Stats say that US consumers spend over 5 hours using their mobile devices, 92% of this time is spent in various apps. At the same time, the average number of apps used per user stays the same. And a quarter of them is abandoned after a single use.

App Abandonment percentage chart

This means users are fed up with poorly made apps that offer little value.

To create an app that will attract new customers and make them stick with you, you need to be really picky when choosing a mobile developer to rely on.

As someone who has built an app development company, I’ve seen a variety of unsuccessful projects come our way because of the wrong development team being selected. To make your life easier, I’ve compiled a list of things you should do before hiring mobile app developers.

Believe me, it’s easy as 1-2-3.


1. Start the search

Know where to find your dream team

Before you start considering various candidates you need to know where to find them.

There’s no reason why your mobile app development team needs to reside within the physical walls of your business. Countless organizations hire talent from around the world, and you should as well.

Here are your options:

  1. Scan your social circle for the people who have personally used the services of mobile developers. Even if they can’t point you to a trusty developer, they can serve as a great source of advice.
  2. Start your global research with a couple of quality mobile development or tech blogs. Often, developers who constantly share their expertise can easily explain complex things and are well versed in their craft. And this is where you are now obviously 😉
  3. Explore independent company listings like Clutch and Appfutura. The platforms are very convenient for getting overview info, including prices, portfolio, and honest reviews. Note: searching for “top mobile app developers” in Google won’t bring you the same result. Mostly, all the lists you will see are paid advertisements under the wrapper of article or research.
  4. You can also find some awesome developers on GitHub by inspecting their code samples. Of course, you will need relevant expertise to come to the right conclusion.
  5. If your aim is to find developers for short-term cooperation (e.g. bug fixing, implementation of several small features), then search various freelance communities and websites, like Upwork, Guru or PeoplePerHour. These websites are homes for freelancers. They usually display the developers’ experience, previous projects, all their customers and their enquiries, and a performance evaluation. It also has time-tracking tools to ensure guaranteed payment.
  6. Many teams provide design alongside with coding so looking through some communities for designers like Dribbble or Behance may yield a handful of suitable candidates. Note: most of the users of these communities are freelance designers or design agency representatives, so finding a full-stack development team here might be a tough task.

Know who to look for

It’s obvious that in order to find a qualified developer, you need to know what skills you are looking for.

The most popular mobile platforms today are Android and iOS.

According to Gartner, they accounted for the combined 99.6% of all smartphone sales in 2016. All the other operating systems hardly constitute a blip on the OS radar.

Global mobile OS market share in sales to end users from 1st quarter 2009 to 1st quarter 2017

Global mobile OS market share in sales to end users from 1st quarter 2009 to 1st quarter 2017

In order to develop native apps for Android, the programmers have to be skilled in Java, and iOS apps require mastery of Objective-C/Swift.

Another variant is to use a technology for cross-platform native development like React Native.

The catch is that the coding itself is only a part of building a successful app.

Your product’s main goal is to facilitate your business or even become your business. Thus it is very important to look for a team that provides product management and business analysis services to analyze your idea, conduct marketing and competitors research and shape everything up.

Moreover, some tech experts may seem unobvious at first, but they are necessary for completing your dream-team.

The majority of mobile apps also require a robust back-end, so your project also requires at least one developer with expertise in this area.

A web development competence is also a great bonus. Even if you don’t need a complimentary web app/website at the moment, such need may arise somewhere down the road. Experienced web developers will be able to integrate all of your existing and future solutions together or implement various third-party API.

You need an experienced QA engineer to weed out all the bugs. Ask if the company adheres to the philosophy of test-driven development (an approach in which testing, coding, and design are highly connected and the unit tests are written before the code). Find out if they write autotests and the devices they use to test their apps.

And let’s not forget about an excellent designer and a project manager to bring the whole project together.

So, if you are looking for a long-term development partnership, I’d advise you to look for a full-stack development company that can provide you with the full spectrum of development-related services.


2. Compare

Take a good look at their portfolio

The works should speak for themselves.

  • Check the case studies in developers’ public portfolio. Find out if they have created apps in your particular industry or with a comparable feature set. It is not necessarily required, but is an obvious positive for you.

Note: no development company shows all the works they’ve done in their portfolio. If there are no projects you are looking for – request more works directly via e-mail.

  • Find out whether their apps are successful from a business perspective.

Ask about the client’s business problem and whether it was solved through app development. What are the benefits that business derive after cooperating with the developer? Did startups get investments? How many downloads and active users do their apps have?

If developers can’t provide you with this info, then ask for the links to the relevant app stores or simply google it.

Take a look at the apps’ ratings. Read the reviews as they may uncover some interesting and embarrassing details.

This will become a litmus test to understand whether the partnership is worthy read on to find out where to get it.

  • Download the apps and try them out to see how they perform from the user’s perspective.

The first thing you’ll see is how fast these apps are to launch. Then you can gauge the apps’ performance and interactions between different features.

One of the first things users notice about an app is its design. So take a closer look at the apps’ UX/UI. The designers’ ability to create a pleasing to the eye interface will be an invaluable boon to any kind of venture.

  • Before trying the apps yourself ask the developers to recount the development process and their thoughts about its results.

You might discover that some of the apps’ flaws could be explained away by the circumstances beyond the developers’ control.

Take a look at the past clients

Any credible company will gladly provide you the list of their past or current clients (unless they make some apps for Agent 007).

