How to Hire a Mobile App Developer

Tips

Creating apps since 2009, Savvy Apps is a grandpa in app years. We have seen all sorts of failed projects come our way due to the wrong person or team being selected. Deciding to work with a freelancer, offshore developer, small studio, or full-service agency depends on factors like preference, budget, and your own skills. Still, there are some more universal considerations when trying to hire any of these resources for your next app project. For those of you who are wondering whether to contract your app or do it yourself, we also previously addressed that exact topic. Read on to learn what to look for when choosing a developer to help you create your app.

Note: For simplicity’s sake, we use the terms “developer” or “mobile developer” below to mean any person or company who can help build an app. It does not strictly mean programming or coding, unless distinguished accordingly.

Amazing App Portfolio

The most important element in choosing a mobile developer is their app portfolio. Find a mobile developer who impresses you with the quality of their apps. Download them, use them yourself for a period of time, and ask the developer to step you through how they were created. We have an entire page on our site dedicated to showing off our work. Similarly, having a history of being featured in app stores or other industry awards will provide an independent validation of a developer’s work. Experience in your particular industry or with a comparable feature set is obviously a positive but not necessarily required.

Any developer you’re considering must have direct experience building apps. Some larger companies may offer a wide range of services beyond just app development. While there are some crossover skills that can be advantageous, creating an app has a unique set of challenges and requires highly specialized skills. Look for expertise in the platforms you plan on supporting. An iOS app requires a developer with Objective -C or Swift and Xcode knowledge. An Android app, on the other hand, needs a developer who knows Java and Eclipse or Android Studio. You’ll also want mobile-specific experience when it comes to user experience and visual design.

Expert Mobile App Skills

There's more to an app than code. It's important to understand that when we suggest looking for a developer who specializes in all aspects of mobile development, we mean all aspects of creating an app. This includes well-rounded expertise in coding, design, product management, marketing, and more.

Those who can help you think about building a business, not just an app, are significantly more valuable than those who just code. These less technical skills may include business strategy, marketing, raising funds from investors, and copywriting, just to name a handful. Most app teams require a product manager, designer, and developer. At Savvy Apps, we assign at least one of these roles to each app team. If you’re interested, we have a great post on what it takes to create an expert app team.

A process is only as good as the results. If a potential developer has a proven track record and solid portfolio, they probably have a tight process. Still, you should take the time to understand that process and what will be required of you specifically. These process elements should address each area of expertise and give you a big picture understanding of how an initial idea will turn into an app. We happen to think that’s also a great sub-title for a book.

Working Well with an App Developer

It’s important to make sure you and your developer will be able to work well together. In our own hiring process, we spend a lot of time making sure every addition to the Savvy Apps team is not only skilled and an asset to our collective expertise, but a hard-working, fun-loving team member who fits our agency's values and goals. Prior to joining Savvy Apps, a potential team member will take Sally Hogshead's Fascination Advantage Assessment, as a measure of of their “personality archetype.” This helps us understand how the candidate would fit in with our existing team.

During the vetting process, assess how you feel when speaking with a potential developer. See if they take the time to explain things to you and match the enthusiasm for your ideas. They should always listen first, but it’s also important that they provide frank, direct, and detailed feedback.

Regular communication is also essential. Your potential developer should be prepared to provide you with at least a weekly status call. For any new app at Savvy Apps, we have daily touch points with our customer until we establish some regular cadence and momentum. This approach also allows us to get many of the initial questions answered more quickly.

App Pricing and Terms

The price of an app depends on complexity and feature set of the app as well as the resources available to you or your company. We go into significant detail on the expected budget required to build an app and what can impact the costs in this blog post.

Watch out for developers that drive the timeline and cost below average. You'll find that with low cost options, especially when dealing with offshore development, that you get what you pay for. And sometimes the added headache of less experienced or uncommunicative developers isn't worth the discount.

The agreement you sign should have provisions ranging from IP ownership, how payments are structured, and the handling of confidential information at a minimum. At the same time, twenty pages of legalese is overkill and may be representative of the developer’s tendency to over-engineer solutions. There should be a careful balance of providing protection for both parties while still allowing the document to be readable without interpretation from a lawyer.

Concluding Note

The working relationship you build with your developer will likely last you long past the initial 4-6 months it takes to bring your v1.0 app to the app stores. Take some time to research and talk with developers before deciding who to work with. Look for developers with evidence of app success and as the varied skillset needed to address all aspects of app creation. But don't forget to rely a little on your gut and personal preference when choosing a developer. This developer needs to not only be a good fit for your business, but for you as well.

Whitney Rhodes is the lead editor for the Savvy Apps blog. She helps share Savvy Apps' extensive knowledge with all who seek to build better apps.

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