From the personal computer to the smartphone, Apple has led the world in many technology revolutions. There is a new and very important revolution underway and that is the Swift programming language.
All of us at Software Ops are flattered by the terrific article about the milk logistics system we build for our amazing client United Dairymen of Arizona.
I know that more and more businesses are going to be using mobile systems in their everyday workflows. They might as well use well designed mobile apps and cloud based systems to help them with their efficiencies.
Here is the link to the article, "How Arizona dairymen are using iPads to deliver milk more efficiently"
It is our great pleasure that the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA), approached Software Ops in 2014 to build them a, state-of-the-art, milk mobile logistics system. Today the “UDA Delivers” platform is utilized 24/7, 265 days a year to move over 13 billion pounds of milk.
The “UDA Delivers” system consists of an iPad app, custom designed to be used by milk haulers. This is a cloud based application that controls the iPads and a web portal that provides access to the users of the system.
Now that I have provided guidance on what apps cost, the next topic is: How much will it cost to build my mobile app?
That is the question that all people ask me within the first few minutes of initiating a conversation about building an Android or iOS app. The most ethical answer to the question “how much will it cost to build my mobile app?” is, “I don’t know.”
For a mobile developer, this question can be frustrating. But after working with numerous clients to build their mobile apps, I can better understand their point-of-view of needing to have early estimates of cost.
For us to be able to estimate the cost of a custom mobile app, we need to conduct a requirements analysis project with an aim of understanding what the client wants. At this stage we will provide some simple app architecture, design and usability flow. We charge for this effort because the outcome we produce - a “wireframe” document - is an excellent tool to better estimate the cost of a project.
But there is much more involved in understanding the cost of a mobile app.
The cost that a business pays for mobile app development must include the following calculations: time; energy; money; and lost opportunity.
Money is the easy part for clients to understand, but it’s not the only thing that matters when developing a mobile app. The goal is to produce a quality app and have it running in a reasonable amount of time. Selecting an app developer based upon price alone is what usually produces problems.
Time is spent working with a mobile app developer to achieve the outcomes of the business. When selecting a mobile app development partner, it’s not just about choosing a firm that is good at fun stuff like design. Select a partner that is easy to work with when breakdowns arise during the development. Find a developer with a track record of building apps efficiently. This will ensure that your project is completed within the timeframe you have in mind.
Energy is the amount of effort that a businessperson puts into managing their mobile app developer. When I speak of energy, I mean the energy your body burns, and the stress your body endures working on a project. Because all projects take energy, and expended energy is a cost, you should select a developer that will spend less of your energy.
Here are some tips for selecting a developer:
- Select a developer that works when you work.
- The developer should be managing as much of the project as possible.
- Select a developer that will design, develop, test your app to the highest quality, so that you spend less of your time and energy on the project.
Lost Opportunity is what you trade anytime you engage your time, energy and money on a project to produce an outcome for your business. The worst possible outcome of a mobile app project is a failure. Sometimes this is technological: the app doesn’t work as expected. Worse is when your customer base doesn’t like using the app because of poor design or poor quality. In this case, you will have spent time, energy and money on a failed project and have gained nothing in return.
Other things to consider are your need to cooperate and coordinate with the developer. This will take some of your time and energy because a good mobile developer should be doing things like providing you prerelease builds. The developer will need feedback on the app as it is in progress in order to improve the code and deliver a great final product. Choose a developer that is easy to communicate with during this process.
Ultimately the only way to understand the cost of implementing an app idea is for the developer to conduct requirements analysis and begin designing the app. That effort will cost money, and you should accept that the developer’s time has a cost. Then, once you have a monetary price for an app and begin the effort, remember there are the hidden costs of time, energy and lost opportunity. Make the best of the experience of creating an app. The end results are always gratifying if you choose to work with companies like Software Ops.
I first posted this on LinkedIn in July when the deal was announced. I have added more in an update below.
While much of the talk about the Apple and IBM deal is in regard to selling into the enterprise of iOS devices, there is potentially something much more interesting with this deal.
Apple has found a cloud hardware and service partner.
Think about the possibility of Swift and LLVM software running on IBM hardware running OS X. Apple would finally have a tool chain for mobile devices, desktops and server computers. In other words, Apple would open the full modern computing stack to its developers using one language and one tool set.
Apple is finally going after cloud system and the enterprise.
Putting aside my pure speculation above, we are learning more about IBM’s offer and what we are seeing is very encouraging. Watson Analytics and Bluemix services seem very competitive with other cloud based offerings.
We first look at the technology offering and the additional services that are available, then we look at pricing. We’re still in the process of assessing the technology so I don’t have enough experience to comment today. But I will follow up with a post when I have more information.
Building a native Android or iOS app is not that expensive if you only develop for one platform or the other. The expense of building an app for both platforms, which is generally double the cost of developing for one platform, is the part where most clients start to consider other options.
There is a constant buzz on tech blogs claiming that HTML5 apps are just as good as or superior to native apps. This is just not the case. Consider this: if HTML5 apps are so good and so much less expensive, why is the percentage of HTML5 apps so small compared to native apps? Why is that even Facebook could not drive mobile engagement through the use of an HTML5 app?
