Here’s what your app development team should look like

When you build or renovate a house, you depend on a multi-talented team of professionals –– with different, but complementary skill sets –– to get the job done. 

The same is true of app development. 

For instance, if you are building a new home you will likely hire an architectural team to manage structural design and decisions. In app development, an equivalent role would be a solutions architect who figures out the best way to structure your application, based on your business and technical needs

Once the structural design of your home is established, you probably require a construction team to pour concrete and build a foundation. Comparatively, there are developers who focus on pre-work to establish the bedrock or back-end of your application before the rest of the build takes place. 

Metaphors aside, the structure (and of course quality) of your development team will make or break the success of your project. The talent involved in creating your company’s app and managing the overall development process determines the quality of your end-product and whether it is delivered on time and on budget

The structure of an ideal app development team

While there are some projects that require specialty resources, most of the time an efficient app-building team is made up of eight to 12 people. 

Here’s a breakdown of the key roles they fulfill:

Your primary app development contact

We call the main client contact on our team your customer experience manager. They are your point person. They function as the liaison between your team and ours, making sure you are kept informed about the development process and any relevant business insights.

As important as technical knowledge and skill are, strong communication and reciprocal engagement is very important in executing a project that meets your needs. 

The details person

Another team member you’ll frequently engage with is our project coordinator. They serve as the subject matter expert on our team, keeping track of all the small details you share that will inspire development decisions.

The success of a development process depends on us truly understanding your business challenges and goals, so that we can build an app that provides you with actionable solutions.

The keep-everything-on-track manager

While the coordinator makes sure our team has the background information required, our project manager oversees the technical aspects of the development process. From timelines to budgets to workflow, they make sure our developers are on the right path and have everything they need to tackle the job.

With client engagement, subject matter insight and day-to-day task/people management taken care of, let’s talk about the team members who build your app:

The developers 

Not all app developers do the same thing. 

Most focus on a specific type of work, which is why we group development roles into a few key categories:

  1. There will be one or two backend developers who create the overall structure and functionality of your app, by writing code that speaks to relevant servers. Backend work happens in the foundation of the app, and behind the scenes. It’s critical to make the app function, but it’s different than a frontend developer who will make the public-facing components of the app.
  2. Depending on whether you are creating an iPhone and/or Android app, we will have iOS and Android developers build the elements of your application that engage with the respective operating systems.
  3. We assign a UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) developer to design the aesthetic and experiential elements of the app that users will see and engage with. 
  4. We bring on a front-end developer to create the web, mobile, or public-facing structure and content, as well as ensure everything is responsive. Front-end developers will build and create everything the users see rather than the code that runs the site or app. If the app is using WordPress as a platform, we’ll also ask our WordPress developers to build out functionality.

What makes a best-in-class development team? 

We organize our team this way because it is the best way to build custom software and mobile applications.

We need to glean a deep understanding of why you want and need an app to be built, as well as the problems we’re helping to solve so that we can ensure our build doesn’t replicate or create new challenges for you. 

This includes both a listening process –– where we learn from you –– and an educational process during which we provide informed, experienced suggestions on how to achieve your business objectives via the application. 

Ultimately, a best-in-class team takes the time to engage the right people to solve a problem, together.

What type of app do I need?

There are many ways to categorize apps, but if you’re not technical or don’t speak developer, it can be overwhelming to know what to ask for.

Do you need a native app or Android? Or perhaps a hybrid mobile app that uses an iOS wrapper so it can be used on an iPhone? Not sure? We don’t blame you. 

So how about we keep this simple, and talk about three different kinds of apps we typically build so you know what works best for your business.

In this article, we’re going to organize apps based on the way they function or serve the people who engage them. There are three:

  1. A standalone app
  2. A user-to-computer app
  3. A user-to-user app

Because our approach to app development is based on the business needs of our clients, we find these categories help us determine usability, ranging from an interface and architectural standpoint, to the way we design user management and the kind of data transfer capabilities we include (or not). 

Let’s explore what each type of app has to offer. 

1. The standalone app

The least common type of app we build functions completely on its own –– it does not share information with external sources and doesn’t even need to be connected to the internet. 

A simple example of a standalone app is one that you likely use daily: The Calculator app that is included with every smartphone or tablet. 

Or in a healthcare context, it might be an app that reminds you to take medication. 

These apps do one thing really well, and they don’t require data to be fed to them regularly to function.

