What to look for in an app development agency

11 min read
June 20, 2023

“People are your most valuable asset.”

This quote by author Stephen Covey applies not just to business but to every major undertaking in life—including app development.

The fact is that without a capable and experienced development team, you can’t bring your app idea to fruition, no matter how groundbreaking it is.

Thus, it’s crucial that you partner with only the best agency for your project.

And to help you with your search, here are the top factors you should look for in a development agency.

An impressive portfolio

When looking at a potential app development agency, the portfolio page on their website should be your first stop.

That’s because it’s one of the best proof of the agency’s skill, experience, and work ethic.

However, it’s not enough to simply take a quick look at the list of the projects an agency has worked on. The best option would be to examine their case studies.

A case study is a detailed summary of how the agency developed an app. A good one should have three elements.

DECODE case study

Source: DECODE

First is the challenge the project is trying to solve. This gives you a better context of the obstacles and issues that the app agency faced during development.

Next is the team’s solution to the challenge and the way they intend to build the project. This gives you an idea of the team’s methodology, skills, and work ethic.

Third is the outcome of the project. Knowing the project’s impact helps you evaluate how well the team hit the project’s goals.

Finally, a testimonial from the client is a nice touch, as it lets you gauge the team’s professionalism.

Because it doesn’t matter whether the project was a success if the agency gave the client a hard time getting there.

Decode review

Source: DECODE

When checking an agency’s portfolio, it’s essential to determine if their area of expertise is a good fit for your project.

After all, even the most awarded agency on Earth will likely struggle if they haven’t had any relevant experience in your niche.

For instance, if you want to build a fintech app, it’s best to look for an agency that has already worked on a handful of successful fintech projects, like we have at DECODE.

A skilled team

The development team will make or break any project. Thus, the app agency should have access to a team with the necessary technical skills and expertise.

The exact qualifications will rely on the nature of your project.

Of course, the team must fulfill the bare minimum skills required of an app developer, such as knowledge of Swift for iOS development or experience using Git.

key skills for app development

Source: Andromo

However, some niches will require specialized or advanced skills.

For instance, a blockchain-based app should only be worked on by a developer with relevant experience. A finance app would require high-level cybersecurity skills.

Because of this, the best agencies can tailor a team to your project’s unique requirements.

DECODE is a great example of this.

Whenever a client wants to work with us, our first step is to review their project requirements thoroughly.

We then form a dedicated team of developers assembled from a pool of 100+ professionals with a wide range of expertise.

This customized approach ensures the team has a much higher chance of tackling the problems they’ll inevitably face during development.

If the agency doesn’t offer this capability, you must evaluate their skills and expertise more thoroughly. You can do this by asking the right questions during your initial discussions.

Industry experience

Experience is a great indicator of a reliable app development agency. It communicates that they have the skills and work ethics to finish big projects.

And if other clients trust them, then you probably should, too.

One green flag is if the agency has already worked with big names in the industry. That’s because clients at these levels are likely looking for only the best firms to partner with.

It says a lot for an agency to be picked and actually finish a project successfully.


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Of course, this isn’t to say that agencies that only work with smaller businesses are inferior.

On the contrary, companies that work for smaller clients usually produce fantastic work because they have more freedom to do so.

Thus, in these cases, it’s best to look at the case studies of these projects, so you can better judge their capabilities.

Also, look at the number of years the company has been in business. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to partner with a company that’s been operating for five years or more.

This tells you they have the experience and skills that support that longevity.

Clutch profile

Source: Clutch

However, make sure that industry experience pairs with testimonials and reviews.

After all, a 10-year-old agency that’s only getting by with 3-star reviews is less preferable than a younger 3-year firm with numerous 5-star feedback.

A defined development process

It’s critical that the app agency has a mature, well-defined development process and isn’t just winging it.

That’s because a proper framework ensures your project is completed on time and within budget.

It also gives you peace of mind knowing that the agency can tackle any issues they encounter systematically.

For this reason, you should strive to find an agency that could handle the entire development process. This lessens the risk, time, and effort of passing code between teams.

Here’s what a good app development process should look like:

mobile app development process

Source: wearefram

The first step, strategy and planning, is arguably the most critical, yet many agencies skip it.

A good team should get to know your project thoroughly, including all features and requirements. They must also be willing to conduct market research.

Proper planning ensures that the team is building your project exactly as you envision it, with the right capabilities and requirements. Without it, you risk an app with a poor market fit.

The agency should also handle the product design process. This includes conceptualizing the app’s UI and UX. It’s a critical part because usability can make or break your app.

A thorough testing process is vital to ship a stable, nearly-bug-free app, so ensure the agency prioritizes that.

