience, every client – and especially, when others appreciate our work.

When we saw the line up of amazing companies we would be competing against, we were honored to be included among them – and to be a frank, a little hesitant to hope for much in terms of advancement in Richmond Inno’s Tech Madness bracket.

Our first round of competition had us paired up with ARtGlass – an innovative company with a truly amazing vision for AR implementation in cultural sites like art galleries, museums, and historical landmarks. It was honestly difficult to post on social media asking for our followers to vote – this whole event is based around who you would invest in, and I’d invest in ARtGlass.

They were a number one seed, and we were just happy to be included. And then, we were in round two, the sweet sixteen.

There was a lot of celebration on our Slack office channel the next morning – but then everyone quickly got back to work – we live and die by sticking to an unending push forward, after all.

Our next competitor was SSUPP Foods – another company doing great things for RVA. They make plant based, vegan, gluten free dips packed with essential nutrients (and flavor) using a sustainable farming method that is both quick (an incredible 7-day growth cycle) and a lot less impactful on the environment than conventional farming methods. Not to mention, this is all done indoors in an urban environment – they’re truly solving the issues civilization will face in the future when it comes to the effects of climate change on agriculture and food production.

Sustainability is something we as a company (and individuals) care about deeply, so it was with a humble heart that we asked our social followers to once again vote for us. It was a close race, but we won the round. We took a moment to once again congratulate ourselves, and the “Tada!” Emoji on our Slack office channel was utilized plentifully on the morning of the 20th. But yet again, it was back to work – mobile development waits for no one.

And now, it’s the final day of Richmond Inno’s Elite 8. We’re up against TraceRX, a supply chain management company that provides tracking from start to finish with their app that uses cloud computing and secure blockchain to empower humanitarian aid workers, and provide them with a tool that helps organize and manage their important and essential mission.

Another truly amazing company – just like every competitor in Tech Madness. There’s a little over ten hours left in this round, and no matter the outcome of the votes, we’re humbled to have made it this far, passionate about our current projects and our ideas for the future, unified in our vision, grateful to be included among such amazing RVA companies, and excited to continue providing our fantastic partners with a service that helps them build great apps.

UPDATE: We’re in the Semi-Finals!

We’re floored! Once again, we didn’t expect to make it out of the Elite 8 (especially up against an amazing venture like TraceRX), but here we are! TraceRX, we’re sad to see you go – you have a truly impactful mission for good. We’re now paired with Occasion Genius, a powerhouse in Richmond. No matter what happens, we’re honored to have gotten this far! Thank you to everyone who has voted for us, and Richmond Inno for putting on this amazing event!

 

App Trends – If we were going to build an app, what would it be?

So, I’ve been writing content for NS804 for about six months now (congrats, me!), and for four of those months, I’ve had a singular question written at the top of my cubicle’s whiteboard:

What is the number one question people ask about making apps?

It’s a question I’ve been mulling over when I’m trying to sleep at night, and it’s something I try to consider during all of my content ideation. But it’s a pretty open-ended, context-subjective query.

I’m not even attempting to say I figured it out – I believe it’s an important question to continuously ask because it’s so chase-able and mutable. But I do think the subject of this blog post, at the very least, skims the surface.

The insider’s perspective

Just because I’ve only been creating content for NS804 for six months doesn’t mean I only have access to six months worth of mobile development experience – we’ve been around since 2012, after all.

I wanted to write a piece about app trends (which, if you’re looking for more content relating to current trends of the mobile market, check out this fantastic blog post by Kumulos’ Marketing Manager, Caroline McClelland). I also wanted to at least try to answer this question I’ve been chasing continuously.

So, in my best attempt to answer this previously posed question, I grabbed our CEO, Nick Jones, in our motivational poster-lined hall and asked, “If you were going to make an app, what would it be?”

Without hesitation, he responded with “On-Demand.” He’s a man of few, but pertinent words.

I also proposed the same question to our Business Development Manager, Jon Osborn. As his headphones blasted Biggie in the background (turn the volume down, Jon! Your poor ears!), he answered with:

“Enterprise AR, Process Consolidation (think a master platform), and games.”

So, let’s talk about those.

On-Demand apps

“Wait,” you might find yourself thinking. “On-demand isn’t trendy. Uber was 2009.”

And you’d be right about that – but just because the taxi service industry was flipped upside down a decade ago, doesn’t mean every industry has had its own shake-up. Both millennials and Gen Z have incredibly high purchasing power (in the billions), and love on-demand services – I might belong to the “industry-killing” millennial generation, but I would tout it’s much more accurate to say we like what we like, and we don’t what we don’t. I’ve always failed to see why “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply to millennials for some reason. The inability to adapt spelled the doom of the dinosaurs, just as it’ll spell the doom of Applebee’s. But, I’ve gone on a tangent.

There’s more ground to cover in the on-demand industry than just transportation and entertainment. The amount of service-based sectors that could evolve to work within an on-demand business model is truly staggering – and that’s why it’s expected to become a $335 billion industry by 2025.

The on-demand business model is the greatest boon to local and small businesses since, well, anything. On-demand services benefit from an intensely personal relationship to the consumer, so smaller companies actually have a leg up when compared to big box retailers and the like. Small companies with low overhead also have a strong potential to tailor their services to the demands of an on-demand business model, unlike their larger counterparts.

This isn’t to say large companies can implement their own on-demand services – just look at Kroger’s Pickup. The difference is, however, the potential for growth. If you’re a small business owner, this is the time to build an app to create an on-demand service within your business. It might seem like a heavy investment, but the payoff is worth it.

Millennials don’t like talking on the phone. It takes a lot of time, it’s not conducive to accurate dissemination of information, and it’s not on-demand enough. If your business uses phone calls to communicate with customers in any step of your funnel, you can implement an on-demand form of communication for booking, delivery, or any other service. If millennials are given the chance to place an order online or through an app versus over the phone, they’ll go with the online order every time – even if it takes a little longer.

Enterprise AR

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about AR at the enterprise level, and it certainly won’t be the last. Right now, with a lack of truly pervasive and useful wearables, AR or MxR isn’t entirely ready to make a splash. This is, however, soon to change; wearables are on the rise, and MxR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 are soon going to be making waves in the manufacturing industry.

If you want to get ahead of the game with an evergreen, scalable app, go with AR. Once companies realize AR’s potential to dramatically cut training costs, improve worker efficiency, and increase quality, everyone is going to want an AR app to enhance their potential revenue.

Most of the logic behind AR apps is adaptable to many situations, so it’s incredibly scalable. If you build out your logic now, your business could focus on front end development for AR apps, and basically re-brand your backend to fit with the needs of your current client.

The “master platform” app

Time is money. That’s nothing new – but the potential to streamline a business’ internal processes has never been greater.

A master platform app is the perfect way to cut through the chaff of running a business – your accountants can access their books on their desktops, while your sales team can jot down and track leads through their phones, and your customer service reps can engage customers on their POS.

With one platform containing all of these different systems, it cuts down on training time, subscription fees, and time wasted transferring data between incompatible enterprise services.

The best part is, just like AR apps, the backend of a master platform app would largely be the same between one company or another, so it too is scalable.

Games

There’s nothing trendy about games, per se. Gaming trends come about with the advancement of technology – from mancala to jacks, to Pac Man and Flappybird.

There is a new trend coming about with mobile devices, however – foldable phones. This will be a huge boost for the UX of mobile games – right now, mobile games need to account for the fact that at least a quarter of the device’s screen will be blocked by the users’ thumbs. This will all change with foldable phones.

With the ability to interact with two screens, one can be dedicated to controls, opening up the possibility for more intricate or challenging game design. Visuals will also be enhanced as an entire screen can now be dedicated solely to display, rather than acting as a hybrid between visuals and control schemes.

