The Idea Dude


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The dude is the basement

Iteration is the chief killer of software development. It is also the necessary evil. We've just finished our second iPhone app and submitted it yesterday. This one is a paid app unlike our first one TheGoodBlogs Explorer. Our aim is to do a new app every 3 weeks. Looks like it's closer to a 4 week cycle for 2 people.

Iteration means reworking the images, the styling, the wording and even the workflow. Iteration will take 50-60% of your development cycle. Here's the breakdown on how it went.

  • Storyboarding. 2 days to flesh out the initial concept with graphical mockups (very important to do because it becomes your project template and helps with the workflow)
  • Framework. 1 week to design and build the basic framework, ie. how to go from screen to screen, what buttons are required, help screens etc. This is the wireframe stage where everything is pretty ugly.
  • Product. 1 week to make sure it all works smoothly and add the first round of creative (images, text etc).
  • Usability and iteration. This is the other ~2 weeks of changing the verbage, the titles, terminolgy, workflow, usability issues. Adding final colors, bug fixes.
  • Support services. 1 - 2 weeks. Adding a website and backend server services if the app requires it.

So if you go by the above template, when you think you're done, there's another 2 to 2.5 weeks to go. It is unlikely that any new app will take less than 6 person-weeks. If you do the math, that's close to $20,000 worth of development cost (minimum). Realistically, it means you would have to 30,000 copies (Apple takes 30%) for a 99c app to break even.

The real truth of Apple apps, sure some make a couple hundred of thousand but the majority make hundreds or thousands of dollars over a period of time (like 6 - 12 months). Take out the labour costs, marketing, etc., it is a tough business.

The lesson to learn, is if you're going to sell something for 99c you can't afford to take more than 6 weeks to build. While it may sell several hundred thousand copies, in all likelihood, it will sell several hundred or if you're lucky several thousand over time.

So this dude will remain in the basement for the foreseeable future until one of our apps bear reasonble fruit that will hopefully bring with it some sunshine.


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