How do you determine which mobile app developer is the best one to hire for your project? It’s a question many businesses are asking themselves these days, and rightly so. StrategyAnalytics predicts that by 2022, 59% of the world’s population will own smartphones. With that comes mobile apps and the opportunity to use them to engage customers, grow your business, or sell your product.
Finding the right mobile app development company takes time, effort, research, and knowing the right questions to ask. If you’re totally new to mobile app development, you may find it helpful to first obtain a basic understanding of the app design and development process, before digging into the qualifications of a specific company. Consider reading our book, Inspiring Apps: A Business Perspective on Building Mobile Apps. It’s free to download and was written to help leaders gain a foundational understanding of the business and technical considerations involved in building an app.
If you already have the lay of the land, you can learn a lot about mobile app development companies by reviewing their web sites, evaluating their client list, and looking at their past work. Once you’ve done that, we recommend you dig a little deeper for additional insights by asking questions like the ones we’ve compiled here.
Questions on Developer Capabilities
What technologies do you use and why?
This question is less about finding “the” right answer, and more about understanding how your developer thinks. Worry less about the specific technology that they use, and more about whether or not the development company can clearly articulate their reason for using it and the benefits to you and your product. Don’t force your partner to use some tool you just read about in an article because it sounded cool. Unless you are already a technology pro, you are choosing a partner for their expertise. Let them use tools they know will get great results.
Have you done anything similar to what I’m asking you to do?
You do not need an exact match, or even a company that has developed a very similar app, but your potential development partner should be able to draw parallels to relevant work they’ve done. Shared points of connection, whether it be on the industry, product, or technical level will increase the likelihood of success for your project.
What are the riskiest parts of my project?
The riskiest parts are those that will likely make or break the product, The risky parts are the things you want to take care of first, so you know whether or not it’s worth continuing down the development path. Asking your partner this question will give you insight into your project, as well as their areas of expertise.
Questions on Developer Process & Communication
Do you outsource or offshore any part of your development process?
Most app development projects loosely break into four stages: discovery, design, development and testing, and deployment. Some companies choose to outsource one or more parts of that process. Offshoring may offer reduced hourly rates, but typically requires extra effort in terms of project management and sometimes introduces risk to the project in the form of cultural differences. It can also increase total time required, due to less cohesion and familiarity among members of the team. It’s worth understanding how the company will work with outside contractors, if at all.
Who will be my main point of contact once the project kicks off?
Odds are good that multiple people will be involved in building your app, but you definitely do not want to be navigating who is the right contact for what. That said, there are times when it is more efficient to be able to go right to the source when you need to talk about technical or design challenges. Make sure you will be able to talk with developers and designers as needed, but that there is a project manager keeping tabs on your project – and who is your first point of contact for any needs.
How will we communicate during the app development process?
In today’s world, there are numerous ways to interact, from phone calls to video chat to screen-sharing to the still relevant face-to-face meeting. It’s important that your partner is willing to take advantage of all of these options.
There are times when it is helpful, maybe even crucial, to sit down in the same room as your development partner to brainstorm or work through complex issues or questions. At other times, phone calls, video calls, and screen sharing can prove valuable. If your potential app development partner indicates most of their communication is only via e-mail (or other text mediums), you may miss out on the benefits that come from live conversation and collaboration.
That’s not to say that electronic communication is irrelevant. Many developers will use project management tools such as GitHub, Trello, Asana, Basecamp, and others to track project progress. These are great tools and extremely valuable in ensuring the project is on the right track.
How will I receive status updates and how often?
The answer to this question should take into consideration your personal preference. You want to make sure the frequency of status updates is compatible with your desire to receive them. As noted above, there are numerous ways for you to stay connected, and your development partner should be willing to adapt to what you want.
How involved will we be in the project? When do we get to provide input?
Big reveals make for good television on home renovation shows, but it’s not the way you want to receive your product. It’s best to keep an eye on your software throughout the life of the project, so that you can make course corrections as needed.
The best app development shops are working with agile methodologies, where they are building and testing small sections of code at a time. As a result, you should expect the ability to interact with the app early in the process, and as each piece of functionality is added.
Further, you are likely the subject-matter expert for your product and your partner ought to rely on you for knowledge of your industry and customer. Your feedback, including help with testing the app during development, ensures that the best product is delivered.
What if my priorities or scope changes during the project?
Successful software projects are rarely defined completely and then built to that definition. You want a development partner who can adapt to your needs. In some cases, additional features or functionality might require additional expense. Be sure you understand how your partner will inform you of any financial and time impacts that new feature will have on the project.
Questions on Financials & Legalities
How much will my project cost and how long will it take?
You want to be able to plan both your time and your budget for the length of the project. Make sure your development partner provides you with a written estimate so that you have clear agreement on the expectations. Beyond the total cost, it’s important to understand the pricing structure – the most common options are hourly and fixed cost.
With hourly pricing, the developer charges a rate for each hour worked and tracks the amount of time spent on your project. In the proposal, the development company provides an estimate of how many hours they believe the project will take, but will charge you for every hour worked whether that total time is below or above the approximation. In a fixed price project, the developer will provide you with a total cost of the project and (hopefully) stick with that number. Per above, if work above and beyond the original scope is necessary, the developer should tell you how much that extra work will cost before moving ahead.
Tied to this, in order to acquire new users and keep current users engaged, there is almost always ongoing work after the app initially launches. This ranges from bug fixes (there will always be bugs!), to testing on updated releases of the operating systems, to adding new functionality to the app. It’s worth understanding upfront how your partner would recommend structuring a maintenance and support program, and what the associated fee structure will be.
Who will own the app?
As customer, you should own the finished product. This is not the same, though, as owning the code required to build the product. If you want to own your source code in its entirety, don’t be surprised if your development partner has to write every line of code from scratch, which is expensive. It can save you money to have some sort of shared ownership and allow your partner to utilize code they’ve written before.
It’s critical for the success of your project that you take the time to find the right developer — one that has the experience and capabilities for the app you want to build, who communicates well, and has the right cost structure for you. We hope that these questions will help you learn more about potential partners. If you’re curious about how InspiringApps responds to these questions, give us a call or come meet with us at our office in Boulder, CO or Austin, TX. You can contact us here.