Selecting the best App Developers For Your Next Project
So you have decided that you need a mobile app for your business. You have a fantastic idea, you have discovered a niche and you just know that this new app can propel your business to stratospheric heights of success. Great start!
Now comes the tricky part…
How do you go about deciding which are the best app developers to work with?
The first thing you are going to discover is that there is A LOT of choice out there. You certainly won’t find it hard to find a whole host of companies and even freelancers who would be more than happy to work on your project with you. So how do you make a final decision? It’s one you know you absolutely have to get right, but with all of your potential partners claiming to be ‘the best of the best’ how do you go about appraising them and creating a team with the best chance of success?
To help you out we have put together 8 top tips for you as a quick reference for important things you should be considering. It’s certainly not exhaustive, the level of due diligence you do is at your discretion but this is certainly a good place to start for the uninitiated!
1) Shop the Market for the Best App Developers
We apologise if we are stating the bleeding obvious here but this is a very important, and often overlooked, part of the process. If you are starting to consider venturing into the world of app development then you should be shopping the market. The key lesson here is that you should be shopping the market in two ways.
Firstly, before you do anything else, sense check your ‘app idea’. Has it been done before? Is the opportunity as ‘real’ and ‘exclusive’ as you thought it was? We receive a lot of Non-Disclosure Agreements from potential clients, but more often than not they are for ideas that we have seen many times before. Is your app idea as innovative as you think it is? Doing some homework upfront will allow you to have much more practical conversations with your potential app developers. Now, by no means are we suggesting that your app idea needs to be completely unique. In fact, quite the contrary, if there are no similar apps on the market, it does beg the question, “Why Not?” There may well be a good reason!
Understanding the landscape, competition and rivals to the app you want to create is an extremely useful exercise. It can allow you to have very fruitful conversations with potential development partners. Together it can allow you to benchmark the competition and find innovative ways to outperform and out innovate them. Coming to the table knowing how you are positioning your app and how you seek to compete is a fantastic place to start.
Now… once you have done your homework you are ready to ‘shop the market’ for the best app development company who can deliver your vision. Read on to find out how to make a good appraisal..
2) Know Your Requirements
Whether you’re creating a mobile app or planning on writing a best selling novel almost all ideas start on a scrap of paper. The thing is, you can do yourself a lot of favours by really fleshing out your ideas and requirements before approaching potential development partners. There are a lot of things you can consider early on that will help you define much more clearly what you are ‘shopping the market’ for….
Could you already define the platforms you want to develop for?
You may want to develop for just one platform like iOS or Android or you may want to develop a Hybrid app that is compatible with both. Consider your routes to market, where are your customers?
Can you flesh out the features you want your app to have?
Whilst you may not be able to fully define how everything ties together or the technologies you should use, chances are that you do have a pretty good idea of what you want the app to be able to ‘do’. All the things that you want your app to do are it’s features. If you can spend some time defining the features you want to see in your app then you give yourself a much easier way of comparing the proposals and quotes that come back from potential app developers.
If you present broad ideas to a variety of app developers then you will be asking them to make a lot of assumptions and come up with their own solutions to your ‘idea’. Whilst this might help you think of things you didn’t consider, it will also making comparing the offers you receive and choosing the right partner much more difficult. Try to make sure you are ‘comparing apples with apples’.
You may even find that if your requirements are too broad that developers are unable to provide a cost estimate as a lot more information on the scope of the project is needed. They may need you to start paying for their time to help you flesh out the ideas with you and define your specification. Like most app developers we do offer ‘ideation services’ that will help you to reach a defined specification but could you reduce the costs involved by spending more time fleshing out your idea? Could you get a head-start to save yourself time and money? Almost certainly!
If you want to really improve your own experience of shopping the market then do your best to flesh out exactly what it is you want to build. You will of course reach a point where you need specialist advice but you might surprise yourself with how far you can define your project yourself. Your future self will thank you when you realise you are a much more savvy buyer!
