You finally convinced your company’s executives to take the plunge. You found a great developer and you’re weeks away from releasing a brand new mobile app! It all went smoothly—until you realized your app will need a significant monthly budget to cover the cost of maintenance and updates.
The issue of ongoing costs never really crossed your mind. Most of your development experience has involved websites, and the company website only requires minor updates two or three times per year. However, a mobile app will need frequent maintenance and at least a couple major updates per year. This wasn’t included in your original budget proposal! Now, you’re faced with the unpleasant task of asking your company leaders for a fairly large sum of money to cover these costs. They are not going to be pleased.
Unfortunately, this scenario is quite common, and it’s just one of the problems that arise when creating a budget for mobile app development and maintenance. A study by Forrester revealed that the initial development cost accounted for just 35% of the two-year cost of owning and managing an enterprise app. Meanwhile, non-enterprise apps see lower annual maintenance costs, averaging 15 to 20 percent of the initial development costs. And that says nothing of the other budgeting issues that can arise as a result of miscommunications or scope changes during the initial app development process.
The reality is that over half—66 percent, according to one study—of all development projects cost more than originally expected. So what accounts for the differential between the original budget allocation and the actual cost?
Mistake #1: Failing to Account for Implementation Costs for Services and Features
Identifying all the functions, features, and services you’d like to include in your app is just one piece of the puzzle. You also need to understand what’s involved with implementing, launching, and maintaining those features and services.
For example, if your app will include registered users, a membership portal, or a social media interface, you’ll need to consider precisely how to manage and moderate those users. It’s also critical to give some thought to the tech-savviness of the moderators, as this will impact the design and complexity of the back-end interface.
Once the app is launched, you’ll need to consider the time and effort required to offer various services and features. Your developer can build an interface that’s largely self-managing, but some degree of human intervention will likely be required. It’s also wise to take a conservative approach when launching new features, as it’s estimated that a whopping 45 percent of app features are never used, while 19 percent are rarely used.
Mistake #2: Underestimating the Costs Associated With UI/UX and QA Testing
The costs of QA testing and UI/UX testing are largely determined by how many operating system versions and devices you plan to accommodate. Each OS version and device will require testing. If you decide to ensure compliance with a larger number of operating systems and devices, this will increase the cost and project timeframe. In certain cases, the testing budget could even exceed the actual cost of programming the app and perfecting the interface.
This is one area where it’s common to over-optimize, so most developers recommend testing a conservative number of operating systems for the initial app launch. Then, you can gather actual user data to identify what, if any, additional testing should be performed. You can also see significant savings by opting for a developer like SevenTablets, which has customized software designed to automate much of the mobile app testing process.
Mistake #3: Failing to Account for the Cost of App Updates
Many people incorrectly assume that mobile apps are akin to mobile websites, where you perform updates only when you need to alter or add some element (i.e. changing prices or switching out the app’s color scheme and logo to reflect your new brand identity.)
Mobile applications are different because you’ll need to perform updates and UI/UX testing in response to operating system updates and even other app updates. An AnyPresence survey of enterprise apps revealed that 8 in 10 apps were updated at least twice per year, with approximately one in three updating at least twice per month.
OS updates are performed every 4 to 8 weeks, and most are fairly minor. But every few months, you will see more major updates. Therefore, it’s wise to plan for a minimum of two major updates per operating system each year, along with a handful of smaller ones.
Mistake #4: Failure to Differentiate Between Native Apps vs Hybrid Apps
When developing a mobile app and discussing the budget and development timeline, it’s important to understand whether your developer is creating a native app (and if so, for which platform) or a hybrid app.
A native app can be used on just one platform; as such, you may need to develop two apps—one for iOS and one for Android. This can dramatically increase costs, as your developers are faced with developing, testing, and refining two separate pieces of software.
A hybrid app can be used on more than one platform, but they tend to share more commonalities with a traditional mobile website than a mobile app. Hybrid apps can require a bit of compromise in order to ensure multi-device compatibility, but the cost of developing a single hybrid app is often significantly lower than what you would spend on multiple native mobile apps.
It’s critical that you understand the type of app you’re getting. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you learn that only Android or only iOS users can use your new mobile app and are suddenly faced with the unexpected task (and expense) of developing a second version.
Mistake #5: Development Costs for Never-Before-Seen Features or Functions
Developing a new, revolutionary feature can be costly and time-consuming. Of course, the benefits of inventing new technology can be significant, and you may end up with software that can be licensed or resold to other companies or developers.
The bottom line is that if you’re asking your developers to create something that has never been created before, there is tremendous potential for cost overruns.
You also need to ensure that your developers are not attempting to reinvent the wheel, as this can result in unnecessary costs. For example, SevenTablets has created a flexible, scalable open-source platform called STAX, which helps us slash your project’s development timeframe and budget by up to 40 percent. STAX allows our developers to utilize refined, pre-made components instead of redoing an existing project. Of course, STAX isn’t the only open-source tool on the market; there are many applets and other pieces of open-source technology that can be leveraged. These open source elements allow you to avoid developing common features, like authentication, encryption, and push notifications, from the ground up.
Clients who have never built an app before likely have no idea what to expect from the process. This is why it is helpful to work with a mobile app development firm that can guide you through the process while addressing any concerns and communicating in a clear manner. We’ve found this approach helps prevent confusion or misunderstandings during the budgeting, planning, and development processes.
Based in Texas, SevenTablets serves local clients in Houston, Dallas, and Austin, in addition to working with clients in other areas of the United States and beyond. If you’re ready to move forward with a new mobile app development project, contact SevenTablets today.
VK studied computer science at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad, India and earned a Master’s Degree in computer science at George Mason University.
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