10 questions to ask before hiring an app development agency

10 min read
July 13, 2023

Partnering with a skilled, professional, and experienced development agency is one of the things that will significantly contribute to the success of your app.

Unfortunately, of the thousands of agencies globally, only a small number fits the bill. No wonder that 25% of all outsourced projects fail within two years, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

Finding the best agencies in a sea of mediocrity is a tall order, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Fortunately, we’ve listed ten questions to help you decipher if an agency has what it takes to become your next software dream team.

Do you develop apps for Android or iOS?

This is one of the first questions you should ask from the get-go.

The reason is obvious – if you want an iOS app, you should find an agency with iOS development experience. The same is true if you want an Android app.

It tells you if the agency’s expertise fits with your project.

See, iOS and Android are two different operating systems, each with their own programming languages, methodologies, and philosophies.

Thus, they require developers with distinct skill sets (i.e., an Android developer can’t create an iOS app).

Furthermore, there are nuances beyond development that only an experienced agency can tackle.

For instance, the Apple Store is notorious for having a strict approval process.

But an experienced iOS developer is knowledgeable enough to avoid the top reasons for rejection, thus speeding up development time.

iOS vs android comparison Major differences Between Android And iOS App Development

Source: Jump Growth

Better yet, you could find agencies that are experienced in Android and iOS.

This is beneficial if you’re unsure yet which platform you’ll develop on.

An agency with multi-platform experience can advise you on the best OS to pick, depending on your project’s goals and purpose.

What types of services do you offer?

Once you’ve established whether they’re an iOS, Android, or cross-platform developer, the next step is to inquire about their services.

This is critical because not every app development agency offers full-stack services from app planning to app maintenance.

And that’s fine. What’s important is that the agency’s services can fulfill your needs.

For example, you might already have done market research to validate your app idea.

Thus, product discovery services are unnecessary – you only need an agency to design and implement your app idea.

mobile app development process

Source: Mind Bowser

Generally, app development services can be categorized into three groups.

First is product discovery. This service helps you optimize your app idea by subjecting it to market research.

An agency can also help you understand the target market more so you can develop an app that better solves your customers’ pain points.

The next is product design. This is an important service because it ensures your app has a fantastic user experience (UX).

UI design is one of the key tasks here, but it goes beyond that. A good agency should also provide prototyping and user testing.

Lastly, you have software engineering services, which involve actual app development.

Chances are, most agencies will offer coding as a basic service. However, it is also important to ask if they offer other things like database design or cybersecurity.

What projects have you worked on?

Reviewing an agency’s past projects could tell you a lot about their capabilities and problem-solving skills. So, ensure this question is at the top of your must-ask list.

This is critical because you want an agency that has already worked on a successful project similar to yours. It improves the chances that yours will be a success, too.

However, don’t be content with just getting a list of their past projects or clients. They also need to provide the details – what was the project about?

What problem was it trying to solve? How did the agency solve it?

In other words, you want a case study that looks like this:

Decode summary screenshot

Source: DECODE

Notice how the case study briefly talks about the challenge and solution. This gives the reader more context to better appreciate the developer’s skills in solving the challenge.

Other relevant information like technologies used, timeline, and industry are also good to include.

Of course, you might be thinking – “how do I know this is all true?”

The best way is to validate it with the client mentioned in the case study. Which brings us to the next question…

Can you provide references from past clients?

Like with any other business, good client reviews are usually the dealbreaker for hiring an agency.

Positive reviews from past clients show that if other people had a fantastic experience with the agency, then maybe you will too.

You can ask for reviews and testimonials that prove the agency’s work ethic, skills, and professionalism.

DECODE review

Source: DECODE

Better yet, the development agency should be able to give you a list of their past clients.

This gives you the option of contacting those clients to see how their experience was with the agency.

But it’s more than just gauging the experience of others to see if the agency is ideal for you. You also want to determine if you’re the ideal client for the agency.

For instance, if the agency dealt with mobile gaming clients exclusively, they might have trouble adapting to a financial firm’s more stringent processes and standards.

So, you should judge them from that perspective.

How will you estimate the project cost and timeline?

Cost is a tricky subject, which is why you need to clarify it as soon as possible. This will save you a lot of headaches later on.

The agency should be able to tell you how they plan to estimate your project’s cost and timeline based on your requirements.

Generally, there are two approaches to this – fixed cost and time and materials.

In a fixed-cost scheme, the project’s cost is determined in advance based on the requirements and expected workload.

In a time and materials arrangement, the agency bills the client based on the work done (usually at an hourly rate).