3) Define Key ‘Measures of Success’ with your App Developers
This one is a really useful piece of advice. Sure, you want to build a mobile app for your business, but that isn’t a goal in and of itself. How are you measuring success? What does success look like?
Take some time to think about what the ultimate goals of your app development are. It isn’t just a finished product, it’s going to be closely aligned to the objectives of your business. Let’s look at some examples of potential measures of success that may help you to define some of your own.
- Growing Brand Recognition
- Increasing Repeat Business from Existing Customers
- Winning Brand New Customers
- Developing New Revenue Streams
- Growing Market Share
- Improving the Efficiency of Your WorkForce. (By which metrics?)
- Increasing Customer Experience / Customer Loyalty
- Offering a Brand New Digital Service
We could put A LOT more examples here but hopefully this gives you a sense of how to define useful measures of success. Why is an app important to your business? What are you looking to achieve?
Having these measures of success can help you make sure you keep your eye on the prize. It’s also a fantastic way to appraise potential partners. Are they just looking to sell some development time or can they actually help you succeed? Challenge them to explain to you how they will help you reach your end goal and how they have helped previous clients do the same.
A lot of companies can develop an app for you, far fewer can help you achieve the success you are looking for. It’s important to know the difference, and this will allow you to select the best app developers!
4) Know Your Budget
Knowing your budget early on can be a really useful way of gauging which development company is right for you. As advised above, if you have defined your requirements well early on you should also have a better chance of being able to find the agency that is the ‘right fit’ for your requirements and also your budget.
You will of course likely receive multiple quotes and the range can be quite broad depending on the cross section of companies you have approached. One thing that is a critical factor to consider is that generally speaking the larger the app development firm you’re speaking to, the higher the price is likely to be. Put simply, price can vary a lot based on experience and company size.
The same consideration is true when it comes to quality. Again this is where comparing ‘apples with apples’ is crucial. The range of different prices you receive may be a very good indicator of quality. The difference in quality between a £30K and a £100K app will be significant, the difference in quality between a £200K and a £300K app will be less noticeable. Essentially it is all relative. If you have two very different prices from two different agencies you should be asking yourself what the difference in quality, on-time delivery and expertise may be.
Finally, having a clearly defined budget is important if you want app development companies to take your project seriously and invest time in helping you along your journey. App development companies receive A LOT of spurious enquiries, almost everyone has at least one idea for a ‘killer app’. Letting the developer know you have apportioned a budget for your project let’s them know you are serious and you’ll find that they can justify spending more time with you.
With a lot of fanciful entrepreneurs out there that don’t have the budget to match their vision you can stand out to an app development company as a client worth investing time with. You can do this by showing you have carefully considered your budget. The result? You’ll get a lot more of their time and expertise and you’ll find they can justify giving you more attention and focus.
5) Consider Ongoing Costs
If you want to be a smart buyer, you should be thinking long term. It is very easy to fall into the trap of getting a quote for the development of your app and not considering the ongoing costs you will have to bear on an ongoing basis.
The best app development companies that you speak to will bring this up early to make sure you are thinking of the bigger picture. This is a good indication that they are focused on helping you achieve long term success rather than simply trying to win a new project. It’s an excellent way to distinguish between developers who are very transnational compared to ones that are invested in your vision with you.
As you explore your options there are all sorts of things you would be wise to consider before diving in:
- What are the hosting requirements and costs?
- What level of ongoing support and maintenance will you need? (Hint: the answer to this is never zero!)
- What ongoing service charges may there be? (Will you need to pay for push notifications on a per use basis?)
- What about analytics? Is management reporting of your app’s usage included or an extra monthly charge?
- How long until your app is likely to require an upgrade?
- Do you have any internal costs to consider? Who manages the app on your side of the business? Does it require new resource?
