If you are like most digital agencies and web designers you’ll be keen to make sure that you get your slice of the highly lucrative mobile app development market. Mobile Apps are big business and keep digital agencies relevant as consumer habits change. Brands are increasingly adopt an Omni-Channel approach to give their customers a much more seamless experience. With Millennials now making up more than 50% of the working population this is increasingly becoming Mobile First approach. Agencies without a coherent mobile app strategy risk becoming irrelevant and their customers turning to Mobile First Agencies to help them deliver their digital strategy.
Even the most modest projections put eye watering numbers on the current value of the mobile app market, valuing it in billions of dollars in the next year or so. Also the average enterprise budget for an enterprise app is around 5 times that of an equivalent website. So Brands are putting significant budgets behind their apps.
Why Digital Agencies Struggle with Mobile Apps
This great piece recently published in The Drum (a leading UK publication serving the design industry) nailed why some digital agencies are struggling to get a foothold in mobile apps. In essence the piece says that 3 things are holding agencies back. First, not taking the opportunity seriously and investing in the resources (or easy access to external resources) to deliver mobile projects well. Second, not taking time to understand mobile and thinking it’s just an extension of web, when in fact the dynamics and the services the agency should deliver to support their client, are completely different. Third, not saying no. Not challenging their clients hard enough on whether they actually need an app. Not pushing hard enough to get them to think carefully about exactly what “outcome” they want from the mobile app. What metric do they want to deliver; increased sales, tangible improvement in customer satisfaction, increase in staff productivity or whatever. There seems to be a tendency to ship an app with no clear KPI’s (and usually no way of properly measuring the impact the app has had on the business). As the Drum article says agencies are inclined to think that mobile is just another channel, tick that box for the brand and they are doing their job.
Its also worthwhile to point out that many Digital Agencies, who have grown up with web development moved into mobile responsive websites, just assume that native or hybrid mobile app development is just the next natural extension to what they do. So its an easy and natural extension to their business. The reality unfortunately is somewhat different. This excellent piece on Why Most Mobile App Projects Fail, nails it for me. The big take away is the difference between mobile and web development, with mobile much more closely aligned to software development than website development, so a very different approach and mindset is needed if you want to succeed.
Well the hard truth of the matter is that Digital Agencies who don’t have a credible offering in mobile will see themselves become increasingly marginalized as their Brand clients turn to Agencies that take a Mobile First approach. That means putting mobile (and mobile apps) at the core of what they do.
How Digital Agencies can Succeed with Mobile Apps
Here’s 3 things that Digital Agencies can do to make success of mobile.
1. Start with the end result and work back
Really understand what the Brands need the app to do and build that. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it. But we’ve seen many, many mobile app projects go wrong because the single most important objective is lost somewhere in the dark reaches of the mobile project. One of the best ways to do this is to nail down the 20 most important questions that should be asked before any code is cut. Then keep this front and center throughout the project. This is also a great way to sense check changes to scope – with the acid test “how will this benefit the Single App Objective of the app”. Helps, big time, keep crazy Brand clients focused on the important stuff and keeps your project on track. (Protecting your project margin as well of course).
2. Learn from the software developers
Agile methodology in software has been around for a while. Software developers learnt that the best software projects ship a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as their first release. This doesn’t mean ship an inferior product. What it does mean is to give them a product that delivers the Single App Objective incredibly well, stripping out “Feature Bloat” that often comes with new releases. Bloat that increases the time to market and cost to develop the software. MVP also ensures the product is out in user’s hands early, so how it’s being used can be carefully studied and features enhanced around the use patterns of real people, not what is dreamed up in “smokey” back-rooms. Specialist mobile app agencies are catching on to this and this method is becoming mainstream in how they build apps.
3. Make sure Agency and Client’s needs are aligned.
Another big benefit (and a big reason why specialist mobile app agencies love Agile) is that it helps increase the bond between Agency and Client. It’s a much more collaborative way of working and a method anchored in facts. Facts about exactly how the app is being used and therefore what should be done next to make the app even more successful. The alignment of needs between the Agency and the Client comes from the Client wanting their app to be a success (success defined by the Single App Objective) and the agency wants to work with the client long term to optimize the performance of the app and bill a rolling program of work. The client gets a great app that just keeps getting better, the agency builds a business based on monthly recurring revenue from clients, extending income from just the few months it takes to build and ship the app, to a multi-year engagement.
