Ready to make your app?

Building an app is hard. But it’s much easier if you have an award winning app designer at your side to guide you from idea in your head to an app in your hand.

Think of me as your own experienced product designer and chief technology officer. I get you to shipping a successful app through following a proven process.

Working with me you get better results, more reliably.

That's me with the doctors from Frimley Park Hospital showing off the awards for our app.

How much will it cost?

I describe the total cost of building an app in Very roughly, how much does an app cost to build?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find out if your app idea is worth it before making any major financial commitment? Maybe even phase the project, spending small amounts at the start and only proceeding if it is working out?

If you’ve read my app development guide you’ll know that you can. Plus the great bit is that the elements that make the most difference to how successful your app will be happen at the start and aren’t that expensive.

I try to quote fixed prices for fixed deliverables, the size of the quote depends on the complexity of the task. I want to be as transparent as possible, so my formula for a quote is based on charging my time at £75/$100 an hour. On the rest of this page I’ll take you through the steps I outlined in my app development guide, and give an indication of much they’ll cost.

Defining your app

Everyone starts out with the general shape of an idea for an app. That shape needs to take form before you start spending real money. In my app design guide I describe the process to go through. The headlines are:

  1. Research the main actors
  2. Re-assess your idea and design your minimum viable product (MVP)
  3. Make paper prototypes and test them with users

I’ve done all of these numerous times, for massive retailers using the best user testing labs in the country and also for small hospital departments where we just sat in their offices. The basics are the same.

 

Step 1: Get in sync with your users

It all starts with getting in sync with your users, and the other people that matter to the success of your app. You do this by doing quality user interviews. This isn’t grabbing someone and telling them your idea for 30 minutes. It is genuinely being interested in them and discovering how their life is around the problem or opportunity you’ve identified. Discovering their worldview along with their constraints and expectations.

If you ask the right questions you can also find out if there is much chance of success without directly asking them. For instance, if they strongly identify with the problem then that sounds really positive, but if you go further and ask what they are doing to solve it now you’ll find out the real truth. If they are bodging together a solution then you have a strong market, if they are not even googling for options then you don’t.

If you want to learn to do it yourself then there are great books on user interviews and research, I love The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. Then practise and experience will make you great.

Lots of people agree that engaging with their audience is a vital step, then find it too hard to even start. You might be wondering ‘How do I find the people to talk to and get them to agree to it?’ I know how to do that and have template emails that not only get important people to give up their time but also prime them to give a great interview. You might be concerned about developing good questions and delivering the interview in a professional manner. I can get you there and even run interviews for you where they not only open up, but also leave the meeting with a raised opinion of you and eager for you to get in touch again.

It doesn’t cost much to get set up and then run a professional user interview. An actual interview can happen in 30 minutes. After I’ve led one or two you’ll be able to run with it and do any more yourself.

 

Step 2: Design Outline

From the user research you now have a better idea of what your solution has to do to succeed. This is now the point to outline your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), though I like to refer to it as ‘What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?’

I’ve lots of experience doing this, so I’m happy to consult and help you get to a great solution. I have the advantage of knowing the kind of things that are hard and those that are easy, which can help a lot.

If we’ve done a good job in step 1 then this is one meeting.

 

Step 3: Paper Prototypes

This is where the real design starts. As I described in the development guide you can do it yourself. But I’ve done it before, have design experience, and am familiar with the options and conventions of modern user interfaces. So I can do it faster and come up with more options more easily. In which case you may prefer to pay me to come up with at least one design.

I can’t give you a fixed cost now as it depends on the complexity of the idea, but we are talking around one to two hours work per screen design. If we’ve already done steps one and two together then I’ll give you a quote to come up with paper prototypes. You can choose one, two or three different designs for the same thing. More paper prototypes allow you to compare and contrast to see what you like, but more importantly allows for far more relevant user testing. When the users are seeing choices of designs that still look fairly rough they’ll really open up. They won’t hold back, constrained by politeness, they’ll really say what they think. Which is exactly what you want to know.

 

Steps 4, 6 and 8: User Testing

At stage 4 we test paper prototypes with real users, at 6 our graphic designs and finally at 8 our app.

I find seeing real users interact with our work amazing. It is like a fog has lifted and you can see the world clearly for the first time. With it comes a clarity of what is working and what isn’t, making the next steps obvious.

There is a bit of a skill in doing user testing at these points. You want the person you are testing with to be comfortable and relaxed. To describe the mental process they are going through as they see and use what we’ve made. Very generally we want to avoid describing the design and instead ask the person to describe what they understand from what they are seeing and set them tasks to complete.

Top tip: if someone is ignoring a vital part of the design that you want their feedback on, after giving them a while to find it on their own  prompt them by saying ‘what do you think that button does?’. You’ve learnt that the feature is not very discoverable, and still move on.

A great book on this process is Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

How much does this cost?

At the high end we build a usability lab in a office, featuring two rooms, one where the interview and testing is happening and another where people are frantically taking notes on everything they are learning. I’ll write how a full usability lab works in a post on this site, if I haven’t written it by the time you want to know drop me a note. This option costs £1500 per day.

At the bargain end this feels a lot like a user interview only we have cameras to capture what the user is doing with our designs or app. The actual testing of our design takes 30 minutes to an hour, but a lot of time is required around that to prep and then to consolidate notes and learnings. I expect to manage 2 or 3 in a day.

In the modern world we can do a lot of our user testing remotely. At the paper stage you can get a very long way with screen sharing. Then when you have an actual app you can build in functionality to allow the user to record themselves using it, all while you are chatting to them over video conferencing.

Step 5: Graphic Design

Though I have done graphic design courses I tend not to do my own graphic design. I know enough to know what is good and what is bad, and why, along with how to communicate with designers.

I tend to find use sites like toptal.com to find great freelance designers. I’m always in awe at the quality of work that professional designers can do so quickly.

I can help you commission and manage your designers, as it is more than just getting pretty designs. There are considerations like ‘does the design fit with the paradigms and conventions of the platform?’ For instance, how you navigate on Android is different from iOS and we need to take this into account. Then once you’ve signed off on a design we have to get it in a format that the developers can use. This is the design broken into a massive set of small elements. Things like the image for a button broken into 8 parts for the corners and edges so it can be resized. Then I’ll want a style guide with fonts, sizes, margins between the elements, lots of things like that.

Step 7: Commissioning Developers

Though I’m a skilled developer for iOS and Android I tend to employ freelancers these days. There are just so many great developers all over the world that it makes the most economic sense

If we’ve gone through the steps so far we are in a great position to commission a developer. We can tell them exactly what to build and give them everything they need. That saves a lot of money and time.

Like with the graphic designers I can help you commission and manage the work of developers. Starting with finding who has the right skills and experience, then during the process managing the deliverables. I want you to own the code and deliverables, so I’ll create you your own GitHub account for the source code and your own developer accounts for Apple and Google. I’ll get the developers to commit code to your GitHub account and push versions of the app to your Apple and Google developer accounts. That keeps you in control.

For larger projects we’ll phase the delivery into parts we can test. I can also do code reviews and check out the quality as the work is progressing.

Step 9: Ship it!

By this point this is mostly administration. Getting the app through Apple’s review process and making sure we have all the marketing images and text up for the listing on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

In reality this normally happens while we are beta testing the app, then releasing it is just pressing a button.

Ready to take the next step?

Send me a quick message below and we can set up a phone call. You can tell me about your idea and your goals. We’ll decide together whether we are a good fit.