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.

How to Submit App to the Appstore for Faster Approval

These past couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to submit a new app to the appstore for my new startup. While I’ve submitted several apps in the past, this was the first time I had an app that I needed to submit for a deadline, so speed was of the essence. For PR purposes, you may have a date in time that you want to start promoting your app. It is in your interest to get as many downloads as you can over a short period of time (ideally the same day) if you want to rank in the charts, so having your app ready for download on your advertised day is crucial.

Here are some of the tricks I learned in the process:

  1. Check the current speed of app store review submissions. Here’s a good site that shows the approximate review times of apps currently being submitted. Be careful with this one since it refers to events in the past and not present. So for example, at the time of this blog post it shows this 11 days for apps. App store review times may have improved or gotten worse since then, but it still gives you a rough idea of how long it’s taking other apps to get approved at the moment. This way you can schedule enough time for your submission.
  2. Set the launch date with Apple. When submitting your app, you can choose to have the app automatically released when it is approved, or have it released on a specific day. So for example, if you wanted to launch your product in 3 weeks, you could submit your app now, but tell them not to release your app until the launch date in 3 weeks. Obviously this would only work if the launch date is AFTER they have approved your app. If the approval goes past your release date, then there’s not much you can do. This of course doesn’t make the approval any faster, but is useful for advertising your grand launch date.
  3. Ask for an expedited review. Not many people know this (I didn’t). Apple has a form you can fill out to ask for an expedited review of your app. They take a couple of days to review your request before deciding if your circumstance warrants an expedited review or not. They may also choose to ignore you if you regularly make such requests. If your circumstance is genuine though, you can do so.
  4. Create a test account. If your app requires a user to login before they can do anything in the app, then create a test account for the Apple review team to use. Otherwise you risk them not seeing parts of the app that require a user to be logged in. Include the test account details in the review notes (see next point).
  5. Fill in the review notes. Whenever you’re submitting an app, it doesn’t hurt to fill in details in the review notes. Even stating things that may be obvious won’t hurt (better safe than sorry).  For example in my case, I had to state that my app was only for release in Taiwan, and so would not show any content in the US (where the reviewers were located).
  6. Include a video. If there are parts of the app that the review team won’t be able to see (eg. future levels of a game or location specific features) then include a demo video that showcases the other parts.

The bottom line is that the easier you make it for the app review team to understand your app, then the faster they will take to approve it. So any steps you can take during the submission process to help them will end up helping you.

Good luck with your app submission!

How much should I charge for my Product?

Sale priceYou have done your market research and found the demand. You have now created a product to solve this demand.  So what should you price it at?

With traditional products, you figured out your costs to make the product, then added a sufficient markup to come up with a price.

You could also factor in supply and demand.  If your supplies were lower than the demand, you could charge more for your product, and vice versa.

With digital products, such as an ebook, access to a website or a software download, cost isn’t an issue.  Neither is supply.  So what other factors can you consider?


You could take a look at what the competition is offering, and at what price they are selling it for.  If your product has less features, then sell it for less.  If your product has more features, then sell it for more.

Obviously there is more to it than that.  The competition’s price may have brand recognition included in the price.  So competing products without the same recognition have to price themselves lower, with the same features in order to compete.

There is a tablet war going on right now, with several companies selling their own tablets to compete with Apple’s iPad.  The initial batch of competing tablets had more features, and so were priced higher than the iPad.  Sales were disappointing, and they have since had to lower their prices to undercut the iPad, just to compete.

Customer Type:

Another angle to consider is what type of person you are trying to attract as your customer.  If you are competitive on price, then what types of customers will that attract?  I have experimented with pricing with my apps on the app store and have noticed that different prices attract different types of customers.

  • Free: The majority of customers on any of the mobile platforms have never purchased an app.  There is a huge selection of apps in the free category, so there is no need for this group to ever need to purchase an app with a price tag.  If you’re targeting this group, then you should have a good freemium strategy, or find other ways to benefit from them.
  • $0.99: This group loves bargains.  They look for apps that are on sale, and rarely purchase apps at full price.
  • $0.99-$4.99: This group will purchase apps that solve their need for the right price.
  • $5+: This group will purchase apps that solve their need, regardless of price.
  • Would you prefer to have 100 customers purchase your product at $1 each, or would you prefer 20 customers purchase your product at $5?  20 customers may require less support and maintenance than the 100 customers.  Then again those 100 customers might recommend your product to more people.  Which is more important to you?  Price accordingly.


At the end of the day, your product is worth what customers are willing to pay for it.  So your goal should be to show the value in it.  Things you could do to show value include:

  • Free trial.  Get your customer using your product, so that when the trial ends, they can’t live without it.  This strategy works especially well with products where a user has accumulated data, that they don’t want to lose when the trial ends.  Customers will pay more for products they are familiar with and have satisfactorily used before.
  • Feature Chart: Summarize the features your product has, versus competing products.  More checkmarks on your side should suggest more value for your product.
  • Segmented Products: If you’re targeting different customer types, then you can have separate products for each of them.  For example you could have a cheaper product for individuals, a more expensive one for small businesses and the most expensive one for large businesses that can afford it.
  • Choice Products: Another approach is to create a very expensive product, whose main purpose is to create value for the main product you want to promote.  This works with the segmented approach above.  Very few customers may purchase your most expensive product, but having it there creates additional value for the cheaper ones.
  • Bulk Price: People shop at Costco to get bulk pricing.  How can this apply to your business?  If you’re selling subscriptions, you can offer long term subscriptions for a cheaper per month cost.
  • Add-ons: You can also break down the price of a product into components that can be purchased separately.  This way customers can purchase the exact features they want.  I use this strategy in my Contact Manager app.  Add-ons are also easier sells since the customer is already sold on your product at that point.

Whatever pricing strategy you end up using, keep it simple for your customer.  Your customer already has to make a decision on whether to purchase your product or not.  Don’t also give them a decision of what product to buy as well.