Posted in Business
Hundreds of small firms and individual freelancers specialize in building iPhone applications. They combine customer ideas with their knowledge of the Apple platform and develop applications that create compelling interactive experiences.
Before beginning any search for a developer, there are a few important considerations about what an application of the iPhone Operating System (iOS), the mobile operating system for Apple Inc hardware, can do and how to approach the development process. Step back and ask the tough business questions: Why develop it? Who would be the audience? Who would be the market? Would it the best medium to reach a target market? For what would the application not be practical or suitable?
For development planning, consider that successful iPhone mobile applications take a small part of what might be possible with desktops and deliver it in personal electronic devices very easy to use. Because the delivery must be of real value to the end user, there are at least three questions to ask before consulting a prospective application developer:
What key benefit should a user be able to get from this application? What existing applications would be competitive and how would this one be distinctively different? What business purpose(s) would this application serve?
Asking these questions before beginning guides the search and makes it more likely to provide developers with clear guidelines. There should be some vision of objectives and constraints. It is unwise to meet with a developer without some sense of the way the proposed application should operate. The specifics need not be complete in every detail, but there should be a distinct idea of an ultimate goal. Developers can help refine ideas, but the more clarity they receive, the more easily they can gauge the cost, time, and effort to bring the idea to fruition in the market.
Don't be reluctant to ask how to do something or whether something is possible on the iPhone. Such questions can reveal whether the developer can resolve complex questions or discuss technical issues in detail clearly and straightforwardly.
Some developers want and all of them need specific information. Before meeting with them, try to have clear ideas about what the application will do, how much to charge for it, and how much will be the budget for its development. Define requirements carefully. Don't just give a developer a list of functions. Describe the precise ways an ideal user of the application would download, install, and interact with it. A good developer already should have some idea of how the application would work best, but clarity from a user's perspective seems to be a major contribution to freelance project success.
Do necessary market research. This basic step is obviously indispensable for not only iOS projects but all developments. Do enough customers actually want to use this application to make it a market success? No matter how good the developmental work, if it doesn't attract the patronage anticipated, it will not succeed in the market.
Where to find an application developer?
The scope of the project indicates the type of developer to retain. For a relatively large project, it's usually best to look for established agencies or development groups. Google searches with keywords like "award-winning" with the search location can return hundreds of useful results. For freelancers for small projects, Craigslist can be a good source to search. Cocoa Heads, an online forum for Cocoa, Apple's application programming interface for the OS X operating system, and Cocoa Touch, a similar iOS interface, is another good source of freelancers. Proximity is also worth consideration in a developer search. Local developers are convenient, particularly on small projects.
What to Look for in a Developer
So the kind of application to be built determines the job requirements to craft for the application developer who will build it. For someone with more than a few iOS or OS X application projects successfully completed, make sure to include Objective–C, Apple Inc's main programming language for the OS X and iOS operating systems and for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, as part of the search because it indicates that the developer can organize code to be easy for successors to figure out and follow.
Be sure to find out what role the developer has played in any project listed on a resume. Sometimes multiple developers work on an application, so make sure the candidate's roles have not been mostly minor when hiring someone to take the lead on an application development project. If the application will connect to servers and save information, select a developer from those with such back-end experience.
Other requirements should be a comprehension of the application content and an engagement in the product to be put on the market. Enthusiasm on the development team makes management of the iPhone application project much easier.
What skills should they have?
There are certain qualities to consider. Not all developers are the same. As the mobile devices in use increase in number, application developer skill sets vary by device and project. Not all applications are equal, either, even for someone with specific experience in iPhone application development. It depends on the type of application to be developed.
Decide on what type of application to make and the skills needed from the developer. Then draft a job description for the ideal candidate for iPhone or iOS application developer. It is helpful to see samples of their past work. Ask for a list of iPhone applications that the candidate has developed. See whether they demonstrate the work product quality probably necessary.
What Kind of Application to Make?
For simplicity, sort iPhone applications into two categories, those coded in the native iPhone language, Objective–C, and those converted from ActionScript or another language. For an application built with Objective–C select someone familiar from experience with the process. A developer with some familiarity with iPhone coding will have encountered and worked through usability issues and will know what can happen during the Apple testing process for App store approval. This knowledge is a time-saver. Whenever Apple rejects an App Store submission, it must go through the entire waiting process again, each time for at least ten or more business days.
