3 Questions To Ask Before Making Your First App

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Bruce Peck

Mar 13, 2022 · 10 min read

First question: Should you build an app?

Almost every week I have someone come up to me and say, “I have an idea for an app, what is the first step?” And my answer is always the same, “Quit.”

If they don’t take that advice, then they may actually be the kind of people who can oversee the making of an app correctly.

You see building an app for the first time as a non-technical person can be a massive challenge. And if you don’t actually care deeply about the project and commit to doing it right, you’re going to end up with, dare I say it, an expensive, time-consuming, piece of junk.

Why is that? It’s because there are 100 questions you will need to answer before you ever have someone write the first line of code and that is work that you alone have to do, not the programmer. It’s the work of finding a product concept that actually fits the market.

For example, let’s say you have an idea about a calculator app that you are super stoked about. Well, the place to start is, clearly, does anyone want a calculator app? What do they want it to do? What features are absolutely essential?

If you go out and find that the world has been holding its breath for your super widget calculator, then you may proceed to the next section. If you find that people are less than ecstatic, congrats you just saved years of your life!

Second question: Who should build your app?

When building an app you have three main options: build it from scratch yourself, buy an existing app or hire it out. Each of these have their pros and cons, let’s talk about them.

When should you build an app yourself?

If you plan to be a full-time programmer in the future and have a love of code, you should definitely build your own app. It’s an amazing skill set to have and there is nothing better than being able to solve your own technological problems.

If you don’t dream in code, but your companies future depends on your ability to continue to build software forever (aka if you’re building something like Snapchat or Facebook where the coding will never stop) then it may be wiser for you to find someone that can work in house on the app for the foreseeable future.

The last reason in my head for building an app on your own is if you have a lot more time than money. App development is not cheap and if you don’t have the money, then you may be better off just building it yourself or saving up some money in the bank.

Should you purchase an existing app and rework it?

I’ve only heard of one case where this was successful, the company (Neighbor) basically bought an Airbnb clone app and then built their application by adjusting the code on top of it. It’s definitely worth a look on sites like flippa to see if there is anything that can get you substantially closer to your goal from the get-go.

The drawback however of this approach is that you are most likely still going to need someone who has a deep understanding of code and if you are looking to build the highest quality app possible that will have the least amount of issues in the future, it is likely that it is just better to build it from scratch.

Should you hire your app development out?

If you have a really clear idea of what you want to build and you know that once the project is completed, aside from routine maintenance, you probably won’t have to hire contractors for a long time, then it may be a good idea to hire your app work out.

The main advantage of working with contractors is (if you pick the right ones) their speed and efficiency. When you sit down with them they should be able to diagnose exactly what your project will entail and be able to create a clear picture of what the development will look like.

They also have skills and resources that you likely don’t have. For example, the first time that I went through the process of developing an app I had literally no clue what to do, so I just began drawing things and laying out stuff on paper. Then I had the programmer code it, and it ended up looking like this:

Yeah…. not the prettiest piece of software in the world. But now after Garrett (the programmer) & I have worked together as a team for three years, here is what the same app looks like today:

Hopefully, you can see that the UI improved a bit. That is just the kind of experience that you are getting when you hire it out, it takes years to learn the finer details of what makes good design and what makes the app not glitch and how to avoid bugs, etc. And that is what you are paying for when you hire contract work out.

This brings us to the third question:

Third question: How much is it going to cost?

As previously stated in this article, app development is not cheap, development time on the low end is anywhere from $35 an hour to $150 an hour. That is why it is important for you to be prepared before you ever talk with software development agencies. Let’s talk about some of the main ways to be prepared.

First: Do everything manually before you expect software to do it.

For instance, if you are going to build a dashboard that shows your clients how much interest they’ve earned in their bank account this year, start by emailing them a monthly spreadsheet of the data. What this allows you to do is to understand what is and what is not important. This helps you to avoid the pitfall of having a programmer spend hours on something that doesn’t matter.

Second: Create your own mockups of how the app should function.

Most programmers speak a different language than the rest of the earth’s population, it’s called, “If-you-don’t-say-exactly-what-you-need-in-terms-I-understand-clearly-it-won’t-be-built-the-way-you-imagine” (and perhaps the lack of a catchy name for the language is why it never caught on…)

Because of this different language you want to be as clear as humanly possible. Drawing out how each page of the app will work then listing the features and exactly what they’ll do helps immensely with this.

The act of drawing out your designs on paper forces your mind to think through how things will actually work.

There is a deep canyon in between how you imagine things in your head, and the details required to make it work in reality and sketching it out helps you to cross this chasm. Clarity is the keyword for getting the development you want to be done in the timeframe you need it.

If you do these two things you will greatly decrease the time and cost associated with your app. If you’re interested in figuring out what it might entail, feel free to schedule a meeting with us.