Have a great idea for an app but feeling overwhelmed by the process of hiring the right developer for it?
We get it. There’s a lot at stake when you’re searching for the right partner to go on the adventure of co-creating your app with.
Any new product has many unknowns in the early stages, so it’s important to find a team with deep expertise that will understand and have the ability to execute on your goals. This will result in a successful product that users will love - and, of course, the team should be great to work with.
While the process of hiring a great design and development team isn’t necessarily a simple one, following these 7 steps will help ensure it is a successful one!
1. Determine Your Budget
App development companies can vary a great deal in the amount they charge for their work, so taking the time to consider your budget is an important first step to finding the right app developer for your project.
To determine your budget, you should begin by considering exactly what you’d like your app to do - but remember, platforms like Uber weren't built in just a few months - it’s taken many years and millions of dollars for them to arrive at their current state.
Rather than attempting to estimate what it would cost to build the next Facebook, we recommend you determine what your MVP, or minimum viable product would look like.
Your MVP will be an app that delivers the core value or your product with just enough features to attract customers and validate your ideas.
Once your MVP has been built and your ideas have been validated you can continue to iterate and add new features - but your MVP should always be your starting point.
It’s important to understand that, when building an app - no matter what the developers might say - you’re ultimately paying for time - the more features, integrations and platforms involved, the more costly the app will be.
That said, we usually see a pared down MVP cost anywhere from $25,000 - $200,000 to develop, based on its complexity.
Some features that typically take more time and add higher costs to development projects include:
*Supporting many platforms across many different device sizes
*Using difficult to implement 3rd party integrations
*Utilizing new, cutting edge technologies that aren’t yet well developed
*Designs requiring lots of custom interaction / animations / illustrations
*Requiring a large amount of content or data processing
2. Determine Your Timeline
When searching for the right development team it’s important that you consider your timeline and communicate those needs to the teams you speak with. Discuss any concrete deadlines or milestones you need to meet and whether they will have the ability to meet them.
Likewise, unless your app is extremely simple, be wary of any team that tells you they can build your entire app in less than a month….or that it will take two years to complete the project.
A good app development company should recommend that your MVP be built quickly (without sacrificing quality) so that you can get it into the hands of users, validate your idea, and begin doing user testing.
Once you’ve received feedback from users you can continue to develop your app by adding the features and functionality that are unearthed during user testing the MVP.
At Yeti we don’t typically target two to four month build processes for the very first version of an app though, as mentioned earlier, there are some factors that can play a part in a longer build time, such as utilizing complicated technologies.
If you find yourself spending more than three months building the first version of your app, there is a very real possibility that you could end up spending time and money building a slew of features only to learn that they are not at all what the user is looking for. After 3 months you should be able to at least start playing with a beta version of your app.
3. Assess Whether an Offshore Team is a Good Option For You
When researching app development companies, the lower costs offered by offshore teams can make them seem like an obvious choice - but while lower prices are always tempting, we recommend considering the following before signing with a low cost option:
UX and Development Quality
To ensure it provides the user with a useful, convenient and pleasurable experience an app requires significant time and expertise spent on it’s design.
We’ve often seen cheap builds result in visual designs that are merely plastered on top of off-the-shelf engineering components.
We get a lot of “fix-it” requests where we have to recommend complete rewrites because the proper planning wasn’t done up front.
Time Zone Differences
Working with a team located in an area with a significant time zone difference can be tricky. Because your team will likely be sleeping during your work day, urgent issues that arise generally won’t be addressed as quickly as necessary - and regular meetings will often be held at odd hours.
Great communication is central to any development project but especially so in the early conceptual stages. It’s absolutely crucial that the team developing your app is crystal clear on what you need created - significant amounts of time and money can be lost through simple miscommunication.
We get dozens of inquiries from companies asking us to offshore work to them. We’ve opted to keep everything domestically based because for the work we do it’s incredibly important for that communication to be seamless.
Offshore teams can be great once the project architecture is well established or if you are really just testing a concept, need something cheap and are willing to potentially restart after you’ve gotten user validation or secured funding.
