‘Being Original Is Frowned Upon’: An App Developer Opens Up About His Challenges

Posted on November 26, 2016 in #FutureOfWork, Entrepreneurship, My Story
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By Akshit Rungta:

When my business partner and I started our mobile app development company three years ago, we didn’t have much knowledge about the app industry in India. Once we came back from the Queen’s land all we had were our Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science.

However we did know two things at that time: one, apps would eventually take over the world of technology and two, we wanted to do things the right way with respect to our business. Despite lack of experience, we did fairly well. We’ve worked with a number of clients since then, and designed apps that have been successful in terms of download numbers, user satisfaction and rate of user retention.

Yet, there’s something missing. While our apps deliver on client expectations, they haven’t achieved the reach that could rival the likes of Instagram, Uber, and Airbnb, some of the big players in the app world. And we learnt why, the hard way.

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Akshit Rungta

Flaws In Research

Most app developers are pretty clued in about the importance of research in the app development process. This involves everything from ideation and understanding the target audience to the user experience. In fact, one can say with confidence that research forms the very backbone of the scope of any app.

However, with some client specifications, their research was backed less by numbers and more by their understanding of personal behaviours and expectations, and their own intuition. What’s worse is that this “intuition” changed every day and automatically, the projects never met their timelines. More often than not, after the initial deadline, the budget would start to run out and we’d be forced to take shortcuts to complete the project. We’d end up with something that worked well enough but didn’t realise its full potential.

A word to anyone looking to hire app developers: Remember, family and friends are not your research group. Research needs to include members from different backgrounds and audiences that form a target group. And an app that is made with a target group in mind is always going to work better than one that’s primarily trying to outsell its immediate competition.

Roadblocks In Design

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Rishabh Jain (L) and Akshit Rungta (R), Co-founders of Bowstring Studio

A majority of our client meetings begin with “I’m looking for good design”. What they actually mean is that they want an app that looks pleasing to their eye. But design is not just about fonts and colour schemes. It also includes criteria such as usability, relevant information output and a balanced appeal both in terms of aesthetics and availability of information. An app design is mostly unique to the specifications of the app, and modelling it after a more successful app only ends up compromising its performance.

Some clients, however, seem to think differently. In some of our experiences, we’ve faced constant comparison to top performing apps and by the time the app is launched it has nothing left of the original design!

We’ve found that despite having degrees that trained us specifically in researching, designing and developing apps, the app developer’s opinions hardly matter. Being original is frowned upon rather than encouraged. Nuances such as differences between the iOS and Android systems are never taken into account, and everyone – experienced or not – considers themselves a designer in their own right!

Over time we’ve come up with a system that helps us be selective with respect to potential clients. It helps us save time and only work with the best. We’ve also learnt not to compromise our originality. At the same time, this selective approach has taken a toll on the potential reach of our service. The solution? We’re still working on it, and we would love to hear from other app developers of their experiences!

If you are an entrepreneur, or work in a startup, we would love to hear from you. Tell us about your aspirations, challenges and hidden struggles! Write in and share your stories here.

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