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Thread: How do you build apps for your business?

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    Default How do you build apps for your business?

    I’ve been researching how small-to-medium sized business build apps. By “build apps”, I mean develop custom, user-facing software for core business processes. By "core", I mean unique and essential to the business, not common. if I were a deli, I wouldn’t try to build a custom food ordering app: I’d get an account on Seamless or Grubhub.

    So, assuming no commercial off-the-shelf solutions exist, the four top options for getting a customer-facing or even just employee facing app seem to be:

    1. Consulting Agencies / Dev Shops
    2. Hiring Developers as contractors or employees
    3. Doing it yourself.
    4. App Builders


    The first three seem pretty expensive or difficult. I’ve heard that “App Builders” are supposedly the best mix of “easy” and “productive”, but in my experience, most of them seem “cookie cutter”. Great for content on websites, and not so great when users need to go through complicated, business specific flows.

    That said; what is your perspective on building apps for your business? What have your experiences been like?
    Last edited by startupper; 09-12-2016 at 02:50 AM.

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    Member Array WebMedic's Avatar
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    Hi startupper,

    We usually deal with contractors to build the application.

    It can be a bit expensive depending on the requirements but since it's a custom app that will also save us time and effort it's probably worth the investment.

    We recommend developers from Russia/Ukraine.

    How is your experience? what challenges do you face?
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    We take care of your website, so you can focus on growing your business.

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    I honestly don't have much need for custom applications. Everything I've needed to this point is something readily available and I don't anticipate needing custom applications in the future. That said, if I did need something my first thought would be to develop it myself. I'm not an application developer, but I think I'm capable of learning how to develop applications and my initial instinct would be to design and develop things myself.

    Within a few days I'd likely realize there's no way I have time to design and develop an application and I'd look elsewhere, probably to a contractor. I'd still want to design the application and would hire someone to do the development work.

    I wouldn't use an app builder. I wouldn't even consider it. I suspect they're currently as bad as web site builders were a few years ago. I doubt I'd have the financial means to hire a larger agency of shop, which is why I'd go the contractor route.

    Some of that would depend on the specifics though. If what I wanted to develop was something I thought others wanted and could be sold, I'd probably partner with someone of figure out a way to afford the larger agency/shop.
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    hello world Array Harold Mansfield's Avatar
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    I'd build my own. Most businesses only need to do it once, so I'm not sure there's a process. Small Businesses are going to do it differently than Med-Larger businesses, so you can't apply the same feedback from one to the other. It's 2 different markets.
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    Wow, thanks for the excellent feedback, guys!

    @WebMedic

    That makes sense!

    I work in a small business with ever-changing requirements, so going to a devshop would be beyond expensive for us. Most of the interface changes are simple to functionally implement: create a report for a list of payments and then have buttons for each row that allows people to go through a wizard modal to make a payment, etc.

    By all rights, there should be a way for us to do this without having to hire developers to essentially push buttons.

    @Vangogh

    You are pretty right. I suspect most small businesses only need one app done right, and if they could they would do it internally so they don't have to deal with contractors and outside agencies.

    Right now, there's one app builder that's getting traction: Bubble - Visual Programming. All other app builders I've tried are either very limited in scope, or restricted to enterprise; bubble seems to have a pretty low barrier to entry without compromising on the complexity aspect. Have you given that one a shot?

    @Harold

    Very true, the industries are different. What kind of apps would you build if you had the time or resources?

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    Discount Prodigy Array Owen's Avatar
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    My company's main product is an app. My partner and I are paying a contractor to design and develop the app whilst we use Firebase as our server management. The website is designed by myself and at the moment is not managed by anyone, however, I plan on paying for managed services at Rackspace once needed.

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    hello world Array Harold Mansfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by startupper View Post

    @Harold

    Very true, the industries are different. What kind of apps would you build if you had the time or resources?
    I'm into utilities. Things that enhance or improve the user experience and capabilities of mobile devices. I actually do have the time, and am building one now. I think the trend for content apps is going to be web based, not installed apps on devices. It actually makes less sense now that browsers are up to the task. Games will still be games of course.
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    Quote Originally Posted by vangogh View Post
    I honestly don't have much need for custom applications. Everything I've needed to this point is something readily available and I don't anticipate needing custom applications in the future. That said, if I did need something my first thought would be to develop it myself. I'm not an application developer, but I think I'm capable of learning how to develop applications and my initial instinct would be to design and develop things myself.

