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Nowadays, many startups choose to build mobile and web apps around their products or services for their customers. While the idea of building an app may seem intimidating or daunting to founders, it’s actually quite a decisive and powerful step.

We don’t need to sell you why you should be considering an app for your startup, you probably know by now that annual mobile app downloads are expected to reach a whopping 197 billion in 2017.

That said, the cost of developing an app for the first time can be quite heavy, especially considering design and development costs. However, you can still try to be lean when building an app. How?

If you want to build an app for your business, here are five tips to consider before shelling out your precious dinars.

    1. Outsource: To keep costs low, don’t hire a team of app developers, software engineers, and programmers — go with an outsourced provider that understands your requirements rather than hiring a team. Or, find a developer who understands your A-Z business idea: everything from needs, goals, and budget. The provider should be aware of your budget limitations, so he or she will not go overboard with the budget while still fulfilling the requirements you need to meet your business goals. Looking for platforms where you can outsource? Here are some suggestions: UpWork.com, Pickcrew.com, Freelancer.com.
      Outsourcing design and development will not only save you on the cost of hiring a team but will also bring your product to market much faster.
      Did you know that some of the most popular products used today were outsourced in their initial days like Alibaba and Skype?
    2. First attempt? Stay simple and minimal – Don’t go overboard with the features on your first try, just go with your MVP, or minimum viable product. In reality, you won’t know how well your app is received until users start using it. Create an app that offers only the core value of the product, one that will drive customer demand to download and use your app. The changes will come later. Successful products usually evolve over time through constant customer feedback. Think of Gmail and how it evolved over time to become the mogul of email services, it has a proper malware and virus checking, 10+ GB of email storage, makes it super easy for you to create an email and add colors, hyperlinks, bullets, indents and more.
    3. Just target one app store to begin with. You have limited funds. Why create something across platforms that no one wants? Develop for one platform, either iOS, Android. Once you get it right on the first platform and see good traction from users, you can aim to provide a similar experience to users on other platforms. You need to ensure that your app is optimized for the store. What does that mean? Well, it’s the positioning of the app and how people will be able to find it in the store. In order to get it right, focus on these five elements: name of the app, the design of the icon, right keywords and clear description of what it is, some screenshots, and preferably app reviews.
    4. Use third-party services that can help with the process, such as: PhoneGap provides pre-made modules that decrease developmental time. This will help you save a lot of time and money, Parse for backend, push notifications and social integration, Urban Airship: for mobile messaging, Twilio: for Voice, SMS and MMS messaging, Socialize and Kinvey: for social platforms.
    5. Language is Important! When developing an app, you need to make sure that you use the right programming language for your mobile app or web app. Things you need to consider is your server platform, budget, server software you’re going to run your app on, some previous experience in programming, and the database you chose to backup your data. There are a number of languages used for programming, according to research, C# is used the most, followed by JavaScript/Python, Java, C++, SQL, PHP.

Another side tip before we conclude: cut costs, but not corners. Make sure you do not compromise on the quality or core value of your app. Also, if you’re ever curious about how much it would cost to develop an app for iOS or Android, check out this useful app cost calculator. In under a minute, you’ll be able to find out how much your app will cost! Disclaimer: these prices are only indicative of the US market, and not Bahrain and the MENA region.

Going in the ‘app form’ direction will help you in the long run. Creating an app may seem like a long and grueling process, but in reality, it will end up you saving you so much time and effort later on. Sure, it can be costly, but with the steps provided above, you can definitely build an app on a budget! And who knows, maybe it will help you expand your startup in different directions, including expanding from Bahrain to the region. This is where the beauty of technology lies: it really has no (geographical) boundaries. Here are more tips you can check out to help you develop an app in a cost-effective manner!

Bayan Al-A'abed

Bayan Al-A'abed

Critical thinker, content producer, and editor at Matter in Hand, with a burning passion to shed light on successful, inspiring startups and entrepreneurs in Bahrain. Her interests include youth development, female entrepreneurship, and women in tech.