How to Hire a Developer to Create an App for Your Small Business

by Thom Tracy

3 min read

If you are a small business owner who is thinking about having a developer create an app for your business, it is important to thoroughly prepare to save yourself time and money. There is a large amount of mobile programming talent available, but a developer can only perform as well as your preparation. Here are items to think about before hiring a develepor to build your app.

Have a Well-Thought-Out Description of the App’s Functionality

The first thing to do is get a pen and paper and start writing down what you want the app to actually do. Don’t worry about what any of the screens will look like, just think about functionality. The sky is the limit in some sense, since programming can accomplish just about anything, but there are some basic functionalities that you need to decide to include or not include in your app. For example, the ability to take images and video, the ability to share content with other users, the ability to make purchases, data storage, analytics, messaging capability within the app, and so on. It is extremely important to list out everything you want the app to do and how it relates to your business, products, and services.

Storyboard the App Before Meeting the Developer

The next step is to storyboard the app. A storyboard is a sequence of drawings detailing the user experience of your app. This step is where you start linking up the functionalities listed in step one to an actual visual representation of app screens.

Draw out a bunch of screen-sized boxes and start sketching out the flow of your app. Draw arrows from one screen to another, showing how you envision the app working in real life. Think about where certain buttons will lead users, and where users might input information, or how the “purchase” screen might look. You don’t need to be a graphic designer, but you should come prepared to a developer meeting with some sort of sketch to show and discuss. It does not have to be perfect because the developer will help make it better, but he or she at least needs to have something to start.

Finding the Right Developer

A simple search online yields many options for hiring a developer. Once you start searching, it is important to do a few things.

  1. Try to find a developer passionate about the project and not just looking for a job for money.
  2. Look over the portfolio to ensure the developer is a good programmer and designer. If necessary, download past apps and test them.
  3. If possible, get references from previous clients and have discussions with them.
  4. Ensure the developer has a full suite of skills. A good app consists of coding, UX and UI design, graphics, and audio.
  5. Don’t hire based on low price alone. It will likely backfire. Apps are extremely complex products and to receive a solid product, a fair price must be paid.
  6. Understand the developer’s other current commitments, working hours, and calendar. Don’t expect the developer to be focused solely on you. Most likely he or she will be juggling a handful of projects at once.

Hiring Local or Abroad

Programming talent is available anywhere, so you won’t have difficulty finding it. But there are pros and cons to hiring abroad or hiring local, and the choice basically comes down to communication and cost.

  • Local hire – face-to-face meetings are always possible, but this option is likely more expensive.
  • Hiring abroad – only virtual meetings are possible, which may hinder communication, but this option is less expensive.

Minimum Viable Product Costs and Calendar

The next step is to understand what it is going to take to get you to a minimum viable product, which is a version of the app developed far enough so it can be used by early adopters. The following descriptions give a rough estimate:

  • A simple app with basic drop-down menus, buttons, etc. – About 100 hours of work for approximately $50 to $125 an hour.
  • An app with database/server integration and backend service – About 170 hours of work for approximately $50 to $125 an hour.
  • An enterprise app with business integration, data storage, and server – About 210 hours of work for approximately $50 to $125 an hour.
  • A complex multiplayer game app – About 400 hours of work for approximately $50 to $125 an hour.

Note, this is for one platform, either iPhone or Android. Time and dollar costs double if the app is to be deployed on both platforms at once. These are rough estimates and can be negotiated, but it is important to have a basic idea of cost before going into a meeting. For example, it is completely unreasonable to expect to have an app as complex as Uber built for less than $30,000.

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