Mobile Apps – the Opportunity for Digital Agencies
The question isn’t should digital/web agencies target the mobile app development opportunity. It’s a simple case of they can’t afford not to. The facts are simple. As the purchasing power of Millennials continues to grow this will skew the Omni-Channel away from desktops towards Mobile-First. As technology matures and the Internet of Things connects everything to everything, enabled largely by mobile apps running on tablets and smart phones, mobile devices will dominate. There are many examples where this has reached tipping point already. As consumers increasingly move off the desktop, agencies without a coherent offering around mobile risk becoming irrelevant. This that act and build a strong foothold in mobile are not only strongly positioned for the future, but will get a slice of a very profitable and lucrative market.
Here at Kumulos we understand that finding the best mobile app development company to work on your project can be tough. There’s no one size fits all here. It’s about right sizing and finding the right mix of abilities to fit your project. So to help, we’re reviewing the Top Mobile App Developers Los Angeles. If you’re looking for a top mobile app developer further north, check out our of San Francisco based app developers.
Having reviewed dozens of different mobile development agencies from Diamond Back to Venice Beach and beyond, we’ve painstakingly selected the top players in the LA area to help point you in the right direction. We have deliberately chosen a range of companies in this review; from specialist mobile app development businesses to broad-line digital agencies that can help you position your new mobile app within a broader digital strategy.
So here’s the ones we like. They make our Top Mobile App Developers Los Angeles list in alphabetical order. We’ll be adding more to the list as we continue our research.
Citrusbits is an innovative mobile app development agency serving Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area and Eagle Rock. The company has a great website and video outlining their position in the market. With a strong focus on quality, Citrusbits is driven by passion, excellence, persistence and focus. The company’s website explains how Citrusbits like to ‘code differently’ and it’s clear they’ve worked with some top clients. Having developed 100+ apps for the likes of Quicksilver, Valet Tax and Assay Technologies. The company is run by Ammad Khan (Managing Consultant), Zack Afridi (Head of Marketing) and Arrione Garcia (Director of Operations).
If you are looking for a full service digital agency that can integrate your mobile app with in a broader digital strategy then Dreambox Creations is worth a look. Located 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles in Diamond Bar, Dreambox Creations Dreambox Creations offers everything you would expect from a full service digital company, working closely with many of the most popular restaurants and eating facilities in the USA and further afield. Dreambox Creations work with some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry including In-n-Out Burger, San Diego University and Yard House. The key company players include Dan Bejmuk (CEO and Co-Founder), Adrian Cheung(Digital Media Strategist) and Danielle Takata (Owner).
You can follow the Dreambox Creations Team on Twitter
Innoppl Inc is a market leading mobile & web application development firm based in LA. The company develops and deploys mobile apps designed to cater specifically to Los Angeles-based customers. Innoppl cover mobile apps for native iOS iPhone, Android, and mobile-web HTML5. The company also develops apps across numerous vital sectors including healthcare, automotive, retail, startups, education and much more. The company’s clients include the likes of Outside Television, Sherwin Williams and Mighty Auto Parts. The key company players are Nash Ogden (President), Pon Pandian Paulswamy (Technical Architect) and Kumaran Parthiban (Senior Technology Consultant).
You can check out the Innoppl video below on “How to set a Mobile App budget for 2016’:
Based on Sepulveda Blvd, ISBX is an award winning mobile development agency with over a decade of experience. The company offer a wide array of digital marketing and mobile app technology services which includes creative branding, user experience, mobile and web development, platform testing as well as (and most importantly) helping app publishers launch and market their new applications. They do this for some of the biggest global brands. ISBX work closely with clients to define their commercial goals and develop appropriate strategies to deploy enterprise class apps for clients. In 2014, ISBX presented at the Mobile World Congress (GSMA) in Barcelona, Spain and was recently acknowledged in publications including Inc 500 and the Los Angeles Business Journal. The key company players are Eric Wise (President founding partner at ISBX), Kelly Chu (Chief Technology Officer founding partner at ISBX) and Arthur Iinuma (Chief Operating Officer and founding partner). ISBX has worked with some seriously impressive clients including Nike Air Jordan, Warner Bros and Sony Pictures. If you’re looking for the Top App Developers LA these guys could be ones to watch.
