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How to Make Your Own Mobile App with the Right Developer

Rob Nightingale 02-10-2015

Inside everyone of us could well be the idea for the next best-selling mobile application. Once you have that incredible idea penned out, with the wireframes and designs ready to go, you’ll next need to find the developer that can turn your vision into reality.


This easy to follow guide will help you do just that.

App developers can be found throughout every nook and cranny of the Internet. From kids charging $5 per hour working from their bedroom, to unbelievably skilled individuals who are well worth their premium rate.

As a newcomer to the application development world, finding your way around this industry can be a struggle. Sifting through the developers who’ll be clambering over each other to work on your project requires careful deliberation.

Ask Yourself the Following Questions

Before getting in contact with any app developer, you first need to understand a few things not just about the mobile app world Designing A Breakthrough App? 7 Mobile Development Blogs You Should Read The mobile space is so new that trends are constantly shifting and new insights are made every day. If you plan to develop mobile apps, how can you keep up without going mad? Read More , but about your own project;

1. Have You Defined the Project?

You need to articulate the vision of your application, jargon-free, in a way that any good developer will be able to understand. The document you draw up will be called the Request for Proposal (RFP), and should help the developer or agency create an accurate proposal for you. Depending on how much information is within the RFP, you may want to request the developer to sign a confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement (NDA) first.


The RFP should include information such as any existing software or platforms that the app has to work with. The number of users you expect. Any wireframes and designs you have (some developers offer design services, though I would recommend working with a specialist designer for this). Whether you expect the app to be native or HTML 5. The operating system (OS) you are targeting first.

The more information, the better, but don’t make it too lengthy.

2. Are You Ready for a Developer?

An independent developer only really develops the app. You will also need access to (if you haven’t already) UI and UX designers, and usability testers. If you have the budget, you will need marketers too. You may also need to work with illustrators, artists, consultants, information architects, or web developers.

Whether you have the designs for the app drawn up before or after choosing your developer, it’s imperative that whichever developer you hire fits in perfectly with your team, and the culture you want to cutivate.


3. Is Your Budget Realistic?

The cost of app development varies widely. It depends on both the expertise of the developer, and the complexity of the project. As extremely rough figures, a developer located in India, hired to create a very simple app, would likely charge anything upward $3000 (assuming an hourly rate of around $25. The hourly rate in the US is many times higher).

If you’re looking for a small app development team based in a Western country, to work on a slightly more complex app, you’ll be looking well into the five-figure range, often going into six-figures if you choose to work with a larger agency.

If your budget doesn’t even stretch as far as a couple of thousand dollars, perhaps it’s time to learn how to code your own app So, You Want To Develop Android Apps? Here's How To Learn After so many years, one would think that the mobile market is now saturated with every app imaginable to man - but that's not the case. There are plenty of niches that still need to... Read More , starting from the very basics So You Want To Make iPhone Apps? 10 Projects For Beginners Want to create iPhone and iPad apps? Start by learning the basics of Swift. Read More .

4. Is Your Timeframe Realistic?

According to BlurGroup,


the average completion time of app development projects from the initial brief to project delivery is only 42 days, with the completion time of a Tablet app averaged at 31 days and Social app development being the shortest (only 28 days)”.

This is much quicker than most people expect, but these figures are dependent on your project being worked on full time, as well as both you and the developer being highly competent.

If this is your first time in app development, with your app simply being a side-project, you should at least double this timeframe, with additional time being added for user testing.

Finding Potential Developers

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 12.48.23

Once you’ve answered the previous questions, you’ll know roughly what you’re looking for in a developer, and what you’ll need to demand of yourself throughout this journey.


Next, open a dialogue with some developers who you’ll consider hiring to turn your idea into a working app. There are various ways to locate these developers, with a preferable option being a direct referral from someone you trust. If you can’t find a decent referral, the list below (which assumes you are looking for a smaller team, or freelance developer) should help:

  1. AppFutura
  2. UpWork
  3. ContractIQ
  4. Freelancer
  5. Guru
  6. Crew
  7. LinkedIn
  8. Smashing Magazine

If your budget is higher (i.e. six-figures), and you’re looking to work with a larger, reputable agency, those with high Google Rankings will often be good to talk with. Asking those larger agencies the same set of questions as listed below is also advised.