There is always a tradeoff, and with HTML5 the lower cost comes with reduced functionality, elegance and performance. Even Mark Zuckerberg learned the hard way that functionality, elegance, and performance are what make mobile apps successful.
Also clients and colleagues who have built HTML5 apps hoping that it would be a write-once, run cross-platform solution for both iOS and Android have found that it does not work as advertised. The Android marketplace is fractured in multidimensional ways. There are numerous different hardware sets being sold to run the Android platform, and not all devices being sold run the most recent version of the Android OS. This makes it so that one set of HTML5 code cannot possibly adapt to run on all of those different devices. It’s not easy to build native apps in that environment either, but HTML5 is not an easy way around the problem.
If your intention is to get into the mobile marketplace by extending your existing SaaS service from web to mobile, understand that there are no shortcuts. Native apps are the only choice for you. There are no other options to consider for a professional product. If you care about the clients of your SaaS, then don’t subject them to second-class functionality, elegance and performance.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, the famed John Gruber comments:
I have also heard that if you want to develop mobile apps for your employees in an enterprise, that building HTML5 apps is a good option. People cite the current bring-your-own-device (“BYOD”) reality as the reasoning for developing HTML5 apps. If you don’t care about your employees and are fine with inferior functionality, elegance and performance, then by all means create HTML5 apps. Employee productivity is not your problem, right?
I will point out one market where I would not recommend building native apps to support the mobile market, and that is for small business. For them creating native apps is likely too cost-prohibitive. The best bet for small business is building “responsive” web sites that adjust to the smaller screens. You can build responsive web sites with or without HTML5. Those who have a hard time funding development to make their web site responsive to mobile devices need to consider that a cost of doing business. Just like a new paint job for your retail space or keeping your computing hardware up-to-date, building a website for the devices your customers are using is an investment in running a successful business.
At Software Ops, we build native apps for clients who are serious about entering the mobile market. We do this because we know that building apps for functionality, elegance and performance is a requirement for being successful in the mobile market. For your mobile development of choice, we work hard to make sure your native Android or iOS app is the best it can be to give you the best chance of success.
It is often the case that after an initial and very short conversation with a prospective client on the functionality of a desired app, I always get “what will this cost?”
The actual cost of a custom mobile app will likely be between $20,000 and $1,500,000 depending on the complexity of the app. I hope that helps in terms of a monetary range. Now for the much more detailed answer.
I have listed below some custom app pricing guidelines, but first let’s discuss a few important concepts. All these are costs of software development even before our developers create the project in their development tools. These actions all take time and energy of our development team.
Actions we take before we begin a development effort:
- I can’t possibly give you a meaningful price for a custom mobile native app without first going through a discovery process that results in a wireframe document. There is a fee for this process.
- If you don’t have an Apple iTunesConnect account or a Google Play account, it takes time and money to set one up for you. To give you “ad hoc” builds, (alpha builds) requires setting up a test account in iTunes Conenct.
- A project manager begins the planning effort with our client and our development team.
- I have to bring my app developer(s) up to speed with the concept, and put the “stories” into our agile development system so we can build it as fast as possible and as correctly as possible for our clients.
- We have our QA specialist become involved as we create the stories in our agile tool so all the details of the app are understood prior to seeing the first iteration build of the app to test.
- We create a Git source code control repository so we can track the changes of the code during development and ensure the code is protected from loss.
App Development Cost Estimates
Software development may be the most expensive part of a mobile app system project, but success only happens with expert help from the other disciplines including, graphic design, project management and quality assurance. When reviewing the items below keep in mind, all those efforts are included in the price.
- Discover and Wireframes, $5,000 - $25,000. The range depends upon if it is a simple app or needs cloud services.
- App UI/UX design. $5,000 - $40,000. If you want your app to have a UI/UX that is tops in the market, it has to be designed with fonts, color, animation and depth.
- Simple app that doesn’t talk to any servers and a simple design, $20,000. If you don’t understand why, re-read the first section again.
- A simple app with a fantastic UI/UX experience, $25,000 - $45,000. Getting color, fonts, layout and animations to be perfect takes massive engineering and design hours, with many alpha builds for our client. This adds up to time, energy, and money.
- An app that connects with your servers using your APIs, $45,000 - $95,000. Whenever we work with existing server APIs it takes many hours of coordination just to get it working. We have to test on your test servers and then we have to test on your production servers.
- An app with a companion cloud service both built from scratch $85,000 - $250,000. This a very common project for both our enterprise clients and our startup clients.
- If you want an entire mobile app system created. This means a complex app, with fantastic UI/UX and a custom cloud implementation that manages user accounts, and other features of the system via a web interface. It usually includes a web portal for your customers and your management team. It often includes its own marketing website as well. It will also include iPhone, iPad and Android apps. As you can see, this involves a lot of work and man hours to produce. Price tag? $300,000 to $1,500,000 depending upon what the app actually does. Yes,1.5 million dollars.
What is the cost of NOT doing a mobile app for your business?
I don’t have a specific answer to that question. I do have a series of questions for the leadership of a business to understand what is really at stake.
Have you assessed the marketplace to understand what mobile is doing to your business?
What are your primary competitors doing with mobile and how is it impacting your business?
What are your secondary competitors doing with mobile and how is it impacting your business?
What are your tertiary competitors doing with mobile and what impact is it having on your customers?