January 25, 2018
By: John Tomblin, Senior Solutions Architect
PhoenixBizz, a division of Sofvue, LLC
So, you have finally decided to develop an app, and assuming you have already completed your due diligence, understand your demographics and physiographic profiles, have completed your prototype or wireframes, and understand your revenue model, you are now ready to select a mobile application development firm phoenix for your project.
If you have not completed the four steps above, then STOP. This means you are only at the [idea] stage – not development, and you need to take care of these items first. Speaking from experience, you must complete these four steps first, otherwise you will spend a lot of money, have constant cost overruns and will waste a lot time and energy on a project that may not have a market to serve, any sustainability, or any revenue. That said, and assuming you have completed all the above, you are now ready to find the perfect development firm. To do this, you need to answer five key questions.
Question 1: What type of firm best matches the type of app I am developing?
If you’re developing a game app, say for an Android soccer game, and you plan to monetize the app through audience aggregation, then a search for game apps from the iPhone and/or Android Store is good place to start. Here, you will find any number of firms who have already developed similar game apps for the market segment you serve, and this one step will go a long way in helping you making a wise choice. If you’re developing an app for online day traders, you need to find a firm familiar with financial markets and finance, otherwise you will spend significant time with the developer teaching them what they need to know so they understand what you are trying to develop. The key is finding a development partner who already understands your market niche. This helps quicken development time, lessen bug/fix time and most importantly, get your app to market as quickly as possible.
Question 2: Is the firm you are considering fluent in developing source code on both the iPhone and Android platforms, as well as the now evolving Windows platform?
Developing an app for the iPhone platform does not mean it work on an Android device, and vice versa. The same is true for the Windows platform. You need to know which platform you plan to serve first. We always recommend you launch your application on either the Android or Apple platform first. After you have launched your app, your audience will quickly teach you what they like, and what they hate. Having this information lets you to revise wireframes with confidence, then apply these new requirements to the development requirements on the second platform. This saves time and money and becomes a far better long-term solution. Additionally, submitting your application for inclusion to each platform is different. Apple, Android, and Windows each have their own application processes. It’s sometimes a wonky process, so choose a development firm that has experience in all three platforms.
Question 3: Can the firm provide past references and testimonials?
Nothing is more powerful than a word-of-mouth recommendation, but getting a hold of current and past clients can sometimes take weeks. Once you have satisfactorily answered the first two questions, the next step is getting access to testimonial letters and references. The one-sentence blurb on a webpage where someone says “Sally was fantastic!” is fine, but you need more. I’m talking about real letters, on company stationery, with a phone number and website address you can visit, and a contact person you can call and talk to about a previously completed project completed by the firm you are considering. The same is true for references. We’re all human, and it is our humanity that ensures that every project, big or small, will have its challenges. Each person in a project has different levels of experience and communication skills, and it is these differences that bring about unique challenges to every project. For these reasons, ask for at least two names and phone numbers of companies you can call to discuss prior projects, then call these companies to discuss the details, successes and pitfalls they encountered during their project.
Question 4: What is the firms pricing model?
If I could estimate the cost to develop an app over the phone, or during an initial assessment meeting, and do so accurately within 1%, I would sell my gift on a per project basis and retire a billionaire this year. If only, right? Without a complete Statement of Work, clearly defined business and programming requirements and a complete stack of wireframes to accompany a programming start, any attempt to estimate the costs of a project is a complete waste of time. Every development firm (ours included), even when they are willing to provide an estimate, always have a provision in their contract covering scope changes, scope change requests and change orders. That is because we all know that estimates, without going through the process, is useless.
App development comes in many forms, and just as many pricing models. At PhoenixBizz, we offer two pricing options, fixed contract or flat hourly. The advantage of the hourly rate option is you know exactly how much money you will spend every month. The problem is that you have no idea how many months it will take to complete the project. Development time might only take a month, but it might take a year. Conversely, with a fixed price contract, you will know exactly how much you are about to invest, but attaining a fixed price contract can only be provided when you have a complete Statement of Work (SOW), wireframes, programming/business requirements and all the other documentation required to accurately estimate costs. Without these, the estimate is as useless as the piece of paper it is written on. When talking with firms, discuss their pricing models. What are the hourly rates per programmer? Do they offer financing options? Do they offer monthly payment plans? Also, never ask the question “can you just give me an estimated out-the-door total cost to develop my app?” Unless you’ve completed all the processes discussed above, and have a complete SOW, you end up with two unintended consequences. First, any estimate provided by any development firm, even with their best intentions, will be wrong – guaranteed — 100% of the time. Second, you will automatically assume that the firm’s guess is right, they will assume they are wrong, and you will be crushed to learn midway through a project that the price tag just tripled, and you get to write a check to pay for added costs you assumed would never happen.
Question 5: How does the firm you are considering tracking online development progress for your app?
When you’re developing a company website with ten or twenty pages, task tracking is not a big concern. These projects typically only take a few weeks to complete, and typically only have one or two contact forms performing actual work. The rest of the site is typically static. Conversely, when you are developing an app with dozens of features and components, with multiple modules, task tracking becomes more complex and important. You need to know what type of collaborative project/task management tools your development firm plans to use for your project. This allows you to monitor progress online, view completed tasks, track what is on schedule (or behind schedule), and monitor overall development of your project. At PhoenixBizz, we have our own proprietary cloud-based task management tracking software, but every company has their own solution. There are lots of online project management tools like Zoho, Trello and Basecamp, to name just a few. Having online access to your project reduces stress, keeps you in control and allows you to peek behind the proverbial magic curtain — where all the magic really happens.