Become a dream client for your app developer

We live in a world that is upwardly mobile. More people are accessing the web through their mobiles than ever before: data from StatCounter found that 51.3 per cent of website visits emanated from mobile devices, compared with 48.7 per cent from desktop computers.

In the US, a study found 120 million people use a retail or shopping app at least once a month. An app may enable small businesses to capitalise on this lucrative market. Enlisting the help of an app developer — who will help with consultation, construction, and delivery of the app — is a logical next step .

The process might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a how-to guide.

Getting started

Deciding to build an app is easy. Figuring out the finer details — how the app will work, what it will look like, its benefits for customers, the platforms (iOS, Android, Windows) it will run on — is much trickier.

Mick Byrne, founder of Melbourne-based company We Make Apps, suggests small businesses should do their research about the app marketplace before engaging the services of a native app developer.

The next step is defining what the app will do. Putting ideas to paper — even if it’s to sketch out a simple narrative explaining the benefits for the user, or a mock-up of the user interface — will help businesses refine their idea and visualise its execution. This allows app developers to envisage how best to create a seamless design and user experience.

“If you turn up and say, ‘I want an app — it’s going to be like eBay, but for vintage clothes’ —that’s not an idea.” Byrne says. It’s very hard for someone to build you an app like that.”

It’s a match

Business partnerships are at their most harmonious when both parties share similar expectations. Taking a look at a developer’s portfolio of clients and projects can help business owner judge whether a partnership is a good fit. Does the developer have a track record of working alongside smaller businesses, or does it only deal with bigger clients? Do they have industry-specific knowledge that would be beneficial to your business? Is the app developer’s location integral to the process, or can costs be saved by hiring an offshore freelancer?

Maintaining clear lines of communication is crucial. Whether or not your app developer is based in a location that is near to you, regular email, phone or Skype status updates can help to keep everyone on the same page. This becomes especially important if any element of the development process is being outsourced.

Byrne says his favourite clients are those with a detailed idea of the function and purpose of their app. “We don’t mind clients that are really particular and like to test their work and want everything to be really good,” he says. “It forces us to produce high-quality work as well.”

The process

Customers with a ‘vague idea’ about the app they want to create, typically embark on a two-step process, Byrne says. First there is the consultation stage, in which his team spends three or four days coming up with a detailed plan for the app. At this stage businesses should expect to receive an agreement that outlines the fee for consultation services as well as agreed-upon deliverables — the milestones that will hopefully be achieved throughout the development process.

At We Make Apps, invoices are charged against the delivery of each milestone: a deposit is paid at the beginning of the process, then further instalments are made when designs are delivered, when the app is ready to be tested, and when the app is finally submitted to the relevant app store. A formalised contract should include a confidentiality agreement and clearly explain whose account will publish the app (Byrne believes it should belong to the business, rather than the developer), who owns the intellectual property, content, and source code.

The cost of building an app depends on its complexity. Another Australia-based app development agency, Lateral suggests that if in-app purchases, push notifications, or extensive integration with third-party services are required in an app’s functionality, you could be looking at a potential cost of $20,000-$80,000 for development. Apps that are simpler (store locators, calculators and so on) range from $5,000 to $15,000.

As with any project, the timeline for completion might vary for a number of reasons. But for clients of We Make Apps, the time it takes from consultation to delivering a finished product is typically three months, Byrne says.

Signing off

Most companies hand over the source code, design files, and keys to publish the app to businesses upon payment of the final invoice. This puts ownership of the app entirely in your hands!

If you’ve enjoyed working with your developer, you might like to ask them if you can display their logo on your website to let other people know about the great work they’ve done for you – this could be a very welcome gesture if they’re happy for you to use their logo. You might also choose to write an online testimonial or recommend their services to other businesses.

Don’t forget to let your developer know about your app’s achievements along the way — that way both parties can share in its success.

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