4. Look For a Team that Makes Design a Top Priority.
In today's increasingly competitive app market, users expect easy, intuitive experiences at every turn. Consumers don’t want to learn how to use a new system; they want something that “just works.” Nowadays this is the main differentiator for new products.
Great design does that by aligning the app experience with the user’s expectations, providing a convenient and pleasurable interaction for the user.Putting your users front and center when building your app helps to ensure it will attract and retain users - so it’s absolutely critical that you seek out a team that makes UX Design a top priority.
When discussing your project with potential development teams, be sure to ask them about the role UX design plays in their process, and ask them to outline exactly how that process works.
5. Understand How Your Project Will Be Managed
In the world of app development, there are two primary management methodologies:
Waterfall, which involves sequential phases of design, development, validation, and iteration
Agile, an iterative and incremental approach that places its emphasis on rapidly delivering functional components of a product in two week cycles called sprints.
In our experience we’ve found Agile projects to be far more successful and enjoyable to work on for the following reasons:
Agile Projects are Nearly Fail-Proof:
In an Agile project, usable pieces of the app are delivered at the end of every two week sprint. The client then provides feedback on those pieces, preventing you from spending hundreds of hours (and even more dollars) building a flawed product.
And because you are receiving usable features at the end of each sprint, you won’t find yourself with a pile of unusable code, regardless of what may happen in the future of the project.
Stakeholder Involvement and Satisfied Clients:
While Waterfall only allows for client/stakeholder involvement at it’s very first stage, Agile relies on a high level of executive involvement throughout the project, which is mutually beneficial in many ways.
Because Agile allows for quick cycles and consistent feedback from the client, the development team is able to make changes and adjustments sooner rather than later, helping to ensure they are always on the right track - even if the requirements shift.
In Agile development, testing is conducted during every sprint, allowing defects and other potential usability problems to be identified and fixed immediately,maintaining the quality of the product throughout its development.
When interviewing potential development teams, be sure to ask them about their Agile process, how closely they adhere to it and what the implications of that are for you as a client.
At Yeti we’ve made Agile more actionable and accountable to clients by developing “Applied Agile”, a management system that sits on top of traditional agile processes, providing a framework for how communication should flow throughout the product development cycle.
6. Discuss how Ongoing Relationships are Managed
Assuming your team builds you a successful product, there will inevitably be more development opportunities that arise from its success. Your product will need to be maintained and supported as users inevitably find weird ways to break it and software versions continue to be released.
Additionally, as with any successful product, your users or customers will provide you with great insights and feedback after launch that you want to incorporate into your product - and you’ll probably have a business plan that involves adding on to your app after it’s initial success.
These are all really good things. However, problems arise when you don’t have an upfront understanding of how your relationship with your development team will evolve after a successful launch.
When speaking with potential teams make sure to have them articulate how they handle ongoing relationships. A good firm will be upfront and detailed about how they handle successful product rollouts because they will have seen it before.
A good team should also be able to tell you what will happen if and when there comes a time that you no longer need their services. Rather than trying to lock you in, they should provide you with a clear outline of what will happen in that scenario.
Too often we’ve seen hostage-like situations develop when a client is trying to get source code access from an MIA former developer.
7. Look at Examples of Past Work and Check References
The developer you decide to work with should have experience working with technologies and building apps that are similar in nature to the one you’re trying to launch.
Most app development agencies will include examples of their work, or project case studies, on their website - take the time to look through these to help you determine if they might be a good fit for you.
You can also ask for examples of work the company has completed that they feel is similar to the work you’d like done.
Many times developers have more experience than what is in their public portfolio because in our industry a lot of work gets done under NDAs.
Make sure to ask the teams you are thinking of working with for references. While examples of work can be good indicators of what the team is capable of creating, speaking to past clients will give you an idea of what it’s like to actually work with the team. Did they meet deadlines? Deliver what they promised? Did they communicate well? How did they handle changes?
Taking the time to seek out the right agency to design and develop your app can be a complex process, but finding a great team that delivers top-notch work is more than worth that initial effort.
If you have an app idea that you’d like to begin building, we have a ton of resources available to help, including the article "Have An App Idea? Here's Where To Start". If you'd like to discuss your project, we’d love to chat and see if we might be the right agency for you!
Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.