You’re reading this because you’ve decided your idea or business needs a mobile app. Maybe you’re a first-time app entrepreneur with a brilliant plan, looking to hire that perfect development firm. Or you could already have a tech business and you’re adding the mobile facet to your sales pipeline. Either way, you have discovered that the world is focused on their mobile phones, and you want to reach those people through your app. Now who should you turn to?
- Think Locally, But Build and Release Globally
- Should I Build My App for Android or iOS? Or Both?
- What the App Development Company Needs From You
- What You Need From the App Development Company
My name is Andrea and I’m the Technical Director at White Widget, an award-winning web & mobile software company that balances work-for-hire with in-house production. Here’s my two cents – an insider’s guide if you will – on how to hire an app development company.
Think Locally, But Build and Release Globally
When you’re planning your app, you need to be able to know your app’s users inside and out. You’d struggle to build an app strictly for Ugandans if you’ve never set foot in Uganda. Knowing your local audience first is key to making an app that people will want to use.
Your first instinct as an app entrepreneur will be to reach out to someone in your neighbourhood, but that’s not always the right choice if you live in a country where app development costs are sky high. Instead, consider hiring from places with a lower cost of living, ideally where IT skills are in abundance and English is a first or second language. The Philippines is one of those key areas to hire app development companies, and could be the best way to get the most bang for your buck. Personally, our company has worked with people from Australia, Italy, the US and Hong Kong, and we get more work outside our country than within it. You can also work with freelancers, but understand the risk involved before awarding an important project to a freelancer – you have less of a guarantee they’ll be there to update your app later on. A company often has an entire team of mobile app specialists at its disposal and can provide stability and support after deployment.
Should I Build My App for Android or iOS? Or Both?
It really depends on the kind of app you’re trying to build. If you’re trying to build a business where wide, social adoption is key, you need to come out on both iOS and Android or you’ll waste your marketing efforts. On the other hand, if you only need a proof of concept to serenade investors with, bringing your concept to life only on one platform would be the best way to shoulder the costs of development. There are also nuances for each platform, e.g. a solely freemium app will normally fare better on the Apple App Store than the Google Play Store. If you’re building an app for a specific purpose, like a POS for a restaurant, then it might be better to go with Android if you’re only making the app for your restaurant locations due to the cost of Android tablets vs iPads. These are nuances that the right company can help you navigate. Don’t be afraid to ask – an interested company will entertain your questions carefully.
What You Need From the App Development Company
You should ask these questions before they begin:
- Can I see your private portfolio? (Due to the proliferation of NDAs, many companies cannot show the breadth of their work publicly)
- Can I get a ballpark estimate for my app idea?
- How would you implement my app idea?
Most of the time you should not need an NDA. Why? Because chances are, someone has thought of the same app idea. It’s all in the execution and market share. There are thousands of file sharing services, but Dropbox has brand recognition because they did file sharing right. There are lots of computer manufacturers, but there’s only one Apple. It’s all about how well you implemented the concept. Unless you’ve patented your idea in some way, internationally, then an NDA is not that useful unless you’re willing to ‘lawyer up’ to defend your IP. However if you do find yourself in need of an NDA, and if you really want to protect your intellectual property, start documenting every part of your process and store it in a way which is defensible in a court of law.
What the App Development Company Needs From You
In order to give you a ballpark estimate on your app, the best way to pin down an accurate figure is to give your app development company the following things:
- You need a brief of what the app does
- Any documentation you have – wireframes, specifications
- Examples of similar apps in terms of design, concept, etc.
- Your budget
The more information you’ll be able to give, the more precise your ballpark estimate will be. It also really helps if you tell the app development company your budget, even if it is a wide range. The company can then narrow down the features to best fit your budget, or further improve your features if it’s within reach. We’ve had people request apps only to be scared off by the price tag, because they start the process with unrealistic expectations of what the cost of app development is. Had they started with a budget, we could’ve responded with a narrower scope and a more achievable version of their app. Don’t be afraid to ask the company for a voice call or video chat. It will also indicate if you can communicate with them effectively.
What Am I Paying For When I Hire an App Development Company?
One answer: custom software development isn’t easy.
Mobile app development straddles ‘the line between art and science’. It is only because so many underlying technologies have already been developed that we have these ready-made software components that can handle part of the workload. The touch-sensitive screen, the tiny processor, the multiple resolutions and pixel densities have all been laid out for you beforehand, but you still need to understand how everything works at the surface in order to build for it. You have limited memory, many devices to support (read up on device fragmentation here) and a neverending parade of mobile operating system versions. A photo taking function could work on this version of Android but not on later versions. This iOS audio control works on later versions but breaks on older ones. You have to know that when an app rotates in Android, the internal “Activity” dies and gets recreated, and you need to handle that. And that’s just scratching the surface.
What you’re paying for is an energetic, creative team of people who will vet your app idea, redesign it in the best way possible, create an amazing user experience, then test the result relentlessly. The company also maintains a large number of test devices so we can make sure it works great across multiple hardware configurations. A good company will provide a warranty for your custom software, ensuring that they will squash bugs within scope even after deployment and that they’ll deploy it on the App Stores and Google Play Store in all its blazing glory. And you can smile about that as you scroll to your app icon and press the big rectangular “Install” button, knowing what it took to get there.
- Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. If you want to build an app for a global audience, you can hire globally too.
- Building for both Android and iOS platforms isn’t always the right choice. Think about the end product. If in doubt, ask and research.
- Ask for a private portfolio, and finally a ballpark estimate. NDAs are often optional.
- At the minimum, give your app development partner a brief. Task them or yourself to come up with wireframes, technical and functional requirements if a contract is being drawn up. Budgets help narrow scope.
- You’re paying for a dedicated quality team, a warranty on the software they produce and the internal QA process each app has to go through.