Not Rocket Science: A Guide to Choosing Your Mobile App Development Partner

If this article got your attention, you’re probably looking into mobile development. The right app development team can be your ultimate guide on that winding path. There is just one issue: how to choose from a multitude of freelancers and agencies on the market? Which one is “The One”?

There are many guides and checklists available, but mobile app development has some unique demands. In this article, we’ll highlight the most prominent ones and what they might mean for your startup.

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app development partner
Table of contents

Key takeaways

  • Software development can be done in-house or outsourced to an agency or freelancers.
  • An outsource partner is the best option, because it is cheaper than having an in-house team, and safer and more reliable than hiring freelancers.
  • A perfect mobile app development partner should: strive for the best UI/UX, conduct preliminary research, build prototypes — and do it fast, develop for different platforms, support you after release and have a great track record.

Why outsourcing beats in-house production for startups

There are two primary ways to approach software development: building an in-house team or outsourcing. The latter means working with an established team on a project basis. Both options have their pros and cons, but when it comes to startups we don’t recommend hiring your own developers.

In-house development requires extra effort, time, and money to be spent on the following:

Headhunting and interviewing. When it comes to in-house recruitment, you’ll have to be the one choosing worthwhile candidates. If you want to hire a developer, you need to determine an HR-strategy first. This includes creating an ad for the job-boards, looking through hundreds of resumes and cover letters, and conducting interviews. Finding a decent candidate can take months, and there is no guarantee it will work out in the end.

Paying salaries and offering social packages. With outsourcing agencies, finances are simple: you agree on the price and pay it. As for in-house developers, it’s a different story. You have to pay taxes and a monthly salary or you won’t get a candidate that’s right for the job. Offering benefits is a must too, or the developer can leave the company for somebody else.

In-house & outsourcing team comparison

Recruitment costs, salary, and benefits all add up in the short term. They cost more than getting an outsource team

Managing and motivating. An outsourcing agency keeps track of developers by itself. If you want an in-house developer team, managing their workload and checking their progress becomes your responsibility. Same goes for motivating your employees: e.g. scheduling corporate events and paying for development courses, etc.

The time factor is especially important since many mobile startups simply cannot afford to wait around. When you are developing a corporate website, you may have a luxury to pace yourself. But with a novelty mobile product on a highly competitive market? Not really. Had Uber taken longer to launch, there could have been another taxi app with a different name and by different founders.

If you’d like to have a deeper look at in-house vs. outsourcing battle, check out our article ⬇️

See also  In-house Development vs Outsourcing: That’s the Question

Agency vs freelancer: what’s best for mobile development

Hiring freelancers is risky, mainly because it’s difficult to evaluate their skill level when you are not a developer yourself. But with regard to mobile app development, there’s one more reason: even the most basic app calls for a whole team of specialists. Meaning, you’d face some of the same difficulties that come with in-house production. For instance, the modern no-code solution allows building simple websites with help of a single full-stack developer. But a mobile app like that would be a prototype at best.

The choice is also influenced by the nature of your app and corresponding requirements. When the end-product is complex, involves users’ personal data, requires special security measures or needs a team of unique specialists — turning to app development companies makes a lot of sense. 

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Why it doesn’t have to be a specialized mobile studio

There are app development companies that focus on mobile apps only and then there are agencies with a broader list of services. Isn’t a specialized agency a better choice?

No, specialization doesn’t guarantee higher expertise — same as quantity doesn’t mean quality. The only real benefit is a slightly higher chance to find a relevant case in their portfolio. Otherwise, both can have great talent on the team. Both can have experience with your app’s key features.

The perfect case would be an app partner that doesn’t limit itself to mobile development, but has strong yet diverse experience in that field. There is also an advantage: an app development partner like that can bring more ideas to the table. Who knows, you might need a desktop version of your app, a landing page for online promotion, or even a Smart TV app!

app development partner

Now let’s have a look at what distinguishes mobile development and what key requirements we need to consider.