Ask Developers These Questions

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 12.51.30

Now you’ve got a list of prospective developers in play, you need to narrow those down not just to a short-list, but to an individual or company who’ll take the reigns with your project and deliver exactly what you need.

To help sift out the chaff from your long-list, ask the developer whatever you need to know, plus the following questions. This is a technical interview 4 Things to Remember for Your Next Technical Interview I recently had an interview (for a summer internship) for which I was told beforehand I needed to bring a pencil in case there were coding questions. I was particularly nervous about the last bit... Read More , after all. Their answers to the following will be telling, and will be a great aid in picking the right developer straight away.

1. Where Can I See Relevant Examples Of Your Work?

Any decent app developer will have work they’re proud of, and should be excited to introduce you to those apps. Make sure that you’re given app-store links, so you can play around with the apps yourself, see how they work, and read the reviews that have been left.

When looking at previous work, be vigilant. Make sure that the developer played a key role in the development of those apps, and look for specific features within the apps that prove the developer is capable of producing what you need.

2. Can You Provide References?

Only by speaking with other people who’ve worked with the app developer will you know what working with them is like. Ideally, you will be able to speak to people who’s app you have already had the chance to use.

Find out from these past clients why they picked that specific developer, how long the app took to develop, whether it ran over budget or deadline. Whether there were any surprises along the way. You should also get to know the work-ethic of the developer.

How fast do they reply to messages,? How do they take feedback? Do they bring their own ideas to the table? Would you work with them again?

Every positive answer will help your decision.

3. What Makes You Stand Out?

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 13.16.37

When looking at the resumes and technical skills of many experienced designers, it may be hard to distinguish between them. So ask this question to put the onus on the developer to explain what makes them different. This gives them their chance to get across their passion, their love of the work, and the kind of person they really are.

4. How Will Communication Work?

If the designer works alone, find out their preferred method and frequency of communication. This could be phone, Skype, Slack (read some valuable Slack project management tips How To Use Slack For Project Management With These Simple Tips With Slack's clever set of features and distraction-free user interface, the platform can double up as a project management tool for you. Learn how to set it up as your online personal assistant. Read More ), or some other project management platform. If you already have your own communication channel set up, make sure they are willing to dive into that.

If you’re going to be working with a team, find out who your first point of contact will be? And how communication will be managed between everyone in that team.

5. How Long Will The Project Realistically Take?

Find out from each developer how long they believe the project will take. Ideally, once you’ve received replies from a few developers, you’ll start to see a consensus, giving you a better idea of the real timeframe you’re looking at.

Make sure they expand on their answer, and find out what they will need from you before work can begin, and what is the most likely cause of a potential holdup. If there is a holdup, how will that affect the original quote, if at all?

6. What Do You Look For In a Customer?

Hiring a developer is a two-way relationship. Not only must they be right for you, but you must also be right for them.

Take, for example, a developer who looks for a customer who offers them the freedom to experiment, or to be creative with their solutions. If you simply want someone who will just get the job done to your exact specifications, you may want to hire someone else.

This is often overlooked when it comes to hiring a developer, but is incredibly important if you want to create a working relationship that’s fruitful for both parties.

7. What New Things Are You Learning Right Now?

It’s through this question that you can discover the real passion and drive that the developer has. If they aren’t really learning anything new, are they really committed to this industry? Will they be able to keep your app up to date?

To check the honesty of the developer’s answer, check out the development of their work over time. If you see continual improvement, you know the developer is someone who’s looking to improve their technical ability 5 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Technical Skills Without Spending a Dime People argue that training costs money - but for technical skills that just isn't true. You can improve your technical skills without paying - assuming you already have internet access that is, which is a... Read More , and who’s willing to experiment. Ask them, too, what new things they learned from their last project, and if they’re experimenting with anything exciting at the moment.

8. What Testing Will Be Included in the Process?

You’re looking for an extensive answer on the testing that will be carried out on the beta version of your app, and the process of fixing any bugs that are discovered, and how long this testing and fixing process will likely take.

9. Who Will Own the Work?

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 13.11.29

This is important. Find out who keeps the license reproduction and copyright of any work Confused About Copyright Law? These Online Resources Can Help It's a confusing subject, yes, but it's important that you wrap your head around it. If you're involved in any sort of creative work, these resources will help you do just that. Read More or designs produced. Ensure that you will also receive all development files for the app, just in case you need another developer to take the reigns, or in case another developer is hired to deal with future upgrades.