Neon Roots are first and foremost a software development business that develops mobile apps as one of their core services. The company focuses heavily on unlocking value in marketing and business development for their customers. Neon Roots goal is not to build the most elaborate, feature rich mobile app possible. Instead the company takes an alternative approach by focusing on developing apps that deliver against their clients commercial objectives. We like that, we like that a lot. Adopting a data driven, agile development approach to mobile app development, Neon Roots work with customers to test, refine, and validate at a conceptual level using real market/user data. The key company players are Ben Lee (CEO and Founder), Drew Harding (COO and Founder) and Kellan O’Connor (Venture Advisor). Neon Roots client roster includes the likes of American Idol, Epson and Snoopify.
So now you’ve got a laser like insight into the top mobile app developers Los Angeles scene.
Doing mobile well is tough because there are a tonne of things you need to consider before you engage the right app development agency. You need to think about the requirements of your project, develop wireframes, API specs and user stories. You’ll also need to consider analytics, MBaaS, push notification platforms, app store optimization and a whole plethora of things before you get your project started. The great thing is, once you have a keen understanding of what your project KPI’s and success measures are, you’ll be ready to rock and hopefully one of the agencies listed above could be the perfect match for your project.
Stay tuned to the blog as we’ll be adding more mobile development companies in LA. If you’re an app developer from the Los Angeles area and you reckon you should be considered for our shortlist, or know of any who would, drop us a line!
Here at Kumulos we’re devoted to helping you find the right app development expertise to get your project moving. We understand that getting into mobile can be seriously hard work and finding the right talent is a serious concern for many businesses. So we’ve decided to help make your mobile journey that little bit easier by rounding up the best in the app development business. Today we’re exploring the Top App Developers San Francisco. Having examined hundreds of different mobile app development companies, we’ve selected the top industry players to help get your project started. If you’re wondering how they’ve been selected, don’t worry – the list below is not in order of preference, we’ve just chosen the cream of the crop and listed them in alphabetical order. We’ll be adding more to the list as we continue our research.
Appstem is a mobile app development agency located in the very heart of San Francisco @ 657 Mission Street. Founded by Robert Armstrong and Hart Woolery, the company work with some of the biggest names in the business with top clients including Tesla, Johnson & Johnson and Enterprise Car Hire. The Appstem client list is a mixture of Fortune 500 companies and innovative startups. The company also focus on game development having worked on everything from complex enterprise applications to consumer focused apps and multiplayer games. Appstem take pride in the fact that they don’t outsource any of their mobile development capability to external developers, all of the app development work is conducted in-house by a highly talented team of developers. Check out the awesome app they developed for Tesla in the video below:
Founded way back in 2002, before mobile apps were even a ‘thing’, Bayinteractive have forged a reputation designing and developing software services for enterprise and startup clients alike. Bayinteractive are heavily focused on working with their clients at CTO level to advise on systems architecture and UI/UX market trends. The company has developed an exceptional track record working with blue-chip brands such as McAfee, Cisco and Nokia. The company is headed up by CEO and President Alex Burrows, Art Director and UI expert Sam Safi, VP of Sales & Strategy Brendan Hyland and Director of Product Design Julio Rodriguez.
Dogtown Media prides itself on being a disruptive force within the mobile app development industry. The company focus heavily on developing mobile apps that help to solve real-world problems for their clients. The company was co-founded in 2011 by President Marc Fischer and CTO Rob Pope and now has offices in San Francisco (Pine Street), New York and London. Dogtown Media has a seriously impressive customer list, working with some of the biggest names in technology including Google, the United Nations and Lexus. The company is currently focused on rapidly expanding its mobile app development activities into mobile commerce, geo-location, mobile app analytics, multi-media publishing, mobile photo and video technology, and financial services. Check out the app they developed called ‘Dog Boogie’ below.
Exygy is a digital agency located in the heart of San Francisco on 18th Street. The company aspire to design and develop meaningful apps that create or empower change, at scale. Exygy pride themselves on the fact that they’re not just a design firm, engineering team or impact consultancy. The company is on a serious mission to design exceptional software for the world’s leading change-makers and brands. The Exygy team is headed up by CEO Zach Berke, CCO Phil Clark and CTO Dave Kaplan and the company to date has worked with stellar clients such as Yahoo, ZenDesk and Google. Check out the video below, Exygy CEO Zach Berke explains what to consider when migrating your site to WordPress.
