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How to save money on back-end development for mobile app

August 09, 2019
For Customers
For Developers
Overview

If you ask what mobile apps today do not require any client-server interaction, the first things to come to mind will be calculators, sticker packs, timers, alarm clocks, sticky notes, image editors or, for example, Mandu, an app developed by Live Typing that removes ad units, links and comments from articles. More often than not, though, an app is supposed to work with data: accept data from users and exchange data with the server. Where there is data to work with, there inevitably has to be a data storage.

Back-end is one of the most costly items in the mobile app development process. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to try and cut back-end costs — especially, if the idea behind the app is speculative to begin with. The goal of the development studio is to cooperate with the customer in this regard, so we at Live Typing are offering the following options that might save you money on back-end development.

Client-side data storage

That is, storing data in the device itself. In this case, the app will even work offline, but will lose interactivity, and will only be able to update itself with new content by downloading new versions from the store.

Who might make use of this model? Mostly those who distribute static content that does not require interaction. Imagine you’re a writer or a magazine publisher and you promote your creative works or new issues through an app that updates all of its content with every new version. Apart from text, static content may include images, videos or games. System features like payment will still be available, and the user will be able to enjoy new content that’s already present in the app by using In-App Purchase.

Serverless app architecture

Serverless app architecture is a solution that requires neither specific knowledge for its development and maintenance nor a sizeable budget — the support is provided entirely by the cloud service you will base your architecture on. Some of the services that have ample capabilities for it are AWS, Azure and Firebase.

Firebase is especially noteworthy; to put it shortly, it’s a BaaS (Backend-as-a-Service) platform that is first and foremost known as a NoSQL cloud database, but also offers a multitude of other services right out of the box. All of the services are configured through the platform’s interface so you don’t have to write a single line of server code. Tutorials will guide you through making a basic chat, setting up analytics and optimization based on user behavior, writing your own scripts and more. Obviously, it’s faster and cheaper that creating back-end from scratch, and fully accessible for any developer, not just back-end specialists.

A few examples of working with Firebase in Live Typing’s projects:

  • Notifications in Yodel work via Firebase Notifications. Advantages: the solution is free, there is no limit on the amount of sent notifications (which are the app’s primary feature), convenient integration and high flexibility with advanced targeting.
  • Analytics in Mandu work via Firebase Analytics. Apart from the usual metrics, some of the stats that are tracked are language, font and color theme switches, frequency of WebView usage, sharing, frequency of settings resets to default, frequency of usage of article addition options in Mandu, screen orientation and a few other special events.

Usage of SaaS services

Sometimes the app needs typical features which are extremely difficult and costly to create and maintain, and might also require a few bureaucratic hoops to jump through. As a result, they are seldom created from scratch. A good example of such a feature is payment, and the de facto standard in this regard is to use a bank’s payment gateway.

This is also relevant for a lot of other app features. Do you need chats or push notifications? It’s cheaper to use premade ones in the form of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). SaaS, like BaaS, is a generic term for solutions that, instead of working on the user’s device, operate on a cloud and are supported by the service provider; the user only has to pay subscription if the app is commercial. SaaS usually have great API and integration, as well as ready-to-use libraries for various operating systems and devices. All you have to do is hook everything up to your project. For most mid-term projects it’s cheaper and more dependable than writing your own platform, as you avoid all the pitfalls that the platform developers encountered before they finally managed to make everything work.

Some of the examples include helpdesk chats for customer support like Chatra, Zendesk and Intercom and user chats like Layer, Applozic, Sendbird, Quickblox and Pusher, as well as payment engines like Stripe and CloudPayments. All of these tools are well-tested, supported and are regularly updated.

Working with data through integration with free tools

Instead of using convoluted custom forms you can use a Google form, collect data in a Google spreadsheet instead of an admin panel, and use a Telegram bot instead of an app. While this may seem eccentric, it’s a perfectly reasonable — and underrated — way most often used by savvy and thrifty people. If you’re one of them, you’ll only need someone to set everything up. Here’s a quick guide to using Google spreadsheets instead of a JSON back-end.

When we’re talking about cutting costs, there are always numerous details, subtleties and doubts. This article is only to show you that hiring a full-time back-end developer is not always the most cost-effective way. If you have any questions, we’ll be glad to answer them, so feel free to leave a comment. If a comment isn’t enough and you need a comprehensive consultation about your project — fill in the form and wait for us to contact you.

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