Want to Build an App? Try This Instead

Do you really need an *app*?

By “app,” I mean a program that you download onto your phone (or tablet) from the Apple/Google Store.

Three Types of Apps

There are 3 approaches to take in building an app:

100% Native

You’ll write code that is “native” to each operating system. You’ll need one for Android (Google) and one for iOS (Apple). You’re basically building two apps, so that could hypothetically double the time and money.

Hybrid

Use a single coding language that can compile (i.e. create) the “native” version for the respective platform.

  • Con: Extra processing involved that converts the code. May be a little slower as there’s more going on behind-the-scenes that does the converting of non-native code into native code.

Website in an App Shell

I do not recommend this approach, but mentioning it for completeness.

Another option: make a website, not an app

Alternatively you can build a website, and not have it in an “app shell”. It would just be a regular website that people access from their browser.

Advantages of a website vs a “native app”

A lot of developers, myself included, are already familiar with making websites (or “web applications”). This could potentially be cheaper and faster. More specifically, it may be easier (and cheaper) to find a web developer than find a (native) mobile app developer.

Disadvantages of a website vs a “native app”

Sometimes you need the functionality of a phone:

  • Do you need to take a picture with the user’s phone?
  • Do you need GPS functionality?
  • Do you need gyroscope capability (i.e. physically tilt your phone and something happens)?

The Review Board: Prepare For Headaches

The biggest difference (advantage? disadvantage? ) is a website won’t be accessible from the Apple/Google App Stores. Eventually you’ll want it in there if it gains popularity, but if you can delay this- for the purpose of creating the MVP- you’re better off.

Apple Hates Developers

It seems like every time I go to publish an app to Apple, something goes wrong. There’s usually some sort of “required software upgrade,” be it in the version of the software used to submit to the App Store, my operating system, or something else.

Apple Loves Users

The app store submission process is rather rigorous. Apple wants its users to have a pleasurable experience, and will nit-pick at everything (as they should)!

Google Loves Everyone

To date, I have not had any issues with uploading my app to the Google Play Store nor having rejection issues.

What Will It Cost?

Website Fees: Domain

If you want a custom domain (ex. yourapp.com) then it’ll cost ~$10/year.

Website Fees: Hosting

You need somewhere for the public to access your app. You won’t want to use your computer for this, so it’s better to hire a company to use their servers.

App Costs

To have your app listed in the App Store, that costs money.

  • Apple charges an annual fee of $100

Paying For Technical Services

If you need to hire someone to perform a technical service (ex. coding), it could potentially cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. It depends on what you need done / the complexity of what you’re trying to build. It’s not uncommon for people to charge $50/hour, $100/hour, or even more!

Share The Wealth: A Requirement

If your app costs money for the initial download or has a subscription platform that users are consistently paying you a monthly fee, Google and Apple will take a cut of your profits.

Enough about websites: I want a native app 📱

No problem, just be aware of what’s involved. You’ll most likely need to make an app for both Android (Google) and iOS (Apple). Unfortunately the code for each of those is different; you’ll need to hire two coders (or someone that is familiar with both programming languages).

Summary

If you’re starting a business that requires an app, consider having the MVP be a website instead. It may be quicker and more cost effective.

Pros of making a website instead of a native app

  • Potentially quicker/cheaper to build
  • No need for approval to be listed in the App Store

Cons of making a website instead of a native app

  • People want an “app”. They want to download something from their respective App Store. They don’t want to manually create a shortcut for their home screen.
  • Unless you use something like NativeScript or React Native, you’ll have to build two apps: one for Google and one for Apple. This will potentially add to the time and cost it will take to build.
  • There’s some functionality (ex. swiping) that performs much better if native.