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The No-Nonsense Guide To Choosing The Right Mobile App Developer

So, you need to build a mobile app.

You know, a cool one, not extremely pricey, but well designed, sleek and appealing to your target audience.

You have this general product idea even put on paper.

Yet, you are constantly postponing the project once you give a thought about finding and hiring the right mobile app development partner.

You are a product owner, a manager, but far from understanding all the ins and outs of coding.

Asking around for referrals and researching has left you with a big list of prospects, but you still have no clue of how to proceed.

“Do these guys charge more, because they are generally better or because they are popular?” “Does that team even have the qualifications to build the kind of interface I need?” “Can I even trust an offshore software development company?”

Been there, done that, even more than once.

Over 50 mobile app development projects went through our hands. We’ve worked with all kinds of companies – the incredible talents and the not-so-great performers. Loads of lessons learned and insights were gotten in those years.

This post should give you some solid standpoints on where to start when choosing an app development company. These are the exact tested tips we’ve been using on day-to-day basis in our agency.


1. Determine The Region For Outsourcing

Here’s the deal: rockstar developers dwell where they dwell.

Limiting yourself to a very specific region e.g. the East Coast means you are deliberately cutting yourself off a better deal. Communication, cultural and time-zone differences can be easily overcome when you adopt the right approach and mindset.

Our process in this case looks the following way:

Head to – one of the most popular directories for mobile development companies. We particularly like it over the others for an objective feedback/rating system and interviews with clients. That gives you a pretty good idea of what you can expect from a dev company.

Concerning different regions, obviously each one has some specialties worth highlighting:


  • USA and Western Europe – top quality for top bucks.
  • India – in general, low quality with relatively high risks unless you manage to weed out a really great company. In most case you get what you pay. There are always higher risks involved when opting for a low-cost provider.
  • Eastern Europe – high quality for affordable prices. One of the most booming regions for outsourcing with great human capital.

Based on the pros and cons of each region, along with general price range, we suggest opting for the golden mean. Ukraine can be deemed as such based on the quality of the workforce and the amount of global accomplishments including some big name products such as Looksery (acquired by Snapchat), PetCube,, Luciding and others. Ukrainians are typically reliable, pro-active and have a good command of English for flawless communication. Traveling to Ukraine is visa-free for US, Canadian and EU citizens, hence there’s no additional hassle with paperwork involved.

We start with choosing Ukraine as default region on Clutch and browse different listings based on our project goals and company’s expertise.


2. Send Out The Initial “Hi” Email

Found some promising prospects based on the rating, portfolio and clients’ feedback? Great! Now, send out a few quick “Hi” emails to break the ice.

Keep it simple at this point and don’t go into details, as it’s just the first test. Something like: “Hey, I’m looking for a development team to build my social travel app for iOS. Would be interested to know more about your services.”


3. Assess The Replies

The main goal of of such a quick chat is to assess the team’s communication skills. Here are the top points to pay attention to:

    • Speed of reply. Getting an email back on the same day or on the next one if you’ve contacted them late is an initially good sign.
    • Mutual understanding. Do we speak the same language? Did they understand the product goals and are willing to understand the specifics? Based on the questions/comments you’ve gotten from the company in return you should get a general idea of how well you can communicate with each other. If you can’t get along well during the negotiation processes, that will likely result into massive troubles later into the project.
    • Does each team member speak English? During the scope of the project you’ll have to deal with PMs, designers and even developers. Ideally, all of them should be capable of conversing in English to avoid any misunderstandings and mishaps.


4. Ask To Review Some Case Studied or Recent Projects

A match made in heaven is when a mobile app development company has already made projects in your niche e.g. travel. Understanding the target audience and market specifics is essential for crafting a truly great product. As well, that would reduce the time needed for communicating the required goals and task and the right toolkit for building the product.

5. Question Them About Their Workflow

What sets an app development company apart from a freelancer is that the first ones usually have a powerful set of established business processes, governing each and every aspect of development.

Ask your prospects about the UX/UI principles they deploy, what kind of PM methodology do they use or simply request some of the team members to walk you through their day-to-day chores, specifically commenting on what tools and principles they adopt.

At this point you should have an impression that you are dealing with actual professionals, who deploy a systematic approach to app development.

6. Talk About Testing

My mobile app was built with no bugs…said no product owner ever.

Obviously, robust testing is essential for creating excellent products. Hence, inquire how do they test mobile apps. Let them show the tools, devices and protocols they plan to use and allow them to guide you through the overall process e.g. first we do X, than we check it with tool Y and so on.

7. Ask For References

Being willing to set you up with former clients and being transparent about the experience is a good sign.

You can ring up their former client with the following questions to get a better picture of how your collaboration will roll:

  • Have you been satisfied with the collaboration processes and the results?
  • How were you involved in the work process?
  • Did the team understand the product idea quickly? Did they offer any recommendations on how to make your product faster/better/cheaper, which functions to add/ditch?
  • Can you rate the team’s qualification on a 1 to 5 scale?
  • Did you like their reporting and meetings during the project?
  • The big question – will you re-hire them for developing a new app?


8. Analyze The Proposed NDA and Legal Contract

Those two are the most crucial documents, which define whether we’ll go for it with a company or not. Read and re-read them carefully. Make sure those depict your view of the project accurately (not the way the development company sees it). In case of any emergencies, these are the documents you can appeal to. Additionally, do consult with a legal professional to get all the clauses right.

As well, it’s always worth asking whether the development company has a US-based sub-branch and if the contract could be made via that company to have more protection of your intellectual rights.

9. Pay Attention to The Imposed Financial Obligations

Do you understand and agree on the payment plan? Does the upfront sum seem reasonable? When and based on which criteria the final payment should be made?

Typically, the industry’s standard upfront payment is 20%-30% of the grand total of the contract.


10. Ask to Pay a Visit or Have a Virtual Tour

You shouldn’t actually get on the plane (unless you want to), but asking whether the company feels comfortable with showing you around is another great block towards building trust.

A virtual sneak-peek inside the office will give you a better idea of what kind of the company you are going to deal with and how transparent they are.

Now you have it, a simple, yet efficient checklist to hire a great mobile app development company for your next project. What’s your take on this? How do you weed out shady developers and screen the ideal candidates?

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