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 brands and startups looking to outsource their app development to an app agency are likely thinking the same thing.

  • Whom do we choose?
  • How do we choose?
  • What should we look for?

Those are the questions we were asking as we thought about dinner, but they’re also questions that companies ask when looking for someone who can design their iPhone or Android app.

Over the past few years, we’ve worked with tons of brands and startups to turn app ideas into realities, so we know the most important steps to take when picking an agency to bring your app to life.

Here are seven things you should do to figure out how to pick the right agency to design your mobile app.

1. Calculate Your Budget

One of the first questions that almost every agency 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 or how great an opportunity this seems to be. You should always strive to 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 how much it costs to build an app, check out this blog post: How Much Does It Really Cost To Build An App.

2. Look For An End-To-End Process

The most successful app agencies have a process, a formal series of steps they follow as they design and build apps. At MindSea we start all 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, understand whether they have a process or they just wing it every single time. Avoid agencies that don’t have a 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 review their past work. You don’t necessarily need to see clients that fall into the exact same industry as you, but you do need to see apps that impress you. Furthermore, 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 do one better than perusing case studies—pull out your phone and download the apps. Use the apps, study their designs and determine whether you’re a fan of the agency’s work.

(Keep in mind that the app design and the app development could have been done by two different companies. You’ll want to confirm with your potential app agency which part of the project they did to ensure you’re not judging them for someone else’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 about how many rounds of revisions you receive during the design process and whether they will maintain upkeep of the app at the time of launch. If an agency charges an hourly rate, you will need to ask about scope creep (when a project changes in terms of scope) and how the agency prevents scope creep from happening.

5. Prioritize The Research Process

Over the last few years, we’ve worked on tons of different 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. Find out what their process is like for conducting quality UX research.

6. Connect With Past Clients

There’s a reason everyone runs to Yelp and TripAdvisor before going to a restaurant:

We trust other people’s feedback and opinions.

Just like restaurants, the best app agencies always have a few past clients who will rant and rave about their work. If you’re considering hiring an app agency, jump on a quick call with one of their clients to learn what they thought about the agency.

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 conversations with more than one agency. As you talk to other agencies, you will be able to better differentiate the agencies that are process- and research-driven from those that are not. The comparisons will help you gain insight into which agency might be a better fit for your company at this stage in your app design.

Read On: Questions To Ask Before Hiring Your Mobile App Agency

Wrapping Things Up

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 design to life.

If you’re not sure what questions to ask an agency before hiring, we’ve put together this comprehensive list of questions that you should ask an app agency before hiring them. Definitely check it out 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