Mobile apps are changing the way businesses communicate and market to their customers. Having a well designed and useful mobile app for your business can be a huge asset. But you need to find the right professionals to create it.
If you’re looking at hiring a business app developer to create a dedicated mobile app for your business, take a look at these tips first.
Hiring a Business App Developer
Make Sure You Actually Need an App
Having an app for your business may sound like a fun idea. But if it’s not going to be useful to customers, it can be an expensive mistake. So before hiring a business app developer, consider whether simply having a mobile friendly site might be sufficient for your needs.
Jon-Mikel Bailey of Wood Street, Inc. said in an email to Small Business Trends, “At Wood Street, we spend more time talking people out of apps than into them. Not because we don’t want to design apps but because we don’t build to build something that our client does not need.”
Make Sure Your Customers Will Use It
If you’re not sure whether or not your customers would actually use the app you have in mind, it can be a good idea to do some market research first. By talking to customers, you can also potentially get some ideas for what they want in an app, should they think it’s necessary. And that could impact what kind of developer you choose to hire as well.
Consult Experts in Web Development
Experts in Web design and user experience can also help guide your decision. Even if you haven’t decided on a business app developer yet, talk to a few people or to your web development team to see if they think a mobile app is necessary. Bailey says, “Designing an app for the sake of saying your business has an app is a waste of time and money. An expert will be better equipped to get you to some sort of return on investment — whether that be money made, market share, or brand awareness.”
Make Sure Your App Solves a Problem for Customers
If people are going to actually use your app, you need to give them a reason to do so. What can your app offer that your website can’t, and that no other company is doing as well as you? Having a main purpose for your app in mind before hiring someone to create it can help the process tremendously.
Create Something That Complements Your Website
Since an app is similar to a website, but just built for a specific mobile platform, it should be something that complements or works with your main site.
Try Your Web Developer First
For that reason, it can be beneficial to go right to the people who put together your website in the first place. They’re familiar with your company and your site. And if you were happy with the experience of working with them on that project, you’re likely to be equally satisfied when working with them to build an app. Just make sure that app development is something they actually offer and have experience in.
Be Wary of Directories
There are some online directories of app developers out there if you don’t know where to start your search. But being listed on one of these directories doesn’t necessarily mean that the developer is reputable. So do your research if you’re going to go that route. Bailey says, “I’m sure there are reputable directories and listing sites out there but you still don’t know whether the companies on their list have been truly vetted.”
Seek Out Referrals
Instead, Bailey thinks a better route would be to reach out to other business owners and see if they have suggestions for a business app developer they’ve used and been happy with. He says, “Reach out on places like LinkedIn to see if anyone would recommend an app designer and why. A referral is still one of the best and most trusted resources for finding quality vendors, as long as you trust the source.”
Build for the Platform(s) Your Customers Use
Of course, any business app developer you hire should have experience building for the platform that you want to use for your app. If you know that most of your customers use Android phones, that’s probably the type of developer you need. If you want something built for both Android and iOS, find a developer that works with both.
Understand the User Experience
A good designer should be able to understand the experience that you want to create for your users. But they should also be well versed in creating that type of user experience.
Decide on the App’s Main Purpose
Part of creating that experience is focusing on the one thing that your app does better than anything else. What is the thing that your customers are most likely to do with your app? That should be the main focus. If your developer understands that and has shown the ability to do that in other apps, you’ve likely found a good one. Bailey says, “The app designer needs to understand that a good app must do one thing very well instead of a bunch of things okay.”
Don’t Try to Add in Too Many Features
Once you’ve found the one feature that your app should focus on, allow the rest to fall to the background. That doesn’t mean that your app can’t have other features, but they don’t all need to be visible on the main screen. A phone screen doesn’t have too much room for clutter.
Always Review Your Developer’s Research
You should also look into your developer’s history with researching apps. If they are going to be able to create something truly unique for you, they have to be able to figure out what else is out there in your industry. Bailey says, “They need to be able to see what the competition is for your app idea and if, after identifying that, it is still a worthwhile endeavor to build the app.”
Always Check Your Developer’s References
To find out if previous clients have been happy with a developer’s work, you should check their references. See if they have testimonials listed on their site or just ask them for some past clients you can contact.
Ask About Their Previous Successes
You can also learn a lot from speaking to the developers themselves. Find out about the apps they feel have been most successful and why. If they bring up things like user experience and researching competitors, you’ve likely found someone who will work for you.
Look at Examples of Their Work
Aside from just finding out if clients were happy with a developer, you should also look at the work itself. Is it similar in style to what you see for your brand? Is the work of the quality that you would expect?
Don’t Get Hung Up on Visual Details
While visuals are important, it’s something that can be easily changed and customized for each client. So when looking at a developer’s portfolio, don’t necessarily write them off because the colors or other design elements aren’t your taste, since that was likely just what that particular client wanted. Instead, focus more on the usability and overall experience.
Look at Apps They’ve Designed Within Your Industry
You could put a little more weight onto the apps that are relevant to your industry or major app function though. If a designer has shown that they can successfully build an app that’s at least somewhat similar to what you’re looking for, that’s a positive step. Bailey says, “A good app designer should be able to develop any type of app. That said, it’s a good idea to see examples of their designs. Also, ask to see if they have clients in your industry, even if they were not app clients and were web design or development clients.”
Find a Developer with Whom You Communicate Well
Communication is also another important part in the process. You’ll almost certainly need to go back and forth with ideas and revisions. So you need to find a developer that hears you and communicates their own points effectively with you as well. Your initial contact with each business app developer should give you some kind of idea if you’ll be a good match.
Have an Idea How You Would Like the Process to Go
You should also think about how you’d like the process to go and how you’ll best work with a developer. Do you like being able to just email ideas over whenever you think of something or would you rather set up specific meetings to discuss those things? Figure out what process works best for you and find a developer that is comfortable with that.
But Ask About Their Process As Well
Alternatively, you might want to hire a developer based on their work and other factors and just allow them to work however they get the most done. Just find out about their process first and make sure it’s something that you’re comfortable with.
Consider Your Time Frame
You’ll also need to think about the time frame that you have for creating your app. If you have a specific release date in mind, like one that would coincide with a major launch date, you’ll need to find a developer that will work with that deadline.
Don’t Always Look for the Lowest Price
Price should be a consideration, as it is with most things in business. But good app developers charge what they do for a reason. If you go with a low-budget option, that could show to your customers who use the app.
Be Sure to Discuss Ownership of the App
Before agreeing to work with any particular business app developer, you should have a clear contract that states the ownership of the app once it’s completed. If you want your business to be in full control, have that clearly spelled out.
Make Sure the Finished Product is an Essential Resource
Overall, a good business app developer should be someone who has a clear vision for your company’s app. Successful apps are those that people come back to again and again. So always keep that in mind when hiring an app developer. Bailey says, “A successful website needs to be a resource for the target audience. An app is no different. You want your app to be something the user will pin to their home screen and access regularly. Will yours be that app? If not, you might want to go back to the drawing board.”
App photo via Shutterstock