Though mobile app development offers a huge amount of potential to businesses – and could be worth an estimated $101 billion by 2020 – you need to nail your project if you want to reap the benefits.
After all, thousands of apps fail each year.
Hiring a skilled app development firm will give you a better chance of success: you’ll be able to tap into a level of experience and expertise that you simply wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.
(For more on why you should consider an app development firm, you can check out our guide here.)
So, how should you go about hiring an app developer?
Here’s our guide.
There’s no better indicator of future performance than past results, so ask any developers pitching to show examples of their previous work.
Wherever possible, ask them to provide examples either from a similar industry to yours, or of apps that are similar in function to the one you want made.
(If you want an e-commerce app developed, for instance, ask to see the developer’s e-commerce portfolio.)
Rather than just asking for the design, however, ask to see active examples. As in, apps that’re still available on either the Android or Apple stores.
This way, you’ll be able to see how their apps are performing right now, and get the measure of:
- How popular they are
- How many positive reviews they’ve got
- How well they rank in the charts
And so on.
Don’t let one or two bad reviews put you off – it’s impossible to avoid the odd one, simply because they’re naturally subjective – but if there are a succession of reviewers making the same complaints, you should ask why.
Ideally, you want to work with a developer familiar with companies like yours. This isn’t anything to do with their skill as a developer: it’s more about building a reliable working relationship.
If a developer only has experience with start-ups, for instance, they may find it tough to adjust to an international corporation.
(And it’s not just a matter of size: as with the portfolio, you ideally want someone with experience of your market.)
If you’re comfortable with a developer in terms of their experience and portfolio, you should then ask to talk to previous clients.
Why? Because you want to get an inkling of what it’s like to actually work with the developer day-to-day.
- How do they handle their business relationships?
- How reliable are they?
- How do they respond and adapt to changing circumstances?
- How do they solve problems?
- How well do they communicate?
If you can, try to talk to more than one previous client. You’re more likely to get a well-rounded view this way.
We’ve already mentioned this in passing, and it’s with good reason: there’s no substitute for market experience.
Even if they don’t have previous experience, have they used the pitch process as a springboard for carrying out research? Are they taking the time to understand your business and your competitors? Is that research leading to real insight?
Research is the difference between a developer that takes the money and a developer that produces an app capable of meeting your market’s needs.
The summary point is this: will the developer do everything they can to get results for you?
As part of the app brief process, you and your developer will need to come up with a list of specific features.
So, does your developer have experience in building these specific features?
Do they have:
- Experience in linking databases?
- Experience linking your app to the essential software you use?
- Experience integrating video and images?
- Experience integrating e-mail lists and other contact information?
And so on.
The more experienced the mobile app development firm, the more likely they are to have encountered the features you require. However, it’s worth noting that if you’re very impressed with a developer, you shouldn’t discount them entirely just on this basis: the chances are if they’re highly skilled they’ll have no problem learning how to implement the new feature.
It’s also worth asking any developers without direct experience in a particular feature what their general knowledge of it is like. If they’re on top of their game, they should at least be aware of the feature and how they might implement it in your project.
We’ve talked about UX – user experience – before.
Developing an app is, after all, about solving the needs of the user, and you can’t solve their problems if you don’t know what those problems are!
UX design isn’t about ‘making things pretty’ – though it’s obviously important for your app to look good – it’s about combining a great design with an app that your customers will love to use.
UX performance can be affected by everything from the fonts you use to the color scheme to the size of the buttons, so it’s essential the developer knows their stuff in this area.
Ask the developer what their UX process is, and ask them to supply examples of UX research from previous projects. Then, you can ask them to explain how the research impacted the final design, and what the results were.
Great developers take user experience seriously.
As we’ve mentioned in a previous article, there are a number of ways to monetize a mobile app, including:
- Charging for the app itself
- In-app purchases
And so on.
Different models have to be implemented in different ways, which is why it’s important to establish competence in the area that matters most to you. You need developer who knows how to make money in the way your business requires.
For example, a feature such as freemium isn’t just a matter of implementing the technology: the developer needs to demonstrate experience in converting free customers into customers that pay.
The simple point is this: can the developer ensure your app is profitable?
The app world is hyper-competitive, with an estimated 1,000 new apps being added to Apple’s store each day.
You don’t have time to make major fixes once the app is launched: it’s possible that it’ll simply sink without trace before you’ve had the chance. Unless you’re an internationally recognized brand that can promote an app through other means, you’ve got to get things right first time.
That means you need a developer skilled in testing. So, ask them what their testing process is: how do they guarantee their apps work well at launch?
It’s also worth asking how often they test: skilled developers will usually check for bugs and issues regularly.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind here:
- If you’re developing for Android, you’re going to have to deal with some bugs, simply because there a LOT of versions of Android out there. It’s almost impossible to test the app on every single one. (If you are publishing on Android, of course, ask your developer how they combat this.)
- No software is perfect first time out. There’s a difference between small bugs – which are universal – and major issues. Ask the developer how they gather and implement feedback.
On that note, ensure your developer has experience in obtaining external feedback. You need to get feedback from real users. The same users who’ll be on your app when it’s released. This sort of data is invaluable.
We’ve mentioned the value of app marketing again and again.
It doesn’t matter how great your app is: if no-one can find it, it’s not going to be of any use.
So, what is their method of promoting an app?
Do they use:
- Social media
- Organic search
- Paid traffic
- Traditional PR
As ever, past results are an indication of future performance. Ask any development firm to demonstrate previous results for clients. Have they produced any best-sellers or market-leaders? If so, how did they go about achieving those results?
Once your app’s live, how will the results get fed back to you? What information does the developer typically provide?
Or, what information are they able to provide?
Remember, there are a lot of metrics to explore:
- Number of downloads
- Number of push notifications activated
- Number of downloads leading to full installation
- Number of active users
- The most popular features
- The least popular features
- Length of time the app is being used
- Revenue generated
Ask your developer why they report on the figures they do. Remember, certain metrics might be less valuable than you think. If an app is getting thousands of downloads but no-one’s using it for longer than the first couple of minutes, you’ve got a problem, not a success!
Can your developer provide you with valuable metrics that’ll allow you to confirm whether or not your app is succeeding?
Iconic Solutions are specialists in creating high quality apps that get results. Whether you want to increase revenue, grow your customer base or simply improve the experience you offer your customers, we can help you.
Give us a call today.