This is a guide on what to look for when choosing which mobile software development company to work with, out of the thousands of options you have.
People and businesses spend billions on software development services each year. Some projects succeed, but most fail. The main differentiators being who builds the app and who promotes it.
We’re not going to tackle promotion today, but let’s talk about development. The process of taking an app from idea to market is now very common. There are over two million apps in the App Store and everyone’s cousin is now a “developer”.
If you’re considering building or improving an app, I invite you to continue reading. This article will tell you everything you should look for when hiring a mobile application development agency, in order of importance.
1. Results Driven
Probably the single most important criterium in determining whether you should work with one agency over another is the way they view your project. From your perspective, the act of building software is never the end goal.
Software development is always a means to an end. Both you and your dev agency need to understand that and align all initiatives towards the attainment of whatever it is you want. Here are some examples of goals we helped our clients attain (and sometimes define):
- Increase the productivity of all staff members by (a) having all systems, processes, and training materials in a single, secure place and (b) giving HR the possibility to see each member’s progress.
- Increase the effectiveness of our sales teams by (a) helping them pre-filter all incoming leads and (b) providing them with all the details they need to draft a proposal and set up a call.
- Redesign our website/app to (a) better represent us and our growth over the past decade and (b) increase our overall conversion rates by 10%.
Decide what’s your end goal and look for a dev agency that will focus on helping you attain that goal. Here are a couple things to look out for:
An established development agency will always start with your goals, without you even asking. They won’t write a single line of code before making sure they perfectly understand what the end goal is. If you don’t know (and they’re nice), they’ll help you clearly define it.
If you can have one or more productive meetings with them around your goals and how their efforts will help you reach them, you know they at least have the correct mindset.
Fluffy agencies (how we like to call them) tell you things like “We’ll make you a beautiful app!” whilst professionals will always focus on the numbers: “We guarantee a 200% increase in new customer acquisition within within less than 6 months.”
Now that sounds better, don’t you think?
The easiest way to know if a company is result-driven is to look at or listen to the language and terms they use within their sales letter, on the call, and in the proposal.
2. Have Delivered Similar Apps Before
Probably no app development agency has worked for all industries and on all types of projects. Instead of insisting on them having done the exact same project before, we suggest you rate your options in the following manner:
- Agency A has previously done exactly what you need and the end results for their previous client were great. Though there are other things to consider, in terms of portfolio these guys should be your best bet.
- Agency B hasn’t done exactly what you need, but have worked on similar projects and their results on those projects were great. Again, it’s important we don’t mistake specificity with competence. These guys might very well get the job done better and faster than Agency A. They just never had an opportunity to work on a project exactly like yours.
- Agency C hasn’t done exactly what you need, nor have they gotten great results on similar projects they worked on. You should only choose them if they rank super high on all other points from within this article.
One of the easiest ways to test an agency’s credibility is to give their previous clients a call and see what they say. Or, if calling isn’t an option, at least emailing them. On the call you can ask specific questions, such as:
- What did <agency> do for you?
- What do you think of the end results?
- How was your experience with them?
- Would you recommend them?
3. Real Support
Over the years we’ve noticed more and more people are annoyed because of a previous engagement they had with a dev agency. And interestingly enough, many times it’s not so much because of development, as it is of a lack of support.
Most dev agencies fail to provide high-quality support for the projects they develop. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Client success / account manager that’s always ready to answer you questions
- Clearly documented development process
- Training for you on how to use and/or measure the success of the product
- Help in transitioning to another development agency (if needed)
- Several weeks/months of support after the product was delivered
The last point is specifically important as it offers a huge level of insurance for you. We’ve heard of agencies that either (a) bail out on clients after they delivered on their agreement or (b) keep communication open, but ask for huge prices for any further changes to the product.
From our own experience, until now 100% of our clients have asked us to provide ongoing support for their web and mobile assets, so we decided to use what we’ve learned and create a separate service just for that.
But please note: This goes both ways.
