I have a small budget, what does that mean for my iPhone app?

A friend of mine who has an exotic and vintage car business asked me a question the other day which I figured all of you could benefit from.

If I have a small budget, will it show in the final product ? Is there such a thing as a good budget app?

That is an interesting question. 

I'll first digress a little bit and take a car analogy. When looking for a car, everyone has a budget in mind. This budget allows to narrow the search for the perfect model. But within that budget people do have multiple options from competing brand (I’ll ignore the used market here, as apps don't have a used market). Let's say your budget is $18000, according to Kelly Blue Book, you could buy any of the following (in the US):

  1. Fiat 500
  2. Subaru Impreza
  3. Chevrolet Sonic
  4. Honda Fit
  5. Ford Fiesta
  6. Honda Civic
  7. Jeep Renegade
  8. Kia Soul
  9. Volkswagen Golf
  10. Mazda 3

As you can see this is still a fairly wide spread of cars, each with their own set of features and compromises.

At the end though, yes, for each of those car, you know by looking at them that they did not cost the same price as a fully loaded Porsche Cayenne. But some have a higher quality feel to them.

The other consideration to have is that if your budget is $12000 or less you won't be able to buy a new car in the US. Though you can head to the used car market, or buy a motorcycle. Which means you still have options, but they are not the same.

So what does that mean for your iPhone App? Same thing, there is a floor under which you won't be able to create an app. To be honest that floor is very low, and I’m pretty sure for $200 you could get some kind of app created. Though same as with the car, this might be more of a bicycle than a car.

This also means that yes, your budget will have an impact on your application. The way it will play out is as follow. In a software project you have three levers to play with, moving one affect the other two and affect the quality of your product (this triangle varies a bit once you start working with larger development team. At that point quality is replaced by schedule):

  • Budget
  • Features
  • Quality

If your budget is tiny, then either the feature list is going to have to be tiny and/or the quality of the app you'll get will be low. If your feature list is super long, then you can expect your budget to have to be larger.

Here are a few of the features that will make your budget go up:

  • User accounts
  • Ratings and reviews
  • Video conference
  • Chat feature
  • Storing data for the user in the cloud
  • Highly polished UI
  • Custom animations
  • In app purchase
  • Web site to manage app content
  • Web site for user to see their content

So, to answer the original question: "I have a small budget, what does this mean for my app?". Your app will be a reflection of the budget you invest. Once your budget is fixed and you fix the quality lever to a reasonable level so your users don't think you're cheap, the only lever left will be the list of feature you want to get done. So get your red marker and get ready to prioritize. You'll want to have your feature list stacked ranked so that you and the agency you are working with can select what feature can be done within your budget.