Should You Partner with a Mobile App Developer?

It’s not always going to be possible to develop an app in-house; so that’s when you may look to partner with a professional mobile app developer to help build your app.

The quality of apps built with the help of a developer that specialises in mobile app development is vast.

Getting it spot on isn’t just about finding a developer that integrates well with your organisation and its goals but it's also about building the necessary skills and culture in your organisation.

The only way to get the best out of working with a developer is by knowing what you want to achieve. Below are some of the things you should consider before starting your journey.

Selecting the Right Developer

All successful app development projects have one common theme, the client spent the time to set clear goals and objectives before commencing the project.

You need to understand the importance of the app to you and your organisation, use this to determine whether you should build the application in-house or partner with a professional mobile app developer.

You have to remember that your app will represent your brand in the mobile space, if executed properly it could enhance your growth significantly. First, you need a clear understanding of your needs.

- How well do you understand the mobile app space?
- Do you want to retain complete control of the development life cycle?
- Do you have the time and resource to recruit and build your team?
- Do you know how to implement the infrastructure?
- Will a professional app developer be in a better position to deliver your project?

Is it wise to use a mobile app developer to create the first version of your app while you build up a team of your own, then take over support, maintenance and future development?

Understanding Your Stakeholders

Before starting you need to understand who in your organisation has a stake in the app, this will help you determine the capacity they should be involved when it comes to specifying the requirements and the overall execution of the project.

Having good stakeholder planning will ensure that your organisation has common goals for your app development project and will maximise the chance of a quality app that is on time and budget.

Steps to Take

- Identify all of the people who have a vested interest in the business case.
- Determine the insight they can provide and their area of expertise.
- Work closely with each person or department to define their role.

Consider working with a developer to help you capture your requirements and needs from stakeholders. Any developer whose core offering is mobile app development will have a lot of experience from previous projects that can prove crucial to your success. Most developers usually recommend going through a discovery phase before any code is written.

Ask Yourself

- Have you identified all of your stakeholders?
- Do you know each role your stakeholder will play?
- Have you discussed the relevant reporting metrics with each stakeholder?
- Would a design sprint help clarify requirements with stakeholders?
- Have you articulated the problems you are trying to solve clearly?

Using tools to rapidly prototype, you can generate stakeholder consensus around what you want to build before writing any code.

Adopting the Right Strategy

Before building your app you need to consider if taking a unified web and app approach is going to maximise its accessibility to your users and any potential users.

Users will search for your service via the web and not just through app stores.

You should consider a cross-platform strategy that includes the web, be sure to do this after fully understanding the cost and benefits of native and web development.

If you take the native only approach, there’s a risk that when you refer a potential user via your website to download your app, they may not have space on their device or they don’t want to download and install yet another app.

In a situation like this, you would simply lose that potential user, on the other hand, the web has a low barrier to entry for users, they just click a link and load the site.

This approach would allow you to offer content and experiences of value to your users, instantly.

Setting the Right Budget

When considering the budget, you should always remember the main objective of the project, to build an app that brings real value to your business, not simply something that meets a certain set of requirements at that given time.

Building an app should be a vital part of your strategy, investing in it can help to build your brand, acquire new customers and become a key revenue driver.

Price is always going to be one of the core elements of any project, but it should be balanced against the project scope, the time it will take to deliver and of course, quality. When embarking on a mobile app project you need to find the perfect blend between all these elements.

Things to Consider

- How can you build a solid business case for the ROI of the mobile app?
- Is your organisation's investment geared towards one platform?
- Does the opportunity reflect the size of the investment?
- Are there additional costs that haven’t been factored in?

Measuring Success

You should always set goals to help determine the overall success of your app. You can create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure your performance.

If your goal is to increase profitability via in-app purchases then your KPI should be the ratio of transactions per users, when this number goes up, it means you are doing a good job persuading your users to purchase.

Other goals that may be important to your organisation might be the overall quality rating of your app in the app store, as this may have a direct impact on your brand.

If you work with a developer you need to ensure you tell them the metrics that are most important to you early on.

Mobile Analytics

Implementing analytics into your app will help you to understand user behaviour and how well your user acquisition is performing.

