In the 15+ years that SDI has been in business, we have seen what works and what falls flat on its face. It turns out that there are some relatively common pitfalls that lead to an unsuccessful mobile app. As top Silicon Valley App Makers, the experts at SDI have heard every idea mobile app idea out there.
Whether you are a serial app entrepreneur or the owner of a SMB looking to increase your customer base with an Android or iOS app, it helps to be aware of common app development roadblocks. At SDI, our marketing and development teams have a few recommendations and warnings for those interested in developing a mobile app.
1. Avoid Unprepared Clients
Our lead sales manager, Rob LaPointe works with hundreds of customers a month and, after years of experience, he can identify strengths and weakness of any app idea in minutes. The first thing he looks for is that the client has a basic idea of what they want. The client doesn’t need to know precise details (thats our job), but basic idea of what they want the app to do and basic app features they want included is important.
Even more important that the basic structure of the app, a client needs to have basic budget.
“If a client calls me without the faintest idea of what they want to spend, or an unrealistic expectation, it indicates to me that the client has not put in due diligence and isn’t serious about the project.” – Rob LaPointe.
Obviously, a client won’t have specific budgeting information, but if they have no idea what they want to spend, it indicates that they are pursuing a whim and aren’t committed to the project.
Tacking on to this, SDI’s CEO Raj Srivastav cautions that running a successful app making business is more than choosing smart products. You need to be firm and clear on payment terms and deadlines.
“What SDI wants in a customer is someone who is dedicated, passionate, and willing to give 110% to see their project through to the end” says Raj. If you want your app dev business to thrive, choose customers who love their idea, and are completely committed.
The app development business is as much about the personality of the client as it is the app idea. When picking potential clients, don’t forget that the success of the project is as dependent on the client’s commitment as it is the client’s idea
This is the most basic principle of app development, and you don’t want to waste time with a customer who doesn’t know up from down. A complete lack of research indicates a client who isn’t serious and who will waste your valuable time.
2. Avoid Vagueness
“You need to be explicit in the language you use with a client. You can’t afford any vague or unclear language and ambiguity will come back to bite you in the behind.” – Raj Srivastav
Raj believes that this is the most important feature of any business partnership. A contract establishes expectations and provides guideposts for any business venture and vague language can and will lead to serious issues later on. Raj especially recommends clearly establishes payment methods, deadlines and amounts of each payment within the contract.
Sachin Nayak, our chief app dev officer, is also concerned the most about ambiguity. The first thing he looks for in a client is if the client knows what platform(s) they upon which they want to debut, and why.
“If a customer doesn’t even know if they want iOS or Android, that’s a big problem.” – Sachin Nayak.
Sachin adds further to Raj’s comments on explicit contracts by advising to clearly display pricing breakdowns for each phase of the app development cycle. He also recommends explicitly stating within the contract which platforms on which the mobile app will be launched – i.e. Android, iOS (iPad, iPhone, or both), Windows, or multiple platforms.
3. Watch “The Creep”
“Scope Creep can be a real problem for any project for two main reasons: first, as an app development company, you can end up doing a lot of extra work that was not budgeted into the original proposal; and second, you can fall behind your production schedule and irritate your customer with a late delivery.” – Rob Lapointe
Rob recommends that app development companies create a formal process for customers to request proposal/development principle changes. By including this in the proposal, you establish a way for customers to alter or improve upon their idea. It also allows you to clearly display updated costs and timing, dependent upon the changes.
Scope creep, or the process by which a the overarching scope of a project slowly grows beyond the original premise, can cause some serious development issues as well. One of the causes of Sachin’s biggest headaches are customers who steady ramp up their original requirements. Not only can it result in unpaid work, as discussed, but it can lead to confusing and contradictory UI functions. App makers need to be precise in what is offering and what it can offer, if a requested change is even possible.
Raj points out that if you don’t have a process to handle scope creep in place from the get go, you risk alienating your client. Clients rarely want to pay more than the proposed budget and will try to get more for less. According to Raj, “displaying additional costs in a straightforward manner right from the beginning is essential to a healthy business relationship.”
Raj, Rob, and Sachin all agree that there is one underlying current to almost all major development issues: ambiguity. There is absolutely no bigger killer of a business partnership and no factor more important in any relationship. To summarize:
- Customers who don’t know anything about app development and is unclear about what they are willing to spend indicates someone who is not serious (or is lazy). Your time is valuable, don’t waste it on projects that won’t go anywhere.
- Contracts are only useful if the language is exceptionally straightforward and comprehensible. Vague language risks a bad customer experience and opens you up to lawsuits. Be explicit, and make sure your client knows what they should expect from you, what they shouldn’t, and what you expect from them.
- Scope creep is fine, as long as there is a formal process to request changes. Be straightforward with your clients on how the change will affect the project: cost and scheduling changes, and how new changes will impact functionality and UX.
While there are other pitfalls and mistakes common to the world, the ones outlined in this post are the most common ones we encounter as a California app development company. We have realized over the years that there are no bad ideas, just poor communication and a lack of follow through.
We have offices globally, and we work on your schedule, not ours. If you’d like to see some of our success stories, please feel free to visit our portfolio for our previous work.