How to Hire a Mobile App Designer

So you have an idea for that great, new mobile app. Now you need to hire someone to build it for you. Just find someone who knows how to develop apps, right?

Well, you actually have to find two different people (unless it’s a company that has both) to build the app – one to design it, and one to develop it. Usually, it’s not the same person who does both. The designer only does design, while the programmer only does the coding. So how do you manage this process?

I would recommend hiring the designer first. They will then help you mockup the design of the app. Once you are happy with the look and feel of the design, you can then hire a developer to implement this design into an actual, functioning app.

So how do you hire a designer?

If you’re looking to outsource this process, then the easiest way is to search for a designer that specializes (or has experience) in mobile apps. Take a look at their portfolio to find designs that you like and that you think could work well with your app.

If you’re still not sure if you have the right person, then pay for a few general mockups first – give them a description of what you would like one of the screens in your app to look like, and then get them to do a mockup for you. To make it easier for them, draw your design on a piece of paper and take a picture of it for them. Or you can use a more professional mockup program. If you like what you see, then continue with other screens.

One of the main reasons for going through this process, before you begin actual development of your app, is that it will help you think through each screen, where each element should be, and if the overall design and usability of your app makes sense. Chances are that you will need to make a few changes at this stage. If so, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to make such changes in this early stage, before you begin the development process.

Here are a couple of tips for you to consider:

  1. If you don’t see anything in your designer’s portfolio that you can reference, then try to find examples of other apps or designs on the market that you like. This will give the designer and example of the look and feel you’re looking for.
  2. Keep in mind that the designer probably knows more about design principles than you do. So when you have to make choice decisions, ask the designer for input, since their decision may be a better one than your own.


Mobile App Pricing and Revenue Models

We’ve all heard stories of developers making millions of dollars from apps. However not all apps make money in the same way. And in fact, there are several very popular apps out there, that don’t make any money at all. How does it all work? How much should you charge for your app?

Pay to Download: This is how most people expect app developers to make money. You create an app, set a price and then people pay that price to download the app. So how much should you charge for your app?

  1. Race to the bottom. Obviously the lower the price of your app is, the more units you will sell. The more units you sell, the more likely it is that your app can rank in the charts. The higher your app ranks in the charts, the more units it can sell. The more units it sells, the more money you make. See how that works? As a result, the price that most people charge for their apps is $0.99. $0.99 is also a price that results in a lot of impulse buys – it’s only $0.99 so people are willing to try out your app, since even if they don’t like it, they are only out $0.99.
  2. Niche Markets: There are exceptions however. If your app is in a niche market that doesn’t have many competitors, then you may find that you get the same number of downloads, whether you price it at $0.99 or $4.99 – so you may want to experiment with pricing to see which price makes you the most money.

As an example, here is a snapshot of the top selling apps (unit sales) in the US on Apple’s app store.

Top Paid Apps

If you look at the pricing, you’ll notice that 16 of the top 20 best selling apps (80%) were priced at $0.99.

Free app: There are 4 ways to make money from free apps:

  1. Make your app free, and run ads on the bottom. Unfortunately though, unless your app has broad appeal and is used by hundreds of thousands of users, then it is hard to make significant money from this model, using traditional markets. If your app is targeted at a niche market however, you may be able to manually charge for ads.
  2. Create a lite version of your app that lets users try out your key features. If it’s a game for example, the free version could let you try out the first level or two. If they like your app, then you hope that they pay full price to upgrade to the paid version. This is also knows as the freemium model. You may even find that you can get away with charging a higher price for the paid version since the user is now sold on your app.
  3. Many apps are given away for free, in order to promote a brand, website or other product. A finance website might create a financial calculator app that is free, but that promotes their website brand. Or a car company might create a driving simulator app that is free, but that promotes theirs cars.
  4. In the last few years, in-app purchases have been extremely popular. They allow developers to charge users to unlock specific features and add-ons from within the app. So now an app can be free, or for a lower price, and users only have to pay for features they will use. How popular are in-app purchases? Take a look at the picture below:

Top Grossing Apps in the app store

Even though this is the “Top Grossing Apps” list, 17 of the top 20 apps here are free! The rest of their revenue comes from in-app purchases which provides them with even more revenue than standard paid app sales.

