The personal website of Chris Coyier

Two Scenarios

There are lots of little “iPhone App Developer” companies popping up. You call them with your idea, they design and build the app for you. The person with the idea thinks and wants this app to be wildly successful. There are only two scenarios:

1) The App is successful. In this case, the development company gets screwed. They make what the quoted for the job, probably a small fraction of what the app earns for the owner.

2) The App is a flop. In this case, the owner is obviously screwed. They paid a bunch of money for, essentially, nothing.

I think we all know: ideas aren’t worth crap. It’s all about follow-through, and with these relationships, the follow-through is nearly all in the hands of the developer. The idea-guy might be in charge of “promotion” or some such, but in world of iPhone apps, promotion doesn’t mean much. It’s all about quality apps, which promote themselves.

Ok, maybe there is a third. 3) The app is successful commensurate to the price paid to build it. My guess? Super rare.

What’s my point? It’s that I think these “iPhone App Development Companies” are actually seeking out people with bad ideas and deep pockets and probably aren’t very good developers. If they were good developers, they would develop a great app themselves and earn all the profit. Instead, they just go “Ah that sounds too hard, let’s find some idiot with $10,000 and build a crappy app for him.”

Hey how about this? The developer earns X% of the profits. So if the app is successful they’ll be successful right along with it. Maybe. But only if there was also a base price and that base price was fair to the developer even if the app didn’t sell a single copy. And if it could be done with absolute legal binding to the official “owner” of the app to pay the developer.

Some of this relates directly to web design and development too, but not all of it. Websites often have goals less tangible than “sell a lot of copies.” where that is usually the goal with apps (if it’s not, these scenarios are kind of moot). Websites might sell products. With iPhone apps, the app is the product.