The clamshell design is the optimal design for mobile (what was previously called hand-held) gaming – Nintendo adopted this style with the Gameboy SP in 2003, and with the release of the first generation DS three years later, solidified the UX of this design. Nintendo has been creating addicting games that utilize two screens in truly inspiring ways – and now mobile gaming will have the ability to do the same.

If you’ve been considering making a mobile game, but have been overwhelmed by the amount of saturation in the mobile gaming market, think about what you could do with a foldable phone. Many existent games will attempt to adapt their current UI to foldable phones, but it’ll be the games that were made with two screens in mind that will truly shine.

Think about the user

Trends are called trends for a reason – they’re not permanent, nor fool-proof rules. Whenever you’re in the process of ideation for a mobile app, always focus on achieving one goal – solving your users’ pain point. Nothing is as powerful (or profitable) as an app that creates a positive change in your users’ lives, and that’s not a trend – it’s human nature.

How & when to monetize your app

When we’re speaking with clients about their app, there’s one question that pops up more than platforms, UX, features, and maybe even development cost: How will my app make money?

For good reason too – it’s an important question to ask – apps need to make money somehow. Fortunately, there’s lots of ways to monetize your app:

  • Advertising
  • Initial install cost
  • Freemium content
  • Subscriptions
  • In-app purchasing
  • In-app currency
  • Sponsorships

We’re going to get into each of these methods in a second, but first, we need to ask another important question: When is the right time to monetize your app? We’ll look into that after we go over the different ways you can monetize your app.

Advertising

If implemented correctly, ads can bring a lot of profit to your mobile app. This is the most common form of monetization within apps, and for those with large user bases, it can be remarkably profitable. There’s a lot more methods to advertising than the classic banner ad:

  • Interstitial – Fullscreen ads that appear during natural transition points, usually between two different screens in an app
  • Video
  • Native – These are ads that appear to be built into (or native content of) the app – like LinkedIn’s in-feed advertising
  • Rewarded ads

The trick to advertising within your app is making sure the ads both demand a user’s attention and mesh with the UX simultaneously. This can be achieved in a number of ways, a classic example being only selling ad space on your app to companies that offer services or goods your users would be interested in.

Possibly one of the most interesting forms of advertising is rewarded ads. With an eCPM of $16 on iOS, these ads have a very low CPC compared to other methods of advertising. Rewarded ads accept that users really don’t want to be bothered or interrupted by ads – and because of this awareness, they reward the user for viewing them with in-app currency, discounts, extra content, and many other digital rewards. Due to their self-aware nature, rewarded ads see the highest engagement and conversions when compared to other forms of advertising.

Initial install cost

For a lot of apps, an up-front install cost is going to stifle your growth. There are a few types of apps users are willing to pay for, however:

  • Health and wellness
  • Fitness
  • Productivity
  • Specialized services

ASO plays a huge role in convincing users to pay to download your app. As we’ve gone over before, keywords are your key to success on the App Store and Google Play. Your in-store efforts should work in tandem with your website’s SEO and Adwords campaign – utilizing the same keywords for both SEO and ASO gives you a better chance at capturing and funneling users into download conversions.

One thing to keep in mind is that if this is the only method of monetization your app utilizes, your user base must continually grow, or your profits will stagnate. Only the top performing apps really see a huge profit from downloads. For example, in Q1 of 2018, almost 20% of apps on Android saw 10-50 downloads total, while the top 0.1% saw over 5 million – a huge discrepancy.

Freemium content & subscriptions

Both of these methods of monetization work using the same general idea; show your users what there is to offer, get them hooked, and then ask them to pay for more. It’s try before you buy with apps.

Free trials that allow users to explore an app for a set amount of days work well for both consumer facing and internal business apps. If your app’s UX is strong and solves your users’ pain point (and they’ve had enough time to associate your app as the solution), getting them to subscribe is easier than you’d think. You can even have different levels of subscriptions, to catch a wider range of users – some may not need a “premium” package, but still want to use other features in your app.

Subscription based apps are great for audiences that might not grow, but engage. If your app has less than a thousand users, but every user is paying $10 a month, that’s a lot better than one thousand 99 cent downloads.

Freemium content can be a little trickier. This is a careful balancing act – your app must have enough free features to draw users in, and show your app’s value in their lives, but leave them wanting more. Just enough to keep them coming back, but with the promise of a better UX if they pay for it. This is a popular way to monetize your app – 64% of users of freemium mobile games make a purchase every month.

This method works very well with consumer facing apps like mobile games – a few levels or missions can be offered as a demo of sorts, which gets your users hooked by the gameplay or storyline, and then (when the app holds perceived value with the user), you offer them more.

In-app purchasing & in-app currency

Both in-app purchases and in-app currency are fantastic ways to monetize consumer-facing apps, especially games. One great aspect of in-app purchases is that they actually rank for keywords in the App Store, which can be a tremendous boost to your ASO efforts.

In-app purchases can be a one-time deal, or last throughout the user’s lifetime of engaging with the app. For example, a user could purchase a new costume or skin for their character that would be available to switch out at any time, or they could purchase actual in-game items that are depleted once used. Both are very tempting options for gamers.

In-app currency works much in the same manner – but these purchases are only consumable – meaning once they’re purchased and then used, they’re gone. Think $10 = 1000 coins, or whatever conversion rate makes sense for your mobile game. Just like tiered subscriptions, offering multiple packages at different price ranges is a great way to catch more conversions.

Sponsorships

If your app has a decent sized user base with high engagement, but is still struggling to turn a profit, you might want to consider sponsorships. Unlike ads – which are constantly changing, utilize different tactics to grab attention, and sometimes interrupt the UX and flow of an app – sponsorships are an unobtrusive way to advertise a company’s brand.

This is what happened with Runkeeper, an app that tracks workouts and rewards runners based on their fitness goals. Asics, seeing the value of the engagement users had with the app, sponsored it, giving them a continuous stream of users associating their brand with an app that was a part of their daily lives, and brought a great method of monetization to Runkeeper.

When to monetize your app

This is the most important question of all when coming up with ways to monetize your app. And, unfortunately, like most important questions, there’s no concrete answer. Users are fickle, and they’re more likely to delete your app than engage with it. Put yourself in your users’ shoes; would the method of monetization you’re considering interrupt the UX? Would it tarnish their relationship with your app? Do the ads bring extra value to the solution your app provides? Is your monetization pertinent to your app? Do you expect to grow rapidly, or slowly, but with high user engagement?

These are all great questions to ask, and one of the best ways to find out is with A/B testing. What happens to user retention when you add a sponsor to your app? Do users exit your app after being presented with an interstitial ad?

Don’t be afraid to test out different methods – but make sure they make sense.

How to find the perfect mobile app developer

So, you’re an appreneur (or a CTO), and you want to make an app. Great! Do you already have a development partner? If yes, even better!

If you answered “no,” don’t worry. We’re going to go over everything you need to know and do to find the perfect developer, just for your specific needs.

Before you get into the trenches and start your search for a developer, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What do I want my app to accomplish?
  2. What platform(s) do I want my app to be on?
  3. What is my competition?
  4. What is my time table?
  5. What is my budget?

Once you can answer these questions, you’re ready to move to the next step – finding a development partner. But first, let’s delve into the reasoning behind these questions.

What do I want my app to accomplish?

This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself, as it sets the stage for all the questions that follow. You should be able to describe what your app does in no more than two sentences. For example:

I want to make an AR app that expedites the training of my technicians and assists them with diagnostics while on the job-site.

What platforms do I want my app to be on?

This question is important to ask; as development, publishing, available markets, and user behavior can (and does) vary wildly between the two main platforms, Android and iOS.

While this question is largely based upon what you want your app to accomplish, there are a few factors to consider when deciding the best answer to this question:

  • In the U.S., Android owns 54.6% of the market, and iOS owns 44.4% (Android is the clear winner globally)
  • More iOS users purchase apps than Android users (11.82% vs. 5.76%)
  • iOS apps have a higher retention rate than Android (1% to 3% higher)
  • Android has a lower publishing cost than iOS (Android has a one-time-fee, iOS is yearly)
  • iOS development is cheaper than Android (by about 30%)

For more information, check out our Android and iOS dev pages, as well as a deep look into iOS development (we’ll be going over Android development soon).

