I just read an interesting article about mobile app development from the side of a developer. I found the article on Twitter from the account of Denys Zhadanov, who is the CEO of Readdle (the makers of PDF Expert).
As an end user, we often forget about the time and expense of designing an app, and then simply complain about an app. Sometimes we take the opportunity to e-mail a developer (most do not), or we simply talk about the app with other users.
There are a few things that I have learned about app development that are worth sharing with end users:
- It costs quite a bit of money to make an app. If you aren't a developer, an app will cost $6,000-$10,000 to develop, and this does not including continuing updates to the app.
- Many apps are developed overseas in places such as the Ukraine, where developers charge far less than American or British developers.
- Apps won't always do what we want them to do. Sometimes this is due to limitations in the OS, limitiations of the device, the ability of the developer, or the roadmap of the developer.
- Most developers have a roadmap. They know where they want to go, and they have a plan in place. Their roadmap does not always equal an end user's roadmap.
- In music education, we represent a very low number of overall purchases. Remember–everyone has their own choice of device whether Android or iOS. It is possible that less than 1/3 of music educators even own an iOS device.
- Many schools do not earmark funds to buy apps, regardless of platform.
- We like to complain about the cost of apps, when the average iPad app is $4.99 or less. Think about that for a second–how many apps do you need to sell to simply be able to afford to go grocery shopping? Particularly after a $10,000 start-up investment?
- A developer cannot afford to solely develop an app for music education as their job–most developers will have to be employed elsewhere, or be working on many apps at the same time.
- The current model of “buy the app once, free updates forever” is unsustainable.
To developers (or those that hope to be developers), I have some additional thoughts:
- Some of the best apps for music education apps are those that developers make for their own use. They see a need, and they make the app first and foremost for their own use.
- Make sure your idea for an app isn't already well represented on an app store. For example, if you want to create a metronome app, you really need to have a feature that is unique to your app.
- It is REALLY hard to get the news about a new app out there. In my experience, developers that hire PR firms to promote an app may not see the returns from that investment. Most PR firms send out a form e-mail to blogs and other technology reporters. As a blogger, I don't always respond to a PR firm e-mail. You are probably better off doing a web search for similar apps, finding people that write about the apps (bloggers), and sending them an e-mail with a promo code or an offer for a promo code.
- Make sure your app truly fits into the categories that a blogger is writing about. For example, this blog is about using technology in traditional music education–heavily focused on using technology in secondary and elementary education. As a result, when I am offered an app, I don't always take it, particularly if I can't see how it can be used in music education. That doesn't mean that I don't think an app should exist. If you choose to contact a music education blog, have a strong idea of how your app can be used in music education. Put another way: how can this app be used by music teachers in schools, or how can it make the life of a music teacher better?
- I don't know how to best spread the news about apps. Bloggers like myself, Paul Shimmons, and Amy Burns have lists of apps on our blogs, and Amy and I have books in the iBooks Store. Most folks are unwilling to search for these resources, and even in 2015, sessions such as “60 apps in 60 minutes,” are some of the most attended sessions at conferences. A good use of PR funds would be sponsoring a person such as Amy, Paul, or myself to attend conferences and to present these sessions. The process is usually a 6 to 8 month process requiring applying to present and then being subject to the selection committee of that state. A presenter would suggest several sessions, with one focusing on just (or mainly on) your app. At the same time, most developers do not have a PR budget to pay for such expenses, and the direct sales from a single presentation would likely never pay back the expense (word of mouth might eventually do so). That said, if you aren't going to be a vendor at a music conference, this might be a more affordable way to make it into the minds of music educators.