Chapter 3: Finding a Developer

After clearly defining the app concept, you are ready to take the next step; the step is to hire someone to write the code for the app so it functions in the way you envision. This is a very critical step because you are relying on someone else to turn your idea into a reality. The best-laid plans developed in the concept design won’t matter if you hire a programmer who is not qualified or capable, or can’t interpret your instructions.

The goal is to hand over the materials and information you developed in the concept stage to the right person. The goal of this chapter is to help you find and hire a developer.

Where to Look for Developers

The first step in finding a developer is to know where to look. Programmers are not hard to find; there are numerous app development providers out there Just be sure you get the programmer you need.

There are two general ways to find developers 1) search for them directly using Google, Bing, or other search engines, and 2) go to freelance hosting sites like Elance, Odesk, and Guru and post an iPhone and iPad app development job. The rule of thumb is that the more complex the development task, the better off you will be looking directly for developers. Developers with more experience, expertise, and resources tend to find clients through their own websites. However, this also means costlier fees or higher hourly rates. If your app is basic and relatively simple, however, your project is perfectly suited for developers on freelance sites. The developers on freelance hosting sites like Elance are usually individual freelancers from around the world with a wide range of experience and capability. You can find developers capable of producing a complex app at these sites, but it may take a little extra involvement and monitoring on your part.

Since many of the developers are in countries with low U.S. Dollar labor rates if you find a competent developer you might be able to get an app developed for a relatively low cost.

Whether searching directly or going to freelance sites, you will need similar materials. You will make use of the information about the app you documented in the concept design. Some of it will need reformatting or rewording to work as a request for proposals or an app specification.

Prepare for Proposal Requests

To get accurate proposals you need to provide enough of a description to allow programmers to estimate the effort required. Some starting elements are:

  • A highly descriptive title of the app
  • A few paragraphs of summary
  • Some examples of the “look and feel” of the app

It is becoming increasingly common to create a youtube video that describes the app, so you may want to consider posting a video about the app. Some people find it easier to describe it verbally instead of trying to explain it in a document. However, the video should be done to compliment the written description, because you will still need to document the requirements in writing. It is done as an extra description to provide additional clarity and is not a complete substitution for typical app project documentation.

We discussed budget and financial issues in the concept phase, so you should have an idea of your budget. If the schedule hasn’t come up yet, however, now is the time to start thinking about it. Rarely should there be a big rush to do the app development? In fact, it should be avoided since being in a rush often leads to miscommunications, oversights, and errors. While you need to have a project schedule with meaningful milestones that you stick to, be realistic when making your schedule. Leave plenty of lead time for events and don’t expect things to happen in the course of days when realistically it can take weeks.

For example, do you really think you will find and hire a developer and get them started on the project in three days? Does that tight of a schedule really give you the opportunity to explore proposals and reflect on your decision? A more realistic timeframe to collect and review proposals, hire a provider, and start the project is 2 weeks or more. And that is for an app of average complexity. If you have a highly complex app it could take longer.

Once you decide where you are going to hire your programmer, it is time to start getting proposals.

On-Line Searches for a Provider

A search for iPhone app developers on Google will return an unwieldy number of results.

A search for iPhone app developers on Google will return an unwieldy number of results.

First, let’s cover searching directly for a provider. A search on Google for the fairly specific phrase “iPhone App Developers” returns about 98 million results, and it seems there are actually that many people out there who claim to be top-notch app developers. There is page after page of potential providers in the main results area, and the maximum of 8 paid ads on the right side of the results goes on for endless pages.

You can begin perusing these results and checking out websites to at least get a feel for what those promoting their app development services have to say. That can be very informative itself in considering how to proceed, and you might find some potential providers as well. If the results seem overwhelming, however, you can try to limit the search to be more focused.

You can search for providers in your city or area, for example. That way you can work more directly with the developer including some face-to-face meetings and design reviews. You could also search for developers who focus on a particular style or type of app that fits your category, like games or using interactive data. Sometimes just using some basic limiters in your search can make the results much more manageable. Just limiting it to your city could reduce the number of providers to a handful, for example.

Limiting searches with regions or catagories can make search results more manageable.

Limiting searches with regions or categories can make search results more manageable

The goal should be to find about eight to ten app developers to contact initially. Depending on the results of this initial contact, you may decide that you need to go into more detail with one or you may even decide you need to keep looking.

The best way to make contact is with an exploratory email that basically says, “I have an app concept I would like to develop and I would be interested in getting a proposal.” How and when you receive a reply to that email will tell you a lot about how they run their development business. Generally, be leery of anyone who does not respond in one to three business days. Plus, experienced developers, whether they are an individual or a company, will have an established process for developing proposals, and they should be able to help you through it. Telling you what information they need, for example, and making the proposal process easy for you. Be leery, as well, of any developer who seems unsure how to proceed or what to ask in order for them to produce a proposal.

While selecting a small group to provide proposals, it is important to communicate mostly through writing. Some follow up conversations, whether in person, on Skype, or by phone, can also be helpful, but when things are in writing there is less chance of confusion, misunderstandings, or miscommunication. The best approach, for example, is to deliver a description of the app in writing in the request for a proposal, then review and discuss the description with a follow-up conversation. If you do review proposals and app requirements in conversations, make notes of any important decisions or agreements, then follow up with an email that lists these decisions. The concept design documents should be updated as well.

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