7 questions most startup founders are scared sh$tless to ask about app development

7 Questions Most Startup Founders Are Scared Sh$tless To Ask About App Development

App development can be a pretty daunting industry for first-timers.

There are dodgy developers to look out for, app jargon to confuse you, and lots of big, scary figures being thrown around.

Many of our clients are new to the app startup scene, and I’ve found that most of them are itching to get a straight, honest answer about their key concerns.

Well, I’m here to pull the rug out. And beat out the dust.

Here are the answers to 7 questions about app development that you might be struggling to get a clear answer on.

  1. How much does mobile app development cost?

how much does mobile app development cost

Ooft, straight off the bat. This is juicy.

For a fairly basic app with no backend functionality, using the lean approach to app development, you’re looking at $50-150,000.

This price delivers a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) first to eliminate wasted resources, and delivers concrete data from which future updates will springboard off.

When you are quoted the cost of app development, the following factors are taken into consideration:

  • Number of screens
  • Device types it needs to be compatible with (iOS, Android, etc)
  • 3rd party API integrations (Common ones are Facebook and Google Maps, for example)
  • Need for integration with any existing systems
  • Any supporting technical requirements (Eg: a web app or backend management portal)

Most startups don’t have this kind of money upfront, and so they hit the investment circuit at various stages in their development process.

See also: The App Developer’s Complete Investment Kit For Raising Funds

At least it’s never been a better time in Australia to seek startup investment! Thanks, Malcolm. #IdeasBoom

2. How long will it take?

how long does app development take

For a medium-sized app, the entire app development process will average about 6 months.

Every app developer will differ in their process, but at a high level this timeline is broken down into:

  1. Idea exploration and outlining app requirements
  2. Prototyping and development
  3. Testing for bugs and quality of performance
  4. Ongoing maintenance and updates

Depending on your app’s requirements, this can take anywhere between 3-12 months.

3. Will you steal my app idea?

will you steal my app idea

A lot of startups are understandably worried about sharing their idea without any legal protection or ownership.

Legal stuff can be a bit confusing to wade through, so here’s the bones of what you need to know:

Because an app idea is intangible, you need intellectual property protection.

IP (Intellectual Property) – Intangible property that is the result of creativity, such as an invention, design, trademark, or the practical application of your idea. It includes patents and copyrights.

You can ask an app developer at any point to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that will ensure the confidentiality of any proprietary information.

You can even ask for one in the first phone call before you get a quote!

A NDA is a contract between one or more parties agreeing not to disclose confidential information that they have shared with each other as a necessary part of doing business together.

Remember: Information shared before the NDA is signed may not be captured under the agreement.

I’d recommend consulting a lawyer who specializes in IP protection if you’re after more detailed information!

 4. How do I know if my developer is the real deal, or dodgy as hell? What questions do I need to ask to weed through the sales talk?

how to tell if your app developer is dodgy

I think we’ve all had the feeling of being out of our depth when talking to sales people in certain industries!

How are you supposed to know if the app developer you’re in discussion with is taking you for a ride?

Well, I’d recommend shopping around at a few app development firms to find one that’s the right fit for you.

Here are some actions you should take to see if your developer can actually walk the talk:

1. Look at their portfolio. What apps have they built before? Were those apps actually successful? Go on the app store and do a bit of research to see what their reviews are like.

2. Don’t just trust testimonials. If you know anyone at all involved in the startup scene or tech industry, shoot them an email.

Tell them that you’re in the market for an app developer and would appreciate any words of wisdom or warning before you part with your cash.

Everyone knows everyone in this industry, so use your contacts!

It’s also worthwhile to do a Google search:  “Company name”+ reviews.

This might not turn up any results, but often you’ll be able to find old client and employee reviews that are more objective than anything you’ll find on an app developer’s website!

3. What services/packages are offered by your developer?

Not all app developers offer the same services.

Some are just technical partners, while others offer market research, user testing, ASO, marketing consulting, branding…and so on.

They are almost like startup accelerators, and this will be reflected in the cost you are quoted.

Of course, you want as much value as possible from your app developer, but keep in mind 2 things:

       1. You may lose touch with your business if someone else is taking care of everything for you.

You need to know your business inside out and back to front, for the rest of its lifetime. This will be important when raising investment funds, too.

Make sure that no matter what complementary services your app developer offers, you still remain at the grassroots.

      2. Be wary of all-in-one app developers who seem to be a jack of all trades.

Above all else, your developer should be really, really good at technical software development.