Some key questions we ask when it a client is looking for a standalone app include: 

  • Is there no requirement (at this time) for the app to communicate to other users? 
  • Depending on what your app does, will it require a server to host data? 
  • Will your app solve a purpose for a specific user on their phone or their device that eliminates an immediate need?

It’s important to note that if you are considering a standalone app, but then hope to scale the product over time –– perhaps enabling communication between users, for instance –– we would have to build an entirely different app.

If you think you might want an app to communicate with users, or access data at some point in the future, you’re better off going with option two or three below.

2. The user-to-computer app

This product type sends and receives data from external servers or computers. Its function requires a connection in order to provide utility for its users.

That said, users of this kind of app do not communicate back and forth with one another.

An example of a user-to-computer app is an entertainment-focused service like Netflix. Users stream or download video from the company’s server, but are not going to regularly chat with other Netflix viewers, or talk to Netflix support about the shows or movies they are viewing. 

Investment in video-based, streaming mobile apps is likely to continue to rise as consumers reported a 54% increase using this type of app in 2020, according to Global Web Index. But the user-to-computer model is highly applicable to a variety of other industries as well: 

  • From an enterprise perspective you may want to build this type of app for internal document management control or safety processes.
  • In healthcare, it’s great for providing medical records to patients.
  • And in financial services the model is the basis for banking or fintech apps where clients can check balances, make transactions and more 

3. The user-to-user app

Finally, the most complex type of app we build is centred on user-to-user interaction. 

Think: Uber. 

In this case, there is a user-to-computer function because you can access a database behind the scenes to see historical rides or billing information. And there is also a user-to-user function where customers (riders) can connect with drivers in real-time.

Apps that are this user-focused are more applicable to some industries than others. For instance, most finance apps are one-way platforms and thus a user-to-computer model suits them best. 

But in the growing healthcare application space, the user-to-user functionality works quite well. 

To give you an example of something we built:

We developed a personalized senior home care app that connected several different user groups: administrators who oversaw scheduling, home care providers, patients and patient family members. 

Not only did they need to be able to communicate seamlessly, but we also had to prepare for a variety of potential circumstances that might affect the efficiency of the service provided:

  • What happens if a caregiver doesn’t get an order? Who would need to know about it?
  • What happens if a caregiver is off for the day or sick? 
  • How does rescheduling work? 
  • What about customer cancelation?

No matter what type of app we build, questions like these –– that follow the entire potential user journey and consider the specific type of user solutions required –– are paramount. And the answers inform both the development and business strategy we move forward with.

3 reasons to avoid outsourcing to an offshore app developer

We have many clients who opted to hire an overseas app developer — before then having to engage our team to clean up the mess. 

We hear it all the time: You need an application or software developed, and an offshore app company promises faster development, at a cheaper cost. And we get it. The price tag for building an app is always top-of-mind for our clients, as is how long it will take. It’s safe to say most of today’s most popular applications weren’t built in two weeks for less than $20,000.

In the first quarter of 2021, there were 3.48 million Android apps in the Google Play store and 2.22 million iOS apps available for download from Apple. If you want your app to be a contender in a highly saturated market, you can’t sacrifice on quality. And you also probably need adjacent services and business insight to successfully launch and market your app. 

You should be able to trust that your development team has advanced design, development and programming skills. They also should have the knowledge, capability and integrity to consider and address any potential security risks, as well as ensure local North American regulatory requirements are met. Finally, you want an experienced, business-savvy team who can provide strategic direction on the implementation and even use of your app. 

Apps don’t have to be uber expensive, but there are a few key reasons you want to avoid offshoring to save money and we’re going to explore them in this article.

Look for current, and cutting-edge development expertise

There are offshore development firms in every corner of the globe, from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, to India, and Latin America. There are absolutely some amazing developers in these locations, but they’re not likely to be the ones offering too-good-to-be-true pricing and timelines.

In addition, when you leverage an unknown overseas resource, it increases the need to gauge whether that company has the most up-to-date development expertise and skills. We have met great overseas devs who aren’t using current software, tools, programming languages and/or methods.

We’ve worked on — or fixed — apps that were started by offshore developers who had knowledge that was more than five years out of date.

Often, the result is an app that does not perform at the level it is required to. Usually the app  runs too slowly or inefficiently. 

And when you start with something that isn’t up to today’s standards, scalability becomes near impossible. In the end, fixes for these projects often involve significant or total rebuilds.

