(English) What It Takes to Develop a Ride Booking App and Shouldn’t You Just Do It from Scratch?

Eugene Suslo
Jul 25, 2016

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If you ever cross this article you have probably thought about bringing your business to the world of mobile apps and web booking. You also probably already have some dispatch/management system, and all you need is a simple app and web widget to get your going and win over Uber&Co mafia. Right?

Mmm, nope, not exactly like that. A simple app is not that simple if you look closer. And an app that will allow you to compete with the mighty ones is not an app at all. It is a complex system, a powerful targeted marketing, and sales machine with strong back-end system where mobile app is just a small part that interacts with your customers. And the simpler the app looks the more likely there has been a ton of hours spent on making it look that way while increasing the complexity of the back-end to compensate for the UX/UI simplicity.

You probably have seen our iOS passenger app. Looks quite simple, right?

App development - TaxiStartup iOS booking app


Here is a simplified app UI board for that app:

app development - app UX/UI board

Not that simple now, is it?
And that’s only the user interface part, imagine what happens on the back-end.

Quite often our potential customers are arguing that they would rather create their own booking apps from scratch and that it would cost them a bit more but they would keep the ownership and the app will be done the way they want it. Normally I don’t discourage them, I know they will come back cause it is a dead end, and here is why:

1. You need at least 2 booking apps

For both major platforms – iOS and Android, and yes it takes at least twice as much time and money.

2. You need driver apps

Or some other way to distribute orders to your drivers automatically. While a customized hardware&software solution might be your choice that would imply an integration with your booking app system, which is:
– not reliable
– expensive to develop and support
– hard or impossible to customize
While a proper driver app:
– is natively built for the same system as your booking apps
– can be installed by the drivers themselves
– intuitive and easy to use

3. You need to support and constantly update those apps

New features, new payment methods, new ways to keep the customer involved, improved user experience, improved UI, reflect any changes in external systems (like google maps), and more. That all is actually necessary. If your app is not constantly improved and updated it is dead in 6 months time.

4. You need a back-end system

As I mentioned earlier, most people don’t realize that an app is only a customer facing tip of an iceberg. There is a whole back-end system with multiple servers in the data centers, distributed databases, constantly running processes to optimize response times and much more depending on what tools you might need. Creating an app is easy, creating and supporting a back-end system for that app is tough and expensive.

app development - booking app iceberg

5. “Having it the way you want it” is not always the right way

Actually, normally it is the other way around. You see, a booking app should not be your “baby”, it is a powerful sales and marketing machine for your business, and all our thoughts about what is right or wrong are only assumptions that have to be validated. You have to gather a ton of analytics and find out what works, what doesn’t, what is your conversion on every step of the funnel, how you can fix your funnel “leaks” and then implement and release your improvements step by step. And then do the validation again, since all your “improvements” might actually decrease your conversion. We have analyzed the data from thousands of early customers, studied hundreds of feedbacks and been through multiple cycles of improvements. And guess what? We are still doing the same. Constantly, non-stop, with no plans to stop it in the nearest future.

6. Yes, you keep the ownership

But that also means you “keep the ownership” of supporting the system and all your apps as well, and that is not only expensive but time-consuming, requires an expertise and guaranteed to bring a lot of headaches.

The taxi app movement is very young and that is the reason why I have to explain the above. You wouldn’t need an explanation on why you shouldn’t develop your own accounting system or your own email solution, wouldn’t you? Same should apply to a ride booking apps, there is just no common understanding in the industry yet.

So, before you dive in to the development hell I offer you to try a nice exercise and calculate how much would it cost to develop just ONE app, then leave your results in the comments below, let’s compare:

Calculate my app now

Co-founder, Eugene Suslo