How to Choose the Perfect Mobile Agency

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Aik Arutunian

26 Jan 2017 - 7 min read

We continue our series of “how–to” articles on mobile app development. Last time we talked about how much it costs to build an app. This time we’ll get into details of how to find the right mobile agency for your project. Here’s a step–by–step journey from just realizing you need developers, to actually having a shortlist and quotes for your idea or project.

1. Choose the location of your future partner.

That’s the first priority as hourly rates, collaboration models and approaches can vary widely, by country and even by city.   The location of your future development company has a dramatic influence on app development cost and approach.  Do a Google search with different keywords, keep it specific, since many app development agencies are very vague about their services.

You have options, though, so here are some of the considerations that may go along with them:

  • A local development company would be an ideal choice. Same language, same time zone, common cultural values, but at a higher cost, especially if you live in the US, UK or Australia. The prices can vary by an order of magnitude. If budget is not the principal decision factor – local companies may be the one–stop decision for you.  USA:  $120 to $200; EU:  $50 to $100
  • Eastern Europe and Latin America are worth your attention as optimal locations on both cost and quality. Both represent a great talent pool, skilled engineers, strong management – all boosted by high market competition. English fluency may vary from a company to another, but in most cases, you’ll be given the opportunity to communicate with the development team before you move forward with the project.  $25 to $50 an hour.
  • If you’re tech-savvy enough and have a detailed spec, India/Pakistan/Philippines may be your viable option. However, do not expect them to be extra–creative with your project, and mind the language barrier. More often than not developers are not fully fluent in English, and that can result in some miscommunication.  $10 to $20 an hour.

Bear in mind the time zone differences, as they will largely affect both you and the development team. Synchronize the timing so that the work is effective. A good mobile agency will shift their working hours to have a more comfortable overlap with you.


2. Ask for recommendations

Word of mouth is one of the most underrated methods of seeking great service providers. If you have a professional network apply some due diligence and you’ll surely find someone who has done business with mobile strategy and app development companies before. You’ll get good reviews and bad – try to make a reasonable choice, not an emotional one. Remember you aren’t spending money with the people providing reviews.

3. Look through catalogs

This is another great way of finding real, proven experts (and, probably, your perfect mobile agency) in the industry. Catalogs are usually very careful about who they rank.  They cover agencies that care about their reputation and their customers and have great visible profiles. Moreover, some catalogs like Appfutura, TheyMakeApps, CrunchBase offer services for contacting, pitching and even paying for your projects. You can leave your review for those you’ve worked with to help others choose. All safe and secure, easily managed.

4. Find companies that factor UI/UX design into costs

Working out project requirements and going through user experience design all by yourself is very time–consuming. Which is why we’d recommend working with someone who offers a workflow reflected by wireframing, prototyping and mockups. UI/UX is key for mobile apps. That’s the basis of how your user interacts with your software. There’s no room for bad decisions here.

Your future development partner should ideally have expertise with both UI/UX design AND development. However, you’re free to turn to a number of different providers for those two services.

5. Check product portfolios

Product portfolios are often explicitly presented on developer websites. It is important to note that some projects may not be included in public portfolios owing to non-disclosure agreements.   Check Dribbble and Behance portfolios to have a look at what your future partner has done in terms of design. Both freelancers and top-notch web and mobile developers maintain great portfolios there.  Here’s our portfolio to get you started.

See how it all works, take your time to browse, contact a few of them to “test the waters” with prices and timeframes. As soon as you get more comfortable and get more info on what’s next – move on.

At this stage, you should have a shortlist of 5–7 app development companies. If it’s more – try narrowing down again to save some time and effort. If it’s less – do more research, you will definitely find more mobile agencies to do business with.

Bonus tip:

A good idea would be to do some research via social media. That will give you the understanding of WHO the people you’re going to work with are. That really gives some insights.  Do you want real people? Or, faceless bots? Read blogs, get to know more about what you’re going to do and who may have to do it.

6. Ask for quotes, beware the cheapest

“What?! Don’t I look for the cheapest?” – you say. No, you don’t. You don’t want your project to be cheap, you want it cost–effective. There are too many factors to software development to only chase the lowest prices. Neither should you look for the most expensive mobile agency. To make the right choice, spend some time talking with the representative – you’ll see right away whether what they offer is worth their price.

Contact the agencies you shortlisted and ask them for a quote. Make sure you provide the maximum information available about your project. This must include the business case for your app – the problems you aim to solve, internally or for your customers.  Are you looking to increase sales?  Get into a new market?  Improve customer engagement and loyalty?  Maybe it’s to automate time-consuming or other expensive tasks?  Supporting statistics are extremely valuable.

They will need this information to better serve you and give you a precise estimate. Pay attention to how soon and who contacts you back. Ideally, that should be a dedicated manager, who gets back to you within hours (if you contacted via contact form/email).

Good agencies assign a manager to every client… because they care and strive to deliver the best experience possible. Check the offer they send you. Is it viable? Is it branded and well–designed? Has thought really been put into it?  But there’s one more extremely important thing that they should be presenting to you…

7.   Strategy

While there is a lot that goes into developing an app, the most important things spring into motion once you have it! There are really 3-4 parts to mobile app strategy.

  • The first ties into supporting your business case.  How will the app do that?  To this, one would want to add investigating whether your customers like the idea for the app – if that has not been done already.  That’s a critical component of developing a Minimum Viable Product.  That may not be your intention, but it is definitely worth your consideration.
  • Integrating the app into your existing business activities.  What happens to the information you gather from your app?  Where does it go, how will it be used?  Where the app serves as a front end to your business, it needs to jive with everything on the back-end.  Likewise, your SOP may need to be revised to include new features and functions enabled by your new app.
  • What’s the plan to get your app into the hands of your intended audience?  This gets into marketing and distribution, suffice that these activities must also fit into your overall budget.
  • Iteration – or how will the app continue to be developed and improved upon to improve its performance and/or add more features?

These and possibly other components should also be addressed by your developer before you get started.  You can get a good idea about your developer’s experience from what they volunteer about these issues, and what they don’t bring up.

The core thing, though, is that the developer will be your expert on the technical side.  They don’t necessarily need to know your business inside and out as long as you do. Many features and functions all work the same whether they are done for car rental companies or airlines, online games or investment brokers.

8. Pretty much done!

Now you have a shortlist of the most suitable development agencies for your app or web project, and a list of quotes for your app idea or project. If you’re still undecided, try getting it all on paper in a single comparison table. Sift through the offers you get and contact the ones that really get you wanting to work with them. Spend some time communicating and learning more about their team, processes, and values.  That investment will return tenfold. If the budget/timeframes are suitable and you’re comfortable with the people– you’ve found your best software development company.

Not sure what comes next: how to choose your collaboration model and define software development project roles? Fret not, we answer these questions in our next article in this series.

There's a Better Way to Manage Your Mobile Business

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