App development – building an app

Some years ago, the new buzzword was “apps” and “everything will be mobile”. It’s long gone that is something in the future – mobile is here and now. The statistics are pretty scary – the average person uses more than 10 apps pr. day, we look at our screen more than a hundred times pr day and we spend hours – every day – using our phone.

App development today

When apps was still a buzzword, a lot of apps with the single (optimistic) hope of going viral and getting millions of downloads, by being in the top of the app store. Today the reality is very different – today there are more than 2 million apps in the iOS app store and 3 million apps in the Android app store.

This means a couple of things for app development today:

  • Your app will not go viral and automatically be used by millions of people (not that it ever did, but even less today)
  • You need to have a plan for how the user should “find your app” – as it won’t happen automatically

However, while apps do not have to be downloaded by millions to be a success. A very important statistic to take into account is which apps users are using. Users might use +10 different apps pr day, but it’s the biggest apps that is being used the most (think Facebook, Messenger, SnapChat, WeChat… the big ones). You most likely won’t win the game of being “most used”, but that’s a very good thing. Today users expect an app to be available when the context makes sense.

If you’re going to a cinema, you expect to be able to buy the tickets on an app. If you have a B2B tool, users expect to be able to use it on an app. Users expect to be able to use your app on the go – and while this will not result in millions of app downloads – it’s a very important move for a company to provide an app when the context makes sense.

Apps do not replace websites, but make a specific service very convenient to use – and if you have a tool or service where mobile makes sense, you need an app today.

App technologies

The biggest question we hear is the question whether an app should be developed for either iOS (iPhone) or Android. The honest answer is: always both. In most markets both Android and iOS have such a large market share it doesn’t make sense to exclude either. This is unfortunate because it is more expensive to develop both. How much more expensive, however, depends A LOT on your app.

There are two big questions to consider:

  • Do you need a shared backend? (is the data only on the phone or shared by multiple platforms – think you can see the same data on a computer in the browser and the phone)
  • How much native development does your app require?

Backend. Let’s say you provide login on your app. The second you need to provide a login, you need to store the data outside your app. This “outside your app” is backend that needs to be made and be accessible from an API.
Sometimes you have an existing backend, sometimes a backend needs to be developed. More often than not do you need to have a backend for your project.

How much native development. When you develop for both iOS and Android you have 3 overall approaches: 1) build the apps completely native (1x app for Android and 1x app for iOS) 2) Use a tool such as Xamarin which allows you to make native code for both Android and iOS 3) Make a HTML app. Obviously the most expensive making 2 apps, Xamarin is significantly cheaper and than HTML solution is the cheapest. However, the user experience in an HTML app is also significantly worse than a native solution.
What you should go with really depends on what you’re building. Are you making a complex e-book reader, then  it’s a very complex project and you need to use a native setup – if you’re building a very simple app version of your website, the HTML solution si the cheapest




Sources for numbers in this post are from