Author Topic: Any app developers in the house? (Or anyone that's had an app created)  (Read 3054 times)

k-vette

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I'm contemplating a new business app, but it's not something I've ever done.  I'm looking for any insight available.   I've seen prices from $500 setup and $50/mo to tens or hundreds of thousands.

I've done a little research and can't find the type of app in existence,  but it's also a somewhat new concept in a growing industry,  so that's not a surprise.

The app relates to my current business.  The advantage would be the ability to eventually charge for advertising within the app, but reserve some ad spot or sponsoring area for my own business as needed.  It would be free to users.

Any help or info would be great.  I'm open to work with people if there's someone experienced in this field looking for something to do.

neo von retorch

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What is your goal in creating the app? How large is the total potential audience? How large is the realistic audience you're app can attract and retain? What will the app experience be when there is only 1 user, and how would that compare to your theoretical maximum number of users? How much ad income would it take to pay for the hosting costs of that maximum number of users? Why doesn't the app exist now? Can people find other ways to achieve what your app provides? Will they "need" or get value out of the app?

mskyle

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I'm assuming you're talking about a phone app? Would you want it to run on both Android and iOS?

A lot of phone apps are basically just web apps formatted for a phone. But some are much more complicated and run a lot of stuff natively on the phone. And web apps also vary a lot in how complicated they are. (I develop web apps, not phone apps.)

Basically, how much it will cost depends on what you want it to do. Whether you can make any money off of it is a whole other issue.

k-vette

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Alright, great questions.   Let me be more specific.

I'd like to create a map showing charging stations for electric bikes.  It's never been done because the market for ebikes isn't that big - yet.  It's growing fast however,  so in a few years I expect it to even more viable.  Initially I'd assume in the tens of thousands of users, say in the first year.

The great part is that ebikes use very little power.  Unlike electric cars, infrastructure to make the charging stations already exists.  Restaurants,  museums,  any place that wants to advertise it just needs to provide a plug.  It would make their business an "ebike destination".

It could reduce or eliminate "range anxiety" for ebikes.  Advertisers could be ebike companies,  or "destination" points.  Preferably they would targeted geographically based on the user.  I think it would help them to become a more real form of transportation.

I assume native ios and Android functions would make turn by turn directions easier to implement.

I'm not sure what app hosting costs, but obviously I'll have to bear that as well as development costs until it takes off.

seattleite

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I can only speak for the iOS ecosystem since that's what I've worked in. The mapping part which used to be the most difficult part of any computer program is now pretty easy, in both ecosystems I think. There's a mapping API that you can you. You provide it with log/lat coordinates and tell it was sort of icon to draw. Easy as pie. Hosting should be relatively cheap. Actually it could be free but then the update experience would kind of suck. For the free hosting you could embed the set of coordinates for the stations in the app itself. For iOS you don't pay for hosting of the app, Apple does, and they take a 30% cut for that (and other things they do for you). If you were to have an automatic update of the set of coordinates then you could host it as a compressed json file for example and have the app opportunistically check for a new version of the file every day or so. Hosting a small text file isn't very expensive, pennies or a few dollars a month depending on how many installs, the size of the file, and the rate of updates.

Now by your questions I assume you aren't a programmer. That's fine, in fact, it excites me when people who aren't programmers want to learn because of some project like this. You can learn iOS development from a bunch of free sources but a lot of people like the Stanford iOS development course for beginners on iTunes U and other places I think like Khan Academy. If you own a Mac starting costs are going to be zero. You don't even need an iOS device, but it would be useful later on in development.

You might also want to read up on the economics of app development as they have changed recently a lot. Android has never really been a good place to make money for paid apps. iOS has been getting worse for the smaller developers but it still can happen. And if you are really solving a problem that you want solved and you aren't relying on this for your income then I would say who cares that you aren't making anything. Marco Arment is as good of a person to start reading as any. You can start with these posts:

https://marco.org/2014/07/28/app-rot
https://marco.org/2015/01/15/overcast-sales-numbers

He's a successful app developer, which isn't the norm, but writes a lot about what works and what doesn't in the app store. If I were jumping into this business at this point in the app store's history I would starting by reading all of his posts on the app store and whatever he's linked to. There's a pretty good community of indy app developers that write honestly about the experience. And it isn't all roses.

That said, post-FIRE (which is hopefully soon for me) I plan I finally working on some ideas I wanted built for a long time. The last app I worked on was in 2008 when the app store had just been created. But it was probably a very different experience from that of an indy developer since it was a big company free app, not a money making thing. I've played a bit with the newer APIs and Swift and they look awesome. I can't wait to have the time to spend more time coding.

mskyle

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I think the most difficult part of this would not be the app itself (essentially it's just going to be a list of locations) but building up and maintaining a good and useful dataset. No one will use it if the information is bad. How are you 1) going to get a useful set of listings and 2) maintain that listing as businesses come/go, construction blocks an outlet, etc.? That's the difficult part, not the app itself. (This is my former career as a librarian talking here... it is really hard to maintain current directories when there's no one source of truth.)

k-vette

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I think the most difficult part of this would not be the app itself (essentially it's just going to be a list of locations) but building up and maintaining a good and useful dataset. No one will use it if the information is bad. How are you 1) going to get a useful set of listings and 2) maintain that listing as businesses come/go, construction blocks an outlet, etc.? That's the difficult part, not the app itself. (This is my former career as a librarian talking here... it is really hard to maintain current directories when there's no one source of truth.)

