The question of whether to outsource your mobile development comes down to your in-house capabilities at that point in your business life-cycle.

Many companies outsource development to gain a better understanding of the mobile development processes. During this period, they are also able to better spot relevant skills required for their own in-house hiring.

It is vital that you address the following before approaching a development company:

  • Know the app’s objective (e.g. to act as an alternative shopping platform) and features it MUST have (e.g. an e-commerce cart).
  • Differentiate between ‘mandatory’ vs ‘extra’ features. Stick to the lean Minimum Viable Product approach when building in initial phases to reduce complexity and keep costs down. Then build incrementally in consequent phases.
  • Do thorough research on vendors, their clients and products across all app stores.
  • Download and critique vendors’ apps (especially if they are specific to your industry). Note stand-out features that you may adopt. Take note of app reviews as they can reflect quality and overall functionality.
  • Prepare a concise one-page proposal summarizing the above. You should only approach a vendor when you have a clear idea of the app, its purpose and features required to meet this.

Scouting vendors is a tricky process. Quality mobile products are expensive to build and support, but maintenance is just as important. Take the time to choose the right vendor you can build a long-term trusted relationship with.

When in discussion with vendors, be mindful of the following:


Seek maximum transparency with costings and breakdowns. Be wary if companies are charging less than their competitors as this is often reflective of development quality.

Settle for a fee and payment term that covers support and frequent communication, as this will improve app quality over time. I would recommend vendors who offer a ‘30-day money back guarantee’ approach in their payment terms as it reflects their confidence in development and servicing.

Product and service offerings

Understand the infrastructure (hosting environment, maintenance etc) and product types (customized vs. standard apps) as well as tiers of servicing offered. Find out how app updates and subsequent versions are published as well as the number of revisions/updates allowed and any costs associated with this.

Some companies use collaboration tools such as Basecamp or ProofHub to involve customers with the product development journey. Self-service client dashboards are useful as they provide the customer control over daily activities and updates, such as merchandising and push alerts.

Ideally, you should choose a company offering a ‘full stack’ approach. Encompassing development and testing to support, analytics and maintenance.


The initial meeting with your potential vendor should highlight each step of the development and post-development processes. Clarify your roles and responsibilities such as building Web services for data feeds, security and performance testing. Ensure that your vendor is not outsourcing/offshoring parts of your mobile development.

Investigate the process for pulling back development with your vendor if you choose to do so in the future. The product and knowledge transfer around transition is worth a thorough investigation.

Post-meeting, observe the vendor’s responsiveness and commitment in follow-up communication. A good vendor checks in with their potential and existing customers to keep them in the loop of latest news and tools to help them get more value out of their products.


It is important to raise questions around timing during your initial meeting. Ask vendors how long their development projects normally last and how many projects they take on at any one time. . This should include app submission times to stores, iTunes takes 4–7 days while Google Play allows for almost instant uploads.

The vendor should clearly communicate their timescales and priorities in their pipeline when working out a firm start and deadline for your project with you.

The vendor and yourself should sign a non-disclosure agreement or a written contract around copyright assignment. This should state your ownership of the app, source code and its contents. Do not miss this step as it is particularly crucial if your app holds business IP or customized features.


Test mobile apps across different platforms, screen sizes and operating system versions to ensure consistency across all devices. This is an area not to be compromised as it reflects product quality.

Get your vendor to explain their beta-testing process and bug/feedback solutions, ask how quickly they fix bugs that found.

User Experience and design

A crucial filter when finding the right vendor is in their design capabilities, i.e. in understanding UI, UX and responsive design. Check their team structure and look for front-end developer/UX design experience.

I would opt for a vendor who understands the importance of simplicity and reflects this in the development journey for clients as well as in their products.


Finding the ideal vendor to work with on your mobile app project can be a lengthy process. However it’s worth spending this initial time to ensure your fantastic idea is crafted by the right team and saves you time and money in the long run.

What are your experiences with vendors for app development? What processes have they used you were impressed with?

Tags: app development, hiring, outsourcing
Currently based in Melbourne, Katrina is a brand strategist who previously worked in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and London. Her days are spent at EdTech startup Ediply and also in freelance brand and business development consulting for various tech startups and SMEs.

  • EastCoast

    A couple of critical aspects you’ve missed are:

    The developers knowledge, approach and contractual obligations with regards to app store submission and rejections.

    There’s a massive difference between a developer who will advise on a clients often misguided ideas that won’t pass submission and eliminate many possibilities for rejection, and an unprofessional one who knocks out cookie cutter website-converted-to-app, who will leave you with little recourse if you do get rejected.

    Secondly, the technical development method used (e.g native or using a framework such as phonegap) have critical implications for if and when current and new mobile OS features can be added to your app.

    You’ll rarely get a single-tool developer to point out the plus and minuses of their chosen approach – clients should be informed on these before approaching developers.

  • Chris Bloom

    If I’m building someone a custom application, I can’t imagine offering a 30-day money back guarantee. If you’re following a good agile or hybrid work flow, then there’s no reason why the end product shouldn’t be what the client asked for. Now, if all you’re doing is shipping some off-the-shelf solution with a few minor customizations, then OK, I can see that. But if you’re building from scratch, no way.

  • Raphael

    First of all your question should be how to find the right vendor for your app and not developer.

    Ensure they don’t outsource their work, well you’ll never be 100% sure and outsourcing is not bad when managed properly. Also, apps submission is all in the hands of Apple, sometimes it can take weeks.

    “Be wary if companies are charging less than their competitors as this is often reflective of development quality”. Paying agency rates does not guarantee you quality. Cliche.

  • Mobile Application Development

    These points are important at the time of hiring mobile app developers. But you should also keep some more points in mind like, his/her previous works (apps which he/she has developed in past), qualification, expertise of mobile app developers, strategy which he/she is going to apply to develop a mobile app.

    You should also keep in mind before hiring a mobile app developer that on which platform he/she is flexible to develop a mobile app. The main thing is hired mobile application developer will develop the app before deadline.

  • PaddyC

    Yes I agree with Chris.. if i’m building something from scratch then my time is money, and can’t offer a 30 day guarentee. That just opens the box whereby clients can repent and decide that they don’t actually want this or that. Clients should know what they want, and then seek developers to build that.

  • Ved Raj

    You will get all the information by asking the following questions to your app developers or the app development company you hired.

    1. Where are your developers and engineers located?
    2. What are the costs of the project, as well as future updates?
    3. On what platforms will your mobile app be available — and on what platforms do they have experience designing?
    4. How will users be able to download my app?
    5. Of the projects that your company has completed previously, which ones are you the most proud of and why?


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