Which of these strategies fits best for your mobile app? Are there any additional add-ons that you can include as in-app purchases to increase your revenue further?

Mobile Apps Versus Mobile Sites

FoodJingThese days more and more users are using smart phones and tablet like devices to access the internet. So while most businesses already have websites to promote themselves, they now have to make a decision on whether to create a mobile app or a mobile site for their business. What is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile site? Does your business need either one?

First, we have to define what a mobile site and mobile app are: A mobile site is a version of an existing website that is formatted to fit the smaller screens of smart phones and tablets. Some of the proper formatting elements could include:


  • Adjusting the width of the site, so the user just needs to scroll down. So a multi-column site could turn into a single column, so that the user doesn’t have to scroll left or right.
  • Adjusting the size of the text. Since users will be viewing your site from a smaller screen, the size of the text font you use may need to be a bit larger, so they can read your content, without having to zoom in further.
  • Removing banner ads and other distracting elements from the sidebar that may get in the way of the user being able to view your content.
  • Making use of mobile specific features like user location (for maps) or Call buttons that automatically dial phone numbers.
  • Updating elements that require a mouse (eg. popups or dropdown menus that only show when you hover over a section) to ones that respond to touch.

mobile app is a piece of software that your user would need to download onto their smart phone first, before they can use it. Usually, it is downloaded from an app store – Apple and Google have the largest app stores. In addition to the defining features of a mobile website, a mobile app provides the following additional benefits:

  • After it is downloaded, an icon for the app is created and placed on the user’s smart phone, making it easy to return to it later. (Users can also manually add icons for mobile websites, but this is not an automatic step, like it is for apps).
  • Mobile apps can do a better job of accessing additional features from the user’s mobile device, like the user’s photo library, camera, sensors (GPS, NFC etc.), contact list, SMS function etc.
  • Mobile apps can also send notifications to the user’s device, informing them of new features or offers you may have for them.
  • It is easier for users to make purchases from you from within your app – using Google or Apple’s built in payment system.
  • Many mobile apps are self contained, with all the information and data stored on the user’s device. This way information can be loaded quickly, without having to access the internet. Examples include games and utilities whose entire functionality is stored within the app.
Here is a summary of the differences between mobile websites and mobile apps:
Mobile Site Mobile App
Discoverability Google / Search Engine App Store
Usage Type URL Download app, then click on app icon to launch
Interface Standard website interface Can have custom, more unique and more interactive interface
Internet Connection Required Optional
Feature set Standard website features Can make use of phone’s custom features (eg. Camera, GPS, address book, sensors etc.)
Speed Limited by internet connection Usually faster, since most elements are stored locally on device
Approval process Not required May be required, to be listed on an app store
Compatibility All internet capable devices (if designed with mobile in mind) Requires separate design for each mobile type (eg. iOS, Android etc.)
Development Cost Low – many free resources and cheap hosting plans are available Higher – requires specialty development for each platform


So now that you know what the difference between a mobile website and a mobile app are, which should you get for your business? Here are some points to consider:

  • If you currently have a website, then it’s always a good thing to make sure it adapts properly to mobile devices.
  • Apps usually have some type of unique functionality that you cannot find in a website. Apple for example specifically rejects apps that just repackage content that can be found on a website.
  • If your website is primarily for marketing your company or services, then an app should not be used, as it doesn’t provide any long term, functional utility to the end user.
  • If you have some type of utility or functionality that could be accessed directly from a user’s phone, without needing to access your website, then you could consider developing a mobile app. For example, if you run a finance site, you could create a financial calculator or currency converter type app. This way you are providing utility to your user, while advertising your website in the process.
  • Is there content on your website that you could package and sell separately as a mobile app? I did this by taking content from my CLO site and releasing it as an app that users could purchase. The content is the same as on the website, but is packaged in an easy to consume mobile app.