How to build a winning developer team of iPhone and iPad appreneurs
“Coming together is a beginning; Staying together is progress; Working together is success.” - Henry Ford
Chris reached out to me a while ago and asked if he could write a guest post. He pitched me on the following topic and it sounded awesome, so he went for it. Below is a great description of both hiring and managing a development team. Almost everyone is going to be working with someone overseas at some point in their life and these principles can be applied many times over. Check out what Chris is doing at Imagii Apps and send him a note with your questions! - Carter
Four months ago I read Chad Mureta’s book “App Empire.” This book woke me up to the huge opportunity that currently exists in the App Industry, and since that time I have jumped into the app world, designed and developed 18 Apps, and also set up my own app company.
It hasn’t been an easy road from ideas to publishing my Apps, but it has been well worth the effort. I decided to write this post because a lot of people ask me what tips I can give, that will help them setup their own App Company. While there are lots of things you need to consider, and lots of things you will learn along the way, I think the main tip I can give is; “Find a great development team to work with!” Finding the right development team, in my experience, was the toughest part of getting started, and it’s something that if done wrong, can cost you a lot of money.
Today I’m going to share my experiences from working with development teams, and how you can learn from my mistakes, thereby saving yourself precious dollars in the process of finding and working with a team who may become an integral part of your future App company.
Just so you know… This post isn’t a step by step process of finding developers. Read Carter’s post http://www.bluecloudsolutions.com/blog/developer-hire-iphone-ninja/ if you are looking for a great step by step guide for finding developers.
This is an article, more about the best ways of working with your development team and how you can avoid some very common mistakes, which I and many other Appreneurs have made. This post will help you save money in the development process, and will reveal how you can make your life, and your developer’s life, much easier in the process of bringing your app to life.
You’re Hired; Let’s Make an App!
I’m assuming that you have done a few interviews with developers, and that you have hired those who you feel most comfortable working with. So now what?? Do you just sit back, let them do their magic and hope to have your perfect app in the store once they are done?
Now it’s time to really get your Appreneurial skills working. You are going to need to reinforce your idea with the developers. You will need to overview the design so you know it’s just how you want it. You will also need to constantly test the function and flow of your app, and you may even need to tell them, “it looks shit!”, or as Steve Jobs would say, “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
This is the process of creation where your app is being brought to life, so don’t take it lightly. Remember, it’s easy to have a clear image in our minds of how we want our app to look and flow, but the real Appreneur skill, is communicating that mental image across to the developers.
The better you can communicate your idea to your developers, the easier your life will be, and the easier their job will be.
Clear communication is the key to making the development process run smoothly, so let’s look at the best ways to communicate with your developers, and how you can avoid some disappointing Adhocs (test versions of your apps).
The best way I have found to communicate with my team, is via Skype. I will go one step further, and say there’s a way to be even more productive than Video calls, and that’s instant messaging.
Some of us have teams that consist of developers and designers. Some have an individual designer and developers, or other possible combinations. I personally have an independent designer, and a team of developers.
At first I thought video calling was the best way to communicate, but now I think I can be much more productive using instant messaging on Skype. The main reason I like instant messaging, is because firstly you can be more “To The Point” with what you’re saying if you write it down. I know that sometimes I like to always agree and be polite when talking face to face, but when it comes to texting, or instant messaging, I find it much easier to say what needs to be said.
The second reason I like instant messaging, is because you can always look back at what you talked about, since it’s written in your message feed. This also helps your developers because they won’t have to remember everything you told them, they can also simply look back over the message feeds themselves.
I usually break my routine into 3 parts; reviewing my app; sending a detailed list of things to do via email; then having a quick chat, to make sure my developers understand every point in my email.
Step 1: Review My Apps Latest Build
Usually after my developers have done about 25% of my apps build, which is mainly the template and a few basic functions, they send me the app to review via Testflight. I spend anywhere between 10-15 minutes reviewing the app, and then another 5 mins writing up what needs to be developed and tweaked next.
Step 2: Daily Email
After reviewing my apps latest build, I then write up a list of about 5-10 things the developers can do today. I usually number each task in order of priority. For example:
- Upload videos and audio files to Exercise Instruction pages.
- Change the color of the menu tabs in Workout page.
- Correct the spelling of “Exersises” to Exercises on Homepage menu button.
I make sure to write the tasks as simply as possible, so there’s no confusion between my developers and myself, and this also makes their job much easier. I find emails are the easiest way to notify developers of tasks and adjustments to the app, because it’s easy for them to refer to.
