How to Build an iPhone App for Your Business
The numbers don't lie: More and more people are turning to smartphones for on-the-go internet browsing, and their ranks are going to swell. Does your company have an app for that?
Creating an iPhone app can be surprisingly cheap and easy — or startlingly expensive and complicated. No matter which route you take, be sure to do due diligence before diving into App Store waters. Half a million apps are already available, so decide what you’d like yours to accomplish and then determine whether the concept brings anything new to your niche. Figure out the app's potential benefit to your busines, while you're at it.
Ready to get started? Here are a few ways to go about building an iPhone app for your business:
- Roll your own. Have a flair for iPhone design, bug-testing, and the Cocoa programming language? You could try to build your own app from scratch. Obviously, this isn't recommended for most small-business owners; however, if it intrigues you, Apple has a ton of resources available at its iOS Dev Center. (Note: You'll need to pay $99 a year to enroll in the iOS Development Program if you want to publish your creation in the App Store.)
- Internet-based DIY creation tools. On a tight budget? Various websites can help you create a basic iPhone app in minutes using simple tools. Notable services include AppMakr, Bizness Apps, Generation Wireless, and SwebApps. Pricing varies, but most cost around $100 per month. Some, such as AppBreeder, charge less but add advertisements to your app. Feature sets vary, too: Some services offer advanced options — GPS functionality, social media integration, forms, audio streams, push notifications, etc. -- while others don't. Before you pay for a service, make sure its tools can help you achieve your vision. The biggest downsides to DIY tools are their ongoing costs and the fact that you may need to make some sacrifices to get your app to fit into the templates provided.
- Hire a developer. Have a specific vision for a custom app? Want to skip the recurring costs of monthly DIY services? Hiring a developer is a solid option. However, developers typically come with a steep price tag, force you to clearly communicate your needs, and require some project-management skills. Cheaper options include contracting with a recent college graduate or a freelancer on a bidding site like oDesk, but bear in mind that you often get what you pay for. Some DIY services, such as SwebApps, offer custom app creation, too. Our research shows that app development by creative agencies and established freelancers starts around $3,000 for a very basic app — and goes up (sometimes way up) from there. TheyMakeApps and the Appolicious developer directory are good starting points for finding a developer. Be sure to vet candidates the way you would any other potential vendor/service provider.
Have you designed an app for your business? Please share your experiences in the Comments field below!