Should you develop your app in house, outsource your app or buy
You want an app to boost your business sales or add diversity to your service line, then what is the better development option for you and your business? There are 5 stages when it comes to developing your own app, planning -> testing -> development -> publishing -> maintaining, which is what this article is about, should you build your own app by hiring your engineering team/firm or utilize a 3rd party service to handle A-Z processes.
Table Of Contents
- Making your app(in house, your own engineering team)
- How to cut costs to make it more manageable for your business
- Which business should consider in house
- 3rd party app making services
- Which business should consider 3rd party
In this article, we will discuss a high-level view of developing your own app and judge each method of acquiring an app based on costs, stress, and results. By the end of this article, you will have a better sense of how you want to go about getting a mobile platform for your business and which method is best for which types of businesses.
Disclaimer: A major service our company offers is standardized app making, but do not be unswayed yet the results will surprise you, it surprised us.
Making an app for your business, such as a restaurant or e-commerce brand, is undeniably paramount to your business’s future as the world moves more and more to mobile-first. When you consider taking on the responsibilities of developing your own app, you will need to have access to capital, time, and maintenance.
We decided to group “in-house” development to include hiring and managing your development team, hiring a development firm, or a mix of both as these options. The reason for this is because the biggest differing factor between in-house and 3rd parties is the ability to personalize and customize specifically to your business needs.
In-house development means the highest level of control but the more control you desire the more money you have to pay, and the cost of developing your own app can quickly rack up depending on the complexity of your app, your expertise in the field of development, and desired time to market.
Even though you may or may not have previous experience in development, as the head of your company or lead of your department you most likely do not have the time. As spending time developing, working out the kinks, and the hell that comes with software development will rapidly consume your time, so you will need to enlist a team, aka spend a lot of money.
How much does it cost to develop your own app?
“Research from GoodFirms shows that the average price of a simple app is between $38,000 to $91,000. The medium complexity app cost is between $55,550 and $131,000. A complex app may cost from $91,550 to $211,000”.(Cleveroad) So you are looking at a pretty big investment for “proprietary technology” or a custom solution.
Alongside that using our background in software development, we would fairly estimate these costs are from a development firm and not your own team. Meaning the more in-house you get the more capital will be needed.
Here’s the breakdown of payroll for a full-time annual baseline development team:
(85–120)K: A frontend engineer: they will handle programming your UI/UX(user interface), this is what your customers will see and interact with.
(55–85)K: An UI/UX designer: they will design your app from scratch, a necessary part in the planning stage. Also important because the Apple App Store does not allow copycat apps, meaning you cannot copy a competitor’s existing app and make slight changes, you will need a UI/UX that is fairly unique. If you are interested in understanding more, here is a link to an article with a more in-depth explanation.
(95–125)K: A backend engineer: they will make your app work, the server calls, and such.
(80–110)K: Lastly but optional, a DevOps engineer. They will handle security and scaling your app to a large number of users, usually only necessary for 300k+ active users.
The clock is ticking:
Time is money and developing an app is not an overnight thing, “On average, apps can take anywhere between three and nine months to develop, depending on the complexity of the app and structure of your project.”(3sidedcube) Thus a possible dilemma of incurring costs through the process development, waiting a long period of time before your app is ready, and with no return on investment through that time.
This is not a bad thing or deterrent but a word of caution, and with your projected release date not being met with development delays regardless if you are with a team or firm. However, if you find a reliable, trusted, and experienced firm this will more than likely be a non-issue for meeting deadlines.
Now you’re still wanting to do it in-house, but is it right for you?
Before I suggest which type of business is right for in-house development, I will offer a few ideas to reduce in-house development. First, is using a pre-existing backend service to streamline your “user account”, “user actions”, etc since most of the backend code(business logic) you will write has likely been experienced by someone else and tweaked, corrected, and perfected.
This is a service we offer to clients who want a customized option but the benefits of our systems. Using a 3rd party user API and payment API can save you money and time to market, reducing your main focus to UI/UX.
You could also purchase a proprietary and exclusive UI/UX from a freelancer or theme shop, allowing you to skip the brainstorming phase of your development. However, I would not recommend this option because purchasing exclusivity will run up a high tab, paying up into the thousands.
Moreover, we have learned through experience, that unique or cool-looking UIs for sale are often cool on paper/face value but not practical in practice. Also having the possibility of all your business kinks not being met from the purchased UI/UX and only surface level needs being fulfilled.
In the end, I would suggest only going the in-house route if you meet at least of two these criteria:
- You plan to have over 250k weekly active users
- You have the technical depth to know how to optimize your development
- Your company makes a minimum of 7.5M a year
- You have had forecasted development, server, regulation, 3rd party services, and maintenance costs for the next 5–9 years and it is within your budget
- A must-have, to have access to your backend code
- A very tailored app idea and business logic
Know the alternative, our favorite. Using a 3rd Party Service
I would say the two biggest disadvantages of using a 3rd party service is the possible lack of full personalization to your business’s agenda and a rigid development process. Though this may change in the future as 3rd party services grow their product lines.
Another caveat is that any 3rd party service that serves multiple customers will have to publish your app under their developer account, as required by Apple and possibly other app stores. To your customers, there is no difference in accessing or search for your app, just simply that the “business name” for your mobile platform will be your 3rd party provider.
