What to Look For in a Mobile App Developer
What to Look For in a Mobile App Developer
If you run a search on mobile app development, you’ll quickly learn that the market is saturated, to say the least. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of mobile app developers out there for you to consider.
But with that said, how many of those developers are actually qualified to build the app you want? The number might be significantly less than you initially thought.
Here’s the reality of the situation. Just because someone knows how to build mobile apps, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best developer to build the right app for you.
For example, there are plenty of freelancers out there who know the basics of coding and can put together a functional app. But that doesn’t qualify them to build an ecommerce app, internal business communication app, or white label apps for agencies.
These types of apps are more complex, and therefore, need to be built by a developer who has experience in those spaces.
So how can you tell which developers are the best for your app? It can be challenging if you don’t know what to look for.
That was my inspiration for writing this guide. As an expert in the mobile app development industry, I want to show you exactly what you should look for in an app developer.
Think of this guide as a detailed checklist that you can use while vetting prospective developers. Ultimately, knowing what to look for in a developer will make it much easier for you to find the perfect match for your app.
What type of mobile app are you building? Is it an iOS app? Android app? Or both?
The answer matters when you’re choosing a developer. Some developers specialize in one platform over the other. Apps for different operating systems are built with separate coding languages.
So if you know you want an iOS to be available on the Apple App Store, then it wouldn’t make sense to go with a developer who only builds Android apps.
Ideally, you want to find a developer who can build for both iOS and Android. Otherwise, you’d have to find two separate developers to build for each platform, which can lead to more problems than you could possibly imagine.
Even if you only want to launch your app on one platform right now, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually want it to be available on both platforms eventually.
Using a developer or development agency that can build hybrid mobile apps will significantly reduce the cost and time associated with building two separate native apps.
For the vast majority of you, the benefits of hybrid development will significantly outweigh the cons.
Let’s say you have an ecommerce app. Your target market might have a preference of iOS over Android or vice versa. But with that said, you’re still leaving a huge opportunity for mobile sales on the table if you only launch on one platform.
Here’s another example. Some of you may want to build a human resources app to improve employee communication.
The best and most cost-effective way to do this is by allowing your employees to access the app on their own devices. Well, it’s highly unlikely that all of your employees are using the same operating system.
The bottom line is this—your app will need to be on both platforms.
Even if you’re certain that you only want to launch on one platform to start, you should still look for a mobile app developer who can build both. You may eventually decide to change your mind somewhere down the line.
Lots of times cost will play a major role in someone’s decision to find an app developer. But like most things you buy, cheaper isn’t always better.
So a common way for people to try and cut corners to save money is by looking for a freelance developer. However, I would not recommend going this route.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some talented freelancers out there who are more than capable of building an app for you. They might even do it at a reasonable rate.
But one of the most important factors of finding the best mobile app developer is their availability. Allow me to explain.
When someone builds an app for you, the communication process is crucial. They can’t develop something the way you want it if you’re unable to explain your needs.
So it makes sense to find a developer in the same region as you. If you live in the United States or Canada, find a developer in North America. Otherwise, you’ll run into problems with things like language barriers and scheduling phone calls.
You don’t want all of your communication to be handled via email. You also don’t want to be speaking to a developer who has trouble understanding you and is only available to talk at 2 AM local time.
As you can see from the graph above, the cost of a higher-end freelance developer in North America isn’t as cheap as you think. You can work with an agency for less, and the overall experience will be much better.
A freelancer is just one person. They are likely working on multiple projects simultaneously, so they can’t focus all of their efforts on your app.
An app development agency, on the other hand, will have a team of developers. All of them will be working on your app in unison.
This means that an agency can developer your app faster, and more efficiently.
Plus, you’re not putting all of your eggs in one basket. What if the freelancer you hire gets sick? Or gets hurt?
It may sound like an unlikely scenario, but you’d be surprised; I’ve seen it happen before.
Now your app development process has stalled because the developer is no longer available. With an agency, if a developer is sick or can’t come into work, the rest of the team is still there to work on your app. The show goes on without a hitch.
When you’re shopping around for a mobile app developer, make sure that you ask questions related to the technology. This is a major problem that I see people run into all of the time.
Some developers just give you a base price in their bid for the development costs, but they fail to give you the rates for the back-end infrastructure of your app.
There are certain things that will be required for your app to work once it’s live. For example, if you want to save and store information about your app users, you’ll need a database server.
Do you want user analytics? You need an analytics server. You’ll need to have an authentication server if you want users to log in to your app, and a push notification server if you want the ability to send push notifications. The list goes on and on.
So when you’re talking to developers, make sure to clearly explain the features you want in the app. Those features will impact the technology requirements.
Then make sure the developer gives you a transparent bid that includes the cost of all this technology.
Security must be a top priority for anyone building a mobile app.
