The Case Against the “But Apex is free” Argument

One of the initial reactions about Formspider from any audience is “But Apex is free. Why should I pay for Formspider, when Apex is free?”

Good question…

The Criteria to Choose a Development Tool
One can write essays about this subject. I will save you the trouble and will define the criteria in one sentence:

You must choose your development tool based on the total cost of ownership of the program built with it provided that the program adheres to your quality standards.

The total cost of ownership of a program is easy to calculate:

Total Cost of Labor needed to develop & maintain the Program + Developer Tool Cost = Program’s Total Cost of Ownership.

Both Formspider and Apex can be used by the same developer. (I am ignoring cost of materials for the purposes of this article as they are the same for both and are largely irrelevant)

Apex is free. Your labor cost is your total cost of ownership. Formspider is not free. It costs $599 per developer. In order to justify its price tag, it should increase a developer’s productivity.

Productivity with Quality
In development tool world, productivity is evaluated in a terrible, almost embarrassing way. The most common comments I received from Apex developers claiming the superiority of Apex productivity over Formspider are:

1) How quickly can I build a screen? Look in Apex I did it in three clicks.
2) I don’t want to code. In Apex I can build web pages without coding.
3) Can I build a master detail without coding? In Apex I can.

These are terrible ways to measure productivity of a tool. The common mistake in these arguments are that they fail to evaluate the quality of the tool’s output.

Each program deployed to production must adhere to certain quality standards. It doesn’t matter how quickly you can build a screen if it will take you a decade to bring that screen to a state where it meets your quality standards.

In other words, productivity without quality is fake.

In application development, quality includes performance, security, user experience, sustainability and maintainability.

The word productivity is so misused by our industry to represent the fake kind that I want to use a different name for the kind of productivity that I am talking about. I will call it the legitimate productivity.

Legitimate productivity is productivity while adhering to your quality standards.

Instead of claiming that Formspider improves your legitimate productivity by X%, I will ask you to decide for yourself what X% improvement you think you might get from using Formspider.

I will simply provide a way to calculate the economic benefit you might gain by using Formspider so that you can decide for yourself whether it is worth the investment.

So here it goes:

An Example
Let’s assume that on average a developer’s annual cost to the company he is working for is about $100K. This includes his salary, insurance, benefits and everything else you might think of to employ him for one year. I know this amount changes depending on many factors. However, it is more or less a good number to start.

Let’s also assume that 1 program represents code that is deployed to production which adheres to all the quality standards of the organization he is working for.

Finally, let’s assume that using Apex, a developer produces 100 programs in one year.

$100K annual developer cost + Free Apex License results in 100 programs.

This puts the total ownership cost of 1 program built with Apex at $1000.

Let’s assume that a developer using Formspider is just 10% more legitimately productive than the same developer using Apex.

$100K annual developer cost + $599 Formspider License Fee results in 110 programs.

This puts the total ownership cost of 1 program built with Formspider at $914.

In other words, producing the extra 10 new programs with Apex would cost an extra 10K.

Even at 10% legitimate productivity gains Formspider effectively pays for itself within a few weeks.

In other words, at 10% legitimate productivity gain, your investment is well worth the Formspider license price of $599 even with a small project that might last 4-8 weeks.

You Decide
With this example in mind, it is totally up to you to estimate what kind of legitimate productivity gains Formspider can bring to you and your organization.

The economics show that you should take a serious look.

Don’t take my word for it, decide the X% for yourself and do your own calculation.

What If’s?
There are three aspects which make the math a lot more interesting.

1) What if there is more than one developer using Formspider?
The calculation above is made for one developer only. What if you have 10? 20? 50?

2) What if the improvement is more than 10%?
What if we grossly underestimated the legitimate productivity gains of Formspider at just 10%? We have customer testimonials on our site stating legitimate productivity gains way higher than 10%. Akis says he finished the new version of his app with Formspider in two weeks. It took him 2 months to finish the first one with Apex. That’s a 4x legitimate productivity gain.
Michiel, a seasoned Apex developer, thinks his project would not even be possible with any other tool. Tomas concurs.

What do you think your legitimate productivity gain is with Formspider?

3) What if you raise your expectations?
Most of us have seriously low expectations from our tools. We think it is the developer’s job to deliver a high quality application.

You want performance? The developer has to code. Want security? The developer has to code. Want a cool UI? The developer has to code. We put very little blame on our tools for not delivering out of the box security, performance and a great user experience.

What if Formspider raises your quality standards? How does the legitimate productivity of Formspider compares to Apex then?

What if your applications worked 100% AJAX by default? What if your development tool had built-in support for 9 of Top 10 security vulnerabilities encountered in enterprise applications and helped you pass security audits in records time? What if it optimized the network traffic automatically so that even the largest applications worked like a charm in 3G networks?

These are the reasons why our customers chose Formspider over Apex.

It’s telling that virtually all of our customers are ex-Apex developers. None went back. There are no ex-Formspider developers that preferred Apex over Formspider.

Conclusion
You must choose your development tool based on the total cost of ownership of the program built with it provided that the program adheres to your quality standards.

The most expensive aspect of application development is you: The Developer. Anything that makes you even a little bit more legitimately productive is well worth any price tag, let alone $599. You are way too valuable not to invest in a good tool.

Don’t take my word for it though. Evaluate Formspider yourself.

Yalim K. Gerger