“It is simple, really. It is exactly like Google, but better. We are going to have an extra button on the search page.”
We hear it every week. Some business guy has the next greatest thing since sliced bread. It is exactly like some other application, web services, or mobile app but better. OK, we get that. There are hundreds of ways to build a better mouse trap. But this is what kills us…
“My budget is $500 and I need it done next week”.
Yes, this happens ALL OF THE TIME. How often? Well, here are some real world examples from TODAY alone:
- Migrate my old website to WordPress (a good start). The old site is on a proprietary MySQL database (OK, no big deal). I need a new look, user interface, and a modern design (still with you). There are 12,000 products and pages that need to be converted (wow, that is a BIG project!).
My budget is… less than $500
- We want to create a crowdfunding website (cool, there is still room in this market). We want it to have ALL of the features built into Kickstarter (wow, that is ambitious) and add these 10 must-have features that make us better (wow, you really need pros like us, this is going to be a year-long project).
My budget is $3500 – $4500.
The Simple Black Box
The problem is that most people just don’t understand the “black box” that they sit in front of every day. They type something on the keyboard or touch the icon on their iPad and stuff magically happens. It is simple. Thus the assumption is that the stuff to make the simple happen must also be simple.
Sadly people think that just because someone else has created a website or application already that it will be cheap and easy to make an exact replica with ZERO ACCESS to any of the behind-the-scenes code or technologies involved. What people don’t realize is there are thousands of man-hours and often hundreds-of-thousands of dollars involved in making the most popular sites & services easy-to-use. Or maybe they do realize that, but they think that coming up with the idea is the hard part.
Ideas Are Easy
Ideas are easy. Everyone you know has come up with an idea. How to make something great. The mistake too many people make when it comes to creating a better website or application is assuming that the people they are emulating overlooked the low-lying fruit. They immediately see a gold-mine opportunity because their favorite application or service is missing a feature they deem “the awesome factor”.
Some idea people are business people. MOST idea people are not. A true business person will evaluate their own concepts and truly understand the market. Who are they competing with? Why hasn’t the competition done this yet? What are the real costs involved in creating the concept?
Do Your Homework
When it comes to applications and web services, MOST people have no clue about that last part. What are the real costs involved? Many things are overlooked. The costs of graphic design. The costs of hosting a server that can handle 12,000 visitors/day. The costs of keeping the security and load-balancing updated for a high traffic site. Writing the code. TESTING the code. Refactoring and re-designing the system.
To get an idea about how much these things costs, you need to DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Spend at least 10x as long as you did finding a development partner, programmer, or CTO to pitch your idea to and do some research. Who else is doing something similar? How long did they spend developing and refining their service? What did they spend on it? Surprisingly, for many semi-successful companies this information is available online; if not disclosed directly then via some very accurate estimates by industry watchers.
Keep Your Common Sense
When you suddenly have a flash of inspiration on how you are going to retire a billionaire in a year, don’t drop common sense on the floor and go out the door naked yelling “Eureka!”. Sadly, common sense is often the first thing that is left behind at this moment. Do you really think that nobody else came up with your idea? If so, do you really think you can develop an application that is going to generate $1,000,000 in sales by October and do it in 3 weeks for $5,000? If it was THAT easy every one of your neighbors would be a millionaire. Even the most brilliant business and technology people out there, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs included, did not create a million-dollar app in a month.
So please, do all of the contract programmers in the world a favor. Stop, evaluate, investigate, and most of all just have some common sense before you click send on that email request asking us to recreate the next Kickstarter, Google, or Facebook in a week for $500.