How to spot a perfect mobile app development partner

Strives for the best UI/UX

When it comes to mobile apps, the users are as close to your product as possible — they are literally touching it with their hands, unlike desktop apps, where manipulators (keyboards and mouses) are used. This brings the importance of usability to a whole new level.

app development partner

Good app design is more than just a pretty interface: it needs to be intuitive, engaging and in tune with what users need and expect. There is also a wide variety of devices and screen sizes to consider. For design professionals, this should go without saying, but it is a good point to discuss with your app development partner.

One of the most reliable ways to get an idea of the company’s design expertise is to look at user reviews on their apps. Search for critical remarks on usability: poor navigation, too many steps to get things done, unclear or overcrowded interface and design inconsistencies.

app development partnerAn example of a user frustrated by a series of unnecessary steps

Dissatisfaction with some particular feature, on the other hand, shouldn’t reflect on the design team as it can be purely business-driven.

Conducts preliminary research

App research is the market assessment that comes before app development. It usually includes competitive analysis and different kinds of user studies. The results may affect your UI/UX decisions, monetization approach, or even turn your app idea on its head.

Since it is usually more difficult and time-consuming to make changes to mobile apps than it is to websites, it’s better to do things right from the start. Don’t overlook this stage and seek an app development partner who feels the same way. If you need some help with this part, have a look at our recent article on app research. 

See also  App research: what is it and how to do it

Builds prototypes — and does it fast

A prototype is an interactive model of an app. Look at the diagram below: it represents how a prototype is influenced by research insights and how it is essentially a part of a UI/UX design process.

app development partner

The point here is to test the app model against the market and refine the design or functionality before moving on to development. So, as you are interviewing app development companies, don’t forget to run this idea by them.

Develops for different platforms

If the app is built for Android specifically, it won’t run on iOS, and vice-versa. This means that the outsourcing development team should either have a cross-platform development expertise or provide you with both iOS and Android native developers.

app development partner

It’s a good sign if the business partner can explain their choice of tech stack in relation to your app. However, more often than not, cross-platform development is beneficial for startup businesses. It contributes to a speedy launch and saves your budget, while you get what looks and feels a lot like native applications — thanks to modern frameworks like React Native. For more details on cross-platform vs native debate — see the following article.

See also  Cross-Platform and Native Mobile App Development: How to Choose

Supports you after release

With each new iOS or Android version, your app might face some technical glitches, and it is important for an app development partner to offer post-production support. Make sure there will be a proactive team to make necessary changes and fix bugs.

Has a great track record

As you can see, a good track record alone won’t be enough, but it doesn’t mean it’s not important. What is there to check while looking for an outsourcing development team?

  • Portfolio of cases. Relevant experience can be very beneficial to the project. The developers might even already know some pitfalls and potential challenges. 
  • User reviews in app stores. We’ve mentioned this one as a way to evaluate the company’s design expertise. Same with development — you can check if there are any persistent bug complaints. Don’t forget that people tend to complain more than they praise. So a few bad reviews are normal, especially with thousands of active users.
  • Client references. Ask for references or do your own digging — either way, it’s good to hear some tips from a fellow startupper.
See also  How to make sure a UI/UX agency doesn’t have fake client reviews

An impressive portfolio and perfect reputation are universal points, whether you’re building an app or a website. But they are still helpful for choosing a mobile agency, and if you’d like more ideas like that — have a look at our other article on a similar topic.

Choosing the right app developer: 3 things to keep in mind

Finding the right mobile app developer partners isn’t easy, especially the first time around. Fortunately, you can find a dependable app development partnership by looking at 3 key factors of a reliable company: experience, reputation, and transparency.


An experienced partner provides simple solutions to your business problems and employs only the best app development practices. They’re invested in your app’s success, and it shows in their work: e.g. they take note of your business’ limitations and requirements, and act accordingly. Also, an experienced developer is better equipped to anticipate, identify, and mitigate potential problems.

