App Developers Guide
What you have decided is that you want an app developed. What you’ve yet to decide is who you should pay to do the job.
Our database contains hundreds of app development agencies, but you also need to know how to choose one. Brand names and awards are not enough as the app developer needs to be right for you, your business and your app idea. This brief guide helps you make a more informed choice.
Types of App Developer
There are four main types of app developers, though you can find many subsets within these (such as specialisation in a particular vertical or platform). Broadly, Enterprise-level companies tend to cost more but have the strongest and quickest means to develop your app, while boutiques are more like small artisans, and the final category is sole freelancers.
Enterprise (in house): Large companies that generally do everything from designing your app to building, testing and publishing it. They tend to require the largest budgets, and their designers and coders are mostly employees.
Enterprise (outsource): The main difference between these and the companies above is that these employ freelancers to work on your project. This allows for more flexibility – maybe you already have a User Interface, or have coding skills but would like something designed. It also drives costs down – app development through these companies is generally cheaper.
Boutiques: These studios can be as small as a two-person team. They take on fewer projects and deliver high levels of polish and also tend to be highly specialised in particular types of apps or industry verticals.
Freelancers: You may find one person willing to do everything (design, coding, testing, publishing) but truth be told, the people who can do all of this and do it well are few and very expensive. It’s not impossible to build an app with freelancers, but it does add a lot of work and uncertainty.
There are two major platforms – iOS (the iPhone’s operating system) and Android (Google’s system used on everything from Samsung to LG and Huawei phones).
There’s also Windows 10 Mobile, although that has less than 1% of market share in the US and in all other markets is under 10%.
App Developer Locations
As with most tech industries, major cities are the main hubs for app development. Some boutique studios can be found in smaller communities, but the general rule applies.
California is the number one hub for mobile app developers, with San Francisco and Silicon Valley being the main ones and Los Angeles not far behind. New York is probably the second biggest US city for app development, with some big name studios located there, followed by Chicago and Boston. You can also find out more in our guide on choosing a US App Developer.
London is the major hub here, with a very high concentration of app devs; the north also offers some excellent studios however, chiefly in Manchester and Newcastle. You can also find out more in our guide on choosing a UK App Developer.
India is a very large hub for app development and the majority of devs are concentrated in three cities: Bengaluru, Hyderabad and the New Delhi metropolitan area. You can also find out more in our guide on choosing an Indian App Developer.
Ukraine is the strongest contender for the “central hub” title of app developers in Eastern Europe but there are plenty throughout the region, with some of the best ones being in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
Pricing and Costs
The price of an app can vary massively depending on how complex the app is, on whether it’s just Android or iOS, if it’s native or hybrid and especially on the developer you choose.
Estimates range from as little as $3000 to $150,000 for more complex apps made by high-end developers.
Costs also change according to country. The median cost per hour for Android development in the US is $167, $70 in the UK and $30 in India. For iOS the media is $150/hour in the USA, $70/hour in the UK and $26/hour in India (Android is heavily favoured over iOS in India.)
If you’d like to know more about app development costs, you can also check our guides on how to choose an app developer in the US, UK and in India.
How to Select an App Developer
Checking out the app developer’s portfolio is always a good idea. Previous experience in your field or business sector might not only get you a better app, but a cheaper one too: the challenges tackled and resolved in making prior apps will reduce the development time for yours and it also helps if your chosen app developer knows the ins and outs of your specific industry.
Reviews and recommendations are also a valuable resource – if you know a business similar to yours, find out who made their app and whether it works and read the reviews for it in the app store.
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App Developers FAQ
Our answers to the most frequently asked questions about finding, choosing and engaging with an app development company or agency.
How much does it cost to develop an app?
It depends on a wide variety of factors, from the type of app and it’s features and the developer you choose. The lowest price point hovers around $3000, while larger apps can cost as much as $250,000. Some estimates for an Uber-like app go up to $300,000. In this guide, we break down the cost of app development to show you where the money goes.
A good tool to estimate an approximate cost for your app idea can be found here.
How long does it take to make an app?
According to Kinvey, it can take 18 weeks to create an app, while our own estimates put it at 24 weeks. Once again this greatly depends on the type of app and your developer, but this range includes the majority of development times for medium-sized apps.
How can I find an app developer?
