Howdy people! Hello and welcome to another edition of AppBoard Tuesday (ABT) – your weekly dosage of app-related information, and other related topics. This week, we will try to increase your awareness and make you…let’s say, streetsmart…while negotiating with mobile app development companies. Plenty of people, from tech and non-tech backgrounds have great concepts for apps, but their plans are regularly thwarted by shady companies and their underhand practices. Here are some things that many mobile app companies do not tend to reveal, at least at first:
- Price for providing quotes – If you wish to make an Android or iPhone app, you would need a detailed quote/cost estimate first. Almost all app agencies claim that they provide free app quotes to prospective clients. What they do not generally point out are the charges associated with each new update/upgrade of any application. This, in turn, nullifies the effect of ‘free app quotes’ somewhat, right?
- Mobile platforms worked on – Most businesses, mainly startups, are reluctant to reveal their relatively limited service portfolio. They would take any business that would come their way, without actually considering whether they would be able to handle it properly. For instance, if an agency is not into developing Blackberry apps, but a client contacts it for a BB project – the company might draw up an agreement. There are several startups who are mostly into web app development and/or Java projects only, but would happily take up mobile projects. A web app developer company may very well pose as an expert on mobile apps.
- ‘Too good to be true’ prices – An established app development agency in, say, Australia or the United States would charge more than double, than what a smaller firm in a developing nation would ask for. Even in India, a bit of research would help you discover significant discrepancies between the pricing norms of various companies. Keep in mind, if a company is quoting a ‘remarkably low’ price, there is usually some quality-compromise involved. There is nothing called ‘incredibly cheap mobile apps!’
- Degree of research involved – There are two ways of monitoring an app development business. The first is via researching and brainstorming for new and interesting app ideas, and placing maximum emphasis on buyer-satisfaction. The other is the short-cut method – treating app projects as mere ‘products’. Unfortunately, most companies follow the second strategy – which involves haphazardly making the apps, selling them, and moving on to the next project. In the long-run, an app that is not backed up by well-researched data would never be successful.
- Size of the company – Take any iOS app development agency at random, and ask about how big it is (in terms of, say, number of employers). There is every chance that the company representatives will be either reluctant to share such details, or simply rattle off a high-ish number (if everyone spoke the truth, every company in the world would have had 500+ workers!). It’s not that a small company will necessarily do a bad job – it’s just that most companies feel insecure about revealing their size.
- Qualification of the developers – When you contact a company for the creation of your first mobile application, making queries about the qualifications of its developers won’t be something at the top of your mind. What’s more – companies won’t be very forthcoming about disclosing the ‘relevant experience’ of the app developer/development team who would be in charge of your project. For instance, a person with a decade-long work experience might only be starting out with iOS projects. If you want to make an iPhone app, (s)he would not be the most suitable person. ‘Total experience’ counts for little, if there’s hardly any ‘relevant experience’.
- ‘We are a multinational company’ – A common refrain among many new mobile app companies who are desperate to impress clients. Its fairly easy to get a couple of foreign phone numbers, and show them off on business websites. If you come across a company claiming such ‘robust international presence’, kindly ask about its legally approved office addresses overseas, along with a contact name or two. It’s the job of marketers to brag – the onus is on you to find the truth behind the big claims of companies!
- Project continuity – If an Android or iPhone app development company promises to finish your project within 3-4 weeks, it’s not necessary that it will honor its word. ‘Our app developer went on a sick leave’, and ‘The person working on your job left’ are some of the most common excuses agencies come up with, to justify inordinate project completion delays. Before you delegate your project, ask in detail about the in-house continuity provisions that a company has. There should always be a backup team to handle responsibilities in case of emergencies. This, in fact, makes it inadvisable to go for a firm that is too small.
- Project outsourcing – Big companies, small companies – outsourcing is a common (and extremely troublesome) phenomenon among mobile app firms. You hire a reputed app developer, make the advance payments – and your project promptly gets outsourced to an obscure, third-party organization which, more often than not, comes up with substandard service. You need to ensure that the company you hire handles all the aspects of your project on its own.
- Keeping clients in the loop – Check out our ‘Request A Quote’ page, and you will find that we ask for app wireframes from you (if available), along with a brief idea about the exact nature of the application you wish us to work on. For many other companies, app development is more of an ‘open-and-shut’ case though. They will make you sign on the contract papers, and tell you that the app will be ready in, say, 4-6 weeks. You won’t get the chance to view mockups and app-prototypes in the interim. At the end of the time-span, you might be handed an app that is not even close to what you had been looking for. Mind you, payments will still have to be made!
