Don’t Develop An App For The Money

App development is hard, don’t be fooled by the rags to riches stories that you read in the media.

I developed my first iOS app and launched it in the App Store in 2009, less than a year after the App Store launched. I‘m still amazed just how different the world is only 10 years later. No one could have anticipated the meteoric success of apps, not even Apple.

It was a totally different ball game in 2008, apps were new to everyone, even the developers. It was a learning curve for all and everyone was playing on the same level playing field. Today the landscape looks very different indeed.

It was the indie developers that really made the App Store the success it became, the little guy in his back bedroom writing code to do something magical on these new touch screen devices. It was all about trial and error, seeing what worked, understanding how people would interact with this new type of touch based software.

In those days it was possible to earn some reasonable revenue from an app, many indie developers hit some big numbers back then that would change their lives, others would generate some extra cash which would pay for their annual vacation. However, sooner or later the bubble was going to burst and it was partly the indie developer to blame.

The Race To The Bottom

As more and more developers started creating and launching apps, everyone was trying to undercut each other, and before you knew it, apps were being given away for free. The indie developers had shot themselves in the face! It then became increasingly difficult to generate revenue from an app.

Apps take a long time to develop, there’s a huge amount of work that goes into designing, planning and writing the necessary code to stitch an app together. To give that work away for free is ludicrous but that’s the world we live in today.

A Kick In The Teeth By Apple

Not only is it more difficult than ever to generate revenue from an app but Apple also didn’t help the little guy. When launching an app in the early days, the developer always got some decent exposure on the App Store, their app would normally be shown on the home page of the App Store in the Latest Releases section but as the bigger players of the industry started to see the value in app creation, Apple started to focus on those guys, pushing the little guys to the bottom of the pile.

In a short space of time, the indie developer no longer received any exposure and only the larger software studios appeared in featured sections.

Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day Apple can choose to do whatever they want to do, it’s their house but it would have been nice if Apple could create some sort of indie section to help the little guy with a leg up. After all, it was the little guys that really helped to catapult the App Store where it is today.

Consumer Expectation

Many consumers also have an entirely different mindset these days, many expect something for nothing. I’m in my 40s and have grown up with the notion that you pay for something to receive the goods. That doesn’t seem to be the norm anymore for the younger generation. Due to the race to the bottom, the average consumer now expects to pay exactly zero cost for software. I’m not suggesting it’s their fault, it’s what they have grown up with, it’s the industry at fault for giving stuff away for free.

I remember having to pay £1400 for Adobe Photoshop, if only I could have bought it for 99p!

Clawing It Back

More recently, the industry is now trying to claw back and generate revenue from many hours and months of hard work developing their software. They are doing this through subscription based services. Some have found this successful, mainly the bigger players, but the seed has already been sown in the consumers mind….they don’t want to pay, they don’t expect to pay.

To get a consumer to part with their money for an app based on a subscription service, you’re going to have to create something pretty damn special and then you’ll need to market the crap out of it to pile on the subscribers.

Many of the big companies spend millions promoting and marketing their apps, they have marketing teams that know exactly what they are doing, how to gain the exposure they need and most importantly, how to get the consumer to bite.

So Why Develop An App?

If you’re developing an app because you think it will make you rich, think again. You may get incredibly lucky and the general public might pick up on your app and run with it making you an instant (I say that lightly!) millionaire but it’s highly unlikely. You’d probably have more chance of getting kicked to death by a donkey!

If you intend to develop an app, do it for the love of it, do it for your own creative mind, do it because it’s something you enjoy but don’t do it thinking you’ll become rich.

App development can be incredibly rewarding, creating something from nothing other than an idea in your head. Overcoming the challenges, the hurdles, the bugs…okay maybe not so much the bugs!

People will download your app, it may only be a handful of people but it will be people you do not know, they will install and use the very software you spent hours slaving over.

Create an app because you love writing software, if you have that mindset, you’ll enjoy it so much more and won’t be left disappointed.


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