What is my competition?

Knowledge is power. Knowing what you’re up against is a huge boost for your app – while researching your competitors, you can see what works for them, tailor it to your app’s brand, and do it better. If one of your competitors has a high user rating score and good reviews, download it. Take the time to use their app, and take note of features you’d like to include in your own, as well as ways to improve upon your competitor’s flow.

If you’ve searched and found no competition, you might want to consider starting with an MVP, to capitalize on your untapped market.

What is my time table?

The answer to this question is largely dependent on what you want your app to accomplish. A simple app can take less than six months to develop from inception to launch, while a complex app can take upwards of a year.

If you want to get to market ASAP, your best bet is an MVP.

What is my budget?

Again, this is largely dependent on what you want your app to accomplish. A complex app usually costs over $500,000, and simple apps can cost less that $37,500. A few things to keep in mind before setting your budget are:

  • Each feature adds to the overall cost
  • Certain features, like backend integration or heavy graphics have a higher cost
  • Simple apps on average take 250 hours to develop, medium take 1,000, and a complex apps’ development time can take 5,000 hours.

For more information about how to formulate a budget, check out our blog post on the topic. For a personalized estimate for your own app idea, use our mobile app cost calculator.

All of these questions are necessary to answer before you speak to a developer. This will help you communicate more effectively with your developer, and they’ll be able to give you a more accurate estimate about time and cost based upon your answers.

For example, let’s say you want that AR diagnostic app to include a backend data set linked to a server so you can access system data in real time, but you only have a budget of $50,000. Your developer would be able to address these issues before making headway into the project, reducing the chance of wasted, sunken costs.

Don’t use Google to find developers

There are already companies dedicated to finding developers for you. Two sources you can trust are Clutch and The Manifest. There are a lot of sites out there that showcase development companies – but these two you can trust, as they use information from a developer’s client history, client reviews, and ability to deliver in order to determine rankings, rather than a payment hierarchy method.

If you’re already working with a developer who’s not ranked on Clutch or The Manifest, and they’re a good partner, don’t fret – personal experiences should always be weighed over site rankings. You might, however, want to tell your development partner about these sites, as they are just as beneficial for developers as they are for clients.

Using Clutch

Clutch gives you the ability to find developers, set what parameters you want to use to find them (by platform, vertical, or location), and provides you with a breakdown of that developer – from client reviews to service lines, industry focus to what types of business they’ve worked with in the past.

Clutch Profile

Shown above is an example from our Clutch profile of how information is presented on the site

Clutch also hosts a blog where you can find information covering everything from B2B marketing to ASO and beyond.

A nice feature Clutch offers are badges, which developers can display on their site to show that they’re trustworthy. If you see a developer with a Clutch badge, they mean business, and you can rest assured they know what they’re doing.

Clutch Badges

Shown above is an example of our Clutch badges

Using The Manifest

The Manifest operates in largely the same manner as Clutch. The Manifest offers industry leader shortlists, and a blog (that we’ve been featured on!) hosting great thought pieces and business advice.

The Manifest listing

Like Clutch, The Manifest will offer a short bio and client history for each development firm, so you can get a feel for what each developer brings to the table.

And with that…

You’re all set! Happy hunting!

Just remember that you’re always going to have questions – and that’s okay. A good developer will either have an answer for you, or do what they can to find one. Most importantly, your personal preference and business needs should always be taken into account, and if a website is telling you x is the better choice, but you have a good feeling about y, go with your gut.

Out-of-the-box tools you can use to make a targeted ASO campaign

A trend we see a lot in this industry are great ideas with no legs. Sometimes it’s for the usual reasons – lack of monetary investment, insufficient market research, or a belief that anything is possible with tech – but all too often, the hurdle that’s most difficult to cross for an appreneur (or even a large company for that matter) is planning how their app will succeed once it’s on the App Store or Google Play.

What to expect:

  • A quick look into how and why combining ASO with SEO campaigns is a strategy for success and efficiency
  • An instructional tour of SEO tools Answer the Public and Keywords Everywhere, and how to merge these into your ASO campaigns

Plan your ASO now

The app store is a big and scary place for a fledgling app – and it’s all too easy for your great idea to drown in the seas of the App Store and Google Play. ASO (App Store Optimization) is not only your app’s lifeline, however – it’s the vehicle for your app’s growth. Your ASO efforts should constantly evolve with trends in the marketplace – but setting a solid foundation before your app is launched can save you the trouble of future headaches.

While still relatively new, ASO is as important to your app’s success as SEO is to your website’s, (to be fair, SEO is still new when compared to traditional marketing channels) and should be treated with the same care as your company’s brand. ASO, in fact, is your branding and the channel simultaneously.

I like to think of the App Store or Google Play like a giant mall – stores in a mall use signage to draw in customers, and then provide a unique experience for shoppers while they’re in the store. ASO works in pretty much the same manner – apps use keywords and their icon to entice users to look at their page on the App Store, and the page itself serves to provide those users with a unique look into what their app offers, and how it can help them solve a particular pain point.

That’s the driving force behind every app – a pain point. It’s almost too simple to look at apps everyone knows about and determine the pain point they were created to solve; Uber wanted to give users the ability to hail a cab without waiting for one to find them first, AirBnB gave travelers a network to find affordable accommodations in expensive areas, and WhatsApp was made to serve as an all-in-one communications channel for voice, video, text, and almost any form of media under the sun.

All of these apps have grown in scope and functionality, but their adherence to providing a specific solution to their original pain point remains, undoubtably due to their market research. The market research findings that dictate the pain point your app focuses on should also dictate what your ASO focuses on.

This is why when you’re conducting your own market research, and you’re entrenched in campaign ideation, it’s the perfect time to plan your ASO. You can then directly utilize your market research findings and implement them into your ASO campaign. There are plenty of ways to do this, such as classic market research tools like focus groups or surveys, but there are a lot of online services that can help jumpstart your ASO campaign, and provide insight into your customer profile. We’ll cover two:

  • Answer the Public – This is an SEO tool first, and an ASO tool second. Luckily, what works for one usually works for the other.
  • Keywords Everywhere – This is used to provide insight into specific keywords’ value and competition. Again, this is an SEO tool, but it’s just as valuable for ASO.

So how do SEO tools help my ASO campaign?

Ever since the advent of Google, the idea of searching has morphed into “Googling,” and people tend to use the search function of any site or service in much the same way as they would Google.

According to MOZ’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, (the best SEO resource out there) people use the search function in three main ways:

  • To do something – A user would search “buy hiking shoes” to find different options of hiking shoes to purchase.
  • To learn something – A user would search “what are the best hiking shoes” to find out what hikers are saying about different brands.
  • To go somewhere – A user would search “Made-up Brand hiking shoes” to go directly to an online store.

People on the App Store or Google Play largely use the app store’s search function in the same way. Searches on the App Store and Google Play generally fall into the “do something” and “go somewhere” categories.

According to Statista, while the largest channel for app discovery is through the search function of the App Store and Google Play, more apps are discovered from channels outside of the App Store and Google Play. These channels (ordered from highest percentage of discovery to lowest) include:

  • Friends and family
  • Social Media
  • News, reviews, and shows
  • Websites
  • Web Ads
  • Traditional Ads

All in all, those six channels account for 58% of all app discovery, and out of those six, five are influenced by SEO.

Answer the Public

So, let’s say you’re working on an app that sells hiking shoes. In order to find out what people are searching for when it comes to hiking shoes, it’s best to start with Answer the Public.

To begin, simply start by typing in a phrase (it’s best to start with generic, non-specific phrases). In this case, the phrase “hiking shoes” was used.

