Hiring App Developers? Avoid These Common Mistakes

Hiring the right application development team can be the key to turning your app idea into a reality.

If you need an outside team to help develop your mobile application, choose carefully. Hiring the wrong app developers can cost you both months and money, and many companies don’t survive working with a bad outside development team.

Of course, my company SmartLogic is a custom application development firm, so I’m biased to think our way is the right way to handle a development project. But we have worked and talked with hundreds of companies over the years, so I have seen a wide range of application development projects gone wrong, and I’d like to think my perspective proves valuable to fellow entrepreneurs.

Here are seven huge mistakes business owners make when hiring an app development team. Avoid them, and you’ll have a better chance of finding an app development firm that will help your company, not hurt it.


Mistake #1: Only interviewing one firm.

When you are searching for an application development team, the third firm you talk to might say something that shows you the first firm was way off-target. Talk to at least three different application development firms before making your decision. That way, you can get a better view of which firm is best for your product.


Mistake #2: Hiring an agency that builds websites.

If a company mostly creates marketing websites with limited functionality or suggests building your application in a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, run fast and far. Custom applications should be built with the right tools for the job.

A firm that doesn’t know how to use those tools will only waste your money. We have had to rebuild software for clients whose first app development team used a CMS system when they should have built a custom application using a framework like Ruby on Rails.


Mistake #3: Paying a fixed price.

Any custom application firm that will give you a fixed price likely isn’t experienced with complex projects. Fixed prices only work when all variables are fixed; with more complex applications, built for quickly changing markets, variables are never fixed.

Clients often start with one idea for how a product will work, but when they see their ideas in practice, they’ll want to cut or add features, and tweak certain elements. Look for a firm that will give you an estimated budget range, and then communicate frequently about your project’s status and cost.


Mistake #4: Offshoring mobile app development.

Personally, I have never seen this work. Language and time zones are formidable barriers to good communication—and communication can make or break your app development process. It’s hard enough to communicate the factors in a technical decision to non-technical stakeholders when you’re both in the same room speaking the same language. I’ve seen companies lose time and money because of miscommunications that come from language barriers. Plus, it’s hard to vet a company that’s half a world away.


Mistake #5: Managing a dev firm without a tech lead.

If you don’t have anyone in-house to manage your development process, find a technical third-party advisor to help you hire the right outside firm and make sure contractors are on track. Some of our clients previously worked with firms that wooed them with extremely low prices and quick timelines.

Someone with technical know-how would have been able to steer them in the right direction and save them a lot of wasted money and time. It’s hard to know what’s normal if you have no experience managing the development process. If you hire a third-party consultant, they’ll know whether a problem with your development team is par for the course or reflective of a poor-quality firm.


Mistake #6: Spending everything on development.

The four “p”s of marketing are product, pricing, promotion and placement: if you spend all your cash on product, you won’t have the money to promote it. Having an amazing app is cool, but who cares if no one knows about it? Our most successful clients budget for public relations, marketing and advertising. An experienced development firm will help you prioritize features so you can build a working product and still have money left for marketing.


Mistake #7: Using Microsoft products (e.g. .NET or SQL server) in your app.

Microsoft technology is not widely used in the startup world, which means you might have a problem finding a new firm to help you if the current firm doesn’t work out. In some cases, clients come to us because they need to completely rewrite their code after creating the first version of their product with Microsoft technology. Your development firm should use the best tool for the job, not a legacy product.


Hiring the right application development team can be the key to turning your app idea into a reality. But hiring the wrong firm can kill your app and hurt your business, so keep these common mistakes in mind.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Yair Flicker is the President of SmartLogic, a custom web/mobile software development company based in Baltimore. He also runs operations for TeamPassword, is Treasurer of Bikemore, and is on the board of Emerging Technology Centers. Connect with @yflicker on Twitter.


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