7 common questions about mobile app development answered

11 min read
September 28, 2022

At DECODE, we get many inquiries and questions from clients and companies about the app development process.

How much does it cost?

How long does it take?

Is signing an NDA a good idea?

How do you earn money from your app?

Well, in the interest of our readers, we’ve compiled these common questions and will answer them in this article.

How to validate an app idea?

Validating an app idea is the first and arguably most important step in app development. After all, what’s the use of building something that people don’t want?

But you’d be surprised that many developers skip this step. It’s why lack of a market need is the number one reason apps fail.

most common reasons for app failure 1

Source: The Web App Market

Fortunately, you have plenty of validation tools at your disposal to avoid this.

A proof of concept (POC) is most likely the earliest validation tool you’ll use. Its purpose is to test if the idea is technically feasible, especially if no one’s done it before.

A POC is the first gatekeeper tool because an app won’t fly if it doesn’t pass this test.

A good example of a POC is this test concept for a mask detection app. The developers wanted to know if the neural network algorithm could achieve this feat effectively.

The Three Steps to Product Market Fit PoC vs Prototype vs MVP 1

Source: Net Solutions

The next validation tool is the prototype, an interactive mockup of your app. The main focus is testing the user experience, including UI design, color schemes, and user-friendliness.

Prototypes are usually done in the middle or end of development when the app idea is already refined.

It’s also often a key part of usability testing, where you validate the prototype with real users.

The last validation tool is the minimum viable product or MVP. An MVP is a working app that only includes the core features.

That means even if it’s a limited version, it should still be 100% functioning, with proper UX and implementation.

how not to build a minimum viable product

Source: Makers Now

The purpose of an MVP is to gather feedback from actual users. It is the ultimate validation tool because you evaluate your app against your target audience.

The most important thing is that validation shouldn’t be a one-time process. It would be best to do it consistently throughout app development with the appropriate tools at each stage.

How to protect an app idea?

Safety is a major concern for many clients when they outsource their project or seek consulting services. 

So how do you ensure that third-party developers won’t leak your app idea before you launch it?

There are several strategies you can consider here.

how do you protect an app idea

Source: Cleveroad

One common and effective strategy is to copyright your app. That means you legally declare that you own the app idea, and no one can’t copy it without your permission.

You can also trademark your logo, icon, app name, and other intellectual assets so competitors can’t use them.

However, copyrighting can be costly and time-consuming. And it’s only suitable if you already have a working prototype. What if you only have an app idea?

An NDA, or non-disclosure agreement, can help protect you in these cases.

NDAs are legal contracts that prohibit a person from revealing, sharing, or using anything related to your project to outsiders. If they do, you can sue them.

Signing an NDA is crucial whenever you need to work with a third-party provider. For instance, we use an NDA at DECODE even if you just want to consult with us—for your peace of mind.

when to sign an NDA

Source: Aglowid

Occasionally, it’s also wise to enforce an NCC or non-compete clause.

This agreement prevents a third-party provider from revealing trade secrets or working on a competing app even after development.

Together, an NDA and an NCC can give you ample legal protection until your app can establish itself in the market.

How much does app development cost?

This is probably one of the most common questions we get from clients, so we’re here to demystify the process.

The truth is that it can be difficult to pin down the exact cost because app development is variable by nature. Many factors can easily bloat up the price.

The short answer is that it can be as cheap as $10,000 or as high as $150,000… or even millions in the case of high-profile apps like Uber or Facebook.

Illustration of factors that affect app development costs

Source: SPD Load

As you can see above, the biggest cost factor is the platform where you’ll deploy the app.

Specifically, developing native apps for more than one OS will cost you significantly more. That’s because you need to hire iOS and Android developers separately.

A cross-platform tool like React Native can lower the price, but at a performance trade-off.

React Native chart

Source: Appinventiv

The app’s complexity also plays a big factor

Simple apps with basic UI and features typically have a $40,000-$120,000 price tag. At the end of that spectrum are complex apps with a customized UI and advanced functionality.

These can set you back $300,000 and more.

Finally, there’s also the matter of location.

App development costs tend to vary around the world because there’s a difference in developer rates.

Western developers typically command higher fees than their Asian or Eastern European counterparts.

Fulcrum screenshot

Source: Fulcrum

Remember, though, that these are just guidelines. Thus, it’s still best to consult with an agency or service provider to get a more specific figure for your project.

How long does app development take?

Like development cost, the exact time to develop an app varies from project to project. But if you’d like some benchmarks, here are a few from Appinventiv:

average app development time before lunch

Source: Appinventiv

So a good rule of thumb is to keep development time to a year or less, except for large or complex apps.

The bulk of this timeframe is taken up by the actual coding and testing of the app, which can take around 14–21 weeks. UX and UI design can collectively take 5–7 weeks.

And don’t forget about research, which lasts approximately 2–3 weeks.

Existek screenshot

Source: Existek

The exact timeframe, of course, depends on several factors.

Your app’s complexity perhaps has the biggest impact. It makes sense since advanced features, numerous modules, or bespoke UI design could take more time and effort to create.

