Apps are big business these days. Android customers can access 3.5 million apps through the Google Play store, while iOS users have 2.5 million apps at their disposal. However, to perform reliably and effectively, each standalone program requires coding and beta testing before its public launch. Android and iOS apps also have to be written in separate languages, as do Microsoft apps for the Surface and Xbox.
Creating a new app requires a degree of technical knowledge, but it isn’t quite as complex as you might think, nor as expensive. Development companies charge less than £10,000 for basic apps using existing infrastructure, covering everything from planning and design to testing and administration. However, there’s an even cheaper way to approach the challenge of app development…
The DIY Route
Entrepreneurial ventures like Apps Without Code provide online classes that teach people how to create apps without having to code. The complexities of programming languages often represent a major barrier to DIY app development, so WordPress-style WYSIWYG templates represent an obvious alternative. Beginner-friendly tools include Appy Pie and GameSalad, while Appery.io is aimed at people who know their SQL from their SAP.
Before committing to app development, undertake a detailed cost-benefit analysis to determine its viability. If you have a sprawling ecommerce website reliant on multiple filters and submenus, a streamlined retail app may be justifiable. If you work for a small firm of accountants, it’s hard to imagine any outcome would be worth the time and money required. There’s no point duplicating website content or offering pointless functionality, so consider any business case carefully.
Don’t be afraid to think out of the box – apps can be fun and imaginative while still making a serious point. When Australia’s Metro Trains wanted to discourage rail passengers from dangerous behaviour, they invented Dumb Ways to Die. This award-winning game has been downloaded over 125 million times and inspired two sequels, generating incalculable PR despite being deliberately cartoonish (and having very little to do with trains)
Paying the Bills
Before committing to a new app, it’s crucial to justify any production and development costs with a business plan. With so many free apps on the market, and modern smartphone owners having an average of just 33 apps installed at any given moment, consumers rarely pay for new software voluntarily. Entertainment is one of the few sectors where paid-for apps often succeed, along with unique services not offered by mainstream competitors. Otherwise, audiences expect apps to be free, meaning costs have to be covered in another way. This might involve in-app advertising or cultivating a database of contacts, while some firms will write off app development costs as a marketing necessity.
Finally, be aware that the mobile communications sector is incredibly fast moving. Some industry observers believe chatbots will soon start to supplant apps, as voice recognition algorithms continue to improve. In the coming years, it might take something special to convince consumers that they should install dedicated programs on their tablets and smartphones…