10 questions you should ask any developer

Almost half of our enquiries are from distraught people and companies who started their app development project with a developer that they've since realised were unable or unwilling to complete the project, often after a lot of money has been spent and time wasted.

There are many people calling themselves developers - it is, after all, just a title anyone can give themselves. Some of them can code but perhaps not in the language or at the level your app requires. For example website developers will build you what they call a "web app" which is essentially just a website designed for a phone which will not work offline, performance will be poor and Apple will not approve. But you will only find this out too late. Or they will use a third party platform to build the app but if that platform can't meet all your current and future requirements there is nothing you can do about it because you don't own the code. Sometimes the code is built in the right language but is poorly written so the performance, stability and security is so bad that a total re-write is required anyway.

Often the developer was building the app in their spare time and has to stop supporting it because they have become too busy or moved on to more urgent or interesting projects. Either way it is usually bad news that we have to break.

Here are our 10 Questions you should ask any developer (including us!"):

  1. What app development languages do you use? If you want a complex app, make sure they know native code (that is Swift for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android) and/ or the best hybrid languages (such as Flutter or React Native). Google for reviews on the languages/ platforms they use to understand the potential problems.
  2. Do you do the coding yourself? Many developers sub-contract the development to off-shore companies or use third party platforms or templates which means you never control the code. Sometimes platforms are the "right" solution but it's very important you are made aware that this is the approach up front.
  3. Will we own the source code? If the relationship goes south and you need to move to another developer, you need to own all the code (for the app, servers, APIs).
  4. What is the app you are proudest of? Download it, read user reviews, check the number of downloads and how recently it was updated (if it isn't recent this often means the app is dead or dying as they should be frequently improved).
  5. Who have you built apps for and can I speak to them? They should be companies that you recognise and will be happy to speak to you.
  6. What project management approach and tools do you use? Good developers typically use Agile Project Management Methodolody, Github or Bitbucket for code management and tools like Zoho/ Slack for communication.
  7. What is the payment schedule and is it a fixed price project? Just like property developers and builders, once you have started a project it is very easy for costs to escalate and you may be locked in.
  8. What is your approach to testing? You should expect extensive UAT and Beta Testing before you even receive the app. There should be different enviroments set up for testing, staging and production releases.
  9. Is hosting and maintenance included in the estimate? Whilst it is difficult to know what size and performance of server will be required before user-take up is confirmed, typically our apps require dedicated Linux servers with 1.5TB+ storage, 8GB+ RAM and unlimited bandwith. Often this is a hidden, ongoing costs that comes as a shock to clients.
  10. Will we sign off on the prototype? The prototype is exceptionally important to finalise the scope and requirements. A lot of developers don't even prototype - they just start coding. But making changes to code later is expensive and time-consuming and often leads to bugs because the backend wasn't built correctly first time round.