When Infographics Go Wrong (Or How This Chart on App Development is Hugely Misleading)
The infographic sampled above this sentence (and copied below) is terrible. Anyone with any knowledge of app development will find countless things wrong with it. Let me educate you.
The infographic in question is right above this sentence. You can look at a larger version here.
The most significant flaw with this infographic is that it omits the single most important stage of app development, which is quality assurance. There is not a single point on here that mentions QA. There’s nothing here that talks about the process of bug fixing and bug fixing is attrition. It’s impossible to predict how many bugs there are going to be and it is impossible to estimate how long it will take to fix them. QA takes as long as it takes, which is the bane of management across the industry. You inevitably end up with the painful choice of deciding how many bugs you can live with in the finished product because it’s never financially realistic to release a perfect piece of software. To ignore that flexible phase (which is arguably the single most important part of app development) is negligent to the point of stupidity.
The other other thing that drives me nuts about this infographic is the comparison to building a Boeing 747. Yeah, it takes 18 weeks to build one of them on an assembly line. It took years to build the first one. It took years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build the first one. It’s a stupid comparison — virtually every app has to be built from the ground up. There are certain things you can always re-use, but most clients will always want to own all of their code when the app is finished. That legally prohibits us from reusing code or seeking out third party solutions. Even basic things like social media integration has to be newly designed on every mobile app. We have to write new code to comply with our contracts.
A more accurate comparison between designing apps and airplane construction would be to compare it to how long it took to design and build the first plane of a certain type. I guarantee that that timeframe would be longer than any app development!
As for the rest of the comparisons the chart makes…drilling oil wells? People say you’re not supposed to compare apples to oranges, but that’s like comparing apples to microchips. They’re on completely different planets! They’re in completely different solar systems! They don’t belong on the same infographic. The same applies to the Pyramid of Giza comparison. And how do they know how long it took? Last time I checked, historians had no idea exactly how long it took build the pyramids. Where do these numbers come from?! Did they just make that up? And why compare it to how long it would take to go the moon and back? It just doesn’t make any sense. What are they trying to accomplish with that comparison? It’s like they’re pulling things out of thin air. They just picked it because it would look cool on the infographic, not because it would be useful information.
There are all kinds of viable things they could’ve compared app development to, but this isn’t it. Why not compare the length of app development to how long it took Apple to design their operating system? You know, something that actually makes sense! That would be a comparison that would actually shine a light on the efficiency of app development. This infographic seems to state that it’s absurd that it takes so long to make an app, but if you know the challenges involved and know that technology is changing all the time, you know that’s a stupid statement. Every time an operating system updates, we need to re-learn how to do our jobs! No other industries have that problem and it’s not something you can easily capture in an infographic. There’s no time to be complacent. You constantly have to adapt and change. Our goal is to make good products and quality takes as long as it takes. Comparing the job of an app developer to oil drilling and ignoring our daily difficulties doesn’t only make for a bad infographic, it’s insulting.
(Do you have a great app idea? Rocksauce Studios wants to hear from you!)
Also published on Medium.