Finding an app developer can be hard work. Developers who understand your business and know how to work with you to achieve your goals while using cutting-edge technology are rare.

It’s natural to have a Google for an easy solution.

What can you expect to find? Tonnes of blog posts offering the same generic tips for finding app developers. They say use local developers, steer away from cookie-cutter quick fixes, make sure the developer has a showreel and actual app experience… snore!

After discussing this issue with a new client of ours, I took a moment to reflect on what I have learnt about application development from a product management standpoint.

Unsurprisingly, when I put myself in our client’s shoes loads of insights found their way into my Apple Notes. Then I thought, “Hey! I could actually write a post with probing questions that could help entrepreneurs find great app developers.”

And here we are.

First, some context. App development is a complex beast to tackle, especially for those budding entrepreneurs who have stumbled upon a great app idea they want to take to market. The app product cycle is an enduring one. Projects often stretch over months and stakeholders become distracted with the “bells and whistles”, instead of getting a viable product across the line.

App projects need to be focused and stick to scope to ensure they are deployed on time and on budget. Projects completed in stages will help finance the next round of enhancements and functionality. It’s often a hard truth that app owners need to keep allocating resources for the lifetime of the app. Data will predict UX challenges that will in turn drive ongoing technology and platform updates.

So, I’ve drummed up some curly questions to surprise the next app developer you approach for a consult.  I like to call it the “App Developer Quiz.”

  • Check their core technologies

Ask developers what core technologies they are proposing and what are the business benefits associated with using the proposed stack.

A stack example is Reactjs (frontend library), Nodejs (sever middleware) and Firebase (nosql database). Each of these programing assets fuse together nicely and provide a robust and flexible foundation to build web applications.

They should present multiple options. If they don’t, there are two possible reasons. The first, and most likely, is that they are only developing one stack. The second, they have a group of technologies selected that is perfectly suited to your case… and they should give you a great explanation why.

Question: How do these core technologies specifically apply to my short and long term business goals?

  • Discuss use of Third Party API’s

Developers shouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel. In our experience, the greatest developers leverage the best available systems to support the business logic of your application.

By integrating with existing third party API’s, like Google Maps (Geolocation), Google Cloud Platform (image storage), Mandrill (email service), Plivo (SMS) and Stripe (Payment) etc, the application can support the majority of the required business functionality.

API interactivity is the reason we are all so connected. It’s what we’ve come to rely upon when posting, pinning, ordering, making a reservation or booking a flight.

Question: What API’s are you proposing to achieve the required business logic? What are the fees and upkeep associated with these?

  • Ask about Agile Product Management

Agile is a tried and tested methodology that advocates the regular delivery of value to the stakeholder (you, the client.. the most important person in this process!). App developers following agile PM break projects down into bite-sized chunks focusing on developing a functionality or achieving a user story.

Iterative development promotes quality and flexibility through a design, develop and test cycle. The added benefit is that these sprints or milestones can be married up with staged payments, post stakeholder sign-offs as well as frequent project progress reports via burn-down charts.

Question: How often will I get to see progress reports and at what stages will I be delivered value (get to test product)?

  • Determine if they are disciples of Digital Marketing

Good app developers should be across technical SEO. Web applications won’t be able to be found in search if the HTML code isn’t running on a server. It simply won’t rank in Google because the bots can’t crawl the code. By (universally) rendering the application’s code on both the server and in the browser, web applications can deliver snappy UI interactions and be discoverable in search.

Ongoing analytics programs are critical post launch to track your application’s engagement. This can be done via heatmaps, recordings and customer surveys. This determines if your app is delivering a great customer experience.  App developers with knowledge of the entire digital ecosystem will save you hassle and money further down the line.

Question: Will my web application be indexed by Google and what optimisation service post launch do you offer?

  • Do they manage scope intelligently?

It is natural for entrepreneurs and product owners to become more educated and informed as the application takes shape. By meeting with developers, conducting independent research, attending industry conferences and talking to potential customers, their desired features list begins to bloat. This is inevitable and needs to be managed intelligently by the developer.

Scope creep is a natural occurrence. Good developers flag scope creep immediately. They should also offer full transparency when tackling scope adjustments.

Question: What process is there to support adding new features/ enhancements during the project?

  • See if they back the app idea 100%

Commonly, entrepreneurs have not formalised the detailed specifications of their app idea. This is often because they are not across the tech possibilities and limitations. You may learn a lot about the opportunities of your idea by going through the initial scoping stages.

If the developer has buy-in, you’re on a winner. If the developer can suggest great add-ons and can define a long-term strategy to ensure the application is scalable for future growth, you’re onto a winner. If the developer understands the bigger picture  you’re heading in the right direction.

Questions: Why will the technologies chosen for this application help it succeed? What future opportunities does this project open up for expansion into other markets?

  • Discuss testing. Then, discuss it some more!

Testing is so important! There is a plethora of systematic testing that needs to occur before the customer performs user testing on a staging environment.

Thorough developers perform unit testing, code path testing, component testing, integration testing and system testing. A QA team will perform usability, security and performance testing. A developers should ensure rigorous in-house testing cycles are complete before giving explicit instructions and guidance to the product owner when setting up the user testing sessions.

Question: What types of testing and how much of the budget goes towards conducting these tests before I perform user testing?

In a nutshell, make sure you find someone you can partner with for the long haul! This developer must have the performance, scalability and maintainability of your application as their highest priorities. They must also want the app to be successful as you do!

If you’re ready to find a digital partner to bring your app idea to life contact the team at BirdBrain for a chat.