Choosing a Mobile Developer

genericmobile.gifThere’s a post (need to be a member to view) on the Mobile Monday London Yahoo Group  that demonstrates a few mistakes that can be easily avoided…

"last year I instructed a company to build me an App, paid a deposit, and low and behold they dissappeared on me after 4 months. Through my networking towards the end of last year, I was recommended to use a UK based App Development Company, who I instructed to go ahead in January 2011, and again paid my 50% deposit. After failing to deliver by the end of March 2011, the deadline was moved to end of April. Again I have been let down by a developer, but at least this time I have what code they had managed to put together. I am now desperately seeking an honourable, trustworthy developer who is willing to finish this App for me so I can launch it into the App Store."

I have received many such requests over time and, to be honest, it’s usually difficult to take on others’ code. The only circumstances I have done so have been when the developer is leaving for a good reason and is still around for a short time to answer questions. Noone wants to take on abandoned code as it’s usually poorly implemented and documented.

I think people are generally too casual about how and who they take on for mobile development. Too many people unknowingly concentrate on cost and speed to find someone, at the expense of risk. You really must do your due diligence and structure things so that, in the worst case, you mitigate some of the risks.

When searching for a developer…

  • Who (yes a person, not a company) will be actually doing the work?
  • How long have they been with the company? Will they see your project through until the end? (there’s extreme employee churn going on in some offshore companies at the moment)
  • Can a reference be provided for work done by this person? If so, ask the reference if the work was of good quality, completed on time and for the price agreed.
  • Will they provide a plan, at the start of the project, with milestones?
  • Will they provide weekly app builds for you to review? During development, you can evaluate the regular app builds against the plan to gain early warning of slippages.
  • Is there a written contract where it states their obligation to complete the project?
  • Is their deposit reasonable? (25%, not 50% is typical)
  • How much pre-sales feedback have you received? For most non-trivial projects, developers query things and provide advice. If it’s all ‘yes’ and ‘can do’ then there’s usually something wrong.
  • Try to assess their general software skills such as following a fixed coding style, safe coding (not exposing sensitive information), source code control and testing.

Remember, it’s also not just about creating an app and that’s the end of it. In some cases I have done more subsequent work on ammendments, supporting more/newer phones, diagnosing end-user problems and creating app variants than work on original app.

Choosing a mobile developer is usually a long term relationship and a random approach to choosing one is more likely to land you in trouble.