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.