App development tips: The high price of a bad app

Frank Zinghini

Founder & CEO
Angry young woman looking on mobile phone screen having problems

One of the first questions potential clients always ask us is the money question—”How much will this cost?” It’s an important question to ask, and one that we take very seriously. We’ve even written about the cost of mobile app development before, giving our honest answer to this burning question. 

The truth is the final cost depends on a number of factors, ranging from the features you want to include, the complexity of the design, backend server requirements, and more. There are also post-release costs for maintenance and support, as well as marketing costs if your app is intended for external users. 

While the list of items to consider may seem overwhelming, our experience has taught us a very important lesson—cutting corners in the app design and development process to save money ends up costing you more money in the long run (in more ways than one). It’s always wiser to invest the necessary funds up front to create a valuable application that has the legs and the appeal to keep users engaged and to contribute to your bottom line today, tomorrow, and for years to come. 

6 reasons not to skimp on app development

1. You only have one chance to make a good first impression 

It’s an old saying that holds true to this day, especially when it comes to applications. Potential users checking out your app form an opinion about your product in mere seconds, and their impression is next to impossible to change. If they’re not impressed, they will simply check out another app built for the same purpose to see if it’s better. And you run the risk of them never coming back to see if you’ve made any improvements. So while you may be tempted to rush the initial development process, that choice often doesn’t pay dividends in the long run. 

Unless you have a unique idea that no one else has thought of yet, your app will most likely have some competition. You may be eager to get your app out into the marketplace, but this can wind up costing you dearly if you move too fast. If you don’t put in the time and money to develop the best version of your app before launch, you will miss out on making a real splash and winning over your users. How does it look visually? How simple is it to navigate and use? Does it make life easier or more enjoyable?

It’s worth the time and effort to make sure you put your best foot forward.

2. Think about the cost of customer acquisition 

You  have to spend money to make money. That doesn’t mean we encourage our clients to add unnecessary features or functionality into applications. On the contrary, too many bells and whistles can actually detract from the overall value of the product. 

However, it is very important to take the time to determine what the right features are and to figure out the best way to present them to the end user. We encourage conducting customer interviews, because very often what you think is important will not align with what they think is important—and then your app will miss the whole point. The time and money you spend up front to build a high-performing app from day one will play a big role in winning new customers.

3. User reviews matter 

Like it or not, reviews of your application matter. Half of mobile users won’t even think about downloading an app with a 3-star rating. Even when it comes to free apps, 77 percent of users read at least one review before they will download, and 80 percent read at least one review when it comes to paid apps. 

But glowing reviews don’t come for free. You have to earn them by delivering an intuitive user experience and adding real value or enjoyment to the user’s workflow or daily life. 

4. The price tag is often higher the second (or third) time around 

Even successful apps require maintenance and updates. In fact, when your users ask for new features it’s often a sign that your app is appreciated. They’re using it in their everyday lives, and now they want it to do even more for them. 

But there’s a difference between maintenance and a complete overhaul. A low-quality app is more likely to crash, have a slow load time, or contain coding errors. 

We can’t tell you how many times clients have come to us after they have taken what they thought was a faster and less expensive avenue to app development—only to wind up with a product that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. Unfortunately, when they thought they were done, they can’t take the finished product to market. They end up spending more money and needing more time. It would have been cheaper and faster to have done it properly the first time around. 

We certainly don’t enjoy these scenarios, but we have seen them enough to know how tempting it can be to think, “My application is simple. I can offshore development or just use a developer with less experience. I don’t need anything else.” In reality, most applications require the work of designers, QA testers, and project managers working in concert with seasoned developers to get the job done properly. Starting with this mindset from day one can get you from point A to point B faster and at a lower final cost. 

5. A quality app delivers a higher customer lifetime value 

Customer lifetime value (CLV) pertains to the amount of money you can reasonably expect to get from your entire relationship with a customer. CLV goes beyond customer acquisition and focuses on retention. 

How do you keep your users engaged and make your app a part of their routine? How do you get them to rely, long term, on your app for something they need or truly want? 

If you spend the time up front to talk to potential users, get their feedback on prototypes, and incorporate that feedback into your design, you will create an application that wins users over. Then, if you continue to gather and listen to feedback after launch, you will be able to refine your app as users’ needs change or new technology becomes available that can make your app even better. An investment throughout the entire lifecycle of the application will contribute to a larger ROI from your customers. 

6. A bad app comes with a productivity and efficiency price tag 

Perhaps your app is for internal use, meant to help your employees perform their jobs more effectively. Even with internal apps, there is money to be lost if you don’t do it right.

One of the main challenges with an internal app is adoption. When done correctly, your staff will find the app easy to use, and it will make their jobs easier. Adoption will be quick and painless, and your business can profit from the time savings the app delivers. 

A bad app, however, demotivates employees and can actually cause them to waste time (and money) if it is hard to navigate or slow to respond. And we have even seen valuable employees decide to go find another job because of a bad application that negatively impacted their ability to work. 

6 factors to consider in app development costs

Once you’ve decided it’s worth the extra time and money to do it right the first time, what areas are worth your investment?

Here are six items to keep in mind when evaluating where to put your funding. 

1. Quality app developers—An experienced coder is essential, but a quality app developer has other skills, such as a strong work ethic, good communication skills, and both depth and breadth of experience. Make sure you hire people who are a good fit for the job. 

2. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) designers—A successful app begins with a solid design. UX and UI design are critical for creating an app that is visually appealing and simple to use. 

3. A quality assurance (QA) team—An experienced QA team makes sure the application is performing as expected and is bug-free, both before launch and throughout the lifecycle of the app.

4. Product manager—This key player talks to users and outlines the business requirements for the application. This is an often overlooked role that is actually quite important to creating an application that is well-received in the marketplace. 

5. Marketing and promotion—If your app is for external use, you’ll likely want to invest some dollars in launch efforts. We have some tips to help you take the right approach. 

6. Maintenance—The work on a successful application is never done. You need programmers and QA testers to make sure the app continues to work properly and to add features or functionality when appropriate. 

We pride ourselves on creating quality applications that add long-term value to end users and contribute to revenue generation for our clients’ businesses. With the proper investment, your application can help win and retain new customers, create a buzz in the marketplace, and help generate revenue that more than pays for itself.