Sasha, a user on the site, posted the following question (I'm re-posting here so it has its own thread):
"Hi Daniel, I am looking to develop a real estate app which I think is different and unique from what already exists in the market (a tall order!). I was wondering if you might have any recommendations for an app development company that works with individuals. This app will deal with the aggregation of data - it's not a game or anything fancy like that. Anyone in DC or San Francisco come to mind? I'll also be going to India later this year to meet with contacts there. Thanks! Sasha"
Being in the mobile app space, I get this question often. For some background on posts I've written before about mobile, watch my MobileX keynote, my post on the evolving definition of the word "app", and my thoughts about whether or not apps are just a fad.
If you're interested in making an app, here's what to consider:
1) The very first thing to do is to really understand the mobile space, and analyze your goals. I see way too many people jump to the conclusion that they "want to make an app" without knowing what that really means, what it'll cost to do it, and why they are choosing an "app" as the vehicle to accomplish the goal. A poorly defined goal will invariably lead to a poor outcome.
I highly recommend you watch this presentation by David Ip at a MobileX Conference about the steps involved in determining goals and choosing a technology to use. In the presentation, David references Forrester's P.O.S.T. methodology, which I wholeheartedly endorse (If you don't want to spend the $450 for the full report, you can find a summary here). The key take-away is to focus on People, then Objectives, then Strategy, and lastly, Technology (hence "POST"). And choosing an "app" is the technology -- the last step. That's what I mean when I say people get it backwards by starting with the technology.
2) Once you've figured out who your target audience is (the "people") and what your goals are (the "objectives"), it's time to think strategy. Mobile is a very intimate distribution channel -- it's one way to reach the people and accomplish an objective. But it's not the only way. Make sure it's the approach you want to take. A more traditional approach via desktop web will almost surely be way cheaper, easier to implement, and provide you access to a larger audience.
3) If you're still sure you want to make an app (and as you can probably tell, I'm asking you to really think about this before you say yes), you have a couple of main options, which are:
- Develop a completely native app the native language of each type of device (iPhone vs. Android vs. WindowsPhone vs. Blackberry, etc.)
- Develop a "web app" which is really just a website that's optimized for the mobile form factor. This is typically done in HTML5 so it renders well on the phone and can take advantage of some of the phone's native capabilities, like the GPS, Camera, access to Address Book, etc.
If you're looking to work with a development company (like Sasha is), then my first question would be "what's your budget?" If you have a budget of $50k or more (and really, $100k or more to get anything significant done), then I'd recommend PointAbout, the mobile app consulting company I co-founded and have since sold. They do excellent work for larger brands.
If your budget is under $25k, the first thing I'd say is "stop and re-think your approach," because you're not going to be able to hire anyone to do really great work in a native environment at that budget level.
You can, however, likely find someone to use one of the frameworks for you. For example, Jeremy Caverly knows the AppMakr system extremely well, and has done work for large brands like Whole Foods using AppMakr as a platform.
Lastly, good luck and don't get frustrated. Once you get your app built, you'll face a mountain of other challenges getting people to discover and engage with your app (which is where my startup Socialize comes into play). But the future definitely is in mobile, and I applaud you for leading the charge.
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