How to get an app developed

Posted on 30 Nov 2016
Reader Question:

Dear Doctor Digital, I need an app but I’m not sure about how to choose a developer! Can you help?

Doctor Digital Says:

You seem pretty certain you need an app, but if other readers are wondering, check out the post here to look at apps vs websites. If an app is in your future, there are a number of ways to get one developed.

A pretty traditional road for most small businesses is getting one developed by a company that specializes in making apps. In today’s tech heavy environment, there’s no shortage of software development companies that are eager to create your next mobile app. How do you choose the right one for you? Here are a few pointers:

1.   Know your product: As with building websites, hiring designers and any other contracted skill, you need to have an excellent brief, and be clear on what you want and why. The company you select is going to rely on you to give them some boundaries, and being clear on the parameters of the project will mean it is easier to develop a budget and stick to it.

2.    Look for depth in the team: A wide variety of skill sets is crucial to apps not just being coded perfectly, but actually meeting the needs of clients and harmonising with your customers. It is best to work with a team that has certified software engineers, but also highly-skilled analysts and user experience (UX) experts. By employing experts with diverse abilities and skills, they’ll be able to build exceptional apps in every major platform - whether Android, Windows Phone or iOS.

3.    Look at their products: Before you hire a software development company, make sure you’ve seen several mobile apps they’ve created. A development company shouldn’t expect you to invest in their services without letting you test their products. Ask the company for a list of apps they’ve created and search for them online. Spend a couple days with your end-user hat on, download some of their apps, and invest enough time with them to form an educated opinion about their quality. The end user is the one who needs to take to your app, so make sure you also get some testing with some of your actual customers who you trust to give you a full and robust discussion of their UX.

4.   Check out previous clients: Get a list of clients or check out the companies Linkedin profile and see who has reviewed them. If there are plenty of raving fans, then you can feel more surety that they know what they are doing and are going to deliver for your project. Make sure to actually call clients too, as this will give you a better insight.

5.    Can they be agile: Things change quickly in business and you may find that during the course of your development project there are new twists, problems, ideas and functionality that need to be considered. You want to work with a company that has agility built into their DNA and are willing to flow with you when things change. Location plays a part here, in that they need to be easy to get in touch with. You may not be able to find what you need locally, but it is definitely worth looking there first, as it is always easier to build a relationship when you are across from each other in the initial stages.

6.    How is the communication: The capacity to communicate will be clear from the first few interactions. Being able to feel on top of the project and all its stages and changes is far more important than you often realise at the outset, and even more so if those agile moments mentioned above occur. Especially as for many small business owners they will have very limited understanding of the technical process, make sure you are working with a team who will explain it to you in lay terms, without you having to prize the information out of them.

7.   The fine print: How confident is the company of their product in terms of warranties and support? Can you easily update or are you going to be tied to them for the rest of the life of the project. Have you negotiated IP in a way that you feel comfortable with? The terms of your contract are important, and more so if things go wrong and you need a legal document to get what you need. If you can’t get the clauses you want, consider if the developers are the best fit for you in the long term. Ideally this is a relationship, and one that is mutually beneficial.

8.   The dollar signs: Price is undoubtedly a significant factor in purchasing decisions, but it isn’t the only factor. Just going for a low price may come at a far higher cost in the long run. If a company is too lean, they may also be unable to deliver a fully UX tested product, and there may also be risk in key persons leaving or being ill and no one else to take up the slack. Look for the value in the people and the product, the service and the warranties, the communications and the agility, and all of this feeds into the tangibles and intangibles that make up a value proposition.