They should also follow a software testing life cycle (STLC) or similar methodology.

Finally, the agency should help you launch and maintain your app. Publishing the app, analyzing its analytics, and releasing relevant bug fixes are all required to achieve app success.

Versatility of services

Mobile app development is a complicated process that requires multiple phases and expertise. Thus, you’ll need a versatile team to handle all that demand.

Getting a team with all the necessary skills instead of hiring skills individually will be more difficult to integrate the individual with everyone else.

One of the critical services you’ll need is product discovery.

This is where the agency will validate your app idea to see if you have a winner on your hands.

Moreover, product discovery will help you define the exact requirements so you can accurately translate your idea into a working app.

product discovery lifecycle

Source: Net Solutions

Another critical service is UX and UI design.

Nowadays, it’s not enough that the agency has team members with amazing coding skills.

They should also be knowledgeable in UX and design principles to create an intuitive and enjoyable app.

The agency should also use proper UX techniques like wireframing, UX copywriting, and usability testing.

Lastly, consider an agency that can help you with app store optimization.

These techniques help your app become more visible in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

This can lead to more organic downloads, which can help you increase your users and revenue.


Information leakage is one of the biggest concerns most clients have with third-party developers.

Revealing sensitive data and trade secrets can jeopardize a company’s reputation, in addition to risking user privacy.

That’s why you must work only with an app agency that values confidentiality.

Non-disclosure agreements (NDA) are the best tool to guarantee confidentiality.

An NDA is a contract that prevents anyone from revealing relevant project information to outsiders. If they do, the other party can file legal action against them.

An agency should be willing to sign an NDA as early as the consultation stage, even if the client eventually chooses not to hire them.

This shows their sincerity in keeping project details confidential. A good agency (like DECODE) would even insist on it for everyone’s protection.


Source: Aglowid

Some would also be amenable to a non-compete agreement. Think of it as an extension to the NDA, as it prevents the agency from working on a similar project as yours for a set period.

This helps protect your app’s exclusivity for a time so it can gain traction first in the market.


An agency-client relationship should be built on trust because effective collaboration is impossible without it. And the best way to foster trust is to prioritize transparency.

Transparency means having insight into what the team is doing at any given time.

Developers worth their salt won’t be afraid to discuss issues and mistakes because it’s the only way to solve them properly.

Transparency should be built on solid, open communication. That’s why looking for a team that relies on effective communication protocols is best.

It’s not just about having the right tools but also the right processes to make the most of them.

asynchronous vs. synchronous communication

Source: Doist

But even if the team members already have an existing workflow, they should be willing to compromise and adapt to your own desired way of operating.

Indeed, the most transparent agencies should feel like they’re your employees, not outsiders.

If inspiration hits and you have a new idea for your app, the team should be able to react to it quickly without any red tape, like approvals and additional contracts.


An app development agency should have fair pricing and be able to realize the client’s app while staying within its budget.

To do this, you should look for an agency with flexible pricing terms. There are two to consider here—fixed and time and materials.

In fixed pricing, the agency charges you a set price at the beginning of development.

This estimate depends on your project’s requirements, schedule, and overall budget.

It’s the simplest pricing model but also the most rigid. You can’t change the pricing midway, even if requirements change.

Thus, you might end up overpaying (if the project ends up being simpler than you expected) or underpaying (if things become more complicated than your initial estimate predicted).

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In the time and materials model, you pay the development team an hourly rate. This is the most precise approach, as you’ll only be charged for the agency’s work.

It’s important to realize that neither of these approaches is unequivocally right or wrong.

Simpler projects with very specific requirements could benefit from the simplicity of fixed pricing. In contrast, the time and materials approach is likely to turn out to be the most suitable.

The critical bit is that the agency can adapt to either model, depending on what turns out to be the most cost-effective without not compromising quality results.

This shows that the team is committed to your success and not just milking you every chance they get.

Need more help finding the right app development agency?

Now that you know the criteria for selecting a high-quality app development agency, the next step is to actually look for one.

The process is straightforward but can be challenging.

To succeed, you’ll need ample preparation, proper workflow, and plenty of patience.

Want to know how we can help? Get in touch with us today!

Written by

Marko Strizic

Co-founder and CEO

Marko started DECODE with co-founders Peter and Mario, and a decade later, leads the company as CEO. His role is now almost entirely centred around business strategy, though his extensive background in software engineering makes sure he sees the future of the company from every angle. A graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, he’s fascinated by the architecture of mobile apps and reactive programming, and a strong believer in life-long learning. Always ready for action. Or an impromptu skiing trip.

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