It will also help to segment your users into more meaningful groups, which in turn will help to support your marketing efforts.

You need to ask yourself, what are the success metrics that matter to your organisation.

The delivery of your app is a major part of the project, but you should also focus on the analytical side so you can report on the progress after the app has been launched.

When you’re selecting a mobile app developer to partner with it's worth understanding how capable they are in key areas.

Understanding this will help you choose the right developer that will best meet your requirements when it comes to building a great app.

Create a List

Jot down a list of potential agencies you want to approach to make a proposal. If you haven’t worked with a developer before, this process will help you understand the different services and approaches on offer.

Ask yourself, are you looking for a single agency to handle everything from development to marketing, or are you looking for a specialist mobile app developer that focuses on a certain skill set and has a certain core offering?

Requesting a Proposal

Using the goals and KPI’s you’ve set for your project, select the core set of features you want agencies to address in their proposals.

Hiring a developer to help with your ideas discovery phase is also worth considering at this stage - this can help you scope out the features and functionality for your software requirements specification.

By getting as much clarity as you can upfront, you will be on track to build the right solution and you’ll save significant time later.

By selecting a core set of features to focus on in the proposal will make the process of responding easier for agencies - at the same time it will allow you an opportunity to judge the agencies approach by understanding how long it will take to evaluate your proposal.

Always look to partner with a developer that takes great pride in their work and are passionate about not just apps, but your success.

See if they can offer surprising new insights that can deliver extra value and align with your core business objectives.

Most great apps aren’t just about pure technical skill, they are about passion and insight. Any agency can acquire technical skill, but they can’t teach others how to be passionate about what they do.

Ask yourself, has the developer provided you with any insights such as new app features, approaches to development or market opportunities?

Is your company agile enough to respond to change if the developer makes a great suggestion?

Try to understand the understanding and culture within your selected developer and the way they like to approach their work - see if it is aligned with your organisation.

Even if you know you'll be working with a developer for the development of your app’s first version, being able to trust them is one of the most important factors when it comes to building a good working relationship.

A developer that is honest about not having worked in your business domain before may be more suited, compared to one that claims to have done so but can’t provide the appropriate reference.

Having a common mindset about the working approach will help to keep things simple. If your organisation is the type that has extensive documentation reviews and strict approvals then you may find it hard to work with a developer that has a more agile approach.

If you’re looking for a long term relationship then looking for a developer that can offer skills and insights in related fields such as Android Wear may be preferable when it comes to expanding your offering in the future.

Taking UX Seriously

Make sure that the developer you partner with has a broad set of skills when it comes to user experience, design and testing.

Apps with high ratings are more likely to be downloaded, so creating a great user experience is essential for users to adopt your app.

Consider hiring the developer to provide a few UX mockups on a small part of your proposed app.

Watch out for agencies that use the same UI and UX across iOS, Android and mobile web, UX guidelines are different across all three.

Things to Watch out For

Be sure to keep an eye out for low quotes, a lot of the time you have been over-promised to secure the project.

These quotes usually end up failing to reflect the investment needed to create something better than a minimum viable product.

Understand Your Costs

Once you’ve received the quote from your developer, review it against what you’ve learnt and understood so far, this will help you assess what costs or risks you may need to budget for.

You’re likely to see a range of different pricing models, a couple of common ones are:

Fixed Price and Fixed Specification

Whilst this ensures your costs won’t budge, this approach offers little flexibility.

Cost for Time

This will offer you the most flexibility in reacting to changes, but with less certainty about overall costs.

Different Ends of the Spectrum

At the higher end, developers will have far greater experience when it comes to strategic insight as well as delivering an experience that exceeds your expectations.

They'll also be more likely to cover costs and expose you to the least risk possible when it comes to unforeseen costs.

Typically agencies that are more insightful and capable of delivering to a high standard charge a premium - they tend to pick and choose their clients and are usually in high demand.

At the lower end, developers may have less experience, working with these agencies may require a far more detailed specification upfront and constant communication going over the same parts more than once to ensure you are on the same page.

This can offer less flexibility to evolve requirements and respond to user feedback. They will also expect you to pick up a greater portion of the risks and the chances of unforeseen costs surfacing will be significantly higher.