There are a large number of resources online. You can start by looking through Business of App’s directory.
Another strong online directory is found on Clutch.co.
There are also dozens of app developer events around the world yearly, which you can find in our event directory.
Where can I find a developer partner for a startup app?
How many app developers are there?
A lot. In October 2016, the most recent estimates put the number of app developers at 12 million globally, of which around half develop for Android, and 2.8 million focus on iOS.
In 2014 , Asia held the highest number of app developers with 760,000 (32.9% of total app developers at the time), swiftly followed by Europe and North America with 29.7% and 29.4% of devs. Keep in mind however that since then around 800,000 new developers have entered the market per year.
How should I choose an app developer?
There’s a number of criteria to keep in mind when choosing your app developer. The first one is, of course, your budget, but beyond that you should:
This is a standard procedure, and most companies will make proudly show their app development portfolio on their websites. Keep in mind that while app building is a skill unto itself, development for particular sectors (for example healthcare or games) can be very specific. Check to see if the developer specialises in your industry, and especially if they cover the specific platform (iOS, Android or Cross-platform) that you’re targeting.
Ask for References
Digging a little deeper, you can always contact the companies the studio has developed apps for and find out what their experience was like. If a development studio is trusted time and again by operators in a certain industry, then they must be doing something right. Which leads on to:
Check their app’s reviews on the App Store or Google Play.
It may not be obvious at first, but you can always read user reviews for published apps on their app stores to see what people think of the studio’s work. Just remember the negativity bias: people have more incentive to write a review when they dislike something than when they like it. One hundred bad reviews isn’t so bad if the app has tens of thousands of active users.
Questions you should ask an app developer
1. What platforms do you develop for natively? Do you develop cross-platform apps?
You want to make things clear right from the start: for which devices can your chosen studio develop an application for? Do they specialise in iOS, Android or crossplatform (apps that work on both and other platforms by using “generic” coding as opposed to platform-specific coding). How will the apps be converted from one platform to another? If the app is linked to a website, will the website be optimised for mobile phones? Keep in mind as wide an audience as reasonable for potential users of your app, both in terms of demographics and in devices used to access it.
2. Do you cover every stage in the development cycle?
Some studios only offer user-experience or user-interface design. Others do the development and coding, but post-launch maintenance is considered to be an additional cost. If your app requires a back-end (servers and software), not all studio developers include that in their services. It vastly depends on the kind of app you are designing, but make sure the studio you go with covers all the steps of the app development cycle, or can point you to companies whose services integrate well with the ones they offer.
3. How can my app make money?
This should be part of your business plan as well as the conversation with your chosen development studio. Will your app make money via advertising? If so, it needs to be optimised for that purpose. If your app is a storefront, or just driving traffic to your website where the money is made, how will it engage users to come back after their first visit or first transaction? This is the kind of conversation that you need to hold with your app developer and make sure you are absolutely on the same page. It will also be one of the first questions a serious app developer will ask you.
4. How do you communicate during the development process?
A key part of the development process is keeping the client in the loop about how the process is going. The best studios make this really transparent, with constant (sometimes even daily) updates. Ensure your chosen app developer communicates as often and in ways which you are comfortable with.
5. What kind of testing will you do?
This is sort-of the opposite of the question above: it’s the nitty-gritty, the necessary whittling process which turns a good idea into a streamlined app. There are many types, from stress to AB-testing, and while not all of them will be relevant to all apps, some will be necessary for yours. Ask your developer what testing methods they use, what they’re for and how they help your app improve.
6. Is submission to app stores included?
Submitting an app to the store isn’t too hard, if you know what you’re doing. Only subscribed developers can submit an app to the Apple’s iTunes app store, and the Cupertino company has strict guidelines on what can and cannot be published. Android is more liberal in its guidelines, but it also requires a registration and a fee. Some developer studios do this, others do not: make sure you find out first, and whether the submission fee is part of the price you’re paying.
7. What’s the latest tech you’re using?
Beacons, GPS, deep linking, Wifi-Bluetooth integration: the great thing about the app development world is there’s always something new being developed or a groundbreaking idea being explored. If you want your app to be cutting edge and really set the standard for those that follow, ask your developer what ideas or technology they’re playing with right now. The development process includes a lot of experimentation, and an exchange of ideas with your devs could lead to the next big thing or a memorable app.