Founded in 2006 Xtopoly is a creative full service digital agency thats been doing some awesome work in the mobile space in recent years. Located on Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, Xtopoly has developed mobile apps for blue chip companies such as Yamaha and Emirates Airlines. With the development of the Emirates Airlines app, Xtopoly were commissioned to create a rich and immersive mobile experience for smartphones and tablets. It enabled Emirates to showcase their new A380 luxury airliner focusing on the First Class amenities of Spa & Showers, In-Flight Lounge, Flatbeds and First Class Dining. Very cool!
We know how hard it can be finding the right mobile development partner to help manage your project. Good quality app developers are in exceptionally high demand and very short supply. But when it comes to finding the right match for your project, it’s always best to start with the end in mind and qualify potential partners based on the requirements of your project. The Kumulos team are always on the lookout for the hottest new app development companies all over the world, so watch this space for future updates on the top app developers San Francisco.
App store optimization is one of the best ways to grow services revenue and build a strong recurring revenue platform to help your mobile app agency grow. Here we define the key steps of app store optimization and how to offer this as a service to complement your mobile app development business.
Why is building Monthly Recurring Revenue is important.
So you build mobile apps for a living. Like most your income is tightly linked to project delivery. Billings are lumpy, and real hard to know where your cash position will be more than a few months down the road.
You’re no different from thousands of mobile app development businesses out there. But things are changing. More and more businesses just like yours have worked out there is another way. A way to build highly valuable recurring revenue services. A way to secure a retainer from your mobile app build customers, by offering complementary follow on services to sit alongside your core app build business.
One of the best (and easiest) recurring revenue service to offer is a service that helps app owners get more app downloads. With more than 60% of apps being downloaded following in store searches, offering an app store optimization service that drives downloads for your customers apps is a true Win/Win.
You win by making money on retainer monthly, offering services that help tie your app customers to you and position you for any follow on work. Your customers win by tapping into your mobile expertise to help them build a strong and growing user base for their mobile app.
One thing to say at this point is, ASO is only part of the bigger App Optimization Services that you should be offering. You shouldn’t ignore the 40% of downloads that don’t come from app store search, if you are going to maximise mobile app downloads. But lets leave the broader topic for now and accept its good that you’re building download volume.
So let’s look at App Store Optimization as a Service in a bit more detail.
The 4-R’s of your ASO-as-a-Service offering
Think of it (and explain it to your clients) in 4 key phases.
Ready (or Audit if this isn’t parallel with you building the app)
The Get Ready
If you can, this is best costed as part of the build phase. If you want help to fully scope out all phases of the build, you could use this free scoping tool. It will act as a check list to make sure all phases, including post live, are covered and will show any doubting clients that it’s normal to include this in the project.
There are 8 key elements in the this get ready step. All need to be done before you’re ready to submit your app to Google Play and the Apple App Store.
App Title – Make sure it describes what the app does. Make it as concise as you can, just a few lines. (255 characters to be exact in the App Store). The app name in Google play is limited to just 30 Characters. This is the most important piece of ASO. If it doesn’t clearly say what it does, potential downloaders will just scroll by.
App Key words – 100 characters limit is all you can work with here. So pick the key words that best fit with the app and the audience. For this you’ll need to get your customer to be very very exact about the target market for the app, who the competitors are and what their likely search phrases will be. The key skill here is to avoid the highly searched key terms, they will be very competitive so ranking top 3 is going to be tough. Make the effort to find the highly specific and under used key words that fit well with the app. It’s better to be top on 30 searches for a highly specific key word than 10th for 3,000 searches for a more generic key word.
App Description – Nailing the app description to make it clear to the audience for the app how it solves their problems. Clear concise wording that covers the key points of the app features, functions and benefits in as short and concise a way as possible is something that needs planned and though through so your listing is powerful and compelling. You get up to 4,000 characters with Android, but considerably less with Apple. It’s tempting to load the description with loads of key words. But its best not to. If it doesn’t flow and read well it will just turn downloaders off and defeat the whole purpose.
App Category – Picking the right primary and secondary category for your app is a critical decision to optimize this for search. So make sure your customer thinks this through carefully and you help them choose wisely. Getting it right will immediately serve up the app in search to highly relevant potential downloaders.
