Many Chief Execs and CIOs will be shocked at the full cost of developing mobile business apps and it won’t be too surprising to hear the above headline yelled across a boardroom, followed by an expletive or two, before or after the project is undertaken.

On the basis that it’s better to understand in advance and take steps to manage the costs, there are some guidelines for how much you should expect to budget. There are no hard and fast rules, but here are 10 pieces of advice that could help you reduce your costs in creating a new business app.

How do enterprises reduce costs?

There are several ways to reduce these costs, especially if you intend to make a cross-platform app. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Decide on your target mobile phone platforms at the start of your project. Don’t fall into the trap of working on an iPhone app first and then think about Android later because it will be much more expensive in project management terms, as you’ll almost certainly need two sets of developers.
  2. Specify the functionality of the app carefully at the start of the project and let the designers get on with designing it. Don’t have regular meetings with the designer where you add more functionality as you go along as this will extend the design process considerably.
  3. Ensure your designers cope well with different resolutions. The design for a 320 x 240 screen will be very different from an iPad. Consider having larger images for the larger screen sizes.
  4. If you are making a cross-platform app, then consider doing nearly everything in Javascript, HTML5 and CSS, as they are the only languages that are standard between platforms. There are many different frameworks on the market that will help you do this. Some will offer support for just the two main phone operating systems, Android and iOS, but consider using one that supports Blackberry and intends to support Windows 8; and if it is important to your user base, ageing Symbian.
  5. Don’t use web techniques such as Ajax in your Javascript. It will work when your developers are testing it with a good solid WiFi signal, but your real users will hate you for it when they are confronted with a busy icon, or even worse, have their data lost or duplicated.
  6. Make sure your app works offline. If your app can only work when connected to the internet, then it’s not going to be useful to those who live in rural areas, sit in metal-framed offices or use the Underground.
  7. If you are pushing data to the phone, make sure this works when the app is in the background. Think notifications; you don’t want to only receive new data when the app is running in the foreground.
  8. You can save yourself a lot of testing if you use a proven framework that contains a tested communication library.
  9. If you are using a back-end server, ensure it can accept data via web services and accept common standards such as JSON or XML. This can then be the basis for your mobile system and also your web pages.
  10. Make sure the framework you use allows you to easily debug your app. The only debugging support on mobiles is normally provided by a phone simulator, and often problems will be experienced on the actual handsets that don’t occur on the simulator.