Everyone’s looking to get rich quick, and apps are the new frontier for would-be millionaires. Apps like Flappy Bird seem to promise that a marginal amount of work can create something that will bring in revenues by the truckloads, and many are eager to repeat that kind of success. Before you start putting together a wireframe, however, you should be aware that it’s rarely that simple, or that easy.
Building an app is not as easy as it looks
Apps may seem small and simple, but like any software, there’s a lot that goes into it. First and foremost, building an app requires someone (potentially many someones) that can code, preferably in the coding language applicable to the kind of device (Android, Windows, or Apple) you plan to put your app on. Without a code, you don’t have an app. So if you don’t know how to code, expect either to learn or to have to get someone else to do it. And there’s going to be a lot of coding, so don’t expect them to do it for free.
Beyond coding, which is the bulk of the job, there’s a host of other functions that need to be filled in order to create an app. You’ll need a graphic designer, someone who can create the look of the app. They’re responsible for putting the 'graphic' in 'Graphical User Interface.'
You’ll also need a writer to generate all the written content for the app, it’s page in the app store, and elsewhere. It may sound easy enough to do yourself, but if you don’t know when to use 'its' or 'it’s,' you’re likely to make some mistakes that others will find laughable.
You’re going to need alpha and beta testers so you can work the kinks out of the coding. You’re going to need marketers if you want the app to do well. You’re going to need people working customer support for when the app doesn’t function right. If you plan on having in-app purchases, you’re going to need a payment processor to handle the transactions. You’ll need management, and someone working in finance. The list goes on.
While not every app is a huge project requiring a whole company to complete, most are, and those that can be completed by one person still require that one person to be a savvy programmer, who can do a little graphic design on the side.
Building an app is expensive
All of the above-mentioned labor costs money. People aren’t willing to spend months working on your app without getting paid, and most of the above occupations pay pretty well. Depending on how long it takes to build the app, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars, or hundreds of thousands.
In the unlikely event that the whole project can be completed by a single person, that person will be working on it for an extended period of time. So even if you plan to complete the app yourself, and don’t plan on paying yourself until it’s finished, you still have to pay the bills in the meantime, which means working for someone else who’s willing to pay you for your efforts.
Most apps don’t catch on
Once you’ve considered everything that goes into an app, you then need to consider how it will be received by the public. The unfortunate truth is, most apps sit at the bottom of the app store collecting dust. There are thousands of apps out there, but the vast majority are ignored, especially if they have any rating below four stars. It’s entirely likely that you could sink $50,000 into building an app, only to see it downloaded a mere 200 times.
Most apps struggle to recover their investment, and while there are some breakout successes, they are not the norm.
Build for passion, not for profit
In the end, you have to ask yourself an important question: why am I building the app? If you’re creating an app because you believe it will be the next Snapchat, launching you (or your business) into the stratosphere of success, then you’re not being realistic, and you’re bound to be financially disappointed.
If, however, you’re building the app because it fills a unique need (whether that’s for the general public, your own company, or for yourself), or because you like building things with code, then we encourage it. Passion for building cool things is why we do what we do, too. Though we might suggest consulting the pros at a digital creative agency for advice on how to do it successfully. If you’re still committed, here’s a step-by-step app building guide to help you on your way.
After all, if you’re going to do it, you should do it well.