App Ratings – An app with a 4-5 star rating (as well as a high number of ratings 20+) will have a huge impact on download volumes the app will get. The social proof of this is huge. Having active users saying good things about the app, especially if you’re asking them to pay to download, is a massive endorsement. But more than that it has a big impact on your search rank. Again it’s not a one off task but a constant task that you need to be on top of. Offering a proactive rating service to your clients where you go and find fans of the app to post a review, monitor the star ratings of the reviews the app is getting and reporting this regularly to your clients, is going to be an integral part of your mobile app optimization as a service offering.
App Logo – It may sound like a small thing, but a high impact, professional looking thumbnail for the app, that communicates what the app does, will help catch the eye of the downloader browsing the app store. It may be that the icon needs to faithfully stay true to the corporate identity of the company you build the app for, but there may still be some room to be creative and make the icon jump off the screen. There’s only seconds to get noticed, so make sure it right.
App Screenshots – It’s criminal just how little thought is given to what screenshots are used on the download page. Remember it’s not an installation guide, it’s an advert for what the app does. So make sure you use the biggest wow screens. Even better if those wow screens communicate the value of the app. This is your app shop window, so make it look cool, real cool with some great screenshots that are good quality, not pixelated and well cropped.
App Publisher – This could be you, to help you promote the great apps you build for clients, or if your client as a range of apps it’s important that these are all described consistently so they can be searched and other apps from the same clients business can be easily found.
Last and most important is targets. What does the app owner need to achieve. Sure they want to be top on all their most important key words. But actually that’s not what they really need. Its best to be highly ranked for a few highly relevant key words (get them to select 1 or 2 at outset) than to try to boil the ocean at the get go.
So you now have all the key elements in place, you’ve carefully selected your primary and secondary categories, you have an awesome description, your app thumbnail jumps off the screen. You’re set to go.
You have all the benchmark targets agreed, the analytics set up and the report formats all branded up in your livery.
When you review (how soon after launch) and how often you review (probably monthly) depends on a few things, but mainly volume. If you are getting good numbers of downloads, then its important to review more frequently. If volumes are falling short, way short, then its good to get ahead of the problem and figure out what needs to change.
It’s important (and to your advantage) to know that this isn’t a one off task, it’s a constant cycle of measure, analyze and change. So something that needs to be worked on constantly, and you need to be paid to do of course. This is one of the reasons why it’s a great service to offer on retainer and build that highly valuable recurring revenue from mobile app projects.
Here you need to provide your app owner client with an easy to read, and action based, probably monthly report. Make sure it’s in your brand, so it’s your name they see and not that of any tools you may be using.
Most importantly agree actions and changes and if necessary reset any targets and expectations. No matter how good you were at estimating download volumes you’re almost certainly going to be , the mark in the first few months. What’s important there is you are proactive and showing your clients that you are on top of any remedial action that’s needed. But don’t be overly optimistic, remember that ASO can be slow burn. It’ll take a few weeks to make the changes and resubmit to the store to change any listing information.
Here are a few of key things to include in your monthly review
Downloads and updates – so not just the new downloads, but also those that are updating the app each time a new version is pushed through the store. Regular updates have a huge impact on how you rank so regular updates are important.
Search Rankings – show this both for the primary key words the app needs to rank for and against the apps key competitors. This is best shown in line graph format so you can see the search rank positions change over time. You’ll of course show this for each store the app is in.
Reviews and ratings – have you had any, are you rating 4* plus. Again big impact on how you rank in search so tracking the star rank and numbers of ratings is important. Recommend a push campaign to gather more ratings regularly, look to see if ratings are improving or worsening with different app versions or different platforms.
Demographic profiles – What platforms and stores are performing best. If you have apps both Apple and Google store you can compare and contrast the performance of both. What’s the download growth profile like for each platform? What are the install rates and updates rates like per platform, geography, country etc.
The precise mix of services you include here will depend largely on the success criteria set for the app at outset.
To continually improve the performance of your download programs you need to continually optimize how they are performing against the pre-defined targets agreed with your clients. Having a clear and reasonable view of what “good” looks like is essential so you can set the agenda for what needs improved.
And then the monthly cycle resets and your mobile app store optimization as a service offering repeats Run, Review, Refine in perpetuity. You get to regularly meet with your client, review the performance of the app, discuss and plan the changes you need to make and be in the best position possible to up-sell to the full stack of app optimization services and any follow on app builds.
