With even the smallest of companies switching onto the power of being mobile and having an ‘app’ to engage and retain customers, it’s no wonder that the technology development world is growing apace.  While this is all well and good and the future careers of many are assured, demand in sub-Saharan Africa currently outstrips supply, forcing the cost up, as well as longer and longer lead times for an app to be developed and delivered.
The cost of skill involved can quickly ramp up hefty bills when it comes to developing even the simplest of applications, so it’ vital to get it right, from the start.  Expensive is not always better.  Nor is the prettiest design a guarantee that what you want is what you get.   To help choose the right app development partner for what you and your company need, Lorraine Steyn, simplifier-in-chief of South African software house KRS has compiled the following guide:

Experience counts – How long has your service provider been operating and how many apps have they developed (and ones that work) – do they have contactable references? “When KRS was looking for a partner, this was one of our top priorities” commented Steyn who has recently returned from a trip to India having concluded a deal with a company who has created over 4 500 products, who will supply the demand KRS is experiencing for quality functional apps. Falling into the experience bracket, is also the level of after-sales service you can reasonably expect to receive.  It’s pretty pointless having a great app if after it gets deployed there is no-one around to sort out the inevitable bugs.

Platforms (9 and three quarters) – Fans of the Harry Potter series will understand that Platform 9 and 3/4 is hidden from view of mere mortals, but the point here is that you need to decide from the start, which operating platforms you want your application to run on.  Android and Windows are the most popular, but don’t forget Apple’s iOS, as despite some market perceptions in South Africa, Apple is very desirable and device penetration is growing across Africa.  Building across all platforms from the beginning is optimal and also cost effective in the long term.

Size matters – Does the developer have the know-how to render your app to tablet as well as a host of different phone types? There’s nothing worse than having a beautifully designed application that looks good on the owners’ phone but when a customer opens it on their tablet or desktop even, it barely functions…

Socially speaking –  Consider whether you are building social integrations (like share to Facebook) and does your developer understand the various social platform APIs?

Safety first  –  While it seems perfectly obvious that your app will be designed to communicate on all levels, it is not always the case.  Apps can be stand alone or fully integrated with existing systems.  Either way, rigorous security checks and balances need to be put in place to prevent putting internal systems at risk.  For that matter, protecting customers’ information and data is also paramount in a world where identity theft is a common occurrence.

All access – Part of the forward planning is thinking about how your app will be distributed. Will it be sold/given away for free via the various App stores, or will this be individually forwarded to specific users, if so, the delivery mechanism should be well thought through.

Timing is everything – How long will it take to design, build, test and implement?  Here it is important to be clear on expectations and deliverables.  Life happens, but with an experienced team of developers, the process should take six to eight weeks to deliver a meaningful product.  After all, you don’t want to be waiting months for the latest loyalty scheme app and be at the back of the queue while your competitors quickly reap the rewards of being in the pocket of their consumers.

“Of course, in an ideal world, your new app should both look great and work well, particularly into todays’ design led market.  But if budget dictates that it is one or the other, our experience shows that functionality is paramount for the user experience and to derive the most long-term value,” concludes Steyn.