Ask about security best practices and local regulations

It’s imperative that your app is built with security that protects you, your company, and your users from risk. For instance, you want to ensure that secure communication, network security measures, permissions and data storage on the app are all following best practices

In addition to industry security standards though, there are also country-specific regulations that must be understood and implemented. For instance, in Canada, data privacy laws such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), set specific ground rules for how applications must “collect, use or disclose information about individuals in the course of commercial activities.”

We recently assisted a client with a complex app that was built overseas. They spent more than $100,000 and were promised it was fully secure. We checked it out and discovered no security measures were in place at all, leaving the client exposed to massive risk.

A great partner also delivers business insight and strategy

A successful app is not dependent on technical development alone. Throughout the scoping, research, design, development and testing process –– as well as before and during launch –– you need strategic business advice and insight to be available as well. 

[Related reading: Here’s everything you need to do to plan for app success]

A client recently came to us with an app that was developed offshore. They didn’t want to fix the code, but instead get counsel on how best to onboard 200,000 users. Because the developer was strictly a developer, they lacked insight on how to manage the people that will ultimately use the app. They also lacked experience launching an app for a large enterprise and couldn’t support internal teams with direction on user flow and usability.

The strategy and rollout of an app takes way more than good code, so ask for details about support options when you are picking a developer.

Getting a development resource you can trust

Our team begins every project by getting to know you and your business problem, so that we develop a product that provides you with strategic, measurable –– and if relevant, profitable –– solutions that you can then immediately take to market. 

If you want to do some research before starting your app journey, here are some common questions we get:

Still need help? Reach out and we can answer any questions you have.

Let’s talk timelines –– here’s how long it takes to build an app

We can talk all day about custom software development and mobile apps. We can talk about artificial intelligence unlocking business value. Or automation and structured data. 

But in most cases clients want to know two things: What does it cost to create an app and how long will it take?

They’re the key questions we get, every time.

How much does it cost to build an app? There are general ranges, but the short answer is that it depends on the number of features you need and the complexity of the app. 

As for the time required to build an app, that’s what we’re going to unpack in this article.

On average, most of the applications designed by our team — which tend to range from medium- to larger-sized projects — take anywhere from five to 10 months to complete. Business needs are driving app development, and in many cases timelines are driven by our clients.

Invest the time to get it right

Discussing timelines is a critical part of every project. Without disciplined project management and transparent, continuous conversation between a developer and an organization on progress, hurdles, and objectives, there is little to no chance for success.

Well-scoped timelines come from a thoughtful and strategic conversation about your business needs, and what success looks like. 

In the development of an application and/or custom software, we set milestones for development and our customer experience teams will keep you informed about what we’re working on, what we need from you, and any schedule changes.

We are capable of sprints to deliver on short timelines, but often there are factors within our client’s world that slow that process down. Maybe you need multiple stakeholders to provide input. Or your data isn’t yet organized or accessible for an app. Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know until we talk it out and provide strategic counsel on the benefits and risks of certain decisions.

A delay in making a decision by a week can have a domino effect, so we spend the upfront time to understand your business goals and come up with realistic timelines.

If another app developer is telling you they can have your app ready in a few weeks or months and they haven’t done a thorough review of your business, goals and potential challenges then you end up paying for it in the long-run.

Onboarding and project kick-off is where our process begins. At Vog App Developers, we start with a high-level discussion to understand the problem or opportunity your application will address, as well as the specific audiences or user groups it will serve. Armed with this insight, we can then move on to development, testing and deployment –– altogether, there’s a lot to get done. 

If you seek a faster than average timeline for the development of your app, there are options that can speed things up, but they come at a cost.

Ask about the team who will work on your app

App development is a black box to many. Some companies promise a small army will work on an app, and in some cases extra bodies can help. But in almost every case, a strategic build with the right kind of developers will yield better returns.

If you are shortlisting a developer to build your custom software and mobile apps, there are three questions you should ask:

  • How many resources are dedicated to your project? 
  • How many senior developers are taking part in the project? 
  • Will any of the work be outsourced?

Outsourcing is increasingly common in the development industry, to offset cost, flexibility and speed to market. In 2020, nearly 14 percent of IT budgets were allocated to outsourced labour, according to a study by Computer Economics

At Vog App Developers, however, we keep 100 percent of our work in-house to ensure quality control and limit the degrees of separation between our clients and the people actually working on their app. 

Develop a Minimum Viable Product

The concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has been around for more than a decade in tech, but for many of the companies we work with it’s still a new idea.

An MVP is intended to create and launch a technology product (in this case, your app) that integrates only the most required features. No bells and whistles, which means less complexity and thus a shorter development time frame — in theory.  