So make sure that your developer is able to provide you, your business, and your app with top-level security features. Here’s a great visual representation that shows you how to secure a mobile app.
56% of the top 100 paid apps in the Apple App Store have been attacked by hackers. Malicious mobile app attacks are increasing by 163% year-over-year.
When you’re consulting with a developer, stress the importance of security.
Ask them what your options are, and see what they offer. If they tell you something vague along the lines of “your app will be fine” or “don’t worry about it,” then it’s a cause for concern.
Developers should be able to tell you, specifically, how your app will be secured. The levels of security will vary based on the type of app you’re building.
For example, an ecommerce app that processes payments and saves customer billing info will obviously need more security than a calculator app. If you’re a business owner who is developing an app for your employees, you need to make sure that all of their information is secure.
You may even want to restrict access for who can download or log into the app.
As a white label reseller, you’ll want to make sure that you’re delivering a secure app to your clients as well. Otherwise, it will be a poor reflection of your agency, even though you technically didn’t build the app.
Let’s fast-forward a bit.
Your app has been successfully developed. It’s live, available for download, and people are already using it. That’s great! But now what?
Does the developer just walk away and leave you own your own? You can’t just build an app, set it, and forget it.
Think of your app like a new car that you just bought and drove off of the lot. You’re not done paying for that car. It’s still going to need oil changes, tire rotations, and other regular maintenance. When something goes wrong, you need to get it fixed.
Your app isn’t perfect, and likely never will be. You’ll always be able to make changes and adjustments with updates.
As you can see from the graph, roughly 30% of apps are updated at least once a month. In total, nearly 83% of all apps are updated every six months, at a minimum.
In short, your app is going to need updates. So find a developer who can make this work for you. How much will updates cost?
Some developers will charge you per update, either hourly or based on the resources required. Others will provide you with a content management system that will let you make those changes on your own.
In my experience, it’s best to work with an agency that has software making it easy for you to make simple changes without doing any coding on your own.
Plus, that agency will be there to offer support if you need help with more complex changes, or if you’re struggling with their CMS.
The best mobile app developers will not only set up your app and infrastructure, but they’ll maintain it for you as well. They’ll be available when something happens and goes wrong.
Say your app gets a sudden traffic surge and the servers crash. Now what?
Ask your developer about the support offered from a load balancing and autoscaling perspective. Are these included in the price that they’re quoting you? Or is it going to cost extra when it comes time to scale your app?
All apps are not created equally. Someone can learn to develop a simple app like a flashlight or a calculator with basic coding knowledge. But these skills won’t translate to the type of app that you’re trying to build.
Find a developer who has experience building complex apps, and apps that are similar to what you’re looking for. Here are some analogies.
If you were arrested on criminal charges, would you bring a tax attorney to court? No, you’d hire a criminal defense lawyer.
Let’s say you want to get a new tattoo. Would you go to an artist on their first day of work? No, you’d want someone who has done this countless times.
Sure, these examples may seem a bit extreme and unrelatable to some of you, but I’m just trying to illustrate a point. A mobile app is a serious commitment and investment, so you need to make sure you put your trust in a reputable professional.
If you want to build an HR app for internal employee communication, work with a developer who has done this before.
Do you want an ecommerce app for your Shopify store? Find a developer who specializes in this type of development.
Ask the developer for references, examples, and case studies of apps they’ve previously built.
The developer’s portfolio will tell you if they have experience making apps like the one you need.
How long will it take to develop your mobile app? For some of you, this will be an important factor in the decision-making process.
Let’s say you’ve consulted with several developers and narrowed your choices down to two or three options.
Maybe your cheapest option is a freelancer, but they can’t start working on your app for three months. Plus, it’s going to take them an additional six months to complete the process, assuming no delays.
Is it worth waiting nine months for your app to go live?
An agency, on the other hand, tells you that your app can be launched in less than four months from the day you start. While this option might be more expensive, depending on the agency, it’s worth it to get your app developed faster.
There’s a reason why you’re building an app in the first place. It’s either to make more money or to improve efficiencies.
If you have an ecommerce shop, you’re missing out on sales every day that your app isn’t available to your customers. If you’re building an app to improve your company’s internal communications, any delays cost you more in terms of inefficiencies.
So don’t delay development. Look for a developer that meets all of your qualifications, and has the capacity to launch your app as soon as possible.
If you’re going to shop around for a developer, make sure you do the following:
- Ask what platforms are covered.
- Make sure you have the technology requirements for your features.
- Prioritize security.
- Plan ahead for making changes.
- Find a developer that has experience building the type of apps you want.
It’s always better to go with an agency over a freelancer. A development agency will have more availability, and be able to assist you with better post-launch support.
Check out our case studies for some of the apps we’ve developed here at BuildFire.