I'd like the users to have the ability to add new locations, along with others to review the spot as well.  That should help it grow and keep current.

gooki

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Build a native app for either iOS or android first, get the experience right/feature set right and the port over to the other operating system. No point stretching your dollars to thin on an until the concept is proven.

As for cost, i'd estimate 50 hours for an experienced developer if you were comprehensive in your requirements.

Then you've got the visual assets on top of that, app icon, custom location pin, so add an extra 3 hours on top.

Rubic

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We've written a couple of vertical health care apps for the Android platform that are used internally in our organization.

A couple of observations:
  • Generally you can't trust any developer to give you anything close to a reasonable estimate on how long it will take them to develop an app, or even to add a new feature.
  • The economics for a developer to work on an app herself is different than you paying for it to be developed.  If I decide to port our application to the iPhone, for example, I'd gain a lot of valuable coding experience.  So I might be willing to do it even if the probability of building an app that will pay for my invested hours is small.

lifejoy

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My DH made one himself :)

He's a nerdy genius and taught himself from reading stuff online. Took him 2-3 weeks. Don't rule it out :)

mskyle

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I think the most difficult part of this would not be the app itself (essentially it's just going to be a list of locations) but building up and maintaining a good and useful dataset. No one will use it if the information is bad. How are you 1) going to get a useful set of listings and 2) maintain that listing as businesses come/go, construction blocks an outlet, etc.? That's the difficult part, not the app itself. (This is my former career as a librarian talking here... it is really hard to maintain current directories when there's no one source of truth.)

I'd like the users to have the ability to add new locations, along with others to review the spot as well.  That should help it grow and keep current.

Unfortunately I think that might be unrealistic. Even if you get every e-bike user in an area to download and use the app, only a small subset of those people will leave reviews, and only a small subset of those people will leave multiple good reviews. In my city of 80,000 people, about 8% of residents commute by bicycle (this is really high for the US). That's 6400 people. If one in ten of those people are e-bike users (this is a huge overestimate, I would guess it's more like 1%), that's 640 e-bike users. If you get 5% of those people to leave reviews, that's 32 people actively reviewing in this area. That's not a lot of people. And big sites like tripadvisor, yelp, and wikipedia have way, way less than 5% of their user base actively contributing - wikipedia is edited by something like 0.03% of users (i.e., if you got those kinds of numbers you would need 3000 users for every one updater/reviewer).

Also, I'm a bit skeptical about the need for the app: don't most e-bike users just charge at home and at work? And couldn't you always pedal if you can't find a charging station? It's not like a car where you absolutely *must* charge it.

I'm sorry I'm being so negative! If you're looking at this as a potentially fun project, go for it and maybe it will take off; if you're looking to make even a small amount of money, I think you have an uphill battle.

k-vette

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I think the most difficult part of this would not be the app itself (essentially it's just going to be a list of locations) but building up and maintaining a good and useful dataset. No one will use it if the information is bad. How are you 1) going to get a useful set of listings and 2) maintain that listing as businesses come/go, construction blocks an outlet, etc.? That's the difficult part, not the app itself. (This is my former career as a librarian talking here... it is really hard to maintain current directories when there's no one source of truth.)

I'd like the users to have the ability to add new locations, along with others to review the spot as well.  That should help it grow and keep current.

Unfortunately I think that might be unrealistic. Even if you get every e-bike user in an area to download and use the app, only a small subset of those people will leave reviews, and only a small subset of those people will leave multiple good reviews. In my city of 80,000 people, about 8% of residents commute by bicycle (this is really high for the US). That's 6400 people. If one in ten of those people are e-bike users (this is a huge overestimate, I would guess it's more like 1%), that's 640 e-bike users. If you get 5% of those people to leave reviews, that's 32 people actively reviewing in this area. That's not a lot of people. And big sites like tripadvisor, yelp, and wikipedia have way, way less than 5% of their user base actively contributing - wikipedia is edited by something like 0.03% of users (i.e., if you got those kinds of numbers you would need 3000 users for every one updater/reviewer).

Also, I'm a bit skeptical about the need for the app: don't most e-bike users just charge at home and at work? And couldn't you always pedal if you can't find a charging station? It's not like a car where you absolutely *must* charge it.

I'm sorry I'm being so negative! If you're looking at this as a potentially fun project, go for it and maybe it will take off; if you're looking to make even a small amount of money, I think you have an uphill battle.

If it was easy someone would have done it already.  :)

I agree that numbers aren't great now, but if I want to be the first out the gate that's the risk I have to take.

I pedal while riding my ebike.  Hardly anyone pedals without battery power though, it's not a great experience!  That depends on the bike of course, but people stay within their range.  I would like to change that. Most charge at home, and I would wager that most ebike owners now don't use them to commute!  They're largely retired and use them for getting around for fun.  I use it for commuting, but in group discussions I'm in the minority for the use and age group.