For many brands this is a non-issue, however, some brands desire full control over their brand image across their products, making “Stars Cafe Rewards App” by “XYZ apps made easy” may not be the desired option and would much rather prefer “Stars Cafe Rewards App” by Stars Cafe LLC. Though, the latter option is only available to in-house development.
The Double Edge Swords
The reasoning behind “copycat” app regulations is because app marketplaces do not want to create an ecosystem that stifles creativity by developers having the same app. Along with wanting to incentive brands that have spent money and energy developing their own UI/UX and app, which provides an incentive for more brands to build for the ecosystem. But with 3rd party services, there is a loophole that allows for “non-unique” apps under the same developer account. If you are interested, here is a link to an article with a more in-depth explanation.
However, in my honest opinion, I see this to be beneficial to you as a company because you do not have to worry about the complexity of grading your app to fit the newest operating system or the implementation of new features. Since it’s all under the 3rd party developer, they can easily push out new updates without having to involve you or get passwords, etc. Even more depending on your 3rd party service, like us, you do not have to pay developer fees and those are not passed onto you.
Rigid development and features, due to the nature of 3rd party service having to standardize their development process to fit a wide range of customers their development pipeline becomes rigid. Possibly leaving you to use very basic UI elements and baseline features that do not showcase your brand’s sophistication.
Though we ourselves are a standardized process, we designed our app templates to follow the most modern trends in design, with recurring new features to make your customer engagement more prevalent. So when searching for a 3rd party service do not settle for ones that leave you with an app that looks like it was made with default fonts, textures, and UI elements.
Here at Craspa we follow 3 simple design rules, make it simple, make it fast, and make it usable. For many 3rd party services, the reason why their UI/UX is often basic in design and looks like they were made in 2012 is that they are a DIY process, drag and drop systems.
To us, that is an inefficient and redundant development process. The majority of individuals who run businesses with moderate customer traffic are more than likely not artists and UX/UX designers. Thus making you responsible for a task that traditionally would require a few years of training and experience would not be the optimal decision.
We create templates that make the most sense for a target market’s use case because we believe if it is tailored and perfected for 1 client it will most likely be great for another 100–1000 clients. This is why our app templates look professional and modern, giving your company and brand the look it deserves.
It takes less than 3 minutes to choose your app template and upload your brand assets on our service and we also regularly update our UI/UX to match the industry design trends, without any input from you needed. So for some, a rigid development process can be the antithesis of what they want to achieve but for many who already share the same business logic, there is no real point in re-building the wheel.
3 factors make 3rd party app services shine and a great option, 1. Time to market, 2. Cheaper. 3. No need to actively maintain. Time to market is momentous for many businesses, as waiting 6–9 months can be the difference of 10,000s to 100,000s. Especially when the time to market with in-house development is not entirely a definite guarantee, with many unknown variables that could lead to release delay.
Though not tenable to happen and few possibilities are, the app store rules change, developers quit, your capital suddenly gets tighter, the firm you hire goes bankrupt, closes, or has their own internal issues.
At least a 3rd party service, all the hard work has already been done for you and you could have your app live and ready to use in your customer’s hands within 2–7 days, depending on how long the app store takes to review a submission.
Another big factor to consider is testing the real world, even though every business that aims to grow should have their own app in this digital economy, you will still want to know how your apps fairs with your existing customer based. Through the use of a 3rd party service, you can test your app and iterate to optimize your mobile platform faster.
Furthermore depending on your 3rd party service, like us, we take input from our clients to make sure their needs are met. We will actually create and implement new features you would want because if you want it, there is a high chance our other clients will, so we are happy to bring your ideas to reality without you having to pay devs to do it.
Number 2: Who does not like saving money, I know I do. So why not save money where you can, since your using a 3rd party service the app development cost is spread out between all the services client, so you not stuck with the bill. This also allows you to quit or switch services at will without feeling you lost out on your investment.
Imagine if you spent 80k-150k on the development for your mobile platform and you are not happy with the result even though you paid and approve the process all the way through, there is a reason why divorce exists. So utilizing a 3rd party that does not require exclusivity or commitment, like us, you are free to join and leave anytime at no cost.
You can also test different services to see which service is the best for business, which is a very big money saver compared to firm consultations. Now I will admit if you hire a firm they most likely have dealt with unsatisfied clients and have adjusted their development process to eliminate the possibility of unsatisfied clients, however that is if they truly care for their clients and not just booking a gig.
Furthermore, when I say cheaper, I actually mean free, we made our process completely free. The making, publishing, and using of your app, so you can see how it is in real life at zero costs, unlike some other 3rd party services that require a down payment or upfront fee.
Number 3. When you have an app, maintenance is not a discussion, it’s an expectation. Customers will be very quick to delete your app if it is slow or outdated, your customers are updating their phones so your app should be too. With a 3rd party service, they will handle all the updates and maintenance needed to make your app run smoothly, leaving maintenance to be a non-issue for you.
So this is who I would say should use a 3rd party service, if you meet any of the 2:
- Plan to serve 250k > users
- Your expendable budget is less than 75k
- You do not have the expertise or the time to deal with development bugs and maintenance
- Having your own “developer account” or unique app is not worth paying the cost of developing in-house