Step 3: Daily Chat
After I have reviewed my app’s latest build, written and sent a “to do” list for my developers, and enough time has passed for them to have read and gone through my email. I then log onto Skype and have a chat with them to make sure they understand everything in my email. I also answer any questions they have about adjustments to the app etc. This is an important step because it cuts out any confusion and makes things flow much more smoothly.
So once the first 25% of the app is built (generally takes less than a week or so to build), I usually repeat the above process every day until the app is complete. Of course there are times when the developers need to take a few days to complete the tasks I send in the email, but generally I like to keep the tasks small and doable within 1 day or so, before I receive a new app build to review. This may be a little annoying to the developers but it ensures the app gets created in the quickest time possible and for the least amount of money and re-developing. The developers also appreciate you working with them through the process.
7 Things That Drive Developers Nuts!
Let’s have a look at some of the things, which make your developer’s job harder, and what makes them annoyed. If you can understand what makes them nuts, then you will be able to ensure you are not making their job harder than it needs to be.
- When you can’t explain your app idea, design, and functions clearly.
- When you make an un-realistic timeframe for your apps completion.
- When you always change your mind about your apps features, functions etc., and make the developers re-develop certain things time and time again.
- When you aren’t available to answer their questions.
- When you don’t give them feedback.
- When you don’t appreciate their work and efforts.
- When you don’t pay on time.
Lastly, developers hate it when you don’t test and review your app completely. I made the mistake of not looking at every detail of my App, as my developers where giving me new versions of it to view each day. With my first fitness App, I said in the contract, that I want iAds set up in the app. The problem was, that I forgot to draw the iAds bar in my sketches, and the developers were so busy developing the main functions and design of my app, that they forgot. It wasn’t until the final adhoc that I noticed there were “no test ads”. Because I didn’t look into the detail enough, this cost me an extra 5 days before I could have the App in the store. This app made about $20 a day when it was first released (not bad since I didn’t do any promotion or marketing), so this means that mistake cost me $100.
5 Things That Make Both Your Own and Your Developer’s Job Easy!
These are simply common sense things, but often overlooked. Make sure you follow the below tips, to make things flow much easier with your apps creation.
- A clear and precise app idea, understanding of functions, layout, and design.
- Detailed sketches of your app. Developers love reading every little detail, so make sure you add lots of descriptions and notes to your sketches.
- A realistic timeframe for completion of your app that your developers can work towards.
- When you appreciate their efforts and work, make sure you take the time to give them positive feedback and praise. It’s easy for people like me, who know nothing about code, to say, “Do this, this and this to the app”, but most of the time, things which seem simple, are quite tough tasks for your developers to do, so try your best to appreciate their efforts.
- When you pay on time, and give them ratings and comments if you hired them through online sites, such as oDesk and Elance. Your rating and recommendation gives them credibility, which will likely result in more business for them. It’s simple to do and a great way of saying thanks for developing my app.
Having Trouble Finding The Right Development Team? Use Mine!
It was only 4 months ago when I was doing about 3 or more Skype interviews per day looking for a great development team, to bring my apps to life. It gave me a lot of experience in talking with developers, but it was honestly annoying and hard to tell from each interview, if they were the right team for me or not.
My first hire was a quick nightmare. We began the contract and then I didn’t hear from them for 3 days because they said they were busy. I can’t tell you how annoying those 3 days were. Not surprisingly I ended that contract right away.
Second hire was going well, until on the 6th day they said, “Oh we can’t add that function, we thought you meant something different in your sketches.” I must admit that both of these bad hires were my fault, for not communicating clearly enough, but I still felt like I had no luck on my side…
Anyway, my third hire was a breath of fresh air. They are a team of 20, based in the U.S., India, and the U.K. From the very first interview, they walked me through every step of the process, gave me timeframes, when to expect updates, and also assigned a team of 4 developers for my project, and a team manager. Alpesh is the development team manager, and he and his team are simply fantastic to work with. They love their work, and even share their ideas and creativity, in making some of my app features even better than I designed them.
Now I have created a total of 18 Apps with them, and I also have a new range coming out soon.
These guys are not expensive compared to other companies, in fact from what I have seen, I would rate their pricing low to medium, compared to the other offers I received.
To save you the trouble of going through any bad hires, I would be happy to pass on my teams contact details to you, if that would help. Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll pass on their details to you, as soon as I can.
I hope this post gave you a few ideas and helpful tips for working with developers.