The list could go on, but the principle is the same. Push your potential developers to explore these questions with you. Do they have a strategy in place for managing this for you? Are they pro-active in letting you know the ‘true cost’ of your project? This can be a very good indicator of who you might choose to work with.
6) Development Road-maps & Business Strategy
A great piece of advice you may want to take on board when appraising which app development companies to work with is their commercial acumen.
A lot of app development companies are likely to be quite happy to price up some work for you and provide a quotation. But did they challenge your thinking? Did they bring new ideas to the table? Or did they simply price up your requirements without showing much concern for whether you were taking the right approach?
Commercial acumen can be very important for increasing your chances of success. Here at ZUDU we often find ourselves challenging clients to think ‘long term’.
If you have ever sat down and thought about developing an app the chances are you started with a very clearly identified problem and a great and simple way to solve it. What almost always happens next however is a flurry of ‘extra ideas’. Something along the lines of “Oh and it could also do this, and this, and this” and so on. Extra ideas are great, but prioritising them will greatly improve your strategy and chances of success.
A good developer is likely to encourage you to not just ‘price it all up’ in one go and dive in. Experienced developers know that it makes a lot more sense to put together a ‘Development Roadmap’. The rationale is fairly simple. Why increase your risk by developing an app with 20 features right off the bat? At this stage you don’t even know for sure that the app is going to take off and you are currently guessing at these ‘extra features’ that your users might want.
A much better strategy would be to launch a clean and effective app that solves the original problem you identified in the first place. Once you have launched and have confirmed the market responds well to your solution then you can keep your audience engaged and excited by releasing new features and updates over time. The result? Your users love you for continuing to give them new features and are more likely to stay engaged. Furthermore you can hugely reduce the amount of capital you risk at launch!
With this in mind, are the app development companies you’re speaking to asking you the right questions? Do they want to sell you every feature they can or are they advising you on what’s likely to be successful? This can often give you a great idea of whether you’re likely to have a successful long term relationship with your app developers or one that is primarily transactional.
7) App Developer’s Core Expertise & Industry Focus
A great tip that can often be overlooked by buyers in this space is the specific industry focus and core expertise of the developers they are speaking to. Not all app developers are equal, which again can make them difficult to compare.
For example, you may be speaking to developers that feel most comfortable developing apps using native technologies. Chances are that they will want to convince you that this is the best route to follow. The question is, is this because it’s right for you or right for them?
You might also want to consider the industry focus of the companies you are speaking to. Most developers will be able to help you reach your desired outcome but if you find a developer that has a good knowledge of your industry then you will significantly increase your chances of a successful delivery. They are more likely to understand how to position your offer, how to compete with your competitors and the unique challenges your business faces.
To make the right decision when it comes to choosing an app development partner make sure you press them on their industry knowledge. Are they going to need to spend a long time understanding your business or are they already speaking your language? This can be a good indicator of who you might want to work with!
8) Process & Project Management
The last tip we want to give you in this article is to carefully question and interrogate the processes and project management expertise of any app development company you are thinking of working with. The best app developers have tried and tested processes which means they are more likely to deliver on time and within budget than those who don’t. Does the company you’re speaking to have a clear delivery plan or are they just going to ‘see how it goes’?
Ask these questions of your potential developers:
- How do you approach project management?
- What Project Management tools do you use?
- How frequently will I receive updates?
- How many milestones will the project be divided into?
You get the general idea. Ask these pertinent questions and the answers are sure to reveal a lot. You’ll find that the best app developers instil you with confidence as they clearly explain how they will approach the project. If the developers seem a little flustered, we would suggest you may want to think twice!
So hopefully you found this post useful and hopefully it helps ensure you make great buying decisions when choosing the best app developers. If you found it useful we’d love for you to share the advice and do let us know if it has helped you on your own app development journey!
Maybe you have an idea for an app development project yourself? Great! Come and ask us these questions, we are sure you won’t be disappointed!