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The Nuances of Mobile Application Development: Why Can’t I Just Adapt Someone Else’s Idea?

Julia Ephimova

Silicon Valley is filled with inspiring success stories. We’ve heard plenty of tales of penniless college dropouts moving to Silicon Valley, creating an app, and then selling that app for millions of dollars a few months later. It’s tempting to look at Silicon Valley and think: how hard can it really be to make the next Instagram or Facebook? So you create an idea for an app and then approach a professional app developer to make that dream come true.

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As a mobile application developer, our customers can be divided into two categories:

  1. The first category consists of people who have thought of a unique idea to fill an unoccupied niche.
  2. The second category consists of people who want to adapt, improve, or copy an existing project.

For the purpose of this article, we’re focusing on the second category of people: people who want to adapt or improve an existing app.

As mobile application developers, we frequently talk to people who want to make the next Tinder, Uber, Spotify, Viber, MSQRD, Airbnb – you name it. Is it really such a bad idea? After all, it’s a business model that has been proven to work time and time again.

The problem here is that customers don’t understand how much work is involved. Many customers believe that since apps like Uber, Instagram, and Facebook have already been built, it’s easy to take their ready-made solution and slightly modify the design to make instant profits overnight.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Here’s why.

You Need to Develop the App from Scratch Even When You’re Copying Someone Else

The first and most obvious problem is that the reference app or reference company is a registered trademark. That means everything related to that company cannot be used without permission. That trademark also applies to the software used by the company. Obviously, it’s against the company’s interests to share that software and create a competitor. Therefore, you need to write the code from scratch.

To get an idea of what we’re talking about, check out the chart below. One California-based IT company conducted a study to determine how long it would take to code popular apps from scratch, also known as the approximate development time MVP (minimum viable product):


The above chart gives a clear example of what we’re talking about: it’s not as easy as you think to build an app like Instagram or Facebook from scratch! These are market realities. Of course, this doesn’t take into account things like beta testing, user feedback, tweaking, adding new functionality, and all other tasks that need to be performed before an app hits the market.

The Unexpected Costs of Application Development

The cost of your application depends on the number of people involved in the project and the number of platforms on which you wish to develop – like iOS and Android.

Some are surprised by how many people it takes to develop an app. For each part of the project, you need a developer who specializes in that area. One developer simply cannot make a quality product within a short period of time. Larger projects with multiple components require a well-coordinated team of developers and managers working together to create a functioning app in a timely manner.

How to Easily Avoid Unpleasant Surprises During App Development

In conclusion, I’d like to give my advice on how to reduce project costs and avoid unpleasant surprises with the final build:

  1. Determine the purpose of the project;
  2. Make a complete list and detailed description of all possible user experiences;
  3. Decide on the functionality MVP (minimum viable product) and priorities;
  4. Create a schematic prototype of your future website or mobile application;
  5. Choose Agile (Agile development);
  6. And most importantly, always maintain close communication and cooperation with your developer.

Good, honest feedback from the customer helps the developer avoid unnecessary work, reduce costs, and meet deadlines.

Good luck!

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