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Customer Expectation Levels for iPhone Applications?
Developers uphill struggle

Following on from my last article, which looked at some of the reasons/motivations for iPhone Developers to develop apps (see here), I thought I would look at the customer expectations levels.

That decision was brought on by a great comment that I have seen from a user called bowkomor...

"The passionate developer cares about the software he creates. It's his baby! They rarely care about how much money you make with it, neither do they care to how many clients you sell it. They make it a personal honor to deliver the highest quality (bug free, easily maintainable, well tested, well documented...) software they can. That's what their care about: making the most beautiful software they can!"

Thanks for that comment, as a Professional Software Developer myself, I always have those thoughts close to my heart and I'm sure most of the iPhone Application Developers do also!

For the iPhone Application Developer, you only get one shot on the App Store to get it right or risk bad reviews and no downloads/purchases, so the success of your application will depend on a great user experience and functionality. Every Mobile Application takes a different amount of development effort, according to the complexity of the application and this can be split down between the User Interface design & experience, application logic and storage etc.

Traditionally the actual GUI design Phase has probably been about 25% of the whole project time, but now with the iPhone and the nature of the beast that is the App Store, the demanding iPhone Users and the cool device itself... Apple and developers in turn, are pushing this initial design phase to about 60%. Apple's definition of the design phase, is that it consists of four sub phases focusing on...

  • becoming familiar with the device and the context in which it is used,
  • product definition,
  • design & prototype on paper,
  • polish & refine to develop an application with a fantastic user experience.

iPhone Application Developers put a lot of time & effort into their applications, as bowkomor stated above and this brought me to the subject of my article today... Customer expectation levels for iPhone Applications, are Developers on an uphill struggle?  Lets face reality, the developers sell their applications, via the App Store, at a fraction of the cost, than if they were commercial higher value products on a non mobile platform, but still customers expectations are still as high... even for the cheapest of apps!

Is this high customer expectation something new with the success of this great device, or is it the fact that the App Store gives the customer a great outlet, like never before, and brings them closer to the Software Developer than ever before? I would suggest that over 95% of software developers have never been that close to their mass market and maybe it is a bit overwhelming for them.

An iPhone Developer that I follow is John Friend, of Apps In My Pocket, here is a quote from John...

"I'd concur with your angle as you probably know from my interview last week (see here). I think though it's also worth exploring why they are so cheap. I think there are two key reasons:

*[1] over-supply of apps. *


Supply exceeds demand. My guess would be that a decent app now costs /at least /$50k to develop (particularly assuming you pay yourself something!). Given most apps still seem to be at $1. Just recovering costs requires selling at least 62k in a year (such a short frame because you'll need to keep developing/support). Now unless you are in the top 100 of a category, you are not selling anything (well, OK, maybe 10 downloads a day).


There's 20 categories, so a max of 2000 paid apps are selling anything out of 120,000 (saw something once that 20% of app are free). Thus roughly 2% are selling anything. And my guess would be that 0.5% are actually making anything reasonable.


But the desire to create apps is as strong as ever. I think it will only slow when everybody who could has launched an app.


*[2] the store does not make it easy to find the best apps for your needs*


* The categorization is far too simplistic as has been commented on many times. We need a proper multi-level hierarchy.
* You can't search or sort by rating (thus finding the best apps is not directly supported whereas finding the most popular is -
popularity is bought at a price). If you can do this it is so unobvious I've not been able to find it despite looking a lot.
* There's no demo mode for apps

Because it's hard to find the best app for your needs, people are only prepared to spend a small amount trying apps. A side-effect is that Apple's highlighting of an app has a huge impact, because finding an app yourself is hard."

Thank you John for sharing your thoughts.

I think the App Store review process seems to be a one-way only direction, being customer to developer. I would suggest to any iPhone Developer, that they create a web presence (or developer email) from within their application, where they can address any application related questions from users and take suggestions or enhancements. Also I would suggest on a psychological level, that any reviews/suggestions be taken as positive and to keep the customer at the forefront of their development thoughts.

Let us face it, a happy customer, is one that will come back for other apps, as well as recommending them to friends etc.

About Ian Thain
As one of the Sybase Technical Evangelists, Ian regularly addresses technical audiences all over the world and his sessions are always very well attended. He also writes education classes, whitepapers, demos and articles for various Sybase products and publishes regularly in Journals such as SYS-CON's PBDJ and International Developer Magazine. He is also the Sybase Unwired Platform & PocketBuilder Evangelist and works closely with the team in Dublin, CA and Concord, MA on new features and demonstrations for the products. In his customer-facing Evangelist role, Ian is very involved with the design, production and testing of Enterprise class Unwired Solutions, that have been implemented using Sybase's Unwired tools for Sybase customers around the globe. In addition, Ian is a dedicated technical expert continually working with Sybase's key partners and clients to enhance the capabilities of the Unwired solutions that Sybase can offer to its customers. Ian can also be found on Twitter @ithain

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