    Within a few days I'd likely realize there's no way I have time to design and develop an application and I'd look elsewhere, probably to a contractor. I'd still want to design the application and would hire someone to do the development work.

    I wouldn't use an app builder. I wouldn't even consider it. I suspect they're currently as bad as web site builders were a few years ago. I doubt I'd have the financial means to hire a larger agency of shop, which is why I'd go the contractor route.

    Some of that would depend on the specifics though. If what I wanted to develop was something I thought others wanted and could be sold, I'd probably partner with someone of figure out a way to afford the larger agency/shop.
    The Ionic app builder tool is absolutely fantastic, but since I like everything to be custom I don't use it, but I have used it before just to see how it works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold Mansfield View Post
    I'm into utilities. Things that enhance or improve the user experience and capabilities of mobile devices. I actually do have the time, and am building one now. I think the trend for content apps is going to be web based, not installed apps on devices. It actually makes less sense now that browsers are up to the task. Games will still be games of course.
    True, the web is definitely the place for content. I've read that when you want the user to go through specific flows or tasks, then a native app is the route to go.

    Now I wonder if small businesses generally have specific, unique tasks they want their users to do, that vary enough such that no one off-the-shelf solution can encompass all of it. Perhaps medium sized businesses have more of those tasks: if anything, that's probably where a dev-shop starts falling short, since not only do they have to do the dev-work but they also need to have a deep enough understanding of the process underlying the task. Otherwise, they'll deliver an app with good UI, decent performance, but a UX that lacks the details that the company possesses.

    Do you think a medium sized business would be more interested in expediting internal custom app development with app builders?

    Thank you for your patience!

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    Quote Originally Posted by startupper View Post
    True, the web is definitely the place for content. I've read that when you want the user to go through specific flows or tasks, then a native app is the route to go.
    I wish I could say it's that cut and dry, but it's not. Any well built website sends users through a specific flow and tasks.

    Quote Originally Posted by startupper View Post
    Now I wonder if small businesses generally have specific, unique tasks they want their users to do, that vary enough such that no one off-the-shelf solution can encompass all of it. Perhaps medium sized businesses have more of those tasks: if anything, that's probably where a dev-shop starts falling short, since not only do they have to do the dev-work but they also need to have a deep enough understanding of the process underlying the task. Otherwise, they'll deliver an app with good UI, decent performance, but a UX that lacks the details that the company possesses.

    Do you think a medium sized business would be more interested in expediting internal custom app development with app builders?

    Thank you for your patience!
    Things are kind of up in the air right now. Outside of the big messaging and social apps, app use is down across the board. With so many 16GB phones out there, people are more and more discerning about what they put in their phones. A lot of apps peter out quickly as well. If you think about it, how many apps do you have on your phone? And how many of those do you use every day? One a week? Once a month? Not at all?

    Also with the rise of "digital assistants" and voice technologies, what used to be a job for an app such as weather, finding directions, search, sports scores and so on, Google, Alexa, and Siri now do by default.

    Most businesses don't need an app. They need a well built, responsive website. Where I think it makes sense would be when it's a tool. Insurance companies with accident apps. Designers or furniture stores with AR apps ( coming soon) that allow you to visualize the product in your house. Banks and financial tasks. And so on. Apps that let you do stuff with your phone, do better than apps that merely let you see stuff with your phone. Because you can see stuff with your phone natively now.

    Of course like I said, it's all going through a transition now so I could be completely wrong about where it's headed. I just know that were it is now, is down. Installs and daily users of most (non gaming, non messaging) apps is down.

    People are still trying to build the "next big app", but are consumers really looking for it? Seems like we're kind of maxed out on the "hot new thing" excitement. I mean seriously, how many more messengers or weather apps do we need?

    New app developers think in terms of what they can create that will make money, rather than what do people actually need. What will make people's lives better, easier, make the phone more useful. Just because you can make it, doesn't mean that anyone wants it.

    EDITED: Speaking of weather apps I just looked on my devices. I have 3 weather apps installed on one phone, 2 on the other, and 2 on my tablet. Yet every morning Alexa tells me the weather before I ever see those devices. Plus I live in the desert. Weather is pretty much the same every day.

    Just an example how I think we're maxed out on the same old, same old app.
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