Answer the Public example

Answer the Public will break down that phrase into five categories:

  • Questions associated with the phrase – e.g. “Which hiking shoes to buy?”
  • Prepositions associated with the phrase – e.g. “Hiking shoes for kids”
  • Comparisons associated with the phrase – e.g. “Hiking shoes vs. trail running shoes”
  • Alphabetical listings of words added to the phrase – e.g. “Hiking shoes Amazon” and “Hiking shoes black Friday”
  • Popular related searches – e.g. “Hiking shoes near me” or “Hiking shoes for sale”

This is a great tool to not only help your SEO keyword ideation, but also your ASO. While you add keywords to your website, (a channel that accounts for 10% of app discovery) add those same keywords to your app’s page on the App Store and Google Play. If people are searching for “Hiking shoes” on Google, they’re most likely searching for the same thing on the App Store.

You can use Answer the Public to stay in the know about what people are searching – and continuously update your keywords to reflect those searches. Unlike SEO, however, ASO should be limited to five keyword phrases (which should repeat throughout your app’s title, subtitle, and description for maximum effect) so keep that in mind when updating your page on the App Store. For example, our hiking shoe app would most likely always include the keyword phrase “Hiking shoes for sale,” as that’s the app’s main purpose; other keywords can be implemented and switched to capitalize market trends.

Keeping up with search trends is a powerful tool for maximizing your app’s success. For instance, more people hike in the summer, so adding key phrases such as “summer sale,” or capitalizing on nature-centric holidays like Earth Day with phrases like “Earth Day sale” can bring temporary but powerful boosts to the amount searches your app will appear in. By continuously using services like Answer the Public, and updating your keywords to reflect current trends, these temporary boots can become your norm.

Keywords Everywhere

An add-on for Google Chrome, Keywords Everywhere is easy-to-use, free, and tremendously helpful. When paired with Answer the Public, this tool really begins to shine.

This add-on will automatically detect keywords and display the monthly search rate, cost per click, and competition for each keyword. When paired with Answer the public, it looks like this:

Keywords Everywhere example

And when used with a Google Search, looks like this:

Keywords Everywhere example

Working from the above example, let’s look at “best hiking shoes” versus “hiking shoes womens.”

“Best hiking shoes” was searched 22,200 times in January globally, its cost per click (CPC) is $1.71, and its competition is 1 (very high).

“Hiking shoes womens” was searched for 270 times in January globally, its CPC is $1.18, and its competition is 1 (very high).

By comparing the two, we’re able to glimpse some important trends:

  • “Best hiking shoes” is about 82 times more popular than “hiking shoes womens”
  • While both searches are highly competitive, “best hiking shoes” fits into category 2 of types of searches: To learn something. “Hiking shoes womens” fits into category 1 of types of searches: To do something. Due to this, “hiking shoes womens” is the more valuable key phrase.

So why is “hiking shoes womens” the better option? Intent.

Someone searching for “best hiking shoes” probably isn’t looking to purchase anything (at least immediately) – they’re most likely conducting their own research into what brand of hiking shoes would be their best option. While it’s a popular search on Google, the number of conversions that directly come from “best hiking shoes” is most likely low. There is, however, great value in a key phrase like ”hiking shoes womens,” as someone searching this key phrase isn’t asking a question, or searching for more information – they’re looking for a store from which to buy hiking shoes for women.

This knowledge can then be transferred and utilized with both your SEO and ASO campaigns.

Both of these key phrases would be good for our hiking shoes app’s ASO; “best hiking shoes” because it is searched so frequently, and “hiking shoes womens” because people searching this phrase already know they want an app that sells women’s hiking shoes. With such high competition for both of these keywords, however, it would be pertinent to add in keywords with lower competition, such as:

Keywords Everywhere example

This key phrase shows two very promising factors:

  • While the volume of searches is low, every search is implicitly describing the intent to purchase hiking shoes
  • It has low competition, so the low volume of monthly searches is balanced with a more accessible playing field

All in all, it’s a balancing game between finding keywords that are searched for regularly, and making sure the competition you’re facing is accessible.

ASO early, ASO often

While it always helps to come out strong with your ASO campaign, it’s never too late to start. These tools are free for anyone to use, and can provide great insight into both your SEO and ASO efforts. By pairing your SEO and ASO, you can more effectively target and capture audiences, and create conversions from clicks.

How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?

Spoiler: Want to know what your app idea will cost? Use our Mobile App Cost Calculator

The Short Answer

  • Simple apps typically cost less than $37,500
  • Medium apps typically cost between $100,000 – $150,000
  • Complex apps typically cost above $500,000

Source: Clutch

Hourly Cost of Mobile App Developer

  • Low Cost App Developer: $85-$105 per hour
  • Mid Cost App Developer: $105-$125 per hour
  • High Cost App Developer: $125-$175 per hour
  • Very High Cost App Developer: $175-$300 per hour

Now Let’s Dive Into How Much it Costs to Make an App

mobile app development cost

So, your business is in the market for an app, and you’ve received quotes ranging from $25,000 to $100,000, or $250,000 to $1,000,000. What’s causing the discrepancy? Are the high estimates from developers trying to get more from you than their work is worth? Are the low estimates indicative of low quality development?

Like most everything in life, the answer is rarely black and white. Before shopping for an app developer, it’s important to recognize the scope of your idea. Does your app require graphics, back-end integration, or augmented reality? Every feature your app requires adds another degree of complexity, and with it, a rising cost.

The more complex your app is, the more hours are put into development, which is a major factor in determining your app’s price point. Keep in mind that different developers will use varying production strategies, from the skyscraper method, to Minimum Viable Product – but we’ll get to that later.

Variables That Impact Mobile App Development Costs

Let’s go over some of the most significant variables that affect the cost of your app:

  • Back-end integration
  • Graphics
  • Platform
  • Features

Back-end Integration

Back End Integration

Just like your website, some apps require a back-end infrastructure. Building this infrastructure can incur a significant increase in the cost of your app, as it requires developers with expertise in additional skill sets, such as data tables, data architecture, and data administration, to name a few. Certain apps, especially those that are natively developed, will require an even higher level of complexity, based on custom databases and APIs, which often lack documentation.

Most back-end infrastructures require user management, with tasks ranging from adding, modifying, and deleting user accounts, to processing password changes. If your app has a back-end that is integrated with your website, the complexity of your app’s architecture can increase exponentially.

Graphics

Mobile App Design

If you’re a marketer, you know the addition of graphic design elements can dramatically increase the cost of any campaign, and for apps, it’s no different. The average salary for a mobile app designer in the U.S. is $58,500, about $12,000 more when compared to the average income of a traditional graphic designer. This discrepancy in salary widens when a mobile designer has a graphical skill set as well as a technical one, and requires the development team to invest in infrastructure needed to support graphics development. Hiring a development team with graphic-heavy capabilities will significantly add to the final cost of your app.

Graphic design elements in apps include 3D graphics, visual transitions, and static art. Often, an app will run multiple types of graphics at once, requiring robust infrastructure to ensure your app runs smoothly from front to back end. These initial costs, however, can lead to higher profits when compared to apps with little to no graphic elements. Of the top 50 grossing apps on Google Play, only one app is not a game requiring heavy graphics – Tinder. The top 50 grossing apps on the iTunes App Store have a much lower ratio of games compared to business or productivity apps, but most still require heavy graphical capabilities.

Customized graphics do come at a higher cost, but markets show a trend of rewarding graphic-heavy apps over those with little to no graphic elements. Like every step in determining what is best for your app, it’s important to consider the problem your app is trying to solve; if you’re a business looking to create an app to help increase efficiency internally, graphics are probably not an important factor, but if your app is intended for your customer base, graphic design elements can give you a leg up on your competition.

