Like every other man and his dog, I recently had an idea for an app. I recruited a couple of friends, equipped myself with no experience whatsoever and assumed it would be easy. And it was, sort of.
It just took way longer and cost way more than I thought it would.
We opted to get the idea developed offshore and battled disappearing developers, mountains of miscommunication and email threads that make the Bible look like light reading.
But if we’d had a few choice snippets of the information and experience we have now, a lot of that time and money could have been saved.
So, for those with an app idea they’d like to act on, here are some crucial lessons to prepare for the offshore development adventure.
Map it out
Dealing with an offshore developer means you can’t assume any context or prior knowledge. We wanted to build a game of Guess Who with a board populated by mutual Facebook friends. I mean, who hasn’t played Guess Who?
Our developer, it turned out.
This experience reinforced how important it is to clearly communicate the fundamental idea, and also map out how the game will function. Nothing too complicated, just a diagram showing which buttons do what and how the all the screens interact.
Only once this is all mapped out can you can start thinking about design.
Get a referral
Going through three developers to finalise our project, we had a particularly tough time of it. At the heart of our issues was going through a freelancing site to source contractors. Unless they come with a trusted referral from someone you know, don’t bother.
The first one turned out to be just a front, sub-contracting the work to another developer. The second was the developer he had commissioned and never paid. Both of them were sub-standard disasters.
The third came on the referral of a colleague and was terrific. Needless to say, a well regarded referral is the only way to go.
Structure payments for success
Well structured payment milestones are essential. We went for 20 per cent on the first demo, 20 per cent on the final demo and 60 per cent upon app store launch, but any variation will work.
The important thing is that milestone payments are agreed in advance, have hard deadlines attached and both parties deliver on them.
In addition to the payment schedule, be sure to provide for a support period following the launch of the app. Most developers will include three to six months support for no extra cost. Whether the payment schedule factors this in is of less consequence; getting on the app store is the biggest hurdle.
Market from the start
It’s very easy to get so caught up working on a business idea that you forget to plan how you’ll sell it, or worse, just assume people will buy it. By the time the product is ready to go there’s no time to build it up, buttercup.
We were guilty of this with our app and found ourselves playing catch up once it was available for download, when if we’d planned out the marketing approach could have built it up before launch date.
Once you decide to go ahead with your app, start marketing it.
Learn and enjoy it
It’s an interesting, engaging and often demanding learning curve to go through building an app. And that’s with someone else doing the building for you. However, instead of being overwhelmed or getting angry about hiccups along the way, learn from them.