How to hire a mobile app agency

12 min read
November 5, 2021

We’ve covered before why working with a reputable mobile app agency is the best move to bring your project to reality. Their collective genius, flexibility, and thorough testing can drastically improve the quality of your app.

But once you’ve decided to work with one, what’s next? How do you maximize what they offer?

This sequel article will go through the best practices and approaches when working with mobile app agencies. And it starts with a bit of introspection and brainstorming.

Decide what kind of app you want

First things first: what kind of app do you want or need? 

Knowing this information is vital because it forms the foundation of every other decision you’ll ever make for your app, such as budgets, timelines, and features.

Figuring out your vision from the get-go is also essential to counter one harrowing statistic: 99.5% of consumer apps fail.

Apps

Source: Fyresite

And one of the biggest reasons for failure is that the app is not the right fit for its intended users. Or, in the words of this Entrepreneur article: it doesn’t actually solve a problem.

Figuring out your ideal app starts with your goal for it. You can ask the following questions:

  • What purpose are you trying to achieve? 
  • What problem is it trying to address? 
  • Who are its intended users?

The last point–your users–is arguably the most critical. 

Creating an app that addresses their needs, wants, and pain points is the most effective way of dramatically improving your app retention rates.

But it’s best not to simply guess or assume things about your users. Instead, you should get their insights directly through market research, interviews, and surveys

This is especially crucial if you’re developing an app meant for a foreign or niche market since you need to consider their cultural nuances in your app’s design.

For example, say you were creating an e-commerce app for the cannabis market. You might discover that customers value being discreet, so you implement that into your app. 

However, if you didn’t know this and designed your app otherwise, you’d risk alienating these users.

You should also think about how your mobile app fits with your overall business goals and where it fits into your marketing funnel. 

This helps you further decide which features to include. 

For example, is your app meant to increase your user base? Then consider integrating a referral scheme.

The bottom line is that you should not disregard this app planning step. Doing so is like building a house without a blueprint – the results will be unpredictable and catastrophic!

Plan your preliminary budget

Once you have a concrete plan of your app in place, the next question is: will it be financially feasible? 

To figure this out, you need to estimate your app’s development costs.

Now, what you need to know about app costs is that they vary wildly due to several factors. 

The app’s overall complexity is undoubtedly one of the most significant cost contributors. 

That’s because it ultimately determines the scope, scale, and feature list the app needs. 

More features mean more work, longer development times, and higher developer costs. 

Integrations with other systems, visual design, and 3D animation are extra features that also influence the bill. That’s because these often require adding specialists to the development team.

The decision of whether to go native or cross-platform also plays a role. 

Generally, cross-platform apps are faster and cheaper to create but with a performance trade-off. 

On the other hand, native apps take longer and cost more but produce the best app experiences.

You can see this cost divide clearly in this chart by AppInventiv:

Comparison of native vs cross-platform app development costs (USD)

Native vs cross-platform comparison

Source: AppInventiv

Finally, where your development team comes from will also impact app costs significantly.

As a rule of thumb, developers from third-world regions like Asia and Africa will charge significantly less than programmers in the US or Europe. 

Offshore software development rates by region

software development rates by region

Source: Fulcrum

Of course, these rates are no indication of quality. There are as many world-class Indian developers as there are mediocre American programmers.

Unfortunately, all of these factors make preliminary budgeting an inexact science. 

Nevertheless, there are practical approaches to get a good ballpark, such as estimating costs based on an app’s complexity. 

Here’s a simple breakdown as calculated by Business of Apps:

App complexity

Source: DECODE

Knowing the factors above can help you make a more accurate preliminary budget. 

But before we move on, a point worth mentioning: you should incorporate app maintenance costs into your estimates. 

Investors often forget this to their app’s detriment. As a rule, allot 35% of your total app budget as maintenance expense for the next two years.

Do your homework to find an ideal team

With your app plan and budget in place, it’s now time to find the ideal development team to bring your idea to life

Understandably, it could be an overwhelming task, especially if you haven’t done it before. So, here are some tips to get you started.

The first step is to know the best places to start your search. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of places to look both online and offline. 

The easiest is to head on over to freelance websites like Upwork, Hired, or Freelancer.com

image 3

Source: Upwork

You’re guaranteed to find plenty of app development talent here, but the number of choices can also get pretty overwhelming. 

Sites like Toptal can help by only providing the top 3% of freelance developers. 

When looking for an agency, be mindful to differentiate freelance developers from agencies on these platforms.

You can also try portfolio sites like Dribble and Behance. Though these are for more creative professionals, you can also find app-development agencies there.

image 4

Source: Dribble 

Developer-focused channels on informal sites like Reddit are also an option.

If you want to find the most experienced app agency, though, B2B directory sites like Relevance and Clutch are your best bet. 

Clutch, in particular, gives you helpful information like location, average rates, and the estimated project sizes they’ve worked on.

image 5

Source: Clutch

Lastly, don’t forget to tap the power of your network through platforms like Facebook and Linkedin.

Whichever channel you use, it’s vital to have a stringent vetting process in place. This ensures that you only work with development teams that are the right fit for your project and company.

Start by checking their testimonials and reviews–this is a good indication of their work ethic, output quality, and commitment to finish projects. 

our work

Source: DECODE

Then, if possible, talk to their previous clients and get more information on their experience with the agency.

Even if you’ve found a reputable and experienced agency, it still won’t be a perfect fit if they don’t have the technical skills your project needs. 

For example, you don’t want to trust a fintech app to a developer who hasn’t done it before, no matter how award-winning they are.

