Interview: Ian Malone of We Are Apps

Ian MaloneI've been speaking to Ian Malone, (right) MD of rising app development firm We Are Apps about the success of his 15-month-old business. Over coffee near the firm's base in London's Shoreditch, the UK's digital hub, he shed some light on how the apps business works.
We Are Apps produces apps for clients alongside its own, which include whimsical surprise hits such as Dress The Royals. The nature of brand marketing means some of those client names need to stay confidential, but they include a major cosmetics brand and online gay dating community.

"We are paid a fee to produce apps," says Malone. "We also have some revenue share deals, and we produce our own apps. The whole process of creating an app, from concept to getting it live, takes about 12-13 weeks and we give clients a ballpark figure of £23,000 to do that. That's an average."

Brand strategy

He says that because "clients tend to add stuff as the process develops", that can come out closer to £30,000. How much an app can make depends on how you decide to measure the effect. Apps are an increasingly key part of an overall brand strategy, so the cost of developing one has to be considered against the potential losses associated with not having one.

A successful branded app can get hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of downloads, which are then carried around by the user and integrated into their daily lives - the perfect place for a brand to be. It's these kind of apps that We Are Apps concentrates on

"About 50% of our work is developing concepts, taking creative agencies' ideas and making them work," he says. "Brands tend to need help understanding what makes a good app. For us, what's absolutely key is making the user experience as good as it can be."

User ratings

That's because, in the world of apps "you live of die by user ratings" says Malone. We Are Apps use their experience and their analytics package to focus on how people actually use the app, rather than how others think they would or should use them.

Making an app starts with developing a concept and a marketing spec – a process that can take up to four weeks. "A client may start by wanting to produce something beautiful," says Malone, "and we might have to show them that it needs to be more user friendly for example."

Line of code

Then, he says, "it might take four to six weeks to build a line of code that works. Then there's another two weeks to thoroughly test it." After all this, there's a complex approval process to go through to get the app accepted on whatever platform you want to make it available on – and that can take up to two weeks depending on where the application is in the queue and whether it requires any changes.

All of that raises some questions about what platform it's best to target, and what the trends are in what is still a new industry but one that is hot property at the moment. For Malone's thoughts on that and how the industry itself develops, check back for the final part of the interview later.

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