Mobile app development is a tricky, tricky thing. Some of our competitors get it right, but (and we’re not just saying this) many of them do not. There are a lot of poorly-developed apps around. We thought it would help to put together a list of what you should look for in an app developer.
To declare the elephant in the room: obviously, we’re app developers ourselves. If you need someone to develop an app for you, we’d love to help. But if you want to go elsewhere, that’s fine too. We’re writing this just to help you identify the good guys from the not-so-good guys.
1. Find someone who really understands the platforms
Each app store publishes a long list of dos and don’ts for apps. These are the rules for the platform, and they are very comprehensive. Here are the rules for Google Play, Apple iTunes, the Windows Store.
Some of them are hard-and-fast (such as not being allowed to use in-app payments for real-world goods), and some of them are guidelines (such as how the app responds to user interaction).
There are some rules that, if broken, your app will be immediately rejected. Conversely there are some guidelines which, carefully and sparingly, should be broken otherwise your app just won’t stand out from the crowd. A good app developer
2. …and be able to tell you what each platform’s users expect
For example, both Android and Apple users expect to be able to share content (eg: post a link for what they’re looking at onto Facebook, or send a picture to a friend on WhatsApp), but the Android share icon looks like this: and the Apple one looks like this:. Put the wrong icon in, and users won’t know what it means, so your content won’t get shared.
As another example, Apple users expect their affirmative Next/OK button to appear in the top right hand corner of the screen. Android users expect it at the bottom. Put it in the wrong place and your users will probably find it, eventually, but the app will feel slightly odd and alienating to them.
If your app developer designs your app to look and feel exactly the same on each platform, it will feel wrong to your users, and potentially give an impression of poor quality. A good app developer will talk you through all the platform differences relevant to your app.
3. Someone who will post the app to the stores
Posting an app to the app stores is a complex business. There’s a lot of information to provide, a lot of hoops to jump through and, unfortunately, a lot of red tape to work against.
A specialist app developer will have done this a thousand times before and know exactly what to expect. For example they will know the sizes of all the screenshots needed, and they will know which export declarations to sign if your app uses encryption. They will also be able to advise on writing a good app description which is attractive to users.
4. …and who will manage the relationship with the stores for you
The app stores can be very demanding – particularly Apple.
App store rules change all the time, and it can affect your store listing. When rules changes, you will receive a technical description of the updates your app requires. A good app developer should receive these notifications on your behalf, and explain what needs to be done to keep your app live. Without this your app could be removed from the store.
Sometimes (though rarely) an app is removed from the app store without warning. Your app developer should be able to find out why this has happened and what the solution is.
5. They should be able to make the most of push notifications
When managed properly, push notifications are fantastic – they are a great way of sending highly-targeted messages to individuals or groups of users. They can be very effective at engaging users and providing calls-t0-action without being intrusive.
Your developer should also be able to advise how to use push notifications for maximum effect. Sending too many, or saying the wrong thing, for example, will be a turn off to your users.
Push notifications require a particular, relatively complex, back-end system. A good developer will have created this for their clients, and it should allow you to send targeted messages to single users, and broadcasts to everyone.