Tips On Outsourcing Your App Development

This post is written by Uma Pandit, founder of Bubulu Labs and creator of our recently promoted iYuva for the iPhone.  Uma shares some important tactics to keep in mind when outsourcing your app development. This article furthers the discussion we started last month in “Looking for an App Developer” by outlining key topics to consider if you are not doing the programming yourself.

So let’s say you have a great “app” idea, and did your homework on its viability, usefulness and niche in the marketplace.  The very first step is to sketch out a rough draft of the app and assess the design (there is a wonderful post here on how to design the user experience of your app). Assuming you are not a software developer yourself, it is a good idea to start looking for a developer early in the app development process so you can overlap discussions with your designer and programmer. For example, if you need some animation or some modifications done to your app based on either technical difficulties or feasibility, you can get that done within the contractual obligations from your designer/illustrator.

There are several good places to find a developer such as or  I like for its feedback mechanism and its escrow service – so you are not left wondering whether the developer will deliver the app after the money exchange.

Here are a few tips about short listing and finalizing an app developer:

  • Steer clear of developers who give canned responses to your job listing (i.e., I’m even irked by developer shops referring to me as “Sir”).
  • Look for developers who have created similar applications to the one you are building. By similar, I mean common programming elements like sounds on touch, animation on touch, etc. Be sure to download and play around with the apps they have built before signing them on.
  • Prepare a list of “techie” questions for interviewing potential developers, and if possible, invite a friend on the call who is familiar with software development. Chances are, even if that friend doesn’t know iOS programming, he or she will be able to sniff out a questionable programmer pretty quickly. A call is also a good way to get some virtual face time with a developer who might be thousands of miles away.
  • Ask about milestones. If the developer claims he has done big assignments for publishers such as Disney, ask if he will be able to devote time to your app. The last thing you want is to be lowest priority when Disney has a new movie (and promotional app) coming out.
  • Make sure the delivery of the project will include the entire documented code and builds for working on all of specified devices. For example, if you want a universal app, make sure that is what you get.
  • Ask for frequent (weekly or even bi-weekly) builds on your device after the initial framework of the app is programmed – this is also a good time to evaluate your user interface, engage in testing, and report bugs. Keep an excel spreadsheet of some basic tests, and make sure the next build addresses those bugs and doesn’t bring back old bugs (this is called regression testing in geek-speak).
  • If this is your first app, or if you’re still fuzzy about how to upload to the iTunes Connect portal, ask the developers to help you out with creating certificates, defining your AppID, creating your provisioning profiles and uploading to iTunes Connect. This can be a rather painful process, so it’s valuable to have them help you out the first time around.

I hope these tips are helpful in making your decision to outsource a little less painful. Looking forward to comments on this post. –Uma

12 Replies to “Tips On Outsourcing Your App Development”

  1. If you aren’t familiar with the development process, make sure that the person or company you outsource to can explain the process they use.

    Understand the cost and time implications of making changes to the initial design (you will make changes).

    If you are a small company, make sure that you work with someone who is used to that. Someone who has worked with Disney (as stated above) may be used to large projects and large budgets.

    It is difficult to find someone with both great graphic design skills and great programming skills. Understand their strengths and weaknesses.

    Make sure that any agreement clearly states that you are th owner of and have all rights to the ideas, art, code and any other intellectual property.

    Uma raises a great point about who does the work for the iOS App submission. The first time is a long tedious “techie” process that must be done on a Mac.

  2. Great post! We have had development for a children’s game done through and as I’m sure anyone who has put a job out to tender on an international outsourcing site will attest, we’ve found that we get the most affordable quotes from countries such as China, India and Russia. So assuming that the developers have a strong history of high-quality work, similar to what you are looking for, I suggest keeping the following in mind as well:
    *What is the time difference between you and your developer? If your working hours only overlap for a few hours each day, you may want to agree on certain hours when everyone will be available to communicate. Time difference might also result in communication delays.
    *How easily do you you communicate with the developer you are considering? An initial discussion about qualifications may go without a hitch, but things might get frustrating if you feel your feedback about work in progress is misunderstood.

    These points also count for outsourcing artwork, which we’ve also done. What a learning process!

  3. I am currently looking at outsourcing a project to someone to build an app for me. My biggest concern is that it may take a long time to develop and thus cost a lot of money, maybe even more than expected. Thank you for the information on your post. I did bookmark to come back if I forgot anything.

    Christie Koekemoer

  4. This was a good article to read – it has a number of good points. Support after an app has gone out is another thing to be clear on with a developer (e.g. when Apple updates their iOS). My company does book app development that is inexpensive and high quality. Please have a look at if you’d like to explore working with us as partners in app development 😉
    thx, Tom

  5. I think another important point that can be looked at is the development approach to your idea. If you think your app idea can be broken down into smaller phases and you can keep releasing as updates to the app store ..then do will help you gauge what the user want and also help you control the cost.

  6. Don’t get married for life to your outsourced company.
    Make sure you create your own developer and itunes account. You can grant an outsourced dev company access to this account so they can post to the app store under your account. If you don’t do this you don’t own the app. You can never change to another company or develop yourself with the same app name. Apps can’t be transferred to other accounts.
    You want to make sure you own the code and all source code you have access to. You will need this if you decide later you need to outsource to another company or take it in house.

  7. I am being asked from my developer in India for the following please provide your Apple developer credentials for sharing an application with you. We also need the UDID of the devices on which you will be testing an application. Is this a normal practice to be able to test my app.

    Thank you.

  8. Hey Christie Koekemoer. Did you ever find a reliable outsourcing company to work on your app? Please let me know I’m looking for one right now as I type. Also great article Uma.

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