An app focused on a MVP would still solve the core problem that was outlined during your business planning process, but will likely not offer any extra features. Some glitches may even occur, which hopefully early adopters/users of the app will understand and forgive because they know an enhanced version of the application is set to come in future. Your fully functioning app still needs to be built out, of course. 

As well as potentially bringing your app to market faster, MVPs can also provide an opportunity to “run mini-experiments” that test your target audience’s initial response to the key components of the platform.

While not the right fit for every business, MVPs are one way we can get to market faster with an app as its purpose is to test or collect feedback and data on usage before making assumptions on how people will actually use the product.

Ask if your developer will use third-party code

Some software development firms regularly purchase or even copy code or scripts that have been developed by an external source –– then modify them for the project they are working on, to cut back on labour and time. In doing so they can save two or three months of development work. 

You should ask your developer what is being written from scratch, and what is being repurposed from existing code.

Though we build almost all products from the ground up, on occasion we will purchase and use third-party templates or plugins. We do it only when we know it’s the best option for our clients’ needs and timeline, and only when the code fits the client’s needs. We disclose when we do this transparently with our clients.

What matters most as you evaluate your application’s development timeline, is that you are experiencing open communication with your developer. Ask yourself if they seem to be honestly explaining the strategic reasons for resource allocation, product options and outsourced labour or coding decisions. 

If you want an app but don’t know what to ask, here’s everything you need to do to plan for success. Want to talk about timelines? Contact us and we can provide a quote and timeline specific to your business.

Looking for an app developer? Consider these priorities, says DCBank

If you want to incorporate an app or an API in your company’s ecosystem, Jeff Smith, President and CEO of DCBank, suggests focusing on a few key elements: “The number one thing is user experience (UX) –– make sure there’s the fewest number of keystrokes possible,” he says. “Then there’s the experience of your app developer, and their ability to clearly understand the problem you’re trying to solve.” 

DCBank is a Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform that helps financial institutions and FinTech entrepreneurs with their digital payments (including the transfer of funds), card services, digital wallets, identity and lending software. 

The company goes beyond just offering online banking services, though. Clients are also provided with access to API developer tools, which allow them to have full control over the DCBank products they are engaging. 

What is an API? An Application Programming Interface (API) allows two apps to communicate and share data.

It’s no surprise that user experience is a top priority for the online bank, considering the main purpose of many of their applications and APIs is to offer more services to clients in an easy and accessible way –– while empowering them to embed those services in their own technology, says Smith. 

Creating best-in-class APIs that deliver seamless UX is heavily dependent on the second priority he mentioned — working with a seasoned app developer. 

When Smith was searching for a company to build custom applications, his expectations were clear: He wanted an experienced team that was client-focused, and one that would clearly understand and deliver solutions to a problem, not just build an app. Smith also wanted a team that could deliver on budget and on time.

Some other questions DCBank considered during its search included:

  1. Will this developer have the ability to replicate the app or API solution across multiple platforms?
  2. How many apps are required?
  3. What’s the strength and position of teams involved in the building of these apps? 

Smith says he found all the development support he was looking for with Vog App Developers.

“I’m still using Vog and it’s been five years,” he says. “I don’t use anybody else.” 

The first project that Vog worked on for Smith was building and launching new features for a cryptocurrency application. 

“The first objective was to get the app online and offer the ability to purchase cryptocurrency from a mobile app versus having to go to a computer,” explains Smith. “It was the first app of its kind in Canada.” 

Vog continues to provide ongoing monthly support and development for that application, adding new coins, making changes to the environment, updating policies, managing iOS updates, and more. 

After the success of the cryptocurrency initiative, Smith engaged Vog to build out applications and APIs for DCBank’s core services. With these, the goal was to make the tools more accessible, thus enabling easier integration for customers. 

Vog also provided advisory support so the platform can duplicate or resell services without needing to rebuild a new app each time.

Having an external development team that could be depended on for deliverability and speed is even more important today, as the impact of COVID-19 increases use and expectations of digital banking services, says Smith. 

“The pandemic has pushed the requirement for non face-to-face transactions that can occur wherever, such as a business owner doing payments from their iPad,” Smith says. “That has pushed demand ahead five to seven years, so we’re trying to deliver a better interface on a more expedited basis.”

With double-digit growth annually for the past several years, DCBank works hard to meet those demands, says Smith. 

When it comes to return on investment (ROI), Smith says it’s measured differently depending on the function of each individual app. His team has seen value from improved user experience and customer satisfaction, contract renewals, and additional services that are offered to customers.