This is where the bulk of the hours you are paying for go!

Without an engaging and intuitive product, all the market research, launch strategies and business advice in the world won’t be able to save it.

5. Do I need to understand technical app development speak?

app development jargon explained

Don’t we all hate jargon!

Chill. You definitely don’t need to know about coding and software to succeed in running a tech business.

Need proof? This blog includes a list of successful app founders who didn’t come from a tech background! Great inspo. 

A professional app developer that is committed to creating an enjoyable client experience will keep you regularly updated with what you need to know, minus the app jargon.

That’s a huge benefit to working with an app development company – having a dedicated Client Experience Manager or Account Manager you can turn to with your questions.

That being said, there are a few key terms you should be familiar with just so you and your team are on the same page.

Bookmark this Glossary of ‘Need To Know’ App Development Terms to refer to if you find yourself confused.

6. What do I need to do myself?

what do you need to do in app development

Glad you asked!

Of course, depending on what app development services your partner is offering you, your tasks will vary.

For now, let’s just assume that you’re working with a technical partner to build the physical app for you.

In the early ideation and workshopping phases of your project, you’ll be pretty flat out working with a team to bring your idea to life.

You’ll be in nearly daily communication with your app development team for this first month or so.

But once development actually gets underway, it will require less hands on involvement from you.

Check out this handy 6 month outlook of tasks you need to complete while your app is being developed.

The bulk of these tasks are marketing (so you launch with people ready to download your app!) and general admin tasks for setting up all your required accounts.

Some tasks are a bit fiddly, but they won’t take long to set up.

Use this as a checklist to ensure you’re not forgetting to do something required of you before launch!

And of course, ask your developer if there’s anything else you should be doing.

7. How do I know if my app will actually be successful?

will my app be a success

I’ll be real with you here: No one can really say for sure whether your app will be a success. I don’t have a crystal ball.

However, there are several ways to predict the likelihood of your app’s success and minimise the risk of pouring all your funds into an app idea that doesn’t have legs to stand on…

This process is called app idea validation, and it’s the first crucial step in your app development journey.

Check out this free Buzinga Crash Course for easy, actionable ways you can validate your app idea.

And for a bit of fun, take our Quiz: Is Your App Idea CRASH HOT or TOTAL RUBBISH? These questions will get you thinking objectively!

What about after you’ve launched?

There are 5 metric types you should monitor in order to quantify your app’s performance:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Engagement
  3. Behaviour
  4. Quality
  5. Retention

Read this for instructions on how to measure each of these app metrics and increase your chance of success.

Wrapping up…

App development really isn’t that scary! I hope these answers put you slightly more at ease about the journey ahead.

Don’t be afraid to take your time choosing an app developer – It’s a big decision and there are a lot of factors to consider.

You’ll want to do your own research and choose a company that is a good fit for your personality, app requirements and business needs.

Do you have a burning question that I didn’t cover? I’ll be happy to answer honestly in the comments below. 

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Logan Merrick is the co-founder and Director of Buzinga, as well as one of Australia's most recognised entrepreneurs, keynote speakers, investors and mentors. His writing on startups, technology and mobile marketing has been featured in The Australian, Business Insider, Startup Smart, Smart Company, and more.
  • Kristen N. Lanskail-Morris

    This blog (not just this article, the whole thing) is an absolute lifesaver for someone that is just coming into the game and trying to understand the real, laid out steps involved in starting up an app. I have read about 30 of your blog posts now, but this article outlined one of my key questions. Given that, as you mentioned above, most people don’t just have the kind of funds lying around even for an MVP can you give a rough idea of exactly how far along you need to be before daring to begin approaching an investor (first stage, so I assume angel investor or along those lines). I am following along with your Crash Course and have done market research, target market analysis, competitive analysis, business outline, app outline (features and functions, both ideally and for the initial MVP), designed a mockup (strictly screenshots as I have no programming backup, but the buttons work to link to other screens and show the basic functionality) and am planning on building a landing page now. However, from some of your other articles you indicate that most investors expect some level of market testing to have already been achieved to prove the validity of the app and the marketplace need…. how do you get to this point without being able to independently fund and MVP? Its seems like a bit of a catch 22. Do you recommend outsourcing the initial, most basic version from a low cost development country just to get the ball rolling and find a small group of beta testers? That seems contrary to some of the advice you have in previous articles… or can you approach an investor with just the idea and the research done?? I would be incredibly grateful for some direction here! Again, this whole blog is amazing for those of us just starting out.