Ask LH: Should I Pay Someone Else To Build My App?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m thinking about building an Android app. I am trying to work out whether to invest the hours in learning to do it yourself properly, or paying someone to make my app idea happen for me. Computer technology changes so very quickly, so if I developed an app which would currently be better: DIY or hire someone ?

I am not looking to compete in the world of simple Android web apps you can make in 10 minutes by filling in boxes. I have some elementary PHP skills, and I enjoy producing the odd script. In other words: I don’t mind learning programming if it will lead somewhere. Any thoughts? Thanks, App Aspirant

Tablet picture from Shutterstock

Dear AA,

While there’s no absolute answer to this and developers-for-hire undoubtedly have an important place to play in the mobile apps ecosystem, in your circumstances we’d advocate doing it yourself. This is why:

  • Apps are not static entities. Even if you write an incredibly detailed specification, you’ll need to make changes and adjustments, patch for security issues and update to deal with new phone platforms. If your coding knowledge is minimal, every one of these steps will cost you money. As an individual, you probably don’t have that money.
  • Successful app developers rarely succeed with their first app. Practice makes perfect. The amount of time you invest in learning to code may seem high relative to a single app, but it’s much lower once you’ve built a dozen. In that scenario, your tenth app is also much more likely to be a big improvement on your first one. That’s a harder trick to pull off if you’re pushing all the work off to someone else.
  • Even if your app does take off to the point you decide to concentrate on business development and pay someone else to do the hard work, knowing the core of how it works will make you a much more informed manager.
  • Learning to code and build apps gives you a valuable skill, one that should be useful even if your app doesn’t take off.

These arguments apply whether you’re developing for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry or the Raspberry Pi.

Note that this doesn’t mean you have to do absolutely everything yourself. If your graphic design skills are rudimentary, paying someone to perform those tasks might make sense. But unless you have a substantial bankroll and a detailed business plan, learning to code is your best strategy, we’d argue. If anyone wants to argue the opposite case, we’d welcome all input in the comments.


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