4 App Planning Strategies to Reduce Long-Term Development Costs

[fa icon="user"] Patrick Emmons [fa icon="calendar"]  Aug 6, 2015 4:33:00 PM

4 App Planning Strategies to Reduce Long-Term Development Costs

The growing demand for companies to differentiate through engaging with their clients on a number of different platforms is causing nearly every business to contemplate an app development program to extend its reach to current and potential customers. Every organization feels the pressure to have an app for smart phones, tablets and enhanced mobile connectivity. With the introduction of wearables, this already complicated situation is only getting worse.

While executives eagerly shell out thousands of dollars for an app’s development and launch, too often they fail to forecast the long-term costs of a mobile application.

Before developing any application, you must consider not only the initial costs, but what it will take to maintain it over time. Strategic app planning can be the difference between a successful app and a single-release failure.

Here are 4 ways to ensure you get the most effective app for the lowest overall cost.

1. Choose Your Platform Wisely

Platform choice will play a significant role in ongoing app development and maintenance costs. When deciding on a platform, you have three choices:

Develop a Native App for Each Phone Platform

(iPhone, Android, etc.)

If you elect to build a native app, you will incur inflated maintenance charges. With a native app, every update, tweak, or added feature must be done separately to each device’s developing platform.

If you have an iPhone, Android and Windows Phone app, you’ll end up doing three times the work. Not only do you have to make the changes to each individual phone’s platform, but you will also have to work with the platform’s respective app store to be granted approval, a step that can greatly affect how quickly you release updates to your users.

Develop a Cross-Platform Solution

There are a number of cross-platform tools that enable you to develop one solution that can be deployed to iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Some of the tools that exist are Xamarin, Sencha, Appcelerator, Kony, and PhoneGap.

Each have their advantages and disadvantages. Sencha and Phone Gap are tools that encapsulate HTML5 and JavaScript within runtime that installs on the device. If you are building a simple app, these are good solutions for that.

Xamarin, on the other hand, creates true native applications using the .Net framework. Their Xamarin Forms product is a tool where you can create a simple version of your mobile application and then specialize different versions for each device.

Develop a Web Application

Web applications are opening new doors in app development. By utilizing the feature-rich HTML5, businesses can develop a single app that can be accessed from any device via a web browser.

Traditionally, app makers have preferred downloadable apps for their quality over web-based, but the enhanced functionality of HTML5 is reversing that logic, saving everyone time and money. For these reasons, more developers are recommending HTML5 to offer businesses a more efficient and cost-effective solution to developing an app.

2. Plan Feature Development Carefully

Companies that dive headfirst into the app development process without any preparation risk spending more than necessary. While aiming to debut a flawless, glitzy app is appealing, it is often one of the biggest mistakes companies make. This leads to overspending on unnecessary special features.

A Standish Group report recently found that 45% of typical application features (both web and mobile) are never used and another 19% are rarely used.

Here's how to avoid developing those unused features:

Identify Key Features

How do you determine the least amount of features needed to provide your customers true value without adding anything unnecessary? While complicated, there are folks who can assist. There is a growing discipline called User Experience Design (UX). UX provides the ability to marry the user requirements with the business requirements.

A UX expert will find alignment in what the customers want out of the application and what business objectives drive the application. This process will help identify your minimal viable product (mvp).

Reduce Feature Bloat

Reducing the feature bloat to only the features the end user will value and use is the first goal. This reduces the initial cost of the application. It also reduces the cost to maintain and expand on after the initial release. The less complicated an application is, the less cost it takes to maintain.

Focus on Simplicity

Focus on simplicity early on. Start with producing a basic, fundamental app and then adapt it to fit the consumers’ wants and needs. Small changes are unavoidable so best practice is to release a subdued version first, followed by upgrades and improvements throughout the following months. Making minor alterations are less costly and less time consuming than having to start from the ground up.

This strategy of end-user development allows you to avoid wasted time, while also eliminating the risk of overspending on both short term and long term costs.

3. Prepare for Continued Maintenance Costs

What most developers know, and many business executives don’t, is that there is much more to an application than launching it to the consumer. When developing a new application you must consider it like building a new home. You don’t stop paying for the home once it is built.

The same is true for applications.

An app requires endless updates and improvements that executives must be aware of. It is the developer’s job to assist the client in planning ahead. Development partners often incorporate a maintenance charge into contracts, informing decision makers right away of future costs.

Typically, application maintenance ranges from 15%-20% of the original development costs. So if you create an app for $200,000, expect to pay about $40,000 per year to maintain the app.

Being prepared for continued maintenance costs will prevent you from developing an app that quickly becomes obsolete - and ultimately a waste of money.

4. Maintain an App Development Schedule

Schedule minor alterations before the app is ever launched. Have a designated schedule for monthly upgrades and improvements. This allows you to focus your attention on basic problems. Later in the process you can schedule requested enhancements and add-ons.

Planning add-ons in advance allows you to gauge consumer feedback, which you can use to decide what additional features consumers desire most. That feedback will also assist you in deciding what issues need to be prioritized, avoiding the addition of unwanted features and providing an application that best suits your users’ needs.

As customers use apps more and more, your app becomes another face of the company, impacting how consumers view your business.

Solid strategic planning prior to jumping into a development project will increase your mobile app ROI.  Your customers will thank you and your bottom line will thank you.

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