Platform

Android vs iOS Development

Android and iOS are currently the leading platforms in mobile app development. Both platforms require different coding languages, Android mainly using Java, and iOS using Swift. Android apps cost about 30% more than iPhone apps to develop, primarily because android apps require more time in their development cycle, due to their open source and customizable nature. For more information about Android mobile app development, visit our Android dev page.

When developing an app for Android, it’s important to note your app will be used on a variety of mobile devices. In contrast, apps designed for iOS, while lacking the customizable nature of Android, boast high levels of robustness and stability, as iOS is used on a relatively small number of devices that receive regular updates, reducing the number of OS versions your app must support. For more information about iOS mobile app development, visit our iOS dev page.

Features

What features does your app require? When deciding what your app needs to function, it’s important to keep in mind that the addition of more features directly affects the cost of your app. Features range from buttons, fields, and screens, to geo-location, camera integration, or in-app purchases. Each feature adds to the code required to run your app, from displaying screen elements to ensuring necessary functionality.

The more features your app has, the more hours it takes to develop, and the more expensive it will be. While it’s impossible to determine exactly how many hours each feature will add to your app’s total build time, it’s always safe to assume each feature set will incur an additional cost on your end.

Let’s use mapping as an example of what goes into a feature set. This example app directs users to destinations, providing routes, directions, and real-time updates. What appears to the user as one function – getting from point A to point B – is actually comprised of multiple separate features: Mapping, GPS, navigation, real-time updating, real-time audio instructions, and back end integration with existing map data and servers. The app might provide push notifications so users can receive route updates while running the app in the background; the app might even include augmented reality aspects to help distinguish destinations. The app may use the device’s accelerometer, cloud networking with other devices to determine traffic patterns, and third party tool integration to collect user location data.

All of these features will enhance your user experience, but will add to development cost. For each feature, testing must be conducted to ensure your app remains robust on both the front and back end, which can be compounded if your app is intended to run on multiple platforms. There’s a simple equation to keep in mind when deciding what features your app requires; Concept + Features = Cost.

Features are undoubtedly the most important aspect of your app. The most well-designed app won’t perform well on the marketplace if it doesn’t function properly. It’s not only important, but necessary to ensure every feature is tested thoroughly to prevent bugs which can reduce your app’s user retention. Don’t skimp on testing in order to trim your budget, as every cent put into your app’s features and functionality will pay off.

New technologies, such as wearables, will require dedicated support, adding additional coding needs to run your app. The more features and platforms you add to the scope of your app, the more hours of development are required, which in turn raises the cost. It’s important to know the exact problem you are trying to solve with your app, to ensure you only include features necessary to the function of your app, and help reduce needless additional costs.

How Design Impacts Mobile App Development Costs

A well-designed app will be more costly when compared to a less robust design, as to be expected. The time put into design is usually well worth the investment, however, as good design will improve the user experience of your app, which can directly improve your app’s ROI.

While browsing through potential app purchases, a customer is much more likely to be drawn in by a screenshot of a well-designed app, which leads to a higher download and use rate. Keep in mind that design costs can vary wildly from developer to developer, especially when considering the background of the designer.

A web developer will probably cost less to design your app, but a mobile designer will most likely have a clearer idea of space restrictions and user flow. It’s like bringing your pet into a doctor rather than a vet – the doctor knows the internal structure of a human, and can give a good guess as to whether or not your pet is healthy, but a vet will have a clearer understanding of the specific problems your pet faces.

It’s also important to remember to not over-design your app. Like any well-designed software, unnecessary elements detract from the quality of your app and reduce your users’ experience.

Other Factors That Affect Mobile App Development Cost

Your app’s complexity directly affects the amount of programming needed for the creation of a functional and robust app. The complexity level of a mobile app can be classified as low, medium, and high. This level can then be used to calculate an estimated range for the development cost.

We encourage you to download these apps to get a feel for their level of complexity.

Low Complexity (<$37,500) :

Low Complexity Mobile App

A simple app is typically based on tables. Your development cost can be lowered by providing your development team with complete content, image examples, and clear intentions. No matter the complexity, it’s always important to know exactly what problem your app is designed to solve, thereby reducing time spent discussing back-and-forth with your developers.

To further reduce waste and cost, consider creating graphics for your app in-house, especially if you already have a dedicated graphic designer. Your team might not know how to code graphics into your app, but developers can use standard .png file types to create functional graphic elements. Remember, adding features such as GPS locators or social media integration will add additional cost, and will equate to a noticeable rise in price at this complexity level.

Tip: Before sending image files to your developer, name the files according to the developer’s naming conventions. Doing so can help save development time and ensure effective and optimized app production.

Medium Complexity ($100,000 – $150,000) :

Medium Complexity App

A basic database app is typically classified at a medium complexity – if your team provides all of the necessary content. As the name suggests, database apps are inherently driven by data, so most of your developer’s work will be on the front end.

The primary determining factor of the development cost of a database app is the code needed to create your app’s logic and usability. If your database app is relatively simple, your developer can write most of the needed code based directly on the content you provide.

High Complexity (>$500,000):

High Complexity Apps

Complex apps, such as games, are much more difficult to estimate based on cost. The simplest of games need to track top scores, integrate with an online community, and usually require heavy, interacting graphics, which requires a significant amount of code.

Some games have incredibly high requirements for 3D graphics and sound, which require complex calculations. A game that makes use of a mobile device’s gyroscope, for instance, will be particularly expensive to code. Games, however, tend to boast higher ROI than other apps, as they’re usually downloaded in greater numbers.

Developer Costs

So, now that you know what goes into making an app, we can dive into how developers use different development and delivery models, and how that affects your bottom line.

As reported by Clutch, development time estimates can vary wildly. Simple apps take about 250 hours to develop, while medium apps require 1,000 hours, and complex apps clock in at about 5,000 hours. The hourly rate for a standard mobile app developer ranges from $100 to $150 per hour, providing a cost estimate of $25,000 to $37,500 for a simple app, $100,000 to $150,000 for a medium app, and $500,000 to $750,000 for a complex app.

Delivery Model

Just like any marketing campaign, dissemination of your app through the proper channels is paramount to your success in the market, and because of this, it’s important to consider the cost and methods of delivering your app to your customers. Delivery methods can include the following:

  • Software Development Kits (SDKs)
  • Sharing
  • Game center
  • In-app purchasing

SDKs

An SDK can be a highly effective method to track your app and promote monetization. Using an SDK is like adding another set of tools to your tool box. These pre-made software development tools can boost your apps’ analytics and advertising capabilities, or provide debugging and maintenance utilities, and much more. The average Android mobile app utilizes 15 SDKs, the most popular being advertising and analytics tools. Integrating your app with an SDK is generally a low-cost venture, but it becomes more expensive as your select more specific options.

The cost of using SDKs, such as AdMob, Applovin, Chartboost, Google Analytics, Tapjoy, and Xplode to distribute an app ranges from $50 to $200. When shopping for SDKs to enhance your app, be careful during your selection process. An SDK runs on separate code, and can violate your user’s privacy, or reduce your app’s performance – issues that may cause your app to be banned from Google Play or the iTunes App Store.

Share Capabilities

When it comes to sharing, all the usual suspects are available to you: social media, email, your website, or any other channel your marketing campaigns utilize. This cost factor is largely dependent on your own capabilities, options, and avenues of marketing, and can range from $500 to $1,500.

Game Center

Game Center

Integrating your app with Apple’s Game Center is a relatively straightforward process, provided you follow the rules carefully. Initial costs for adding your app to the Game Center totals about $1,000. Apple will keep 30% of each sale, and charges $99 per year to list your app in the Game Center.

Google Play

Integrating your app with Google Play is similar to Apple’s Game Center, with a one time fee of $25, and Google will also keep 30% of each sale, just like Apple.

In-App Purchasing

mobile App with In App Purchasing

In-app purchasing gives your users the ability to buy full versions of apps and new content for existing apps. Cost factors include the price of your app, and whether the entire content is available in a single app. The cost of in-app purchasing is between $1,000 and $3,000.

