Idea to App Store: Step 3 How to Find the Right App Developer

So you want a mobile app for your company but you don’t know how to get it built? In this series of posts I’ll tell you all about how you go from idea to App Store. We’ll cover all of the steps: from firming up your initial idea to finding a developer to getting your app out to your clients.

Today we’ll talk about the third step, finding the right app developer for your project. The posts in the series will include:

  1. Firming up your app concept: Before talking to developers
  2. App design: What does your app do?
  3. How to find the right app developer for your project
  4. Engaging a developer: Contracts, milestones, and other considerations
  5. Working with an app developer: Communication and testing
  6. Putting your app out there: App Store submission and what happens after launch

How to find the right app developer for your project

Last time we discussed understanding just what your app needs to do. Base your selection of developer on that analysis. You’re not just trying to find an iPhone or iPad or whatever platform developer. You’re trying to find someone who matches your vision and the technical requirements of the app that you need to have built. Different developers will have different specializations and different approaches.

You want to choose someone who’s right for your app and that you’ll enjoy working with.

So where do you find app developers to consider? Well, most of my potential contracts come from referrals: people who’ve asked people for a recommendation for an iPhone app developer. If you can find anyone who has had an app built, ask them how they enjoyed working with the developer. Otherwise, ask around starting with the more technical people in your network. They’re generally better connected with developers. You can also reach out to local developer groups, like iOSKW in Kitchener-Waterloo.

I’ve also had several clients who found me by searching on LinkedIn. They weren’t looking for just any iOS developer but also for specific experience. Include specific items that you’ll need in your app in your search queries and initial conversations with developers: Mapping or location-based services, accelerometer use, user experience design, connecting your app to third-party services (like using Facebook to login or pulling in weather data), etc. I’ve done integration with external hardware several times now, so I get inquiries for projects like an iPhone as a remote control for a robot or apps with an iPhone and iPad working together.

Be careful not to focus only on hiring the best technical person you can find.

Their working style and availability are at least as important and can have more impact on the success of the app. You want to hire someone who can understand your business and your potential users. Within a few conversations, you should feel that they have a clear view of how the app should work and what your audience is going to expect from it. I strongly recommend creating a list of questions to cover with prospective developers, such as:

  1. Have you worked on similar projects in the past?
  2. Do you have any apps in the App Store that I can look at?
  3. How do you keep clients up to date with your progress?
  4. Will you be doing all of the work yourself or do you work with a team?
  5. When will I be able to try out parts of the app?
  6. What is a typical budget for the apps that you’ve created?
  7. How do you price your projects: hourly, daily, weekly, fixed-bid (with or without milestones)?
  8. Do you have availability to take on a new project? If not immediately, when could you take it on?
  9. Can you create or slice graphics?
  10. Can you manage submission of the app to the App Store? Have you done it before?

App developers work in different styles and you’ll have to think about how you’ll like to work with them.

Some can be flexible depending on how clearly your project is defined and how much effort will be required. I spend some time up front defining as much of the project as possible but there are always changes later. Before starting to write the app, I break it down into several milestones, usually no more than 2 weeks apart but large enough that I can implement a significant portion of the app. At the end of each milestone, I provide a test version of the app to my client for feedback. Inevitably, there are changes required but, by getting as much functionality in their hands as soon as possible, we can make the changes. Your contract should cover how changes will be done and when they would incur an additional cost. The initial contract and schedule should include some time and money for these inevitable changes but significant changes will likely impact the cost and schedule.

You’ll find developers who price projects differently: by the hour, by the day, by the week, by the milestone, or even based on the expected value to you.

If you expect a certain pricing scheme, development approach, or project management methodology, be clear about that upfront.

At this point, now that you have a developer selected, or a few good candidates, you should think about what they’ll be like to work with. Next time we’ll dig in to concerns when engaging a developer such as contracts, milestones, and other considerations. If you have any questions that you want to be sure that I cover, contact me.

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