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Why Great Apps Cost So Much

Ryan Simon  |  Development

Mobile apps are a necessity for businesses to increase engagement with their customers and offer new and exciting experiences. As ubiquitous as mobile apps have become, the cost of their development has increased over time as consumer expectations for quality have risen.

Mobile apps are a necessity for businesses to increase engagement with their customers and offer new and exciting experiences. As ubiquitous as mobile apps have become, the cost of their development has increased over time as consumer expectations for quality have risen.

According to our experience at Fishermen Labs, the average Android or iOS minimal viable product (MVP) app costs $200,000 and takes six months to complete. Pivotal Labs charges $60,000 per coding pair. So how is it that mobile apps demand such a serious budget? It’s relatively simple: it takes a diverse team of talented individuals to deliver great apps.

Besides the app team, your business will need to come up with marketing materials, provide feedback, and scope out features. It all takes time, and as the saying goes, “time is money”.

Laying out the app development process,

  1. Talent
  2. Scope of features
  3. Communication
  4. User Experience (UX) testing and feedback
  5. Bugs and scope creep

The talent behind making great apps

Depending on the scope of your app and what you’re aiming to do, the talent you’ll need can vary. The average app, however, is made up of at least one of each role: a user interface (UI) designer, user experience (UX) designer (read more about the difference between UI and UX here), product designer, copywriter, iOS/Android engineer, backend engineer, quality assurance (QA) engineer, researcher, project manager, and product manager.

That’s ten highly paid individuals just for managing the app itself. It’s easy to overlook that you’ll also need internal business resources to provide the app development team with the content and feedback they’ll need to deliver your app on time. Communication between your business and developers is absolutely key to a successful mobile app project.

Communication is paramount

It’d be nice to write your app ideas down, send them to the development team, and get a beautiful app in your inbox a few months later. It’s just never that simple. It’s important to have a clear list of specifications or use cases that you can communicate to the development team.

It’s also likely that the development team, with their wide variety of experiences and expertise, will provide useful feedback that will improve the UX of your app. Be ready to have meaningful UX conversations so that you and the development team can craft the best app possible for your target audience.

In addition to UX, you’ll need to have dedicated resources to provide the development team with branding, marketing, in-app content, and other materials necessary to complete the app.

Communication breakdown, missing content, and a lack of dedicated business resources tend to be the most significant points of friction when developing apps. It’s important that your business is ready from the outset to provide the support necessary to successfully deliver a finished product on time and within budget.

Making an app is hard work, but making a great user experience is even harder

You’ll know that you’re doing things right when most of your time and feedback is spent on improving the UX of your app. It’s one thing to build an app — you can train a monkey to make one — but crafting a functional experience that is also engaging enough to keep users coming back takes an immense amount of research, experimentation, and iteration.

A recommended and common practice is for businesses to run closed testing for their apps. This means involving testers that fall into your target audience early on in the process of developing your app. Then you can ensure that the features you’re building are ones that people actually want to use.

Bugs, Edge Cases, and Scope Creep

An expensive and time-consuming aspect of building a great app is dealing with bugs. The term “bug” carries an elusive definition, but it can be defined as an edge case that wasn’t planned for and/or deemed unnecessary. Your app will have many edge cases, and this is where a lot of the hidden cost of development comes into play.

Most bugs and edge cases are found in the QA process, but many frustrating ones aren’t found until your project is live. Even though many of these bugs are part of the process, some of the most expensive bugs are introduced due to scope creep.

Scope creep is additional work or scope added to a project after an initial deadline is set. For example, imagine a scenario where your business is expecting to launch your app in a month. A new idea comes up that just “has to” make it into the app before launch.

Your business’ new idea adds scope to the app, and as a common side effect, new bugs are introduced. Typically, due to market and/or organizational pressure, the new idea must make it in the month before launch. This is where most development problems pop up.

Generally, it’s best to avoid.

How do I ensure the success of my app?

App development is a science.

With how much an app costs to develop, there’s an inherent desire to ensure an app’s success. At Fishermen Labs, it’s our mission to help guide businesses to crafting apps that have a greater chance at success. So if you’re serious about building the best experiences for your users, give us a ring.

If your company is looking to leverage XR to promote your products or brand in an innovative and experiential way, please contact us at Fishermen Labs to see how we can help you!
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