Development Models

Mobile app developers will use different models of development. A development model dictates your app’s production schedule, and how the development team works with each other and you, the client. The differing development models are as follows:

  • Skyscraper
  • Agile
  • Minimum Viable Product

Skyscraper

Imagine you’re building a skyscraper. What’s the first step? The foundation. Floors are then added onto the structure, slowly growing the structure in an additive, pre-planned process.

Developers can use this same process to plan, design, and implement your app. To successfully utilize the skyscraper method, you must first conduct all of your market research, know exactly how your marketing campaign will be implemented, and develop a concrete plan for how and what your app will achieve. Basically, you first lay the groundwork, and follow a regimented schedule for a successful development process, slowly adding onto your pre-conceived plan to create a final product.

This method ensures every member of your team, as well as the development team, know each step of the process, and know exactly what the final product should look like. However, if your market research is flawed, or there’s an unexpected hiccup in development, you could face extraneous costs or delays that are difficult to account for due to a rigid development style.

Agile

An agile development cycle is exactly what it sounds like – a development process with an over-arching plan, designed to account for unexpected issues, or changing market demographics.

A typical agile development cycle is characterized by “sprints,” usually lasting two weeks. During that time, developers will identify a goal to achieve within the sprint, and begin coding based on that goal. Individuals of the development team will end each day with a short catch-up meeting to discuss what they achieved, the issues they faced that day, and how they will proceed the following day. This allows the development team to adapt to issues in an efficient, responsive manner, rather than fixing outstanding issues after the main cycle of development.

At the end of a sprint, the development team will meet to discuss the goals they achieved, and plan out the next sprint.

Minimum Viable Product

Known colloquy as an MVP, or a minimum feature set, MVPs are a product with just enough features to satisfy its first users.

MVPs rely on a fluid, responsive development schedule. Typically, a development team will produce the bare bones of the app, and then release the app onto the market. Based on user feedback, the development cycle will continue, adding features and processes as users request them. This allows you to build your app with little up-front cost, ensuring a lower risk of failure due to incorrect assumptions regarding your app’s value to the customer.

For more information on MVPs, visit our MVP page.

Now that you know how much it costs to make a mobile app, do you think you are ready?

For every mobile app, the development costs will differ – even identical apps could vary in cost depending on resources available, your production timeline, development structure, and many more factors.

Want a personalized cost assessment based on your needs and vision? Take our survey to see if you’re ready to start development on your app. We’ll analyze your responses and assign a score to determine how ready you are for a mobile application development project.

Take our Survey to see if you’re ready for an application

Voice Is Here – Do You Have An Alexa Skill For Your Business?

alexa skill developer

Alexa is a voice-driven personal assistant which was developed by Amazon in 2014. It was initially used with Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, although an Amazon mobile app now allows Alexa to function on mobile devices with the Android or iOS operating systems.

Alexa primarily provides audio services such as music playback, audiobooks, podcasts, and alarms, and it can also obtain real-time information from the internet such as weather and traffic reports.

Users can configure Alexa to control other smart devices, allowing it to be used as a home automation system. Businesses are also starting to use Alexa to provide various services to their customers.

What Skills Does Alexa Have?

The Alexa Skills Kit allows developers to develop and publish their own built-in capabilities, known as Skills, for Alexa. Many tutorials are also available for teaching developers to add voice capability to their Alexa applications.

Users can download these Alexa Skills at no charge with the Alexa app, and they can also use Amazon’s Smart Home Skill API to control other smart devices by voice. Device manufacturers can build voice capability into their products with Alexa Voice Service (AVS), which provides users with Alexa APIs through a cloud-based service.

Amazon doesn’t currently charge a usage fee for using AVS, but that could change once the practice becomes popular enough. AVS also offers capabilities such as automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU).

General Alexa Skills Applications

Alexa’s companion app is available from the major app stores, including the Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store, and Google Play. This app allows users to install Skills on Alexa that perform functions such as controlling music, managing alarms and viewing information from the internet.

Users can configure Alexis-compatible devices such as Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo, and Amazon Echo Show via a web interface. The companion app also lets users view the text recognized by Alexa and provide Amazon with feedback on the Alexa’s recognition capability.

The Alexa Appstore had 1,000 Skills available for download by June 2016, and that figure increased to over 5,000 by November of that year.

General applications for Alexa include weather reports from AccuWeather and news from TuneIn, which obtains news from legitimate sources such as ESPN, NPR, and local radio stations.

Alexa allows mobile devices such as a phone or tablet to stream music from Apple Music and Google Play Music. Supported devices can stream music from the user’s Amazon Music account, and they also have built-in support for Pandora and Spotify music accounts.

Other popular voice-controlled applications include answering questions about the user’s Google Calendar, creating to-do lists and accessing websites.

Business Applications For Alexa Skills

Amazon partnered with Microsoft in 2017 to make Alexa available from Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant. This partnership was possible because Amazon has primarily aimed Alexa towards home users with Amazon Echo and third-party devices.

However, moving Alexa into the workplace will place these two virtual assistants in direct competition with each other.

One of the first signs that Amazon plans to target business users is the release of Alexa for Business in late 2017. This subscription service for businesses allows Alexa users to perform business functions such as scheduling virtual meeting rooms and conducting conference calls.

Users can already take advantage of custom Alexa Skills developed by third-party vendors. Major vendors such as Microsoft, Salesforce, and SAP have developed Alexa Skills for business users.

Businesses are also experimenting with using Alexa in an enterprise setting. Acumatica, a provider of cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, demonstrated a warehouse implementation of Alexis to Amazon in 2017.

The primary challenges of this implementation included a lack of authentication to determine the speaker’s identity, which is needed to grant access based on the speaker’s permissions.

An Amazon spokesperson noted that Alexa isn’t ready for enterprises yet, but it’s always thrilled to see developers pushing the boundaries of Alexis’ capabilities.

Future Use Of Alexa For Business

Implementing any mobile app requires a business to carefully consider the digital experience it wants to provide to their customers, especially if it’s a voice app. It takes a strategic approach to implement an app that will add business value instead of alienating customers with a different experience.

The investment needed to invest in voice technology is safe since Amazon currently controls the great majority of this market. Furthermore, it’s likely to retain this lead for the foreseeable future, so Alexa won’t become obsolete any time soon.

Furthermore, using Alexa Skills exclusively will also simplify the development of voice apps from both the technological and marketing standpoints, since you won’t need to initially support multiple platforms at the same time. Once voice apps have fully matured on Alexa, they can be ported over to competing products such as Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri as required by market demands.

Amazon currently has a strong incentive to promote the development of Alexa Skills by third parties. It should continue to provide strong customer support for Skills developers, at least until the market matures.

At this time, users generally won’t expect businesses to have fully mature Skills, although their expectations for Alexa’s features and functionality will increase as voice technology continues to develop.

Getting Started With Alexa Skills

Businesses should begin using Alexa now, regardless of their industry or customer base. People will begin expecting this technology from businesses in the near future, and those that make this paradigm first will become its innovators.

They will be able to seize market share from businesses that are slower to adopt voice capabilities and define the course of this technology.

The newness of Alexa Skills provides businesses with many opportunities to use voice applications, especially for the purpose of providing customers with an interactive experience unique to each business.

These Skills allow customers to obtain information about the company or its products by directly asking Alexa questions. They can also use voice-enabled services to update their mobile apps and place orders.

Want more information? Call our development experts at (804)292-2137 or email [email protected] to learn more.

Not All Apps Are Games & Marketing

 

Mobile Application Uses

When you consider the use of smartphones in your company, it’s easy to see how you’d view them as a business tool first, but also as a potential instrument of distraction that can be a drag on productivity in your organization.

At the same time, you and your fellow stakeholders have heard that there are some benefits when it comes to the internal use of business apps in the enterprise environment.

