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How to Avoid Risks When Having a Custom Mobile App Developed

How to Avoid Risks When Having a Custom Mobile App Developed

In a classic risk/reward scenario, you want to reduce the risks and increase the rewards.

This is certainly the case when commissioning custom mobile app development. Your business makes a substantial investment in a technology product that won’t bear fruit for months.

It can seem like a risky proposition. Here’s how to avoid the most common risks.


1. Choose a developer with an in-house team

There are a lot of companies out there offering custom app development that don’t have their own team of developers. Instead, they outsource the development to third party companies (overseas and domestic). Small and large marketing companies are known for outsourcing development.

Why is outsourced development risky? There are several reasons, including:

  • Your team has no direct communication (and no working relationship) with the team developing the app
  • The developers are third parties under contract to the middleman, putting you another degree of separation away from them
  • Should the relationship between the middleman and the developers break down, you could be totally out of luck

In the end, you will enjoy a better customer experience and more rewarding ongoing communication when you hire a development company that focuses on custom mobile apps and has their own developers.


2. Start with a discovery and planning phase

The discovery phase is the first step after you’ve chosen a developer. It’s also the first time that your team and the development team meet and begin to work together.

During the discovery phase — which should include research and planning of the initial features — understanding is reached on a number of items, such as:

By reaching agreement on all of these issues during the discovery phase, you eliminate an entire set of risks that could upset the development of your company’s app.

And since the discovery phase is a separate project that takes place before you sign a development contract, it also reduces the risk of buyer’s remorse; ending up being sorry that you chose that developer. If you’re unhappy after the discovery phase, move on.

And if you encounter a developer that offers to take on your project without a discovery and planning phase, run!

3. Make sure you own the source code

To the uninitiated, ownership of their app’s source code sounds like it should be a given, but there is a bit more to it than that.

Full source code ownership entails up to three different components, and your business needs all of them:

  1. Source code | Developers craft source code specifically for your app, but the coding doesn’t end there.
  2. Software libraries | Developers sometimes use fully-tested code from software libraries for some of the functions of the app, so you need that code as well.
  3. Proprietary code | Some developers use proprietary code (that they own) in the apps they create.

All this code goes through what is called a compiling process that makes the app work on intended devices.

What risks come with not owning all the code?

  • If your business (or just the app) is sold and you need to convey the app to the new owner, you can’t because you don’t own the rights to it free and clear
  • Down the road, if you want a different developer to work on the app, they won’t be able to unless you can provide all of the code
  • If the developer retains ownership to some of the code or refuses to turn over any parts of it, such as their proprietary code, without additional payment, you are being held hostage by the developer and can’t make any changes to your app without them

To avoid any risks regarding source code ownership, make sure you and your developer are on the same page regarding who owns the source code. For more details on this complex subject, read our article, Who Owns Your Source Code.


4. Avoid after shock

Don’t wait until the app is done to find out it doesn’t look or function as you thought it would. Provide for ongoing reviews so your team (including users) can see and test features in progress and once they are completed.

These reviews ensure that:

  • The features you’re reviewing work as expected
  • Your team has an opportunity to provide feedback while work is in progress
  • When the app has been completed, you don’t find yourself saying, “That’s not what we expected.”

Working with the developer to break down the overall process into reviewable chunks also keeps your business in the driver’s seat throughout the development process.


Enjoy more rewards and fewer risks

Custom mobile app development might seem risky, but how much risk your company accepts is up to you. Making sure you select a developer that aligns with the risk-avoidance practices described here will go a long way to reducing your risks and growing your rewards.

For a commitment-free (and risk-free) consultation, contact Big Fish today.

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish - we turn revolutionary ideas into reality through custom software design and development. Sara was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business. When she's not working, Sara enjoys hiking and cooking meals from scratch with ingredients found at farmers markets.

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