Here are the differences, pros, and cons of each.

Comparison of Fixed Price to Time and Material

Source: iTech

It’s important to note that one method isn’t necessarily better than the other. A simple project, for instance, would do better with a fixed price.

The crucial thing is that the agency costs the project in a way that’s fair to you. If they’re unwilling to adapt, it’s best to go your separate ways.

Who will be managing my project?

Managing an outsourced team is difficult enough, with physical distance and time zone differences getting in the way. Having a project manager eases this burden immensely.

The best agencies have a dedicated project manager who acts as a liaison between the client and the agency.

They help the client communicate important information, get updates, and ensure that the project is on time and within budget.

That’s why asking this question is critical – you want to ensure that’s the case.

software development outsourcing vs dedicated remot software development

Source: Qulix

An agency without an assigned project manager is a potential red flag.

It tells you that it will be difficult to communicate with the team, especially if you’re in a hurry.

You probably won’t get regular updates either, which will make you blind to what’s actually happening with your project.

What is your app development process like?

Don’t hesitate to ask the app development agency how they’ll implement your project. After all, it’s your app idea!

It’s important to know how development will progress on your project and when you can expect to get updates. You should be able to determine if the process fits well with your own workflow.

One critical factor to consider is the agency’s software methodology because it affects how involved you can be in your project.

For instance, DECODE champions the Agile methodology.

Sprints 1

Source: DECODE

Here, app development is split into smaller cycles called sprints, each involving the full lifecycle from planning to testing.

It’s an iterative process that gives clients more opportunities to review progress and give feedback.

Now, we’re not saying Agile is a one-size-fits-all approach that every development agency should use.

For instance, a traditional methodology like Waterfall is better for smaller and simpler projects.

It all comes down to aligning the agency’s methodology with your preferences and needs.

How focused will you be on my project?

Most development agencies like to take on multiple projects to maximize their earnings. There’s nothing wrong with this.

But it’s likely to get problematic if developers assigned to your project will simultaneously be working on other projects.

Their attention will be divided between different projects, which could negatively affect their output on your app.

Thus, it’s best to ask how committed the agency will be once they accept your project. Anything less than full dedication is a huge red flag.

Ideally, they should have a dedicated team working exclusively on your project. This is how DECODE approaches it.

We only take a set number of clients in a year correlated with the number of employees we have. This ensures that we are fully committed and immersed in every project we do.

And since our developers don’t go back and forth between projects, they can deliver stellar work in a shorter amount of time.

In other words, DECODE’s dedicated team delivers an experience as if you had your own in-house team.

And that’s the level of commitment you should look for in your development agency.

How involved will I be in development?

The level of involvement is something that varies from client to client.

Most clients prefer to be hands-off, leaving the app idea to the agency and just checking the final result. Of course, you should expect a minimal amount of input the team will ask you.

But some want to get more involved, checking progress or giving suggestions daily. In this case, you’d want a more collaborative team with a communication protocol for continuous updates.

Whatever your choice, it must be aligned with the agency’s workflow and approach. And the only way to find out is to ask how involved you should be.

Who will own the intellectual property rights?

One concern most clients have when they outsource the work is ownership.

They fear that since the development team worked on the project, they’re free to claim they own it later on. Worse, they might steal or sell the code to the client’s competitors!

These are all valid because many unscrupulous developers have done this in the past. Thus, raising these concerns is valid before hiring an app development agency.

More specifically, you should ask them the steps they’ll take to ensure you have full ownership of the software.

One easy and common approach is to include ownership clauses in the contract. It should clearly state that you – the client – have the intellectual property rights to the software.

This allows you to sue the agency or its developers should they violate it.

The right way to evaluate an app development agency

We hope these ten questions will help you better evaluate potential app development agencies and find the perfect partner for your project.

If an agency can answer all of these questions thoroughly and in a way that inspires confidence, then you’re well on your way to finding the right partner.

If you would like to get answers to these questions from an experienced app development agency with a proven track record, schedule a free consultation with us today, and let’s talk!

Written by

Marin Luetic


A seasoned software engineering executive, Marin’s role combines his in-depth understanding of software engineering processes (particularly mobile) with product and business strategies. Humbly boasting 20+ years of international experience at the forefront of telecoms, Marin knows how to create and deliver state of the art software products to businesses of all sizes. Plus, his skills as a lifelong basketball player mean he can lead a team to victory. When he’s not hopping from meeting to meeting, you’ll find Marin listening to indie rock, or scouring the latest IT news.

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