Creating a new app is incredibly exciting, but just because you had the idea doesn’t mean you have the design and development skills required to actually build it. So you start looking for an App Development Agency to help you with that, surely that is simple?… Wrong.
Anyone who has started this process knows all too well the hundreds of options there are out there, how many con artists there can be, how much the quality can range in what they deliver, and how much pricing can scale from one to the next for the same job! I want to help you find the right agency for you, the agency that fits YOUR needs and YOUR requirements.
So here are my top 5 tips for finding the right app development agency for your next project.
- Bigger Isn’t Always Better
- Partners Are Better Than Service Providers
- Make Sure They Understand Your Project
- Talk To Their Team And Their Past Clients
- You Get What You Pay For – But Still Get Multiple Quotes
With that said let me break down what each one means, and why they are so important.
1. Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Bigger agencies mean two things to most people – quality and cost. These big app development companies tend to be well known for producing some quality products that look great and function well. But they come with some big trade-offs too, especially if you are a smaller business or startup yourself.
Firstly the cost. These companies work, in general, on a 60% margin basis (a business structure for consulting as old as time). How much does it cost to build with my resources, add some contingency, then make sure we are making 60% profit margin on top of whatever we end up billing you. Now they don’t skimp on their staff either, they pay them well, they use the latest technology and tools, they have best subcontractors and specialists, and when you take all these costs then add that profit margin the invoice is going to be high.
Secondly is the relationship. With all of their projects, but especially with smaller clients, they tend to treat them as one-offs, build and bill, done and dusted. This can lead to some fairly big pitfalls in your final solution… Yes, it may look great but does it actually target the customer problem you wanted it to? Is it set up to expand as needed when your product starts to grow? Because they go through so many client projects, building relationships tends to be a pure sales tool, but this means they often don’t take the time to understand your idea, your vision, your problem. They take minimum requirements, a minimal understanding of your vision, and turn it into something that looks good and operates well at what they thought it should do.
Smaller agencies on the other hand get to know your project specifically, get to know your idea intimately, think of both what it is now but also what it will become, because their business model is built around small and repeat work rather than bulk singular projects. They are also generally cheaper due to a lower margin (*from my experience), although I’m sure if you give a big agency enough projects they’ll start to give you a substantial discount too.
Now this isn’t to say big agencies don’t have their benefits. They have “unlimited” resources and can find experts for the most specific tasks or requirements you may have. They can generally pump out work quickly, and the results look great because otherwise they lose future business.
They point here is just be aware, bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes finding a smaller agency could be the ticket for your long term success, someone that can understand what you are trying to achieve, and think about your future when building your next project. Which brings me nicely to point 2…
2. Partners Are Better Than Service Providers
No matter the agency size you go for I always recommend thinking about them as a “Partner” instead of a service provider when making your decision. This tends to be why I suggest smaller agencies over bigger. A partner can help you create your vision, then iterate on it, improve it over time, give your recommendations and be both a service provider and a sounding board to give advice from their years of experience helping others launch apps.
“So what? I already know what I want, I don’t need advice, I don’t need future thinking.” I have heard this plenty of times from new entrepreneurs with a new app idea, and I promise you this will lead to some hard times ahead with your project. Apps always go through versions, become tools that you hadn’t originally planned for, change based on user behaviours, and need certain minimum requirements based on the target market. If you don’t find a partner you’ll miss out on two key things; future thinking & industry knowledge.
If you have a pure service provider they will build without the concern of future work, of future design or development that will be needed as your idea progresses and users request updates to make it even better for them.
You also miss out on the incredible knowledge and advice that these agencies build over time. They have normally built their own apps and products before, and have built dozens if not hundreds of apps and products for every industry/user type/market out there. They know the ins and outs of specific product types, they keep up with their previous clients and their successes, and they see what worked and what didn’t in different markets. This knowledge, and their willingness to share it as a partner, can short cut your time to success by months.
Finally partners are interested in your success. Not in the invoice, not in the renewed business (although both help them a lot!), they are interested in making you successful. Because your success is their success. This means they will tell you about a BAD idea (we all have them) and will try to steer you away from them. Someone who is just a service provider will simply write it down and invoice you, because that’s their business model.
3. Make Sure They Understand Your Project
This is a short but important point. Do they know what you are trying to build? Do they really? A mockup design and a quick intro meeting can give you the impression that they got it, but make sure you ask them to repeat your idea back to you, to repeat the customer pain back to you, to repeat the industry and audience overview back to you. If they don’t understand your project from the start then you can end up with 3 different issues:
- You pick an agency that delivers something completely different from your idea
- You get charged “extra” for changes and alterations along the way because they say the idea changed
- You get quoted a higher amount initially because they added a default contingency to figure out what you were building along the way.
4. Talk To Their Team And Their Past Clients
Now this can seem difficult at times, especially the ‘talking to their past clients’ part, but if you can I highly recommend doing both of these points before you choose your agency.
Talking to their team gives you a true understanding of who you will actually be working with. Most of the time when looking to go with one agency versus another you are only talking to the sales reps at each business. But once sold you will likely have little to do with them moving forward, instead you will be working with the project managers, designers, developers and testers.
Now you don’t have to talk to everyone in a business! But getting on a call or having a meeting with just one or two other people can help you understand how they work, whether you can understand each other easily and what you are trying to accomplish, and whether they truly care about what they do. Importantly you can do some investigation into the company and feel more confident in their capacity to deliver what you need.
If you can talk to their past clients you can get all of the above and more from a semi-unbiased 3rd party. They can be open about how they worked together with the agency, what was delivered, perhaps even tell you why they would recommend them over another agency. Importantly they can also tell you what went wrong, what did they do to fix this, how did they deal with timelines and difficulty – all the things that come up in every project but that no one wants to talk about.
5. Get Multiple Quotes – But Remember You Get What You Pay For
One quote is not enough. Two quotes is not enough. Three gets you on track, but I would recommend getting five quotes minimum for any project you are looking to do.
“Why? Surely 2 or 3 is enough to compare?”. Yes and no. If they are similar companies then yes it can be, but most of the time they will be different sizes, be able to deliver different levels of work, be able to provide different end results. When there is so much variation you need to make sure what you are getting is the best deal for you.
Getting multiple quotes ensures you are not being ripped off. That is the main point. Now you may choose to go with one of the higher quotes, infact from my past experience the best deal is rarely the cheapest, but seeing multiple quotes will help you understand what the extra spend is getting you. It could be quality, size of app, feature sets, specific knowledge experts, it could even be that one is offering you a way to split the development, structure it for an MVP to be built that you can test – then a further quote for building the rest once the idea is proven.
The point being the more quotes you get the more you will understand what you are paying for and be able to make the right call for your project. You might not get a cheaper deal, but you will get the right deal.
So what are you waiting for! Get out there and start finding the right app development agency for your next project. Just remember, bigger agencies aren’t always better and that a partnership for your project will work out in the long run compared to a one and done service provider. And before you decide on an agency make sure they understand your idea thoroughly, that you talk to their wider team, and that you get multiple quotes – all these things will ensure you don’t get ripped off and that you find the right agency that fits your needs.
We can help – Free Quote Review & Project Pricing.
Want some help ensuring you are finding the right fit? Why not talk to my team here at Na:gne Studio? We are a smaller agency specialising in helping SMBs, startups and entrepreneurs turn their app and website ideas into real world products.
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