Mobile App

The mobile app you’ve been dreaming of is at the beginning stages of becoming reality. You’re excited for your business and what taking this next step may mean for its future. But something doesn’t seem right when you discuss things with the app developer you have in mind for the project. Could it be they aren’t as experienced as they claim?

Here are a few ways to confront those nagging suspicions:

1. Show me your previous work

Any developer worth their salt and in possession of a healthy portfolio of work, will be able to immediately show you examples of projects they’ve completed. After all, Michelangelo wasn’t hired to paint the Sistine Chapel based on a few pencil sketches and some mumbled ideas for ceiling art. A mobile app developer doesn’t necessarily need to have been the sole genius behind a long list of successful apps, but they will have to have played a key part in their creation. As well as a list of apps, the developer should also give links to where each can be found in the Apple App Store, Google Play or other well-known app sites.

Bottom line: Evasion, vague descriptions and a patchy portfolio mean you’re on to a fraud.

2. Give me a list of your previous clients

Hand-in-hand with a list of previous app work, a developer should also be able to give you a run-down of their clients. From there you’ll be able to contact them and get a good idea of how smoothly the project went. If the client was happy with the results, they will give you a personal recommendation for the developer that’s worth more than gold. On the other hand, if the developer had minimal input in creating their app or failed to fix the bugs that arose, this feedback is also very much worth it. Feel free to ask about how closely the developer stuck to the initial brief on deadlines, costs and after-care as everything you learn will influence whether you hire the prospective developer or not.

Bottom line: Clients will tell you if a developer had minimal involvement in an app’s creation.

3. Tell me about your communication style

The picture you present when you talk to a developer about the app you want may be very different to the idea they get when listening. You’ll need to have clear, open and frequent conversations every step of the way if these two strands of thought are to combine into a single thread. Discovering how your developer communicates is a good indicator of how the development process will go. Maybe they like face-to-face meetings once a month. Maybe a barrage of emails will arrive in your inbox. Or maybe a weekly chat over the phone or through Skype will be enough to ensure you’re on the same page. Just remember, as the customer, you are entitled to status updates as regularly as you’d like. They may not always take the form you’d prefer if your developer is too busy to write a 3-page progress report instead of an email with 10 bullet points, but however you’d like to be kept in the loop should be part of the initial brief – just be sure to make a reasonable accommodation for how the developer prefers to communicate, too.

Bottom line: If your developer isn’t willing and able to get in touch or provide a status update, the work might not be getting done.

4. Tell us what it will cost

No one likes surprise charges on a bill. Does your developer want an hourly rate on a flat fee to create your app? Will a deposit be required? And how soon will the balance be due once the work is due? The price tag varies from app to app depending on how many bells and whistles you’d like, which is worth thinking about if your developer prefers an hourly rate. Once the basic ideas have been discussed, however, the developer should be able to provide an estimate on what it will cost to make your app dreams come true, especially if they’ve done this sort of thing before and know what the total time and effort required is likely to be.

Bottom line: Don’t be shy about discussing money – a developer won’t be shy about adding extra time on to the bill.

5. Dazzle us with your ingenuity

Not every developer is a virtuoso and not every app is going to change the world with its clever new spin or innovative features. But the sad fact remains that the apps that impress users and continue to be utilised are the ones that have some creative flair. Have you thought about what will make your app stand out from the rest? If you’re unsure, ask your developer for ideas, but also ask to see what thrilling bells and whistles they’ve come up with for previous projects. If everything they’ve created is a run-of-the-mill design that looks one step removed from a template things will not bode well for the legacy of your business’s app. But if they’ve been responsible for some truly ground-breaking stuff, your developer will be only too eager to show off what they’ve done – in the hopes of doing the same for you.

Bottom line: Without innovation and creativity your developer will produce an app that looks little better than a template with some branding slapped onto it.

6. The app will belong to us, won’t it?

It’s unusual for an app to be owned by the developer rather than the business paying for its creation but, as with anything, it’s essential to check. The terms you set (including ownership) should be stated clearly in a contract that stipulates the developer is handing over the copyright and giving over to you the work made for hire. The app’s details should be confidential and ownership of all the essentials – content, source code and complete design – belong to you. Any ambiguity or assumption not directly covered before work is begun will not go in your favour so get everything in writing from the word go.

Bottom line: If you don’t explicitly agree ownership of the app and get it in writing, your designer may end up with both the fee and the app.

7. Will you see it through to the end – the app store?

Make sure your developer knows they will need to test the app (typically a rigorous beta test on a smartphone) and iron out all the glitches and bugs that occur. Once the app is in good shape your developer will need to submit it for approval at an app store before it can be sold. Make sure you cover this with them before offering them the job as this final step can be long and complicated. In order to get your app launched properly the designer will have had to go through this process before and know how to get the app to ‘pass its MOT’. Their commitment and experience here are two things you can’t do without so make doubly sure you’re happy with it before handing over a contract.

Bottom line: If your developer can’t complete beta testing and won’t get your app approved by an app store you’ve failed to launch.

Despite these dire warnings it’s fairly easy to weed out mobile app developers who can talk the talk but not walk the walk. By looking at their previous work, gathering feedback from previous clients and discussing how you’ll be working together, you and your developer should be able to collaborate on an app that generates a lot of excitement for your business – so get app happy!