As for the cryptocurrency application Vog first built for Smith?

“The ROI for that app was multiple thousands,” he says.

How much does it cost to build an app?

It’s the question we get asked more than any other. 

Yes, we get asked what business needs are driving app development, and we are often asked what a company needs to do to make an app successful. But above all else, the six words we get most often are: How much does an app cost?

While there are some general ranges you can plan for (see below), the short answer is that it depends on the features you need and the complexity of the app.

In this article we’ll cover the primary considerations that drive cost for custom app development. If you’re looking for specific pricing for an app for your company, contact us and we can provide a quote specific to your business.

Variable cost elements

Considering the many functionalities and features that determine the ultimate price of an app, it’s important to discuss variable details with a developer. Variables include: timeline, payment expectations, server and operational needs, as well as any potential extra charges that might arise.

Your developer should also work with you to determine how future costs can be reduced based on your specific needs, he says. 

There are cases where server costs can be mitigated by making sure an app doesn’t pull on the server all the time. Implementing something like Amazon Web Services (AWS) can also lower operating costs. Or in the case where a business needs to move a lot of data, data transfer can be optimized to lower cost.

Of course the price of labour is also a factor to consider. Many firms outsource much of the actual development work done on apps. In 2019, the global outsourcing market was worth $92.5 billion, according to Statista, and cost reduction is the primary reason why companies farm out labour, says a Deloitte survey

Vog does not outsource any of its labour because quality control is easier to manage in-house and many clients prefer to engage directly with the people who are working on their app.

If you’ve been quoted what seems to be a too-good-to-be-true price for an app, you should ask your developer where it’s being built and how quality control, security, and client service will work once the process starts. 

A tactic among some lower-quality app developers is to quote low to win business, and then skip over details, QA, and security requirements in the process. Vog has been brought in to multiple projects in order to fix code written by other developers when projects were outsourced or critical components were skipped. It’s ultimately cheaper to do it right the first time.

And if you’ve been quoted $20,000 or $30,000 for what you think should be a comprehensive app, the developer you’ve found is likely offshoring or cutting corners. 

If you’re looking for specific pricing for an app for your company, contact us and we can provide a quote specific to your business.

Payment and financing options 

Other common cost-related questions include payment timelines and financing options. Each developer is going to have her or his own payment guidelines. At Vog, we are flexible with clients so we might bill them in sprints, or if a client pays 30 percent upfront, they can then pay off the balance in monthly payments.

Financing is also an option through a partnered financial institution. The nice thing about going with financing is that your term can be over the course of up to 72 months, so you can finance your software for the long term.

This can be particularly helpful if a client is engaging the developer for a support contract, after their app has been built and launched. Support or maintenance fees typically range from $1,000 to $10,000 a month, primarily just based on hours required and if a team is going to be dedicated to your account.

Annual maintenance or support contracts will typically cover:

  • Server hosting charges
  • Maintaining stability and performance
  • Bug fixes and app updates
  • Developing new features 
  • Infrastructure and 3rd party API charges

All the factors that determine the final cost of your application –– not to mention ongoing support fees ––  might seem overwhelming. But a savvy and efficient developer should walk you through the variables and options available early on in the development planning phase, and help you access the best value for your project.

If you’re looking for specific pricing for an app for your company, contact us and we can provide a quote specific to your business.

Cost ranges for application development

Some examples of specific factors that influence an app’s price tag include: 

  • Moving data to a cloud environment for access and use within an app.
  • The number of platforms the app will live on (web, iOS, Android).
  • How it will use hardware features built into your smartphone, including GPS, augmented reality, and motion coprocessors.
  • Social media platform integration.
  • The complexity of the visual objects included in the application.
  • The level of support or ongoing maintenance it will need.

In general, apps and price ranges will typically fall into three overarching ranges:

Simple app pricing

Producing a simple app that provides basic features and perhaps two to four core functionalities, will typically cost between $60,000 to $100,000.

Standard app pricing

If you start building integrations with other platform providers that necessitate using APIs from platforms like Stripe or Google, this compounds the cost. The average price for creation of this type of iOS or Android app — that potentially includes a web component as well — is typically between $150,000 and $200,000.

Advanced app pricing

If the complexity of the app is more advanced and requires a platform to engage a more expansive set of user groups that also require different or complicated interactions, for example, then it typically costs between $200,000 and $500,000.

If you’re looking for specific pricing for an app for your company, contact us and we can provide a quote specific to your business.

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