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Hiring a Mobile App Developer? Ask these 10 Questions first!

Mobile apps are the future, no doubt about it. They’ve changed the business landscape and the way we engage customers in such a way that if you’re not playing in the space, you will get left behind and lose out on a viable income stream. Studies have shown that mobile users spend 90% of their time in apps. With the continued “move to mobile” this will be an increasing reality.


What’s the next step then?

Considering most business owners are too busy with the business of well… business, very few have the time to develop the coding and other skills necessary to build their own apps. And although some knowledge of coding would definitely be helpful during the development process, in most cases the logical next step would be to source an “App Developer”.


Finding the right developer

Not all app developers are created equal. The horror stories are out there, so most business owners are worried about finding a developer that (1.) knows what he/she’s doing; (2.) understands what you are trying to achieve; (3.) won’t take shortcuts and (4.) won’t require hefty deposits only to run away with the money.

In a way Lizanne*, a Johannesburg entrepreneur, was lucky that her children’s learning app developer landed up sick in hospital. Otherwise she never may have tried to get help from another developer who quickly realised that Developer 1 had messed up badly. “Developing an app is difficult enough. We have lost a lot of money and would have preferred not to pay these ‘school fees’, but it could have been devastating if we had let him continue only to try to launch a dud app.”


What then, are the criteria to look for when hiring an App Developer?  

1. Know Which Platform You Want to Develop on

It seems obvious, but know your target audience and which devices you want your app to support before you start your search for a developer. In app development, as in life, you can try be all things to all people, but it won’t end well.

You have a few options and you need to investigate beforehand and stick to your guns. All while being clear when explaining to the developer what you want:

  1. One platform – e.g. Only Android
  2. Multiple platform or cross-platform – Once-off development for more than one platform, tweaking here and there to accommodate the differences in platform.
  3. Native – Developing for one platform from scratch to ensure the best user experience. The skills needed here are specialised.

Some developers will tell you they are good at developing for both Android and IOS platforms and cross-platform apps are very popular because they are less work (more platforms, more money). That may be true, but if you are shooting for a 5-star rating on your app you can’t go wrong with native. Which means you’re best off choosing a developer that specialises in the platform he/she is building for. One for Android, one for IOS. Certain app stores may actually reject cross-platform apps that don’t run fluidly.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg famously said that “betting too much on HTML5” was their biggest mistake. And especially in the gaming world.

That been said, it’s important you know and decide beforehand the platform that you really want to develop for. This will save both time, unnecessary iterations, and deliver better functionality to users.

So when you’ve decided to go for a native app, ensure that you give an android developer your android project and an iOS developer your iOS project.

The only exception to this is if you are outsourcing to a software firm where they have several developers in different capacity.

2. Be Sure Your Developer Understands Your Project

This is critical. Be sure to create a detailed and clear explanation of your project. In fact, it’s worth working with a developer on a very small part of your app first and testing if they get it right.

This is important because, if the developer understands your project well it’s easier for them to add more creativity to it, and bring your exact thoughts to reality.

3. Keep tabs on your developer

Developers are a different kettle of fish… It’s not unheard of for them to value their freedom so much that they forget all about deliverables.

That’s why it’s important you use either a trusted company that’s been in the space for a while (like AppRocket) or platforms like Elance, Odesk, or Freelancer.

This would allow you to start and stop a project whenever you notice a red flag. More importantly, you should also set several milestones and only make payment when a milestone is completed.

4. Confirm the level of expertise of your developer

Most developers that lack the necessary skill and experience can claim to be experts when they’re not — just to get the job.

Bear in mind that there are developers like this, and one of the ways to sift them out is through their portfolio. Request to see apps which they have developed for businesses (if possible your competitors).

You should be able to access and even download some of the apps and test their functionality before taking action to either hire or go look for a seasoned developer.


10 Questions to Ask Your App Developer Before Hiring Them

1) Where Can I Find Your Previously Developed Apps?

Whether you request for a portfolio or not, every serious freelance developer or agency will point you to a list of apps they’ve developed previously except for the once where a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) was signed.

2) Can I See a List of Your Current and Previous Clients?

Yes, you can ask your developer to provide you information about their current and previous clients which they claimed to have dealings with.

3) Which Platform is Your Favourite?

Ensure you ask your developer about the programming language they’re more comfortable with and what they’d recommend for your project.

4) Which Smartphone are You Using?

If a developer claims he/she develops for Android, he/she should have an android phone, and should understand android much better. The same for any device he/she claims to be comfortable with.

5) What is the Link to Your GitHub Repository?

Developers use Github for version control as well as to save the codes they may want to share with their team or show off to their clients.

Why not ask your developer to share a link to their Github repository? You should see several of the apps they’ve developed and the ones they’re working on.

6) How Long Will it Take You to Add Google Analytics, AdMob Banner, Facebook Share Dialog, Vungle and/or PushWoosh To My App?

If the response is 1 week, 1 month, or anything more they probably do not have experience with integrating it, or they’re not good enough. Because none of these should take more than 30-45 minutes to fix.

7) Do You Have a Developer Account?

If your would-be developer doesn’t have a developer account then, they might not have published any app before.

It doesn’t mean you’re going to use their developer account, you only need it for making decisions.

8) Do They Provide Documentation for The Apps They Develop?

Paperwork is important. When your app is up and you need another developer to improve the functionalities, the documentation can be of great help. Be sure they provide documentation even for how to use the app.

9) What Do Your Fees and Payment Terms Look Like?

At this point, you probably already have a budget for your project. It’s important you have a clear and flexible budget for your project before you agree on the pricing terms with your developer. Ensure you set milestones and pay when each milestone has been completed.

The best thing you can do to ensure you’re covered is to have a very well defined set of deliverables when you get to the payment stage.

10) Is Your Developer Actually Developing Your App?

To avoid regrets after your app has been developed, ensure your developer is actually developing the app themselves  it may turn out that your developer is actually outsourcing this job or parts of it. This isn’t a fast rule, but don’t hire a developer that outsources jobs. If you hired a developer because you’re impressed with their portfolio, style, and rate, your project must not suffer in the hands of another third-party developer.


Now that you’ve read this article, you’re way less likely to accidentally choose a dodgy developer (you can thank us later).  In fact, thanks to these tips, you may have realised how handy it is to have a platform like App Rocket at your disposal – where you can create your own app quickly and easily – https://approcket.co.za

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