A great app development agency understands building an app isn’t just a one-time initiative and they’ll be ready to provide continuous updates and maintenance. But you should also understand this just as well as they do.
Please avoid the trap of thinking mobile app development is a one time thing. Actually, the same is true for any other type of software development. Yes, you invest in building a minimum viable product (an MVP), but that’s just the first step.
Facebook, Gmail, Uber, Dropbox, and all other successful apps are where they are because of the continuous and never-ending improvement of their core product. If you want to be a winner, you should learn from the winners.
4. Multiple In-house Developers
A senior mobile app developer can build an app from start to finish. This is why freelancing is still a valid career choice for developers and apparently, a valid option for people in need of such services.
I’ve been in the software development industry for over a decade now. After 10 years I can confidently tell you I’d never outsource the development of a product to a single person. The risk of failure is just too high.
A single individual, even if they’re a great developer, cannot possibly provide you the same level of certainty as an established agency. Here are a few real-life scenarios that could delay or fully halt the development of your product:
- The developer gets sick and can’t work for a few days/week
- They decide to get married, plus go on their 2-week honeymoon
- They hear of a better project and take it on, leaving yours behind
- They decide to get a job because it provides more security
- They go on vacation and don’t even answer their phone for 1-2 weeks
- They have an accident and aren’t able to work
- And so on.
All of the above and many more are natural, real situations. I haven’t mentioned any situations that derive from bad intentions because those can happen when working with agencies also, thought it’s a bit less probable because they’ll care even more about protecting the brand they’ve built.
On the other hand, when contracting an established agency, your contract isn’t with any one individual — it’s with the entire agency. If one team member is going through any of the above-mentioned situations, the agency will simply put someone in their place.
Of course, if what you’re developing is more like a mini side-project, then it might make more sense to go with a freelancer. The stakes are not that high, and freelancers tend to cost less than agencies.
This point begs consideration only if what you’re building is important to for you and/or your business. In which case it’s your responsibility to eliminate as much risk as possible.
5. Systems and Processes
Simply having multiple people in a team doesn’t mean you’re safe, yet. More people might mean more firepower, but it also means more complexity. Who does what? When? In what order? What happens if…? Are just a few questions that require very clear answers.
The agency you choose should have specific systems and processes in place for making sure your project continues to evolve, no matter what happens. This includes clarity around both risky situations and best-case practices.
For example, the dev agency’s system of communications has to be very well defined. There’s no way around this. We believe a lack of transparency hurts relationships and this is why we insist all our clients and partners be 100% honest with us at all times, and we’ll do the same.
Software development is already a black box for many people out there. Further complicating it by going weeks on end without clearly documenting the process, or using technical terms when providing answers to clients doesn’t help at all.
It’s hard to tell if an agency has such systems in place before you actually get to collaborate with them, but it most cases you can feel it even during the sales process. They know what they should do and when. If the process seems fluent and each contact makes you trust them more, then you should be fine.
6. Fluent in Your Language
It’s obvious the world is more interconnected now than ever before. We can’t expect everyone to have the same native language as we do, nor should we. Still, I decided to add this point in as a bonus because I’ve seen and heard of hundreds of software development projects fail as a result of crappy mistakes due to ineffective communication.
Again, there are probably dozens of amazing, perfectly capable development agencies out there that have a hard time speaking your language, but we noticed the entire process is just so much more natural and pleasant if there’s always clear communication between everyone.
That’s one of the reasons everyone in Wesrom has to know great English. If they don’t, but they’re still capable and passionate, then we invest in English courses for them. And this is true no matter what position they have within the company.
This point is probably less important than the five before it, but it can serve you as a tiebreaker when two or more agencies pass all five of the above and you can’t make up your mind.
The rule is easy: When in doubt, pick the better communicator.
I hope this article proved valuable for you. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or send me an email: [email protected].
Or, if you have a project in mind, you can read more about how we develop custom mobile apps here at Wesrom.
Lastly, I’d highly appreciate it if you’d share this article with at least one other person you think would benefit from building, improving, or promoting their app.
To your continued success,