Developer Horror Stories
Ghosts and witches aren’t what scare us here at Hatch Apps. Instead, it’s the horror stories we hear all the time about smart, talented individuals who bring their awesome app idea to a developer only to have everything fall apart. We decided to gather some of these stories in an interview series to shed some light on what can go wrong in development, from apps that were delivered unfinished to prices three times higher than the estimate.
So grab a blanket and some candy, and get ready for chilling tales about the dark side of app development.
All trick and no treat: an offshore development disaster
“I’ll personally never get involved with something like this again,” a physician told us about his experience building a communications app. He and some colleagues wanted an app that would allow them to pass patient information in a secure and encrypted way. For cost-effective code, they turned to a development firm in India.
Offshore firms often advertise lower prices for development. But what seemed like a good deal ended up being anything but, as there was a complete lack of transparency on costs. Since they were billed at an hourly rate, the development firm could list any number of hours. “Basically they can say it takes 100 hours to build a certain piece of this when it actually takes five minutes,” he told us. We wondered if maybe those extra hours translated to a higher quality product. The answer was a definite no. “We were originally quoted about $25,000 to complete the project,” he explained, “and it ended up being $70,000-$75,000, and it isn’t even done yet.”
They’ve since stopped working with this firm, but ultimately what was supposed to be a six-month contract was dragged out for almost 3 years with no functional product to show for it.
The development agency nightmare
This entrepreneur had a vision for a marketing app to measure the success of different campaigns. Not having a technical background, she started working with a developer friend who passed her project off to a development agency. That’s where problems started to emerge.
“They did not meet one single deadline,” she told us. “I also didn’t have direct access to the actual developer. I was always going through an Account Manager who had no real ability to get things done, no sense of ownership over the project.” To make matters worse, the firm was riddled with personnel turnover, churning three lead engineers over the course of her project.
“It was an awful, awful, awful experience to be honest.” The development team frequently came back with excuses and features that didn’t work. Adding insult to injury, she was often billed for these non-working components. The Account Manager told her she would be billed for the three hours he spent looking into the the time they worked on that non-functional code. She responded, “Do you understand the ridiculousness of what you just said? Why are we spending more hours to prove that you haven’t put in as many hours as you thought?”
And what happened when she finally cut ties with this agency after 15 months? Her product was only about 50% done, and the firm had gone $15,000 over their $70,000 estimate.
A freelancer fiasco
What started as an app idea to connect consumers to local restaurants that used sustainable ingredients turned into five-year process that cost $64,350 for this entrepreneur. To get the project built, she brought on a woman from a web development company as her CTO in exchange for 10% equity in the company. This person outsourced the project to a team in India before leaving the company only three months later. A total of $10,000 with the Indian firm left her with “just a minimum viable product, a really ugly website.”
Unfortunately, things got worse before they got better. She spent another $18,000 with developer who promised her an iOS and Android app but delivered the latter months after she needed it. And their communication during that time? “He just stopped responding to me. I could not get [the app]. I begged him. I texted him. I called him, threatened him. Nothing.” Even worse, another developer she hired for $10,000 left her with an app that was functional, but it was so horrible she decided not to advertise it. “I was so ashamed of this…like, I don’t know what I just paid for,” she told us.
Looking back on her journey through app development, she commented on the compounding costs and difficulty of getting an app developed: “It’s not us entrepreneurs making all the money. It’s the freelancers that we’re hiring.”
But before you get too scared…
These stories had us spooked, but not all development ends in despair. If you’re sitting on an app idea, there are development options that can meet your needs! In fact, we’ve done a little research into some of the pros and cons of the most popular services so you can be armed with the options available to you and some key questions to ask as part of your due diligence.
If you want to dive deeper into these developer horror stories to learn from other people’s experience, check out the full interviews, which are packed with lessons and advice that will help you launch the best product possible.