Nikunj Sanghvi is passionate about technology, marketing and mobile and stays up to date with current trends in these domains. He leads our Sales and Business Development efforts in the US, based in Palo Alto.
This article was first published on RobosoftIn blog.
There are so many mobile app agencies out there that will gladly take your money, but not many of them are necessarily very good at delivering the results you are expecting. While it’s easy to sign on the dotted line and start doing business with the first one that comes along and promises you the world, it’s better to do your due diligence first and ask them probing questions, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth.That’s why it pays to ask the right questions of any mobile app agency you’re thinking of doing business with—before you take the plunge into iOS app development. Spending a little bit of extra time upfront getting to know the agency you’re considering can spare you a lot of headaches, money, and time…with little to show for it. What if i told you you can circumvent all these issues by following our template for questions to ask app developers before doing business with them?
Studies are all over the place when it comes to the exact cost for developing a mobile app, but estimates range anywhere from $50,000 all the way up to $360,000. When you’re going to be spending all this money on an app developer, make sure that you get your money’s worth.
Here are the questions you should be asking any agency before you spend money on them to develop your app.
Question 1: Can I See the Apps You Already Built?
At Robosoft, we showcase previously built applications in our Case Studies section for full transparency.
Even though technical expertise is valuable, there’s just no substitute for actual experience and results in the development process. The prospective agency should be more than happy to show you apps they’ve already built—their portfolio, essentially—since this is one of the best ways you can tell if you’ll get a good return on your investment.
If the prospective agency doesn’t have a portfolio of good results (no prominent clients or winning apps available for download), beware. If their portfolio shows good results, then it’s likely a reliable agency.
In addition, see if you can locate on the web app reviews and ratings for past apps the agency has already built. Even asking the agency to tell you how highly the apps they’ve built have ranked in the App Store, or if they’ve been featured, is a wise move.
Question 2: May I Speak With Some of Your Past Clients Whose Apps Were in the Same Industry as Mine?
Check the company’s references on sites like clutch.co or by asking for the contact information of other clients that did work with the mobile app dev agency you’re considering to do business with.
An extremely crucial question to ask, this lets you get a more impartial and independent look at how well the agency you’re considering has performed for clients in the past. Talking with past clients gives you insight on how the agency handled the relationship throughout the process. If you can, talk to those clients who are in the same industry as you since that feedback will be more relevant to your case.
Ask these past clients how the agency did with deadlines, how it dealt with pressure, and how well it communicated with them throughout the process.
How the agency handled these issues is a good indicator of how they’ll deal with you on your app.
Question 3: What Is Your App Development Process Like–Do You Do Agile Development?
You want to know how the agency operates in the most critical time—when they’re working on your app. You should know how long the agency’s latest project took, what unexpected problems arose during the process (for example: issues with development cost, etc.), and what the agency did to successfully solve them.
Knowing these things empowers you to determine if you’re going to be working with a reliable agency that knows how to respond on the fly to challenges and can therefore produce successful apps.
Realistically, only do business with an agency that does agile development. Agile developers tend to get things done more efficiently and have a better approach to the minimum viable product (MVP).
Question 4: Can You Explain in Detail Your Development Services? Your Technology Services?
Robosoft’s development process is clearly outlined on our website.
You need to know if the agency performs adequate beta testing—or if they do it at all. Is the agency just going to develop your app, but without any quality assurance to back up the work they did for you?
Any reputable mobile application agency has to provide thorough development services such as:
- Business analysis
- Actual app development
- Quality testing
- Successful launch
Unfortunately, when you fail to ask the right questions before, you can fall victim to app agencies that rip you off. You’ll know you’re about to get ripped off by an agency if they:
- From the start, create an inflexible document that rigidly outlines all the requirements or scope of your app project (which is unreasonable since the app development process is fluid and subject to changes)
- Pressure you to sign this document as the be all end all of the project
- Waste excessive time on deducing how much they’ll charge you for and how long the entire app development process will take
- Push you to sign any fixed cost and time agreement
- Finally, try to complete the project as fast as they can and with as little effort as possible, so to quickly move on to the next, paying client
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Question 5: What’s Your Bandwidth Like?
App development is a volatile process with lots of moving parts. Issues like changing key features of your app will likely come up as you suddenly recognize that something in your prototype needs improving. That’s all good; it’s part of the healthy development process.
However, if the agency you’ve chosen doesn’t have the dedicated manpower always available to attend to these change requests, then that’s problematic.
Figure out how many current projects the agency is working on, so you can determine if there’ll be at least one or two developers always working on your app…and therefore always ready to respond to change requests.
If you’re having trouble finding out this answer for certain–perhaps due to non-disclosure agreements–try other means to determine this. Get on the agency’s blog to see if they make announcements about any other current projects, or check the web for any press releases by the agency that would shed light on what they’re working on.
Question 6: How Skilled Are Your Developers Who’ll Be Working on My App?
You have to be sure the agency’s developers are able to actually build the features as well as functionality that you want into your app; basic app developer skills are vital. You probably want to have reviews and ratings incorporated into the app somehow. Your app likely also needs to be able to talk to current back-end software.
Even if there’s no direct experience by the developers at an agency, don’t give up just yet. The agency’s developers should be able to tell you how the would implement any proposed feature or functionality and mention any appropriate plugins or frameworks that would be helpful. Providing some insight into other apps with similar features and functionality should also be volunteered.
Ask for an agency’s developers’ profiles, and look for these crucial pieces of info:
- Contact information (at least the developer’s email address)
- A Bio or About section that doesn’t just include professional details like work history and education, but also tidbits on personality and hobbies
- A portfolio that highlights developer-specific past work history/experience
- Past project info that’s contextual and includes details of project and who the client was
- A list of relevant skillset
- Personal projects done for professional enhancement, like a blog, website or HTML5 game
- Contextual and documented links to off-site repositories (like Github)
- Development-specific education credentials
- Social media profiles for Github and LinkedIn (must-haves!)