Still not convinced, well…
Its a great way to add additional high value services along side your mobile app build project. What’s more, you can of course easily offer it to mobile apps you didn’t build. So it’s an awesome customer acquisition tool to help you win new customers from other app developers.
Further, that blade cuts both ways. The real question is, can you afford notto offer it. If you don’t offer it to your app clients and another app developer does then you risk losing the client. So in short, you can’t afford not to offer this, if you’re serious about building a growing app agency.
Convinced you need to do this, but don’t know how. No problem.
We know it’s one thing knowing you need to offer something new, it’s another thing making it happen when you’re crazy busy just with the day to day. So we try that bit harder to make it easy for you. You can join our classes and learn from others, you can even ask us to do it for a while until you’ve got the time and have the skills to run it yourself. It’s your call.
If you want help to deliver your own App Store Optimization services then check out Kumulos ASO. If you want help getting going we have a range of “Kick-Start” Services to help you, contact us today to ask to see how we can help.
So your business builds mobile apps for a range of business clients. That’s a great place to be right now. Lots of opportunities. Lots of potential projects coming your way. When we talk to busy mobile app development businesses they tell us one of their biggest challenges is getting the mobile app build project properly scoped. Too many times projects become too organic with new requirements emerging through the life of the project, sometimes too many ideas on what the app should do and they find it difficult to really define what success looks like. What we’ve found is that if you can get good insight into the project by getting answers to these 20 questions right at the start of the project, its more likely to be a success, both for the client, and for the mobile app agency.
Firstly, it usually starts with your new client coming to you with a great idea for a mobile app that will help revolutionize their business and reach out to existing customers and a whole new set of customers. That’s awesome!
A project that starts off in the right direction has more chance of ending up in the right place, so here’s 20 questions you need answers to before you start that mobile app build.
Can you summarize the Mobile App to me in just a few sentences?
This isn’t to catch the customer out, it’s to really see how well they understand the “essence” of the app. The better they understand it, the more confident you can be that they will be very exact and focused about what the app needs to do, who its focused at, how they will use it etc.
Who are the target users?
What problem is your app going to solve for them? Why is a mobile app the best way to solve this? Could a mobile responsive website be just as good, or an even better way to solve the problem? What devices or platforms are they most likely to use, there are real demographic differences between android and iOS platforms that need to be thought through.
What’s the real deadline?
Is it linked to any other activity (a big product launch) or tied into a seasonal campaign? So its usually the case that the project should have started yesterday. But at least you can work out what’s possible with the time you have. Work back through AppStore submission, multi-platform testing, development, and creative, ideation to set the expectation early on what’s practical and what’s not in the time you’ve been given.
What risks are there with the mobile app build?
What are the outside dependencies that could affect the timescales? Addressing this up front will save you a lot of problems further down the track. Building a risk register as part of the project kick-off and being disciplined to keep this up to date is a good idea, even for what seems to be a simple app product. Make sure that for each risk there are actions and owners responsible for managing down the risk of this affecting your successful app delivery.
What’s the budget?
So the game usually is, we don’t have a fixed idea of a budget, we want as much as we can get for as little as we need to pay. Mobile projects are really difficult to budget estimate, but for you to scope the project you need at least to work to a range. Defining the scope of work is also really important. It not just about the physical build. Is there budget for researching the app, competitors, key functions that users will highly value that will guide you on what the first release (or minimum viable product) NEEDS to have for the app to be market ready. If it’s a new client it could become a tricky game of poker, neither side wanting to show their hand, but unless you get to a range pretty quickly, expectation management is going to be tricky. If the client can’t give you a range, that could be a red flag, it may not be a serious project but just a vague idea they are trying to flesh out.
You should also agree what the ongoing budget is going to be once the app is live. There will probably be hosting costs, ongoing optimization of the app on-boarding and in app use, discovery optimization, push notification services you should be offering as well as managing scaling out back-end systems as app user grows. Knowing how much ongoing work the app will require could also influence how much you charge in the initial build phase. You could decide to scale back costs on the initial build and get the app to market quicker, then work with the app owner to continually improve the app over time. They get an awesome app that’s just getting better and better. You build long term income streams for your business and long term relationships with your clients.
Who are the key Stakeholders?