All you have to do is ask for contacts and reach out to them. You can either call them or find some common connections on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Use the chance to find out their level of satisfaction with the developers and ask whether the contractors adhered to schedule and stayed within budget.

Find out if there were some emergencies during the development and how well the developers took them on. Did the threat of a looming deadline redouble their efforts or plunge them into the pit of dismay instead?

It’s obviously a good sign if a great portion of the developer’s clients have come back with new projects or recommended them to you.

Make sure the developer understands your business

Look for a developer that is not only interested in delivering a working app but is passionate about the business side of the whole endeavor.

A keen understanding of your business domain on part of the developers will go a long way towards shaping your idea into a viable product.

Find out if the developer has had clients in a similar industry as yours. If not, having a conversation about your target users and how much they understand that segment will tell you how good of a fit that developer is.

An app developer that doesn’t understand your customers or business, or doesn’t take the time to try, is not one that you want to work with.

The money-related question you should ask the developers is how your app can be monetised.

The standard practice is a small download/subscription fee. But for some kinds of apps, this approach doesn’t work at all.

That’s where the candidate’s business expertise comes into play. A developer familiar with your business domain will be able to suggest an optimal monetization avenue.

Don’t hire a jack-of-all-trades

Every developer has at least a little bit more experience when it comes to implementing certain features over others. Some companies might even specialize in creating a certain type of apps.

MindK, for instance, is known for building custom solutions for business processes automation, business intelligence and more.

If you have a good idea of the features and functionality that you want in your mobile app, and you need to make sure that your developer can build them.

So if you want, for example, to create an e-commerce app, you should look for a company that has experience with implementing a reliable payment gateway (e.g. PayPal/Stripe), a well-optimized internal search, and a hassle-free checkout.

Not all developers will have experience building every feature, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. But if you go for the Pokemon Go’s money than what you’re looking for it’s a completely different skillset.

If there isn’t direct experience, ask the potential developer if they are familiar with that feature and how they might go about implementing it.

Use some professional advice

Sometimes, it’ not sufficient to just check the experience of each team member prior to signing the contract. It can also be pretty hard or even plain impossible to gauge the skills of the programmers when you aren’t a specialist yourself and don’t have an experienced CTO at hand.

One trick is to find a friend of yours or at least a person you trust who has the necessary skills. Then you could request the developers to provide their code samples via GitHub or Bitbucket and ask your friend to review them to gauge their quality and originality.

You could also find out if the candidates participate actively in open-source communities (i.e. GitHub again). Not only does this speak about their dedication to the art of development but also shows they are open to peer review.

Talk about communication

Communication is one of the most important and at the same time, often overlooked aspects of software development.

The reason for this is quite simple. Before your app sees the light of the day there will be countless discussions in order to gather the requirements, define the scope, make all the necessary adjustments, and simply gauge the project’s progress. There is no place for games of Chinese whispers or quarrels.

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.

Discuss how you’ll be communicating during the development. Set up a schedule and define the means of communication beforehand. Reputable companies will offer you day-to-day emails/video or voice-calls, status reports at the end of each week, and a demo after each iteration.

At MindK, we’ve adopted the following approach: before beginning the project we work out and ratify a сommunication plan with our client which identifies the most convenient means of communication for both sides, who is responsible for different tasks and stages of the project, and how often we need to hold meetings and provide demos.

In this way, our clients have a clear understanding of what to expect from us and when, so they can plan their work efficiently.

Make sure that the difference in time zones won’t impact your communications as nobody likes to have important conversations at midnight. So find out if the developers in question have a history of successful cooperation with the clients located in your time zone.

Be mindful of support and maintenance

Look for a developer worthy of long and fruitful cooperation. If the candidate has built a decent-ish app but had no manpower, talent or intention to take care of it long-term, you can dump them without a backward look.

Developing an app is not a one-off endeavor but a long road of constant improvements. So, find out whether the developer offers support and maintenance for a project and discover the relevant terms and conditions.

Talk about money

In the end, it’s all about money, so get down to business.

What are developers’ rates? How do they bill their clients? What are their payment terms? The developer should be upfront and honest about their pricing and the engagement models they use.

A developer will be glad to provide you a free quote but don’t expect them to come up with a detailed budget on the back of a napkin. If you’d like to know why this is the case and what components comprise the price tag of your app, you can check out this piece on mobile app pricing.

Be thoughtful with the cost below average. Sometimes with low-cost options, what you save upfront may cost you more in the form of low quality.

Sort out the legal matters

You need to resolve any IP issues before development starts. As with the code review, it may be necessary to employ the services of a professional.

Often the contractor adds a clause specifying their right to derivative works (new original works having the facets of the existing copyright-protected products). Don’t worry about this clause for it benefits both parties.

It’s extremely likely that your app will have features that are extremely similar to the features present in other apps of the same developer. So in order to save time (and your money) the developers can just copy them from previous projects without reinventing the wheel.

This right, however, doesn’t apply to the more complex features and the app’s business logic.

And last but not the least, remember to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) so that what happens in [the development company of choice] stays in [the development company of choice].


3. Decide

Now you know everything you need to find the right developer.

You know that a great portfolio speaks for itself but previous clients will tell you more.

You know that creating a great app from the get-go is important but the long term partnership is also vital.

You know that the expert developers not only produce quality code but also care about the communication and the business side of your app.

Now take this knowledge and make a difference!

Let us know if it really helped you figure out how to find your perfect app developer.


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