You've gone through the process of finding an app developer. Maybe the relationship even started out well. Somewhere along the way though, communication has broken down, progress has come to a standstill, or perhaps the situation has become combative.
Your interaction with an app developer or app agency shouldn't be any different though than working with any third-party contractor, vendor, or retailer. You should be kept in the loop, treated fairly, and all the work should be completed on time and with quality. But because most people have less experience with building an app than say doing a home renovation, their expectations change.
At Savvy Apps we often encounter situations where someone sticks with their app developer even though it's clear that their app is really off course or simply never going to be completed. If you are experiencing any (or all) of these 10 warning signs, it may be time to call it quits with your app developer.
There's no established process
When you work with an app developer you should expect a clear process starting with a number of discovery-type conversations. This initial planning phase should include strategy, UX, and visual design to ensure everyone is clear on how the end product will look and operate. Failing to do this is like trying to build a house without a blueprint or decorating a living room without talking about your style preferences.
There's little chance your app will make the app stores much less be successful in them without this type of planning. To get an idea of all the moving parts that have to come together to make a quality app product, check out our open source app store checklist that we use throughout the app creation process.
There's no regular communication
You should expect regular, meaningful communication with your app developer. In the start of your working relationship you should be having almost daily interactions. As mentioned in the process section, this is the time when your app team should be figuring out everything that's on the horizon for your app. You'll form the overall strategy and roadmap, as well as nail down your app's feature set, functionality, and more.
That early need for extensive communication will ease up once your app plan becomes a bit more solidified. The communication should remain regular, just with a different interval. We find that during the middle parts of projects, a weekly meeting works well. If your developer is not meeting with you consistently, you run the risk of receiving an app that's nothing like what you expected, if you even reach that milestone.
There's no follow up on action items
Regular communication is only part of what you should expect from your app developer. Every time you have any significant communication, you should also receive meeting notes that recap the conversation and any important action items that need to be addressed. This kind of documentation ensures that everyone remains on the same page in regards to what's been discussed and decided upon. Any next steps should also come with dates assigned to them, so that it's clear when something needs to be done either by you or your developer.
There's no request for feedback
Your developer may be the app expert, but that doesn't mean you don't have important information to share. Our philosophy at Savvy Apps is that you're the one with the expertise for your app's intended industry and audience. That knowledge, coupled with our experience creating apps, will make your product a success.
When the process is going right, expect your app developer to constantly give you the opportunity to provide your input on how your app is taking shape. With the kind of money it takes to build an app, you'll obviously want to be involved in providing feedback. It's similar to buying a car. Although you may not exactly understand how the engine works, you can help in selecting the kind of engine you want, as well as choose the vehicle's color and other finishings.
There's no proof of progress
Process, communication, and soliciting feedback are great, but if you've never seen your app, it's because it's vaporware. Although it depends on the scope of the app, generally for the first 2-4 weeks of working with a developer there may not be much to show from a functionality standpoint. Usually by the end of the first month though, the developer can at a minimum demo what exists for the app and show off some rough functionality.
By the second month you should be getting weekly app builds you can install on your device, as well as seeing progress or the completion of various features and functionality. Even after your v1.0 app launches, you should still receive builds to see the progress your developer is making on bug fixes, additional features, and other updates.
There's no regard to the scope of work
Receiving an install of your app on a regular basis is important because it's the best way to ensure the app is coming together to meet your expectations. As mentioned earlier, the extensive strategy and planning phase done upfront is important for setting expectations and paving the way for the design and development phases of your app. You can refer back to strategy and planning documentation to ensure that the app is being built according to those “blueprints” and that the developer is producing what was outlined.
Additionally, noticing consistent failures in functionality, slowness, or many bugs in the app are indications of problems with the foundation of the app. If you're constantly having to report the same issues or finding obvious problems, you may not have hired a quality app developer.
There's no commitment to deadlines
Apps need to have a schedule associated with them that outlines when you can expect items to be done, as well as a more general target completion date. This is especially significant for anyone trying to ship their app before an all-important event (e.g., a conference) or even just trying to be the first to market for a new idea. In all, it takes an average of 4-6 months to create an app. During that time, there are a number of smaller milestones that will need to be accomplished.
You should receive proof of progress on your app in accordance to the schedule and any impending deadlines. If deadlines are regularly missed, then it's likely that the overall completion date will not be met. Missed deadlines and a delayed ship date can wind up costing you more. It's important to point out that depending on the complexity of the app, it's very reasonable for the developer not to be able to give you a precise date early on in the process; by the second or third month though, this should be clearer.
There's no access to intellectual property
Whether it's documentation, designs, or the code itself, all of these items are your intellectual property. When you don't have access to these items, you put yourself at risk should the relationship with your developer deteriorate. These items can then be held by the developer as leverage to force you to make additional payments or to continue in the relationship even when it's clear the partnership is not working out. We take the opposite extreme at Savvy Apps, where we actually give full real-time access to all IP through tools like Dropbox, GitHub, Trello, and Pivotal Tracker.
There's a lack of professionalism
A lack of professionalism isn't just a developer showing up to a meeting looking disheveled, as if just rolling out of bed. It's also the developer who doesn't come prepared to meetings, doesn't take your app seriously, and generally is too comfortable with you.
Chances are that developer isn't putting his or her full attention into getting your product right. Everything from the process, regular communication, feedback loops, and demoing progress shows a high level of professionalism. Whether or not your developer is as passionate about your idea as you are, they need to put in the time to make your app great.
There's no connection at a human level
At the same time, being professional doesn't mean being robotic; there's also the aspect of being able to connect personally with your app developer. This might include having similar interests, having a shared cultural understanding (which is sometimes hard to do with offshore developers), or just liking your developer as a person. This connection can go a long way.
Think about all the time you'll spend with this developer if all goes according to plan. You'll be spending significant time with this developer and tackling many challenges together. It might be worth it to you to suffer through all of that as long as the end result is good. It might not. For example, we have a “No Jerk Rule” at Savvy Apps. This means that it doesn't matter how talented a person is; we won't work with them if they're difficult to get along with.
If you decide you need to fire your developer, you run the risk of never getting important IP like your code, possibly having something malicious done to your app, or maybe even getting into a legal dispute. If you stay, you might be wasting time and money. While all these risks are real, we've generally seen more damage done when the project remains assigned to the same under-performing app developer.
History is the best indicator for the future. Some try to stick it out, convincing themselves, like a bad relationship, that there's going to be a change. If you're having trouble with some or all of the issues above, chances are those problems aren't going to suddenly solve themselves. For more considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right developer, read our resource dedicated to things to look out for when hiring an app developer.
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