Development is being democratized, use it to create value for your app
In the past several years there has been a sea change in development. Between the rise of low-code and no-code solutions, a thriving open source community, and the prevalence of inexpensive or even free APIs and SDKs, product development has been democratized in a way it has never been before. The best part is that even if you’re a skilled developer with decades of experience, you can use these same tools to create incredible value for your app.
How apps are valued
Before I get into how to add value to your app, it’s important to make sure we’re speaking the same language about value. As with so many things, there’s a lot of ways to define value when it comes to apps. But generally speaking, there are two major models for giving a valuation to an app: the revenue model and the customer model.
The revenue model is more or less exactly what it sounds like: you take your total monthly revenue and use that as the base variable in any number of valuation models. For example, if you’re seeking investment your revenue will determine how Return on Investment or Time to Return are calculated. You can also combine your revenue with the number of months your app has been available on open market to determine a reasonable sale price.
At the risk of stating the obvious, understanding the revenue model value of your apps is important to maintaining the health and growth of your business. But it’s primary function is to give you a clear picture of your app’s worth to the marketplace. While this is great for investor relations or if you’re planning to flip your app for a quick payday, optimizing for revenue isn’t a great strategy for product development.
The other way of looking at your app’s value is to instead focus on the value proposition. Rather than looking at your apps worth to the marketplace, you’re thinking about your apps worth in the market. The two primary questions you should be asking yourself when valuing your app using the customer model are:
“How much value does my app generate for a customer?” And “What is the most a customer is willing to pay without feeling like the cost outstrips the benefits?”
Answering those questions is immensely complex and will play a pivotal role in how you price your app. But keeping a product team laser focused on answering these questions, and more importantly, improving the answer over time, is a surefire way to make sure your app development is heading in the right direction. By optimizing your app's value to your customers, you’re optimizing for things like greater functionality and greater user experience. So let’s explore how to do that.
Low-code and No-code
Frequent readers of this blog should be no strangers to low-code as we’ve covered it before. But for the uninitiated, low-code is a methodology of app development that requires very little coding to be done by developers. Its cousin “no-code” takes this a step further by removing any and all need to ever touch a single line of code to develop. No-code was largely popularized by drag and drop solutions like Squarespace for website development, or MailChimp for email design, but has since found its way into all varieties of web and app development.
There are two crucial benefits of low-code and no-code development tools: they’re designed around a good user experience for developers and they’re mature enough to make development and deployment incredibly fast. With low-code and no-code you’re not required to understand exactly how something works, just that it does work. Even with your coding knowledge being second to none, there are several low-code/no-code solutions available that can build on the work your team has already done and add iterative improvements.
By properly utilizing all that low-code/no-code has to offer, you can dramatically speed up your product roadmap. Think about it: by removing or dramatically reducing the need to interact with code you’re also dramatically increasing the amount of people who can contribute to your app's development. Going back to my earlier discussion with the attorney-cum-developer, the gap between idea and product is more easy to bridge than ever before. So if your customers have signaled a need for in-app chat or file management, you can use a low-code solution to add that value in days, not months.
Of course you’re not worried about having to get your hands dirty with a bit of code. But having the skills to build the functionality you need and having the time to build the functionality you need are two different things. That’s where the Open Source community comes in. Harkening all the way back to the days of independently developed Unix clones, the Open Source movement is built on the philosophy that software should be available as freely and openly as math or language.
For those reading without a development background: the rules of Open Source are simple. For a software to be considered open source its developers must make the source code, the proprietary code underpinning the software, completely available and accessible free of charge. Any developer has the right to use and improve upon this code as they please, with the caveat that all modifications be made available to the original developers, who have the right to then integrate those improvements back into the original code. Developers are allowed to make more drastic changes, known as forks, but proper credit must still be given to the original code upon which their fork is based.
Open source software is everywhere from cloud computing to smart devices, even Android, the world's most used mobile operating system is completely free and open source. Large corporations routinely make their software or components of their software open source to encourage development or just give software a life after they can no longer afford to keep supporting it. All of this means that there is a robust and thriving community of developers dedicated to working on and improving free and open source software.
If you’ve got the skills and you’re willing to do your part to share your contributions, you can use any number of open source solutions to add more value to your app. For example, if your app is built in .NET but could use a better mobile offering, Microsoft’s Xamarin development platform is totally open source, with reams of documentation on how to use it. If you want to make some adjustments to your in-app chat UI, our competitor Sendbird recently made their UIKit open source so that you can add features their normal UI doesn’t support, or just map their UI to a Chat API that better suits your business needs.
If you’re stuck, there are communities of developers more than happy to help answer your questions, and often the maintainers of the original source offer limited support, especially if it helps aid in creating more documentation or patching bugs.
APIs & SDKs
Before I go any further I want to offer a point of clarification: all the things touched upon in this article can have some degree of overlap. Many low-code and no-code solutions are built on APIs and SDKs, but not all APIs and SDKs are low-code or no-code. APIs and SDKs can also be released Open Source, but that is hardly a requisite.
Web Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, are designed to allow two or more different programs or systems to interact with one another. Our modern internet has essentially been built on APIs, which do everything from dynamically serve advertisements to give live weather updates on our phones.
A Software Development Kit, or SDK, is in essence a package of tools and components necessary to build or deploy a certain type of software. As an example, Apple offers an SDK for the development of iOS apps. Weavy’s backend is built upon our server SDK, which gives enables developers to create a fully functional Weavy server to manage our collaboration features.
The biggest advantage of a good SDK is that it is designed to be comprehensive and easy to use, with clear options for extensibility and interoperability with commonly used development platforms. APIs provide a valuable shortcut for developers, as they can connect their app with features and functionality developed by other teams. For example, the right API can quickly bring valuable third party integrations into your app.
Weavy’s features are designed to be deployed using the combination of an API and an SDK. Our server SDK acts as a host for our chat, feeds, and file features, while our API brings those features directly into your app with very little coding required. When you take advantage of the tools being used to democratize development, you give your developers the freedom to focus on what they do best, while continuously adding value through new features and new capabilities.