Generally, complex apps take around 4–6 months longer than a simple project.

Some unexpected issues and problems can slow development, such as changing requirements or developers dropping mid-project.

That’s why it’s a good idea to add a buffer in your schedule to account for these.

Finally, your development team also plays a role in app development.

A skilled team using the right methodologies and communication protocols is more efficient. Thus, they can get the work done much faster than a mediocre team.

This brings us nicely to our next point:

How to choose a development team?

Your development team is the most critical part of a successful project. Without them, even the best ideas won’t come to light.

First off, though, you need to decide if you want to go with an in-house team, an extended team, or a dedicated team.

Forming an in-house team is the traditional method, where you hire permanent staff. You handle every aspect of the process, from sourcing to onboarding employees.

An extended team involves hiring freelancers to supplement your existing development team. This is useful if you already have a core team but need more manpower or skills.

Lastly, we have a dedicated team, which is what we recommend.

Decode screenshot

Source: DECODE

A dedicated team functions just like an in-house team, except that they’re a third-party service provider. They also almost always work remotely.

Going with this approach is great because you don’t need to hire individual members of a team. Instead, an agency will do it for you.

They also have the experience to hire developers with the right skills that fit your project requirements.

But regardless of which team you go with, it pays to do your research first.

Look at their website and browse through their portfolio. It is much better if they have case studies since they can give you insights into their methodology and work ethics.

Checking reviews are also essential to see if past clients are happy with the provider. The best sources are impartial review sites like Clutch and Goodfirms.

Decode screenshot 2

Source: Clutch

Don’t forget to check their pricing scheme as well. It’s best if they support time and materials pricing, as this gives the best flexibility and fairness.

For more information about this model, check out our guide here.

But this discussion brings up an important point—why do you even need to outsource?

Is outsourcing needed?

Outsourcing is becoming a popular arrangement for many companies, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Indeed, 45% of companies expressed plans to outsource soon.

But being a popular setup doesn’t mean you have to adopt it blindly. It would be best if you outsourced for the right reasons.

And what are they?

Cost is, of course, the biggest reason to outsource.

In general, it’s 53% cheaper to get a third-party service provider than to hire a team from scratch.

That’s because you avoid extra hiring costs that people often overlook, such as onboarding, taxes, and benefits.

cost sheet sample

Source: Existek

Another reason is lacking the required skills to tackle a project. This is especially useful if you’re entering a niche for the first time.

For example, say you want to enter the fintech space. To do so, you’d need financial regulation experts to help your app pass compliance.

And depending on which technology your app uses, you might also require blockchain, AI, or big data professionals.

Decode screenshot 3

Source: DECODE

Speeding up development time is another valid reason to outsource. That’s because it takes roughly 40 days to hire an in-house employee but only around 1–2 weeks to outsource.

It can be even faster if you work with a reputable agency like DECODE.

software developer hiring process and timeline

Source: Relevant

Lastly, you should outsource if you don’t have an established process and structure, which is typical for startups.

Partnering with an experienced team allows you to benefit from the workflow they’ve already established.

How to monetize an app?

Ultimately, you build apps so you can earn profits. The way to do this is to implement the right monetization strategy.

Using the right monetization approach is key—otherwise, you risk alienating your user base. Some niches are already predisposed to a specific strategy, so you can start with those.

Ways to Monetize your App

Source: Martech Series

The freemium model involves offering most of your app free, except for premium features that are only present in a paid version.

This is a popular approach because it’s easy to rack up users (everyone loves getting something for free, after all).

And if your app experience is so good that people want to upgrade, you should earn enough from premium users to turn a profit.

In-app purchases are similar to freemium, but users don’t need to upgrade. Instead, they can unlock certain features or buy virtual items within the free app.

This is incredibly popular with mobile games, where people can purchase in-game items that give them an advantage.

mobile game

Source: Intego

The subscription model is also popular, where you charge a monthly fee. This is the default approach for music and streaming apps like Spotify and Netflix.

If you want to keep your app completely free for users, you can instead earn through running ads. Here, advertisers pay you for the right to show ads to your users.

While this approach is easy, you must be careful not to disrupt the user experience. A common tactic is offering in-app incentives to watch an ad.

Lastly, you can opt for a one-time payment before users can download the app. However, the drawback is that you need to keep getting new users to maintain consistent revenues.

The app must also be attractive enough for users to pay upfront.

Have more questions?

We hope we’ve clarified the app development process for you in this article.

App development is a complex process with lots of moving parts. It’s a tall order to cover everything in such a short article, so we probably missed out on a few things.

So, if you have further things you need to ask or clarify, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! We’re always happy to help.

Written by

Marko Strizic

Co-founder and CEO

Marko started DECODE with co-founders Peter and Mario, and a decade later, leads the company as CEO. His role is now almost entirely centred around business strategy, though his extensive background in software engineering makes sure he sees the future of the company from every angle. A graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, he’s fascinated by the architecture of mobile apps and reactive programming, and a strong believer in life-long learning. Always ready for action. Or an impromptu skiing trip.

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