See also  How to spot that a UX designer is an expert?

🔎 A good way to figure out if the developer has experience is by looking through their portfolio. If they don’t have one, it’s best to find another agency. Additionally, try finding a developer with cases similar to your own idea. This means they already have expertise in your niche, so they can bring valuable insights which are backed up by experience and tailored to your situation.


Reliable software development partners care about their image. They’re likely to have a solid track record of delivering functional apps. One way to find out if the developer has a good reputation is looking for client testimonials. 

🔎 Scroll through the developer’s website and read their reviews. One review won’t cut it, so try to look for at least 5–10 testimonials instead. This way, you can look at the bigger picture and gauge the developer’s strengths. For example, you may find that the contractor sticks to deadlines and provides great customer service, but they regularly go over the budget.

app development partner

If the contractor has video reviews, it’s a good sign. While written and video testimonials can be faked, the latter takes too much effort to consistently forge.


When it comes to app development, open communication and a collaborative mindset are crucial. A good contractor is receptive to feedback; they accept suggestions if they’re ultimately good for the app. Also, they keep you in the loop with regular progress updates, meetings, and review-sessions. And if something goes wrong during development, a reliable partner will notify you straight away and give advice on how to fix it, instead of just ghosting you.

🔎 Figuring out if a developer is transparent is easy: try asking them questions about the development process, the cost of the app, and deadlines. A contractor that evades questions, remains silent, or tries to change topics isn’t worth dealing with.

What else to find out

When you are looking for an app development partner, there are a couple more things that are good to know.

What cutting-edge technologies do they work with? AR, VR, beacons, machine learning — it’s possible that the development company has already adopted new tech that your app will benefit from.
Can they propose a monetization model? Where profits are concerned, it is very important to be in tune with your app development partner. Experienced vendors will not only ask your opinion on that one but also offer advice.
How do they handle testing? Testing ensures that everything works properly. There are many kinds of tests, and it’s good to know if the developers can recommend something for your app.
Will they submit your app to the app stores? Some app development companies include it in their price and some may ask for an additional fee. Still, better leave it to the developer, who’s familiar with official guidelines.

Choosing mobile app development partners: 2 common mistakes

Once an entrepreneur starts working with a poor contractor, things can turn sour quickly. To make sure this doesn’t happen, keep in mind these two mistakes most businesses tend to make:

❌ Neglecting background checks. Some companies take little time assessing their developers’ expertise and skills. They may even overlook some bad signs, like sketchy reviews or a shoddy portfolio. Their reasoning varies: maybe there’s not enough time to thoroughly check the developer’s background, the cheap price seems attractive, or things look alright, at a glance. 

Lack of due diligence will make the app suffer. The moment you see something amiss, ask the developer about it or stop working with them altogether.

❌ Ignoring red flags. A decent contractor is communicative. They share status reports and stay clear on deadlines and pricing. A bad contractor does the opposite: they keep you in the dark and delay deadlines without a reason.

Poor communication example

A business partner that doesn’t cooperate can thwart the whole development process

Partners that hide problems instead of talking about them should be avoided, because they can do the same thing at the worst possible moment, like right before the scheduled release. If a developer makes a mistake or misses timeframes with no explanation, it’s best to cut ties.

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Your checklist for a stellar app development partner

Mobile development stands out against web and desktop development. And it’s not only a question of technologies and platforms, but also the way users interact with apps. For your convenience, we prepared a checklist that combines the key points of looking for an outsourcing development team in general and an app development partner in particular.

app development partner

A good vendor won’t shy away from any of those questions and will make sure you have a stress-free development and a successful launch. Because in the end, shared views and goals are what makes you partners.

For 7 years Purrweb has been a proud app development partner to many mobile startups around the world. If you’d like to get more insights into app development or run your requirements by us — our experts are just a click away. Fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours.

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