A few weeks ago, I was travelling with the team and we were stumped trying to pick a place to eat.
We analyzed TripAdvisor reviews and Yelp scores and posted in Facebook groups to get advice. The response was, well, overwhelming to say the least.
There were more options than we knew what to do with, and in that moment, I realized that companies looking to outsource their app development to an app agency are likely feeling the same way.
Who do we choose?
How do we choose?
What should we look for?
We’ve helped tons of startups and established brands alike turn mobile app ideas into realities, so we know the most important steps to take when picking an agency to bring your app to life.
As you navigate the waters of app creation, start with these seven things you should do to find the right agency to bring your mobile app to life.
1. Calculate Your Budget
One of the first questions most agencies will ask is how much you expect to spend.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you: Money is an important part of the conversation regardless of how cool your idea is.
You should always go into these discussions with a clear picture of how much you want to spend. And be transparent with your potential partner—be honest with your numbers, as honesty is the best way to begin any partnership.
If you’re looking for information on typical app development prices, we put together a post on how much it really costs to build an app that’s worth checking out.
2. Look For An End-To-End Process
The most successful app agencies have a process.
They have a formal series of steps they follow as they plan, design, and build apps.
At MindSea we start all of our clients on our Mobile App Blueprint process, which gives us and the clients a chance to better understand what they’re building, why they’re building it, whom they’re building it for and what the first prototype will look like when it’s time to write code.
Before signing a deal with an app agency, find out whether they have a process or they just wing it every time. Avoid agencies that don’t have a clear, consistent process, as that can be an indication that the steps between idea and reality are going to be messy.
3. Review Case Studies
The best way to determine whether an app agency can deliver is to take a look at their past work.
In their portfolio, you don’t necessarily have to see clients in the exact same industry as you, but you do need to see apps that impress you.
On top of that, you want to ensure that the app agency isn’t a one-trick pony. Ideally, they’ve created apps that are somewhat diverse. For instance, our case studies cover a wide range of categories, from B2B startup apps to dating apps.
Most mobile apps are relatively inexpensive to download, so you can usually go a step further than browsing case studies—pull out your phone and download the apps. Use the apps, study their designs, analyze their speed and functionality, and determine whether you’re a fan of the agency’s work.
4. Understand Their Pricing Structure
Some app developers only build apps for a fixed rate while others bill their clients hourly.
You need to ask potential agencies up front about their approach, as knowing the pricing structure will inevitably lead to more questions.
For example, if an agency charges a fixed rate, you will need to ask how many rounds of revisions you’ll receive during the app development process and whether the agency offers ongoing app maintenance after launch.
If an agency charges an hourly rate, you will need to ask about scope creep (when a project gets a little more complex than expected) and how the agency prevents it from happening.
5. Prioritize The Research Process
Over the last few years, we’ve worked on diverse slate of apps, and the most successful projects have always leveraged research.
There’s no question that one of the main reasons we were named one of Canada’s top app agencies was our commitment to research.
Before hiring an app agency, be sure to ask how they approach research and what kind of data they gather prior to writing any code. And find out what their process is like for conducting quality UX research.
6. Focus On The Relationship
App development is not just a one-off activity that’s over and done with after a single meeting.
Throughout the creation process, you will be communicating constantly with your agency partner. You want to choose people you can actually see yourself building a positive relationship with.
You’ll need to make sure the app agency you choose isn’t going to jump ship if any issues pop up, or when the initial development phase is complete. Just because the app is live does not mean the process is 100% complete.
The best way to gather intel on their past partnerships is to look through past client testimonials.
If the agency features testimonials on their website, those accounts will likely all be positive, so try to find themes that suggest what the agency’s strong suit is. Are clients happy only because the work is high quality, or do they also praise the people and relationships?
7. Talk With At Least Three Agencies
At MindSea, we’ve taken plenty of startups down the research path using our Blueprint process and then passed them off to other agencies for final development. We’re OK with this because we recognize that while we’re the perfect fit for some clients, we’re not the perfect fit for others.
Don’t be afraid to seek out more than one agency.
As you talk to other agencies, you will be able to better differentiate between agencies that are process- and research-driven and those that are not. These comparisons will help you determine which app agency might be a better fit for your company as you bring your mobile app vision to life.
Now Over To You
Choosing an agency is an exciting process, but also one that needs to be done right. These simple steps can help you decide which agency is the best one to help bring your app to life.
If you’re not sure what to say when you sit down for a meeting with a potential app agency, we’ve put together this comprehensive list of questions that you should ask an app agency before hiring them.
Dig into those questions, and if you’re interested in chatting with an agency that has years of experience working with brands and startups, we’d love to hear from you.