- A list of any awards or special accolades
- A professional headshot for identification purposes
- A downloadable resume
Question 7: What’s Your Approach to User Experience and Design Principles in App Development?
While features are absolutely important, design and the user experience in an app should never be sacrificed. Without great design and UX, your app will suffer from a lack of users and popularity.
Since Android and Apple apps account for approximately 5 million unique apps altogether, one of the best ways to make your app stand out is superior design and UX. Trust us: Users are able to tell if an app’s usability is poor right off the bat.
Any worthy agency will succeed at creating an aesthetic app that simultaneously is a joy to use.
Question 8: Do You Follow Coding Standards and Utilize a Framework?
Source: Mentormade: PHP Coding Standards
Ideally, an agency should use web application frameworks, which are organized coding systems. They let developers quickly and easily work together on the same project, using reusable libraries, components and the tools necessary for code maintainability.
It’s important to know if the agency you’re considering uses this standardized system. If not, that could be a potential warning that said agency is disorganized. Also, if you ever leave the agency and bring the work it completed to another agency, it may be hard for their developers to seamlessly jump in. For example, it is now a standard practice for most agencies to use Bootstrap as a standard coding practice. Is the agency you’re considering doing the same?
Question 9: Are You Going to Submit My App to App Stores/ Marketplaces?
It can be a long and tortuous path to successfully get your finished app to appear in an app store. Of course, that’s what the main objective is because no one will know of your app unless it’s been accepted—or, better yet—actually featured in an app marketplace.
A good agency should guide you through the submission process; after all, you expect them to have done this numerous times before for other clients, but it also goes beyond just the submission process.
Look for an agency that has a well-defined policy of how they handle client’s app releases. After successful submission to a marketplace, your agency should also constantly monitor your app’s performance and then efficiently deal with any bugs because that’s too time-consuming and overwhelming for you to do yourself.
Question 10: Will You Maintain My App Post-Launch?
After the app is launched and in the app marketplace, the job isn’t yet completely done. From time to time, you’ll have to do things like:
- Release updates
- Fix bugs
- Add new features and functionality
In other words, your app is a breathing, living product that needs constant maintenance.
Your agency should work with you to come up with an app support and maintenance program for this reason, whether that’s an hourly rate for one-off updates or a monthly fee for continuous support. Be sure you determine what their policies are for:
- The cost per each new release
- How they specifically handle bug fixes
- The attentiveness and reliability of their post-launch support
Question 11: Do You Understand My Business Model/Customers?
It’s imperative that the agency you’re doing business with understands your own target audience and your business model, so they can tailor the app they design to your customers in a relevant way.
If the agency won’t take the time to understand your customers’ needs and wants, they’re not going to succeed in developing an app that speaks to their behaviors.
Look for developers that have clients in your own industry, as this means they already have a feel for what your user base wants. In any case, sit down with the developer and talk to them about your customers, so they can understand that segment for UX purposes.
Question 12: What Level of Involvement From Me Will You Need?
No matter how good the agency is, they won’t be able to develop the app without input from you since it’s your vision, after all. This means no wireframes, prototypes or finished app without your input.
There will be numerous iterations on the way to the finished product, so your involvement is a necessity during the project management.
The agency should tell you this from the very beginning, but if they don’t, that’s a warning that the agency isn’t a good choice.
Question 13: How Will You Keep Me Updated on Progress?
As mentioned, Android and iOS app development is an iterative process, so there will be plenty of opportunities for you and the agency to talk, stay in touch, and exchange feedback. Any decent agency will gladly update you at each turn of the development process to make sure that the progress is meeting your expectations.
Whoever’s in charge of your project ought to provide you with access to some popular project-management/collaboration tools like Asana,Basecamp, Trello or Jira. At the very least, they should always be reachable by email, but collaboration tools let you see the progress in real-time.
Question 14: Can You Build Apps for Different Operating Systems?
This is about offering users unique experiences for various operating systems instead of a one-size-fits-all “solution.” Coding for an Android app isn’t the same as coding for iOS and vice versa. It gets even more granular than that: Within iOS, the app designed for the iPhone won’t work seamlessly on a tablet.
While there are more Android users than iOS users, iOS users tend to get the best apps first because there’s more money to make on the developer side with iOS than Android (iOS users spend more). Some agencies may want to only develop for iOS, which may not necessarily be want you want.
Question 15: Do I Own the Code?
Any agency that does even a bit of work for the client should still respect the fact that the code belongs to the client. After all, you’re paying for the iOS app development and other work, so you should own the code.
Even if you jump ship and go to another agency before your app is finished at the first developer’s, the already completed work will serve as a roadmap to guide any other agency you may decide to bring on board later.
Your agency should tell you how they’ll deliver any files and documents to you that they’ve already started working on.
Those with an app vision sadly end up choosing the wrong app agency all too often, which leads to wasted time, money and effort. In our white paper, we wanted to help you cut through this problem by identifying the 15 most important questions that you should be asking any prospective agency you plan on doing business with.
When it comes to app development, there’s so much more to consider than just the project budget or development cost. While building an aesthetic app is wonderful, ask yourself what it takes to get there.
The developers at the agency you want need to have technical expertise, good communication skills, accountability, understand your customers, and work history building successful apps. Beyond just this, the agency as a whole needs to have a transparent process and recognize that any code they write actually belongs to you.
If you ask any prospective agency these 15 questions, you’ll be much, much closer to successfully making your app vision come true.