Raising awareness

Why are apps so costly anyways?

Oana Dusa - Posted in Notes to self on October 12, 2016

I've been thinking for a while now about client work in IT, about explaining to non-tech people what we do and why creating an app is so costly. I feel like there is a need to introduce a real and clear overview about what an app is and how it is created, and accept it as a matter of fact. This could save a lot of people from failing, especially the ones that started with 'I have an idea for an app that will get me rich'. Why is someone else's fail a problem for us? Because there is an increased level of frustration among people who work in this world. A world full of super smart people, whose skills are bluntly scattered into thin air, instead of being converted into collective evolution.

Of course, the core problem starts from the education that we received. There aren't many of us who were told in school that every business should start by solving a problem. It doesn't matter that you're making shoes, you have a restaurant or you make mobile app. You are selling a product to a certain market that was diagnosed with a specific problem. You are selling a solution to their problem. And they will buy it only if it fits their needs. They won't buy it just because you had an idea that is different. Because that is creativity, not problem solving, and the business in this field is not about selling art.

So one day I came up with this analogy: apps are like cars. Let's assume that you have a great idea, but you don't know or understand why you need consultancy or research, why respecting usability principles is important or why there are so many people dedicated for 'small' things. It's ok not to know. What's not ok is to skip understanding the importance of every detail that is part of the whole.

Of course, the core problem starts from the education that we received.

So you have an idea for a great car. There are so many out there, all types of models, sizes or colors, electric or fuel cars, cheap or expensive. But your idea is different. That's why you decided to give it a shot.

But why would you want to build a new car? To make money or to solve an iminent problem, such as the oil crisis or air pollution. It would probably to make some money, but you sure should think about doing something diffent. I mean, there are so many cars out there, how will you make it through an already mature market? So you will probably start realizing that, in order to get more customers, you have to touch one of the real world problems. But the solutions needed in order to solve any of them require an incredible amount of money for research and developing new technologies. Do you want to invest in that?

And maybe there will be one or two people who will tell you that creating a successful product is much more than just having an idea.

The real problem appears when you don't have the money to create a Mercedes Benz. Or have leather interior, a GPS screen near the driving seat, climatronic or smooth control over the foot or gear levers. You just have to realize that you can't expect that the end product will be able compete with Mercedes Benz, and even gain part of its customers.

The point of this example was to make a parallel with a similar market, the web & mobile market. A more accessible one, indeed, but the fact is great products don't happen by accident. Take into consideration that even if you think you found a blemish, maybe the problem you found is only a personal thing, and other people don't even have this problem after all. You may realize that it was just a subjective need of creating a business and making money, instead of solving a real problem that will provide money to continuously improve the solution. Take into consideration that apps cost money. A lot of money, if you want to make them great. And a lot of money is not even the certain recipe, but the lack of investment will certainly be the recipe for failure. Programming, designing and marketing an app are very complex matters.

The thing that you have to realize is that making an app is like making a car. If you don't have the budget for a Mercedes, you have to tailor your expectations. It will be functional, but it won't be the ultimate buyer's option. This is why the MVP notion is so popular nowadays. An MVP is version 0.1 of a potential product, used to test the market to see whether it's suitable as a solution to an existing problem. Extensive research during the whole process will help you eliminate at least a part of the dead ends that the product might encounter. And after you validate the idea, the product will have a real basis to be built upon.

It's not an easy process, and this is the way it should be perceived. It's something that should start with passion and knowledge of a subject, thorough research, as well as a skilled team lead by someone who knows where to start things from. And I'm saying this because what I want to see in this market is evolution, not a waste of valuable knowledge and energy that turns into frustration.