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Help me commission an iPhone app!
November 1, 2011 8:39 AM   Subscribe

[app development filter] I know little about apps and don't even own an iPhone; please help me to commission a developer to customise her existing app so it can be used by my own customers.

I have been in touch with a developer who has (on her own time) developed an app for the iPhone that is pretty much the format I'm looking for in an app I'd like to make available to my own client base. I am asking her to actually scale back the functionality of her current app, and then populate the database fields with information and graphics I will supply. This information changes on a yearly basis so if this is well received, I would like to have the same customized app re-populated with new information a year later.

What do I need to know about commissioning a developer to rework their existing app for my own business use? I'm thinking things like copyright, branding and future use need to be discussed, but please outline for me everything that I need to consider. Also, she only develops for iPhones. What happens in future if I want this custom app to be made available for Android users? (Or Blackberry should they get their act together?)

Extra information: I know that she is currently selling her app in the Apple Store, with about 12,000 downloads so far. Financials: we're talking about US$1500 for the work which sounds reasonable to me. Or is this number too low for the work involved?
posted by braemar to Technology (6 answers total)
 
I think you need to make sure you have the right to use the app for your business as you see best. However, it would be reasonable if she prohibits any resale of the app. Likewise, with the content, you maintain ownership of anything you provided. Also, you may want to ask for source code. In the event she decides to stop maintaining the app, you don't want to start over from scratch. She can probably put the source code in escrow for a couple of hundred bucks a year. It would be normal for you to cover that cost.

I know nothing about app development, but if she is figuring 10-20 hours to customize it for you, her rate sounds perfectly reasonable.
posted by COD at 9:03 AM on November 1, 2011


It sounds like you're approaching this very well and have a good grasp of the issues you need to think about. The price seems very reasonable. It's hard to imagine getting the work done for less than that.

Here are a few additional thoughts: There's really not a whole lot more to it. Clearly you want it to have your brand. She can get credited as the developer somewhere in the app, if you and she want that.

It's hard to know what to say about Android and Blackberry without knowing more about your business. Only you can know how important those platforms are to you. I wouldn't let it slow down your iPhone release, in any case.

Good luck!

Obdisclaimer: I am an an iPhone Developer but I am not your iPhone Developer.
posted by alms at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2011


FWIW, for the money and effort you're talking about, I would not expect source code unless she's eager to unload. You're basically buying the entire app at that point.

I think alms's points regarding sales and support are excellent to consider. Is she getting any cut of the revenue? Will she be able to continue to sell her "plain" version of the app, and under what conditions (basically, you want to prevent her from becoming a lower-priced competitor to you)?

braemar: "What happens in future if I want this custom app to be made available for Android users? (Or Blackberry should they get their act together?)"

You're basically starting from zero at that point. The frameworks are quite different, down to the language you code in.
posted by mkultra at 9:37 AM on November 1, 2011


FWIW, for the money and effort you're talking about, I would not expect source code unless she's eager to unload. You're basically buying the entire app at that point.

That may be the case, but the op needs some way to ensure that she can update the app at a later date. Maybe she has to pay extra for that, maybe there's an escrow arrangement. Or maybe not, and this just becomes a one-off deal.
posted by alms at 11:55 AM on November 1, 2011


Thanks for all the responses. With regards to revenue, I'd be offering this app for free to my client base. The app in its current form sells for $2.99 on the App Store.

The price we were discussing includes submitting the app, and fixing any bugs that come up during my user testing.

It also occurred to me that I'd want the developer to submit the app under a new account for my company (with full credit to her as the developer) -- is this reasonable?

And yes, I would like to own the source code, but think this is asking too much for the amount we're discussing. But would now be the time to talk about the cost of updating the app in the future?
posted by braemar at 12:53 PM on November 1, 2011


And yes, I would like to own the source code, but think this is asking too much for the amount we're discussing.

Good lord yes it is. For $1500 you do not get the source code.

This is not your app. You neither designed nor built it. You are piggybacking on an existing app at a bargain basement price to bring this app to your users without incurring the much more substantial costs app dev normally involves.

You cannot indenture her to you for any amount of money. If she disappears, or doesn't want to do this job next year, you then go out and hire an app developer to build custom code for you, to which you own the source, from the ground up at market rates. If you don't have the kind of takeup that justifies that cost, well... no harm, no foul.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2011


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