Business Apps For Efficiency, Communication & Collaboration

Rather than merely being used for games and marketing tools, apps have a place in the business environment to improve efficiency and foster more communication and collaboration among your employees.

Before you start brainstorming about what needs to be included in your own app, here are some options to consider:

App Integration with Business Software You Already Use

Your first consideration should be how the new app will work with the business software already in place. Standard office suites including a word processor, spreadsheet, email and presentation software should connect seamlessly with the app.

But it should also integrate with your CRM application as well as software being used in the human resources department.

For best results, ask IT and other department managers to report on what software they consider essential to daily operations. Then, you’ll have the details to make a case for inclusion or not when you determine what internal software should integrate with the app you wind up developing.

Company Issued Smartphones and “BYOD” Policies

The use of smartphone apps in the enterprise environment has increased in recent years, noted in a recent report from CIO, which described an emerging trend of Bring Your Own Device or BYOD activity.

The smartphones may be company-issued equipment or personal devices owned completely by the workers.

In either case, if workers are using these devices to access proprietary data, you’ll want to issue guidelines to protect your confidential information as well as intellectual property. Best practices will call for your company to build an app that includes the latest in encryption and other security measures.

You can include a customized dashboard in your app that will be cross-platform. That way, it won’t matter if some workers carry iPhones while others rely on Android models. The app will appear and function the same on either type of device.

Supporting Employees While They’re on the Road

Think of all the workers who leave your premises to go out on sales calls, attend trade shows or make presentations to investors. You may want to give them access to the same tools as those used by employees who remain at headquarters. You may also want to support local employees who work from home or even members of the team who participate from disparate locations.

A customized app that you create for your employees can help them do their jobs more easily. For example, “If one of your salespeople is at a conference, and he or she starts networking and picking up new potential leads, how do the details of these leads make it back to your internal database?”

That’s a question posed by a report from TechCo, which described the traditional way of taking care of this problem would be to take local notes out in the field, only to type them into the system once they get back to the office.

That’s a tremendous waste of time. No workers should ever have to enter the same information twice. Instead, a company app will let them enter this information directly into the CRM remotely.

It will be much more efficient for salespeople to update leads in real time, while the details of the encounters are still fresh in their minds.

Cloud Computing Integration

Keep in mind that your employees’ smartphones will have limited storage capacity. What’s more, it would be foolish to rely solely on their internal memory to keep crucial files that your company uses day-in and day-out. With that in mind, you will want to make sure that the new app you develop will have the ability to integrate with cloud computing.

For example, let’s say an employee has notes about a new customer to enter into the CRM. Being able to do this while in a remote location instead of waiting to get back to the office will do wonders for your efficiency.

Another common situation involves digital contracts that headquarters want to see ASAP. When everyone in the enterprise can save files to the cloud, you have an easy path to maintain backups of crucial data.

Do you frequently send workers out into the world to put on demonstrations for interested buyers or members of the media? An app’s access to the cloud can provide access to files that might normally be too large to store on employee devices.

You also don’t need to make low-resolution versions of photos and videos for use on a smartphone. Accessing these demo files wirelessly will be a snap when you serve them from your cloud computing services provider.

What’s more, with a cloud computing feature, you can resume operations quickly even if data is inaccessible locally because of server issues in your own data center.

Collaboration and Communication

It’s common for people to think of mobile apps only as customer-facing, often with some aspect of marketing and lead generation built into the software. Or, the apps are designed for entertainment and distraction. But your new app can be a tool that promotes communication and enables members of the team to work more effectively together.

You’ll want to ensure that the app lets employees access all the same files from the central server. The files will be updated, so workers won’t be concerned that they are looking at obsolete information.

Include communication channels in your new app, such as text messaging and audio or video conferencing. Employees can even meet virtually without the need to book time in a conference room. Social media and email integration can further strengthen employee communication via the app.

No Need to Rely on Off-the-shelf Apps

The demand for enterprise smartphone apps will increase to five times the demand for development resources, according to CIO. This highlights the need to begin development with a solid strategy. “Part of that strategy should include getting stakeholders on board, defining the ROI and clearly illustrating who the app will help, and why.”

Furthermore, you’ll need a “go-to-market” strategy to promote the enterprise app internally, seeking feedback and otherwise encouraging engagement with employees.

It’s easy to see how relying on off-the-shelf apps may not be the best approach for your company. However, if you lack the internal resources to develop an app on your own and see no clear path to hiring experienced developers to join your effort, you can always partner with experts. It is probably more cost-effective than you’d think…

Interested in a mobile app for your organization? Read our resource about “The Hidden Costs Of Building Mobile Apps” to continue learning. Or, give us a call at 804-451-6016 with questions.

The Hidden Costs Of Building Mobile Apps

Hidden Costs of Mobile App DevelopmentThe quick answer:

Hidden costs of mobile app development include the following:

Many of the costs to develop a mobile app are relatively easy to predict. Especially the upfront costs. But, app development also incurs costs that may not be apparent if you’ve never done it before.

These costs can be particularly troublesome when you’re in a committed project before you’re aware of them. At this point, the only practical solution is likely to invest additional money that may not be within your original budget.

The process of developing a budget for your mobile app begins with an estimation of the major, upfront costs. After this step is complete, you can begin accounting for the less obvious, long-term costs. Keep in mind that the hidden costs can sometimes be greater than the upfront costs, especially for a successful app.

Standard Mobile App Development Costs

The standard costs of app development include development and marketing:

Development Costs

The development costs of a mobile app include the interface, prototyping and testing.

The quality of the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are some of the first factors you need to consider when developing an app. You may choose a basic UI/UX that emphasizes functionality rather than appearance.

A medium-level UI/UX may have a greater level of detail, but may still look like many of the apps already on the market. A high-end interface will have a polished design with custom widgets that give it a unique look and feel.

A very simple app may not require prototyping, but most apps have multiple features, interactions, and integrations that make prototyping worthwhile. This process involves developing just enough of the app’s functionality to give developers a good feel for how the full version should perform. A typical prototype may consist of five fully developed screens.

Testing is an essential development phase for all apps. You’ll typically install the app on several devices to see how they function under real-world conditions. Native tools will be necessary to test the performance of native apps. This phase should account for 10 to 20 percent of the app’s total development budget.

Marketing Costs

You shouldn’t expect an app to sell well just because you’ve built it and uploaded it to an app store. Even if it’s better than similar apps already on the market, it will still need to overcome the brand loyalty of the existing apps’ customers.

A proper marketing strategy for a new mobile app can cost anywhere from $5,000 – $100,000 each month. Many small businesses also use Growth Hack techniques to experiment with methods of increasing their app’s popularity.

Hidden Mobile App Development Costs

The hidden costs of mobile app development include the following:

Back-end Hosting

The processes in a mobile app may be classified into front-end and back-end processes. Front-end processes include the interface and in addition to the code that accepts and displays information. The development of these processes is relatively easy to understand and include in the budgets.

However, you may not realize that most apps also require a back end to store and access the data that was obtained by the front end. An app’s back end may be a web service or Application Programmer Interface (API), which often must be hosted separately.

It may also take the form of cloud storage, which includes the full functionality of a web server or API. Either way, the app’s back end will incur a monthly hosting charge based on the provider and amount of storage the app requires.

Developer Account

App stores require developers to maintain an account that allows them to upload and store apps. The fees for a developer account are small compared to other development costs, but some of them are recurring charges.

For example, developer accounts for the Amazon and Apple app stores currently cost $99 per year. The Google Play store charges a one-time fee of $25, while the Windows store charges businesses a one-time fee of $99.

Operating System Updates

Mobile operating systems (OSs) are routinely updated with bug fixes, security patches and additional functionality. These changes frequently require developers to changes their apps, which can incur unexpected and highly variable costs. Updates that allow apps to take advantage of an OS’s added functionality may also be needed to remain competitive with newer apps.