- Genuineness of testimonials – Any self-respecting mobile application development firm will have a good-looking, optimized website. Chances are high that many of them will have hundreds of client testimonials – each of them gushing about how fantastic the company’s services are. Now, it’s not particularly difficult to publish fake testimonials on a website, and that’s precisely why you should not always believe them. Ask for the contact information of a couple of the company’s erstwhile clients, and find out the facts for yourself.
- Intellectual property rights – Before you hire an app developer, you need to have a basic idea about patents, copyrights and other aspects of an app’s intellectual property rights (IRP). Keep in mind that the rights stay with the developer, unless there is a pre-formed agreement that the rights would be transferred to you upon the app’s completion. If you wish to avail the services of freelance app developers, be extra careful about this. Make sure that the company/individual you hire provides legally approved non-disclosure and/or non-competing agreements. Unless the IRP issues are all sorted out, mobile app marketing might involve legal hassles.
- UI/UX design expertise – Tech wizards need not always have a creative streak in them. In the domain of mobile app development, there’s a common catchphrase – ‘Coders cannot design, and designers cannot code’ (the first portion is particularly true). A company might not be forthcoming about its graphics and UI/UX designing team, which would be a clear indication that it does not have one. Unless your app has an engaging, user-friendly UI, it will be a #fail – and that’s what makes it essential to contact a company with a team of experienced, creative designers.
- Focus on mobile app testing – Unfortunate but true – most small to medium mobile app companies do not have a dedicated mobile app testing team. All that they do is perform a hurried, stereotyped testing procedure over the cloud network (prior to an app’s release), and then hand it over to you. If you do not have a technology-based background, you will take charge of the app in good faith – and before you know it, it will start malfunctioning (owing to malware, bugs, etc.). Make sure that you know exactly how app testing takes place at the company of your choice.
- Presence on social media – Remember this one rule of thumb – a ‘good’ mobile app company would love to show off its works on Facebook, Behance, Twitter, and other social media channels. A ‘bad’ company, on the other hand, will remain as hush-hush about its projects as possible. Find out if the agency you are planning to zero in upon has a regularly updated presence on the various social media channels (having only a website is not enough). If it doesn’t, start looking for another company. There are plenty of mobile app agencies which have well-known companies, why settle for an agency which is not eager to showcase its own previous works?
- Feedback at stores – It is only natural that an app development firm will praise each of its apps like anything. A truer, clearer can be obtained if you check out the sort of reviews and ratings that those apps have got at iTunes and Google Play Store. If a company states that an application has been ‘unanimously appreciated’, but you find that it has been trashed at the stores – start looking for another, more truthful, company immediately!
- Payment structure – The moment an app company asks for the entire payment for a project in advance, run for cover. Be very wary of companies that do not have a well-specified payment schedule either (“make payments whenever it’s convenient for you”). Like in any other business, app agencies should let their clients know when and how payments are to be made. Generally, a pre-specified percentage of the overall fees has to be paid upfront, another portion midway through the project, and the rest AFTER the app has been completed and delivered.
- Promised completion vs Actual completion – There’s a popular saying related to software engineering (credits to Bell Labs’ Tom Cargill), which states – ‘The first 90% of coding takes 90% of the total assigned time for development. The remaining 10% of coding takes up the rest 90% of the development time.’ This ‘90-90’ rule is applicable for most mobile app development companies as well. These agencies deliver apps to clients that are ‘incomplete’, in some way or the other. Choose a company that can actually complete projects within the pre-stated deadlines.
The point is, you need to be able to read between the fine print and keep your wits about you, while dealing with an application development agency for the first time. Most of the reputed companies across the world deliver products of the highest standard (I think both Teknowledge Software and Teks Mobile Australia figure in that list – if the feedback of our 300-odd international clients are anything to go by!). However, there is no dearth of fraudulent ones either, and you need to avoid doing business with them.
That’s about that for this installment of AppBoard Tuesday. Let us know if there are any other issues regarding mobile app development that requires clarification at the very outset. If you have faced problems while interacting with other companies, share your experience with us.
ABT will be back next week, with a new topic to ponder on. Till then…you know what to do by now!
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