It's good to have in mind which specific features to access. Will the application access the phone accelerometer or use the compass or the camera? Look for someone who knows how to utilize phone functions fully and how to program them for best performance.
An important candidate credential is knowledge of Cocoa. Many iPhone applications use Internet services, so preferably the candidate will have experience with web-based application programming interfaces. If a candidate has usable code tested in production, it will help expedite the application build-out, saving time and money.
It may be best to avoid novice developers. An initial iPhone project, no matter how cheap the cost, requires a long learning curve for an end product nowhere near as good as what an experienced developer would deliver. Some experience with the App Store and with the rigorous Apple review process is also desirable.
Ask about past iOS projects and open source contributions. A track record is a good indicator of developer capability at building applications. How many iOS applications has the developer built? How many have been accepted to the store after passing the Apple review process?
Some other elements to evaluate in candidates
Along with knowledge and skills from experience, candidate attitude, willingness to communicate, and enthusiasm are important indicators of developer ability. Does the candidate discuss the project meaningfully and seem willing to report regular project updates? Communications are of prime importance on any iOS application development project.
If design is important, look for developers with experience working with art directors, graphic designers, and quality assurance teams to review the application after the design team finishes with its work. There is profit in hiring someone genuinely enthusiastic about mobile applications, someone who likes to explore all things mobile.
What's the developer's history of open source contribution? Developers who contribute frequently to open source are programming enthusiasts usually confident and comfortable working with teams on large application projects.
How much will it cost?
iOS and OS X application developments do not come cheaply. The base price to develop a simple application is about $20,000; the cost of a complex program can exceed $100,000. Cost varies with the scope of the project. An iPhone application developer with several years of experience typically charges from $125 to $175 per hour.
Expect 80 percent of all professionally-managed applications to cost between $25,000 and $50,000 for the user-interface design, the operational architecture, quality assurance, conformity to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines for Apple acceptance, submission to App Store review, and post-release fixes under warranty. The base price for a project from scratch is now about $20,000. Any price less is probably risky, so do it cheaply or do it right. Rarely is it possible to do it both ways.
Prepare a reasonable, realistic budget. What does "reasonable" mean? Depending on complexity, an iOS application development cost could be from $25,000 to $100,000 or more. Calculating what something should cost is more art than science, so the best way may be just to think about a maximum affordable amount to spend and let it dictate the application's complexity. This method may not be best for highly complex projects for customers with more money than what they can spend but still the most effective for small investors that need to control their outlays.
How long will the development process take?
The timeline varies with the scope of the project. The more complexity to the application, the longer will be the time to develop it, typically ranging from six weeks to six months. Anything less than six weeks is virtually unknown. Then there is the two- to three-week Apple review process, and don't expect it to be in the App Store in less than two months.
If the project looks as if it will take longer than six months, it may be too ambitious for an initial release. Talk to the developer and consider a less complex release as a first version followed by a version 2. Consider a couple of update cycles to add features and respond to feedback comments.
To construct a timeline and make deadlines easier to meet, try a phase-based development process:
- Discuss the design in detail. Spend a week or two discussing existing requirements, user guidelines, and all documents necessary for starting the project.
- Plan the initial implementation. Set a deadline for production of the initial version of the application, a version a bit rough in some aspects but with about 80 to 90 percent of the design features discussed in detail.
- Make provisions for final implementation. This deadline should be a week or two before actual release of the application, allowing for some room to test and get some additional feedback from testers.
- Arrange for support following release. The developer should be available for three to eight weeks of support after the application release for incremental bug fixes and feature modifications wherever necessary or appropriate.
There may be pressure to release an application prematurely to keep current with competitors or get out in front of them, but all too often haste makes waste. A rush to the App Store is reminiscent of commercial websites in the 1990s cutting corners on necessary developments to get into the action quickly and cheaply and then a few years later spending much more than should have been necessary for professional redevelopments. Lots of applications in the App Store are low grade even for well-known brands. Many will relaunch in years to come.
Don't skip quality in a rush to the market. Take the time to work with a good developer for an application of high quality, for which there can be no substitute.
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