DIY App Development: When You Should or Shouldn't Do It

April 5, 2020

Businesses need an impressive online presence to thrive in an ever-competitive digital market. With the mobile app market continuing to rise, every business wants to tap into the huge potential of smartphone connectivity to attract new customers, increase revenue, and improve internal communication. After all, consumer spend on mobile apps is predicted to increase by 385% until 2021.

The overarching dilemma is: should you tap a mobile application development company to create a custom app to work for your business, or try the DIY app development approach?

Lately, more companies, start-ups, and small businesses are opting to take the DIY route to save on costs. With the proliferation of tools like DIY app builders that promise to help non-programmers to create apps, businesses can take advantage of easy-to-use options to build an app on their own at cost-effective rates. A company with an influx of talent can even hire developers internally to DIY their app. 

Before choosing an approach, you must first understand the benefits, limitations, features, and target audience of the technology you are going to use.

When Is It Okay to DIY Your Mobile App?

Google App Maker, one of the most popular DIY app builders

1. When you have a very limited budget

Let’s face it. Not every company can afford to develop a fully-customized app. The app development process can be complicated, arduous, and time-consuming. If the app is not critical for your business, and you know you won’t be able to shell out enough money to complete the app, it’s better to take the DIY approach.

2. When you are just testing out your app idea

Before smartphones became mainstream and before mobile apps started taking over online activities of users, it wasn’t necessary for businesses to have an app. Today, however, more and more businesses are experimenting with mobile apps. If you have an idea, but you aren’t quite sure yet whether it will be an effective business driver, then the DIY approach may be your better choice. 

Once you have proven the idea to yourself and your internal stakeholders, then you can proceed to improve your mobile app by hiring a mobile application development company.

3. When you are just following an existing app structure or changing design elements of another basic pre-made app

You may have already noticed how different mobile apps have similar functionalities and UI. Perhaps your ideas even stemmed from an app you’ve used in the past.

Screenshot of AppInstitute templates

As mentioned previously, there is a wide array of DIY mobile app builders and video guides on how to create an app from scratch that can be used and watched by even the most novice of developers. However, customization may not be their strongest suit. But if the app you are ideating can be built based on a template or pre-made app, then using a mobile app building tool is more cost-efficient. 

4. When you are capable of investing a lot of money on recruitment and training

Most tech-centered companies have an established recruitment and training system to attract and retain talented developers. They would often opt to develop the app internally because of the readily available resources and would just outsource when there’s a need for outside expertise or to take additional work the internal team can’t handle.

5. When you want full control over everything

Some large companies and enterprises are overly concerned about the confidentiality of their systems. In such cases, hiring and building an in-house team of developers and designers to DIY the mobile app is the best route to take. This will allow you to maintain full control over the app development process from start to finish.

Why You Should Hire Experts to Develop Your App

1. Expert guidance

Mobile app development companies have years of experience in building multiple types of apps for different organizations. It is especially helpful if the app development firm you are working with has already built and launched a similar app, so you can avoid previous mistakes and further ensure efficiency. 

This also allows you to maximize the expertise you need to create a minimum viable product (MVP) which only includes the most essential features. This is effective in managing costs if the app idea still needs to be tested and improved after its early release. Aside from development, some companies can also provide a go-to-market strategy for you to reach your targets and quickly reap your ROI.

2. Technology Expertise

App development is advancing fast. Agencies reduce the cost you have to spend on recruitment, training, and app rework because they hire and train experts who will develop your app using the latest programming languages and frameworks. This means that your app will last for years with a few minor maintenance and improvement updates.

3. Full Suite of Services

Successful apps undergo multiple development stages, from planning to testing, and even marketing. Hiring talents to address every stage of the development can be very expensive and impractical since some of these roles are not needed for every stage. However, a full-suite mobile app development company will provide all your needs, and guide you throughout the entire process. 

4. Faster Development

If you opt to build your team, you must spend a considerable amount of time, not only with recruitment but in creating and perfecting your internal processes. App development agencies already have efficient structures and systems in place to ensure fast turnaround times. They also have multiple teams who can work on different aspects of your project simultaneously, shortening the development time significantly.

5. Original, Custom Features That Stand Out

Staying ahead of the competition means your mobile app must stand out by being unique, intriguing, and engaging. You can’t get originality from a DIY approach, as hundreds of businesses already use the pre-set templates and common designs available in app builders. On the other hand, custom features will ensure that the app is tailored to the behavior and preferences of your target users. 

While some DIY app builders produce hybrid apps, many of them don’t work as well as native apps. A capable development agency can create an app that works both in Android and iOS, and with functions similar to a native app, so you can cater to a larger audience and have higher conversions.

6. Higher Chance of Approval on Google Play and iTunes

One of the risks of using DIY app builders is that tech giants like Apple can reject them.  According to Apple’s developer guidelines, apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service, also known as clone apps, will be rejected. 

App Store Review Guidelines

7. Scalability, Maintenance, and Updates

Scaling up or down can be difficult for internal teams as resources are usually fixed or limited. In case your app suddenly needs an update to accommodate an influx of users, being partnered with an app development agency is more advantageous as they can easily add more people to the project when needed.

Long-term maintenance is also a plus. An agency can help you manage and update your app.  You won’t need to worry about bugs and glitches as they can help you maintain, support, and secure your code even after the development is complete.

DIY app development is not for everyone, and so is hiring an app development firm. Evaluate your situation carefully to know which approach works best for you and your organization.

Get in touch with us, and we’ll help you build a unique mobile app that will redefine your brand and address your business needs.

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Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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