So make it a point to check the processes, tech stacks, and tools of every agency you work with. 

No idea what to look for? 

You can use the procedures and practices DECODE uses for new projects as a good template.

Communicate your idea to the team

You have your app vision, and you have your team. It’s now time to combine the two. You do this by communicating your app idea clearly and comprehensively to the development.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating this crucial step. 

Transferring your app vision from your mind to your developer’s is much harder than it looks and requires a deliberate process. 

Miscommunicating your app idea can cause delays, increase development costs, and possibly put an unnecessary workload on your chosen team. 

The worst case is you become the dreaded “client from hell”–the ones who can’t make up their mind and change software specifications on a whim. 

This Hubstaff article accurately describes this type of client. 

Even though it’s from a freelancer’s perspective, it’s worth reading, so you know the things to avoid doing.

But the most significant benefit of clear communication of your app idea is that an experienced development team can potentially improve upon it. 

For example, they can suggest features, different tech stacks, or make other suggestions to enhance your app’s quality or lower its cost.

Some agencies, like DECODE, can even help you with product discovery, so you can polish your app idea together.

image 7

Source: DECODE

Here are some tips to help you communicate your app idea to developers better.

First, try to find a similar app already available in the market and use that as a comparison point

Doing this can give developers a rough idea of your app vision. For example, if you’re planning to create a ride-hailing app specifically for motorcycles, you can describe it as “the Uber for motorcycles.”

Next, try to describe your app’s value proposition

This is a single statement that indicates the most significant benefit users will get from your app. 

For example, you can describe the vision of your weight loss app as “getting fit and healthy in as little as 15 minutes a day.” You should then follow this up with the list of features you want in your app.

Third, discuss important app specifics with your team. 

One important consideration is your app’s monetization strategy–will you earn money through ads or in-app purchases?

Monetization methods used by popular apps

monetization methods

Source: Sweetpricing

You should also discuss if you plan to integrate your app with other platforms, which is a common requirement for fintech projects like banking or personal finance apps.

Lastly, consider using tools to help development teams visualize your app idea better. 

For example, you can try looking at MVP plans and flow charts.

Establish communication channels

Communication doesn’t just stop once you’ve provided the development team with your app idea. Constant updates between clients and developers are the foundation for app success.

One good sign that a mobile developer is a committed collaborator is that they provide constant communication. 

For example, they should give you regular updates on project tasks or ask you for feedback for critical design decisions.

That’s precisely what we do at DECODE. We often initiate frequent update calls and encourage our clients to do the same. 

how we work

Our services →

To keep things simple, we group what we offer into four areas: product discovery, wireframing and design, software engineering, and quality assurance.

While we opt for Slack and Google Hangouts by default, we can adapt to whatever communication platform they prefer.

Of course, there needs to be a balance on both sides. Regular updates are nice, but they shouldn’t be too frequent. As a rule of thumb, three updates on a task that takes around a week to finish is good enough.

The bottom line is that a team that prioritizes transparency and communication will make you feel that they’re part of your company. It’s like you never outsourced at all.

Agree on a project timeline

The timeline is arguably one of the most important agreements you need to establish early on with your development team. 

But to arrive at a schedule that works, you need to get an idea of how long it takes to develop an app.

Like with app costs, development time depends on a range of factors, including app complexity and the skill of your development team. And that’s just for the estimates. 

In the real world, things like miscommunication and sudden changes in project requirements can stretch your schedule even further.

To give you a rough idea, roughly half of all app projects take around 4 – 6 months to complete before launch. 

This is just one of the many findings of a survey done by AppInventiv:

Average app development time before launch

average app development time before launch

Source: AppInventiv

On average, apps with basic functionality and straightforward screens (think calculator or alarm apps) should only take a maximum of 10 weeks to finish. 

In contrast, complex apps with real-time features, heavy graphics, or API integration (think Instagram or Uber) can take a year or more of development time.

However, remember that all these figures are just estimates and generalizations. Never rely on them 100%. 

Only you and your development team can determine an accurate timetable that accounts for your situation.

Also, don’t be surprised if you arrive at a timetable that’s 2-3 times longer than your estimates (because of something called the planning fallacy). 

The best way to determine your development schedule is to break your app down into features. 

Doing this is beneficial since it’s easier and more accurate to estimate how long it will take to develop a single component than the whole. 

And don’t forget app testing. As a rule of thumb, it should take up 25% of an app’s development time.

Lastly, remember that your cost estimate will probably be more optimistic than realistic. So it’s a good idea to increase it by a further 30% to account for risks and delays.

Make sure your mobile app agency is a great fit

A mobile app agency is more than just a service provider you hire. They’re your partners in developing the best app possible. 

Taking the above tips to heart can make that partnership much stronger and fruitful.

Of course, it all depends on getting the right mobile agency in the first place—one that has the experience, commitment, and professionalism to see your project through.

We’d like to believe that we’re that kind of mobile app agency. If you’d like to find out, why not schedule a consultation call with us? Let’s talk about your next app project and see if we’re a great match.

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Written by

Mario Zderic

Co-founder and COO

Mario makes every project run smoothly. A firm believer that people are DECODE’s most vital resource, he naturally grew into the role of People Operations Manager. Now, his encyclopaedic knowledge of every DECODEr’s role, and his expertise in all things tech, powers him to manage his huge range of responsibilities as COO. Part developer, and seemingly part therapist, Mario is always calm under pressure, which helps to maintain the office’s stress-free vibe. In fact, sitting and thinking is his main hobby. What’s more Zen than that?

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