Many companies are jumping into the world of mobile digital applications in an effort to attract more customers, and to build better relationships with the ones they already have. In most cases, that means hiring a mobile development company to design and build the app. Like any business project which requires a large outlay of capital, it's important for business owners to ask the right questions before agreeing to a financial arrangement with a mobile developer.
Here are five questions that should definitely be on that list.
1. Where are your developers and engineers located?
One common trick among mobile development companies is to place a salesperson and/or liaison to the development team in a given market to claim that the company is "local" -- but in reality, the key developers and engineers are based in another country. In these cases, it might be much harder to contact members of the development team, obtain responses to questions and concerns, and receive high-quality customer service from the company. So if local is important to you, make sure that a mobile development company that claims to be "local" actually is.
2. What are the costs of the project, as well as future updates?
Obviously, you'll want to get a clear idea of how much the entire project will cost. Mobile developers may not be able to give you an exact figure before starting work on your app, but they should at least quote you some numbers regarding project costs, licensing expenses, etc. Also, be sure to inquire how amenable the mobile developers are to providing updates, because apps can become obsolete within a matter of months. It's also vital to know if they provide a 30-60 day bug fix window after product release and how much future bug fixes and additional features will cost.
3. On what platforms will your mobile app be available -- and on what platforms do they have experience designing?
You'll need to determine whether your business app will be available for iPhone, Android, Windows, and/or BlackBerry devices. If you desire your app to be compatible with multiple platforms, be sure to ask the development company to put this into their cost estimates. Most importantly, ask with which platforms the company's developers have the most experience. If you want your app on iPhones but a mobile development company has only designed apps for the Android, you should probably consider going with someone else; you shouldn't be paying for their on-the-job training.
4. How will users be able to download my app?
Obviously, any mobile app should be accessible through a business's website. Beyond that, you should know which third-party app sites will be selling your app to end users. Also -- if you want your app to be available on iTunes, and the mobile development company cannot give you a reasonable guarantee that it will be approved for iTunes sales, then kick the company to the curb.
5. Of the projects that your company has completed previously, which ones are you the most proud of and why?
Mobile development companies will want to put their best foot forward, so they'll show you what they think is their best work. If what is shown to you isn't very user friendly, then you should think long and hard before signing on with them; because it's often easier to design a fancy app than it is to create an effective user experience. A good rule of thumb for a business app is that it should be simple for your mother to use.
This post originally appeared on the author's blog.
Andrew Sosa is co-founder and vice president of SquareBall Studios (SBS), a leading development company of mobile applications and software systems.
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