Follow governmental sites like U.S. Small Business Administration [Broken Link Removed] to understand the legal aspects. You also need to be aware of app store guidelines for the specific platforms. For e.g. App Store Review Guidelines for iOS.

For any confusion, you can always seek legal counsel online The Best of Internet: Your Search for Expert Legal Help Gets Easier Now [US Only] You may have a lawsuit itching to get out the gates and into the courtroom. You may also be looking for detailed legal information, so you can represent yourself. The Internet is here to help. Read More or offline.

10. What Will You Need From Me?

There will be plenty a developer needs from you before they can start work, so expect a pretty comprehensive list. You’ll likely need to have your designs readily available in certain file formats Know When to Use Which File Format: PNG vs. JPG, DOC vs. PDF, MP3 vs. FLAC Do you know the differences between JPG and PNG, or MP3 and FLAC? If you don't know which file formats to use, let us guide you through their distinctions. Read More , along with comprehensive descriptions of your target audience, the aim of your app, and how you plan to obtain users.

Make sure you can get all of this over to the developer before starting any work, to ensure you’re not the cause of any undue holdups.

11. What Is Your Quote, Terms and Guarantees?

At this stage, you not only need to understand the price (at least a rough figure) of what you’ll be needing to cough up, but exactly what’s included that price.

You need to know how many sets of revisions, or hours of work, are included. You need to know what happens when delays occur. You have to know when payments will be required (usually you will have to pay a proportion up front, then make future payments when certain milestones are reached). Also find out how prices are calculated for any changes (i.e. additional features) that are made to the project during development, and whether bug-fixes are included, and if so, for how long.

Finally, ask about what guarantees you will have. Is the timeframe guaranteed? Is acceptance onto an App Store guaranteed (is it even their responsibility to submit the app How To Submit Your Own App To The iTunes App Store So you've programmed your first iOS app and you want to get it uploaded and submitted to the iTunes store? Well, as I found out recently, it's not quite as easy as it sounds. The... Read More to the app stores?) These are all things you must understand fully before starting work with a developer. Ask to see a sample contract to double check the small print. Make sure you understand everything fully before signing 3 Ways to Electronically Sign Documents Paperwork doesn't have to be a chore, if it can be handled swiftly and efficiently. In the case of signing documents, it usually isn’t. It’s a hopelessly convoluted process, all for getting a single squiggly... Read More .

12. Can We Have a Call?

Try to reaffirm the answers you receive over a call. By speaking with the client one-to-one you’re much more likely to get a feel for who they are, and whether or not they “get you”.

If they live overseas, using Skype or other VoIP alternatives Cut the Cord With 4 VoIP Phone Plans That Are Cheaper Than Skype Cost-cutting is all the rage at the moment. In this article, we show you how four VoIP cheap alternatives could help slash your telecommunications bill. Read More will save you money on calls.

Moving Forward

Granted, there are a lot of questions above, and you’ll have to take the time to go through each proposal you receive carefully. Many developers will shy away from answering in such detail, so you’ll know that those who do will be genuinely excited to work with you.

By picking the right app developer, the running of your entire project will be infinitely less stressful and more successful. Throughout the entire development process, you will still need to offer plenty of feedback, and work closely with the developer. Along with this, you’ll also need to start working on the marketing and PR side of your app to get everything ready for launch.

To help you get started with this, the following articles from around the web will stand you in good stead.

Whay have you done with your brilliant idea for an app? What other questions have you found helpful to ask prospective app developers? Do you have any other tips for other people who are going through this journey?

Image Credits: Firefox Mobile For Android by Johan Larsson (Flickr) The Exemplary Programmer by Alper Cugun (Flickr), The Battle of Copyright 2011 by Christopher Dombres (Flickr)

Related topics: App Development, Business Technology, Freelance.

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  1. Vlad
    January 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Great article
    But I am not sure whether making an app with basic functions and pretty design would be costly.. the exact price is hard to be found, I have come across some figures there though, sounds not bad

  2. manohar
    January 7, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Great article, it's useful to me..
    thank you

  3. Anonymous
    October 7, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Great article Rob! As someone who have been and going through this you explained the entire process pretty well.

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 17, 2015 at 5:45 am

      Thanks Aibek!