10 questions to ask an app developer

Here is a list of the common tricks developers use to persuade you to select them and the 10 things you can do to ensure you find the best quality developer for your app development or AI project.
App Developer Studio

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.

Many people are calling themselves developers - it is 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.

Common Tricks

Websites pretending to be apps. Web developers can charge much more if they can call what they have built an app. So they will sometimes use the term "web app" to describe what is just a responsive website (basically a website that is designed for mobile) and will not be approved by the app stores. A proper app - even a web app - can have features that websites can’t, such as working offline, geolocation and push notifications. But you will only find this out too late. 

Using Third-Party Platforms. Whilst we are big fans of low-code solutions and using SaaS platforms where helpful, our clients must know if we’re doing this and the potential hazards involved. Many developers unfortunately don’t do this and their clients only find this out when they want a feature the platform can’t handle, or they need the code/ IP to value their business, or as volumes scale they are presented with large SaaS license fees for the platform.

Using The Wrong Stack. All developers have their preferred languages and platforms and it’s natural for them to want to use them. But not all languages are equal and it could be that their preference isn’t the right choice for your project.

Code Quality. Sometimes the code is built in the right language but is poorly written so the performance, stability and security are so bad that a total rewrite is required anyway.

Lack Of Priority. Many developers take on client projects as a side hustle and build them in their spare time. That is until they have become too busy or moved on to more urgent or interesting projects. 

Hidden Assumptions. Let’s be honest - we developers are at a knowledge advantage when we quote most client projects. It is possible to deliberately not ask questions or make assumptions to reduce the scope of work, knowing that this will only emerge as an issue in the development phase and clients can be presented with a “Change Request” invoice. We don’t do this, but this can mean our clients aren't comparing apples with apples in terms of quotes. The cheapest is not necessarily the best.

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). App development languages come and go so you need to choose one that’s going to last. For this reason, we recommend avoiding languages like Ionic and Cordova. Google for reviews on the languages/ platforms they use to understand the potential problems.
  2. Do you do the coding yourself? Many developers subcontract 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, backend and APIs). If they are using a low code solution it’s important to understand whether you can export that code. This is why we prefer FlutterFlow generally over for example Bubble. With FlutterFlow we can always obtain and share the code with our clients.
  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? Large developers typically use Agile Project Management Methodology, Jira for Project Management, Github for code management and Slack for communication. There are very good alternatives so this isn’t a red flag. It’s just a useful insight into whether they’re used to working on large client projects.
  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. Ask to see a contract template.
  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 environments 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, often this is a hidden, ongoing cost that comes as a shock to clients. If you provide indicative user volume estimates, a developer should be able to estimate this.
  10. Will we start and sign off on a prototype? The prototype is exceptionally important to finalise the scope and requirements. Many developers don't even prototype - they just start coding. However making changes to code later is expensive and time-consuming and often leads to bugs because the backend wasn't built correctly the first time around.
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