Mobile apps are a necessity in today’s smartphone-first world to engage customers, sell product, and grow your business. According to Comscore, 1.8 billion people across the world have mobile phones, surpassing a number of desktop computers in 2014. Mobile is an opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of. Whether you’re a corporate executive with a large budget, or an entrepreneur looking to launch your startup, there’s a lot of time, money, and pride at stake in developing a mobile app, so finding the right app developer is extremely important.
If you’re a non-technical person or are new to the app development world, seeking out that right developer to build your mobile app can be a near-impossible task, but you can do it if you ask the right questions.
With that in mind, here are 8 questions you should always ask before you start a project with any app development agency:
1. Can I see the apps you have already built?
Even though technical expertise is valuable, there’s just no substitute for actual experience and results in the development process. The prospective agency should be more than happy to show you apps they’ve already built—their portfolio, essentially—since this is one of the best ways you can tell if you’ll get a good return on your investment.
If the prospective agency doesn’t have a portfolio of good results (no prominent clients or winning apps available for download), beware. If their portfolio shows good results, then it’s likely a reliable agency.
2. Can I have the contact information of former clients?
Checking references is key when it comes to hiring a mobile application development agency. You may look through a portfolio and be impressed by a company’s work, but that final product tells you little about the experience making that product. Get the contact information of multiple former clients from the company, then get in touch with those companies to ask about their experience working with the agency. You want to ensure that you not only end up with a great app at the end of the process, but also that the development process is stress-free, easy and enjoyable.
3. What is your app development process like - Do you do Agile development?
You want to know how the agency operates in the most critical time—when they’re working on your app. You should know how long the agency’s latest project took, what unexpected problems arose during the process (for example: issues with development cost, etc.), and what the agency did to successfully solve them.
Knowing these things empowers you to determine if you’re going to be working with a reliable agency that knows how to respond on the fly to challenges and can, therefore, produce successful apps. Realistically, only do business with an agency that does agile development. Agile developers tend to get things done more efficiently and have a better approach to the minimum viable product (MVP).
4. How often will we communicate?
Throughout the development process, you may have questions about what’s happening with the app, or you may want to make tweaks and changes. Ask the development agency how you will communicate with them throughout the process. Some agencies will want in-person meetings; others will prefer phone calls or emails. Make sure you feel comfortable with their preference, and let them know yours as well. You should expect regular check-ins with your digital design agency team, whether you’re involved in active project stand-ups or get separate demos/updates from your project lead. And you should see progress on a weekly basis, if not more frequently. (ImperiumApps provides daily feedback on most projects.)
5. What level of involvement will you need from me?
Be sure to ask a mobile application development agency how much involvement they’ll need from you throughout the process of developing your app. Of course, no development team will be able to create an app without ANY input from you (they’ll need info about the concept, approval of wireframes and designs, and more) but some companies may want you to be more collaborative — while others will want to handle almost everything themselves. Get a feel for what the agency you’re talking to prefers, then see if it aligns with your available time and desire for involvement.
6. Do you understand my business model/customers?
It’s imperative that the agency you’re doing business with understands your own target audience and your business model, so they can tailor the app they design to your customers in a relevant way. If the agency won’t take the time to understand your customers’ needs and wants, they’re not going to succeed in developing an app that speaks to their behaviors. In any case, sit down with the developer and talk to them about your customers, so they can understand that segment for UX purposes.
7. How will you estimate costs and schedule for my project?
Every client wants to know what the project is going to cost and how long it’s going to take. But the clients we have the most success with understanding that getting an accurate estimate doesn’t happen in a five-minute phone call. Be wary of any firms that offer lowball bids after a brief phone meeting — they may be desperate for new business, probably don’t understand your needs, and are much more likely to deliver sub-par quality. Their hope is to hook you early and make up the difference later. It will cost you a lot more in the end if your app needs big changes — or worse, a redo.
8. Will you maintain my app post-launch?
After the app is launched and in the app marketplace, the job isn’t yet completely done. From time to time, you’ll have to do things like:
- Release updates
- Fix bugs
- Add new features and functionality
- In other words, your app is a breathing, living product that needs constant maintenance.
- Your agency should work with you to come up with an app support and maintenance program for this reason, whether that’s an hourly rate for one-off updates or a monthly fee for continuous support. Be sure you determine what their policies are for:
- The cost per each new release
- How they specifically handle bug fixes
- The attentiveness and reliability of their post-launch support.
Those with an app vision sadly end up choosing the wrong app agency all too often, which leads to wasted time, money and effort. When it comes to app development, there’s so much more to consider than just the project budget or development cost. If you ask any prospective agency these questions, you’ll be much, much closer to successfully making your app vision come true.