In the case of bug fixes and security patches, the app may need to be updated just to keep it running safely. Much of an app’s maintenance budget should be devoted to keeping it secure. Once hackers learn of a vulnerability in an OS, they can quickly develop malware to exploit it.

These programs can impair an app’s functionality or even gain access to confidential information. Some security issues may also require the services of a specialized consultant to resolve them.

Consumer Feedback

Consumer feedback is an essential method of identifying ways an app can be improved. The major app stores all have the capability of allowing expert reviewers and regular users to provide feedback on apps. This feedback should result in many changes to an app, especially if it’s just been uploaded to the store.

New Devices

Mobile app developers are often surprised to learn that they will need to support additional devices. For example, a native Android app won’t work on an iPhone and vice versa. Developers who want their apps to use native capabilities will generally need to develop a separate app for each platform.

However, in some cases, it may be possible to develop a hybrid app that only requires minor tweaks to work on another platform.

Maintenance and Support

Developers must view a mobile app as an ongoing project that requires periodic maintenance rather than one that only requires a one-time investment. An app requires regular changes to retain its intended functionality and add the new features needed by its users. The cost of maintaining and supporting an app often exceeds its development costs.

Get A Detailed Mobile App Estimate

When working with a developer, it’s critical to work with a trustworthy, proven company that you can feel confident in. On top of that, you should still be as explicit and specific about your budget, your expectations and any other details surrounding the app you want developed.

Want to get a better idea of what your mobile app will cost to develop? Read this article: How Much Does It Cost To Make An App? or call us with any questions at 804-616-3546.

Why You Should Not Build an App for Free

don't create an app for freeHere’s a common situation in the app world: a person has an idea for an app and wants to move forward with it.

But, that person doesn’t have the financing to pay a developer or the application development chops to do it on their own. That leads folks to investigate the options for building an app for free.

There are really three basic options for building apps for free or at a nominal cost. These include:

  • Paying a developer with equity
  • Building an app with DIY tools
  • Learning how to write the code yourself

The first option – paying with equity – actually often results in a higher development cost over the long term when compared to hiring a professional developer. And the second and third options are often just farfetched, with many people starting down that path and realizing they don’t have the time or true desire to learn the programs and languages needed to build a reliable app.

However, if you’re dead-set on making your app a reality, you’ll probably investigate each of these avenues in more depth. So, we’ll walk through each of the options with you and help you understand why, in most cases, it’s best to avoid the “free” options for building your app.

Using Equity Shares To Finance Your App

You may be tempted to offer a contractor a share of your company in exchange for developing a minimum viable product (MVP) in addition to future support.

However, it’s almost always better to pay for the development up front, which should typically include at least six months of maintenance. If you don’t have this much cash on hand, you might consider applying for a line of credit to cover it.

Assume for this example that you wish to offer a contractor 5% equity, which is at the low end for developing an MVP. The cost of this service is typically in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, so this strategy only makes sense if you consider your company to be worth no more than $200,000 to $300,000.

Your company may be worth less than this if your idea is all you have to offer towards your company’s future success, even if it’s a good idea. On the other hand, your company is probably worth more than $300,000 if you can make other contributions towards success such as executive management, fundraising or sales.

Furthermore, a contractor is unlikely to provide future support if you’re only compensating them with equity. Assume the contractor agrees to provide development and support for two years, with the transfer of equity spread out over this period.

The contractor in this arrangement will have leverage over you and will be likely to ask you for more equity at some point because they’ll know you’re completely dependent upon them for technical guidance.

If you agree, you’ll give up more of your business. Even if you refuse, you’ll still lose out because the contractors can simply walk off with whatever equity they currently have, leaving you without the support you were counting on.

While 5% equity is a minimal figure for developing an app, it’s still more than the 1-3% that early-stage technical employees typically receive. That means you’re paying more to a temporary contractor than an employee who actually has a vested interest in your company’s success.

In this case, it would be better to give the equity to the employee who is dedicated to your company than a contractor who likely has other clients. Even though you’re also paying employees a salary, you will still get more buy-in from an early tech-hire than a contractor.

Another disadvantage of offering equity is that it keeps you from hiring the developer full-time. Even though you aren’t paying the contractor anything, you’ll almost certainly have to sign an iron-clad contract that prevents you from poaching the contractor’s employees.

Using DIY Tools To Create Your App For Free

Why You Should Not Build an App for Free

DIY tools like Appy Pie, ShoutEm and SwifTec allow non-programmers to develop mobile apps. While they do allow you to develop simple apps without writing code, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to develop a robust app – or any app with customized features – with these tools.

About Appy Pie

Appy Pie is a tool for creating mobile apps on all the major mobile operating systems (OSs), including Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It also allows users to monetize their apps with its own marketplace.

You can use Appy Pie to create forms, such as those that might be used in a simple survey or quiz and create an app with Appy Pie that links to these forms on an external source. However, you won’t be able to create complex forms, gather data or create statistics without additional development.

About ShoutEm

ShoutEm was originally a social app for mobile networks, although it’s now used to create mobile apps. You can use ShoutEm to develop apps with written content and multimedia files that allow users to select their favorite pages for quick access.

However, it won’t allow you to create in-app purchases, as is the case with some other app makers. You could get around this by creating a separate version for paying customers with additional content. Pages that allow users to input their own data would also not be possible with Shoutem.

About SwifTec

SwifTec is one of the most popular mobile app makers currently available and has helped to create over a million apps since 2010. Its customer loyalty features are some of SwifTec’s most distinctive characteristics.

These features can be a highly effective method of promoting discount coupons. You can use SwifTec to create an app for a store by integrating services from Etsy and Shopify or using a checkout feature from a payment service like PayPal.

However, you can’t create a composite seller app like eBay with SwiTec, as this capability would require a back-end that app makers can’t handle. One possible workaround to this limitation would be to create an app to host basic classified ads by using social post, although this approach wouldn’t enforce a consistent appearance for the posts.

Using Educational Tools To Build Your Own App

Learning how to build an app from scratch is something that’s possible, but it’s certainly a long-term approach to building an app. You’ll risk losing interest, someone else developing your app while you learn and many times you’ll still end up paying for part of the build even if you learn how to do part of it.

With that said, the most popular tools for teaching non-technical users how to program include Udemy, Codecademy and Udacity.

Udemy

Udemy is an online learning platform with over 10 million students currently enrolled. It offers more than 40,000 courses, which students primarily use to advance their careers or improve their personal education.

The biggest challenge with using Udemy for learning to program is that many of these courses are too short to provide the student with a solid background in the subject matter.

Most courses don’t have an assessment feature, and those that do have assessments use them inconsistently. Furthermore, Udemy courses aren’t regulated for consistency on pricing or quality.

Codecademy

Codecademy is an interactive platform that offers coding classes in many programming languages at no charge. These include many languages used in mobile apps such as Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby and SQL in addition to markup languages like CSS and HTML.

Codecademy also offers additional features for a charge, including live support, a personalized learning plan and realistic projects. It offers a hands-on approach to programming, but fails to place these exercises within the context of creating a real-world project. Students can learn to write code with Codecademy, but they won’t be able to develop an independent app.

Udacity

Udacity offers massive open online courses (MOOCs) for a fee. It was originally created to provide university-style courses, although it’s currently best known for its vocational courses for professionals.

Cost is the greatest disadvantage of MOOCs like Udacity, which typically budgets about $200,000 to develop each of its courses. By comparison, universities only spend about $50,000 to build their online courses.

MOOCs must recoup these costs in the form of tuition, which makes them an expensive method of learning online. The high cost means that MOOC users are primarily large organizations that are already spending heavily on traditional training methods.

The Real Price Of Building An App For Free

Now you can see why, for most, building your own app for free will likely cost you more in the end. You also realize the folly of giving up equity for software development so early in the game. In order for your app to be truly worthwhile, it’s best to leverage a professional app developer to support you. The only question left is, “Are You Ready?”

[Take The Quiz To See If You’re Ready]