Apps are great. They allow us to solve quite complex problems through simple and intuitive features and interfaces. As apps become more and more capable, and the ecosystem that supports apps grow, so does the ability for an app to solve a problem for your customers, business or service. But how do you go about getting an app created? What are the steps taken to get this mythical app? How much do 3d? How do you know if an app is for you? All great questions and I will look to answer all of them within this article. 

I think I need an app, but where do I start?

The beginning is always the hardest part when looking for an app, especially if you have never had an app engineered before. The thought of creating an app can seem quite daunting to some, but it doesn’t have to. With the correct partner and a detailed plan — this process can be smooth and elegant. 

Getting Started — finding the right partner

So you think you need an app? Great! But, do you really need an app? The first step is selecting the right development partner to work with you to take the app to market. Like all businesses, there are good, reputable development houses, and there are the rest. How can you tell them apart? Well, this can be hard, but here are a few tips that may help

  1. Ask for their opinion — a good studio will challenge you, ask you why you need this app, and what problem it will solve. Avoid those who agree to work with you without understanding your needs as this almost always ends in disaster… trust me — I’ve seen it first hand. A good studio will understand your needs, requirements, and goals, they will then advise you to pursue the idea, modify it or ditch it — they should not say yes to simply get the job. It is their job to advise based on their knowledge and expertise. 
  2. Understand how the studio handles its process — by understanding how they work, you are able to get an insight into their organisational structure. From here, you are able to assess their practices and see if it fits with you.
  3. Ask to see examples of their work. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen this more times than I would care to admit over the years. Seeing real working examples will allow you to know what their final product quality is like. If the studio is relatively new, don’t count them out — ask to see any work in progress they have available to demo
  4. Expect to see a plan of action before you commit 

Understand your app

By selecting the right agency for your project, you should begin to build a better overview as to what your app is. Good agencies work in this space regularly, they should be able to help guide you and mould your idea into a functioning product. Trust your partner to lead you in the right direction, but remember that it is your idea — so trust your gut.

PWA vs Native? 

When considering the type of app you would like it is important to consider the functionality of your app. Understanding the difference between native and PWA is important before you get started as they will both leave you with similar end products, but with very different approaches. 

In a very brief nutshell:

Native — the app is created specifically for the operating system you would like to target (eg iOS or Android). This option requires an app to be developed for both platforms independently. This option is best for those with complex apps with intricate animations and processor-heavy features. 

PWA — A PWA (Progressive Web App) is an app that is based around web frameworks (think a website, but with the fluidity of an app). We are able to deploy these PWA’s onto the iOS app store & Google play store with little additional effort. As both iOS & Android apps come from the same PWA, we only need to build the app once as a PWA to allow us to deploy it on both stores — this saves time as we are not developing for iOS and Android independently like with native. PWA’s can handle most functionality required for a lot of apps and in many instances, you will not be able to tell the difference between native & PWA. If you are looking for something with processor-heavy functionality (3d graphics, AR/VR etc) you’re better looking at native apps.

Prepare an ample budget

Creating an app can be a costly affair when handled correctly — and the people required to create apps are often costly to employ. The average salary of a single iOS developer alone is £36,245/PA in the UK! As an agency owner, I understand the struggle of working with clients that have low budgets — low budgets usually mean compromised outputs from agencies (unless the app’s scale is proportionate to the budget, however, this is often not the case) and this can lead to a less than ideal product for both the client and the end-user. When considering your budget, consider what you are actually trying to achieve and be realistic — if you’re looking for a Whatsapp clone, it’s not going to cost you £15k! If you’re unsure how much your app will cost, don’t be afraid to call/email your agency.

A key business decision for us was to only work with clients that had ample budget — this has allowed us to focus on the work that we know has the time and funds behind it to create truly great products. 

When deciding if an app is right for you, do not go with the cheapest developer you can find. Cheap in the software space, 9.5 out of 10 times will result in exactly that, a cheap-feeling product. I have had the joy of working with clients that initially partnered with the cheapest agency— they turned to PixelBeard to pick up the pieces after they were left with applications that looked like a child got hold of Microsoft clip art and 50% of functionality crashed the app (not to mention tens of thousands of pounds lighter in the pocket with nothing to show for it).

If you have a limited budget, explore the possibility of a PWA! 

So as the old saying goes; Buy it nice or buy it twice!

Discovery stages can be worth their weight in gold.

One step that we always encourage our clients to take is to make the investment in a discovery stage. This stage can save buckets full of cash, help to not strain relationships and ultimately and most importantly; gives us the ability to thoroughly understand the product inside and out before you invest any serious cash. 

Discovery sessions are excellent in litmus testing your idea, requirement or in some instances, reverse engineer a goal to understand the solution. In these sessions we work with our clients to break down their problems before proposing the solutions, sometimes the answer can be that what you thought was right is actually way off and you actually a completely different solution; It is always better to identify this before spending 100k on an app tho, right?

The outcome of these sessions will be a clear shared understanding of your problem and the solution. We also like to come out of this with a clear list of functionality — this lets us go away and work out a much more accurate cost to solve your problem than if we are just given a loose brief. This completely eliminates any “oh, well I thought it was going to do X” and can actually save you a lot of money and time depending on the outcome. 

Discovery is most definitely a stage we think all prospective app buyers choose to capitalise on. The cost of these sessions can be anywhere from £2000-£5000+ — but when you’re considering building an app, the investment at the beginning only saves time, prevents miscommunication and ultimately produces a better product to solve your problem. If your developer hasn’t offered you this service, ask for it.

Contracts… YAY!

Paperwork is no fun for anyone, but it is a vital stage in the process to protect yourself, your IP (if required) and the agency. Contracts can be drafted up either by yourself or the agency depending on your preference. At a minimum, ensure that in the contract you have a firm outline as to the scope of work, platforms you will be targeting, responsibilities, agreed costs, payment terms, deliverables and any extra requirements that you may have as the client. 

Beginning work: What should you expect?

Great, so you’ve chosen your developer and worked out a budget that will allow the developer to create a great app for you! Now the fun part, the project it’s self. 

This part will allow you to see pretty much immediately if the developer is worth their weight — software is a complex business, and so, you should be expecting a detailed and thorough project setup and planning stage. Your chosen developer should be able to plan the project efficiently and keep you in the loop as they do so. Below you will see a list of documentation that we create for our clients at a minimum before we commence any further project work:

  • User Stories (to understand the functionality of the project)
  • Code Flow (to see the technical requirements of the project)
  • Detailed Project Timeline (to understand the layout of the project)

You can go into great depth at this stage, it all depends on the size and complexity of your project. This documentation allows us as developers to communicate with you and ensure that your requirements have been heard, understood and broken down. This is the stage that you will really need to understand the plan, as changing things now can save a lot of time & money than changing 2 months in — so its well worth taking the time to sit down with your developer to talk through the initial documentation once completed to ensure you’re all on the same page. 

I hope this has been helpful if you’re in the process of creating an app, there are a lot more considerations and steps as you move through the process; I will soon be writing a guide throughout the app creation process. If you have any questions, suggestions or think I’ve missed anything please let me know!

Are you looking to create an app? Drop me a line 🙂

[email protected]