Is this who you are working with, or are their others that you need to know about? Who is the budget holder? Who is the Project Owner? Your contact, or someone else. What are the decision making stages? Who need to be consulted at what stage to move from Ideation, to prototype, to build, to test, to release? Who are you going to work with post launch? Is there a formal process here (you should hope there is), or is this a more organic process, and if so its point 1 on your Risk Register, in big, bold, black ink capitals.
What does success look like at each stage of the process?
Building this into a number of smaller phases, with approval “gates” you need to go through may sound bureaucratic and feels like it could show you down, but it will, without doubt, save you time, money and a lot of anxiety through the mobile app build.
What are the business objectives for the mobile app?
Is the mobile app an internal app to increase workforce efficiency? Is it there to open the product or service up to a new profile of user? Will it increase sales from existing customers? All good, worthy reasons to build an app. Answers to this question will have a huge influence on how you build the app, what the core features and functions of the app, what platforms it needs to run on and what analytics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you need to track once the app goes live.
Who will the app compete with?
Has the client done a detailed evaluation of competitors in the space that you can work from? Don’t accept the response – “We don’t have any competitors here, we are the first to do this?” It’s a common response, but one that’s usually not true. There may be no direct competitors doing EXACTLY the same thing, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways that people are solving the problem that they have. This shouldn’t be an App to App comparison. So ask the question “how do the future users of your app currently solve this problem?” that way you’ll probably get a more insightful answer.
What design considerations/constraints does the Mobile App have to work within?
Are there corporate guidelines that the mobile app layout and screen designs need to conform to? Will this work on a mobile format? Are there constraints on how it can appear in the app store. Will this tell you how the icons in the app store need to look? Will this limit how the app will pop-out at someone browsing the store? What scope is there to push back on the branding police to get some design latitude to let you do an awesome job?
Is there scope to have multiple releases?
This is both in terms of what native platforms you need to build on as well as functionality. Is it possible to focus on a minimum viable product (MVP) as version 1 release, with a feature roadmap? Does it have to be big bang with all features on all platforms day 1. This may be desired, but is it REALLY a necessity. Even if you need to go Big Bang, its still good to work with the client to define and agree what the minimum viable product (MVP) NEEDS to be. That will help focus discussions around the budget and timescales for launch.
What is the backlog of functions for the app?
Even if you’re not using an agile software development approach to building the app, getting your clients to build a backlog of (non MVP features) is a very powerful way to get them to prioritize between the essential functions of the app and those that are non-core for version 1 release. This has the other benefit of helping you plan future releases for the app, important for App Store discovery optimization (ASO) and managing your future project work (and cash flow).
What are the underlying assumptions?
Is it to work across tablets and mobiles? Can this be one version that resizes or do you need a build for both? How back compatible does it have to be , iOS8 and later, Android 5.0? Android 4.0?. Does the app need to work offline? Will it have to connect with wearables or Internet of Things devices? What languages is the app going to be built in? The answers you get to “Who are the target use of the app?” will obviously have an influence here.
How is it going to be hosted?
Is there an existing infrastructure it needs to plug into? What are the security protocols? Are there any upstream micro-services that need (or would be good to) plug into the app? Is there going to be a website (mobile responsive of course) that will sit along-side the app and have to share user profile information etc.? Are there any other vendors that the app needs to integrate with (salesforce, SharePoint etc). How are you going to manage user generated content and what’s the expected upload/download shape of that content? Take the complexity away from building and managing the server side of your app with an industry leading mBaaS tool.
What are the data points that your client will need to get from the app?
Baking the measures, metrics and benchmark objectives into the mobile app at the design stage will help make sure that the mobile app build phase delivers against the key measures of success. If you don’t define the key metrics, that underpin the tangible measures of success for the app at outset, how will you focus the decision on MVP features? Also mapping out the analytics and metrics during the build will save the agony of trying to retro-fit these late in the day, or worse be duped into judging the success of the app based on what’s easy to measure, rather than what are actually the true measures of success. Core to this should be measures of recency, frequency, duration & lifespan.
Clients want to know
How many downloads?
On what platforms?
Ratio of push notifications activated?
How many that download are actually fully installing?
How many active users you have (is this growing)?
What features are being used the most?
Where are the dead areas of the app that need re-thought?
How frequently is the app being used?
For how long (use session length)?
How many transactions (sales) have completed?
Mapping the actual against expected, looking at the variance then working a plan to close the gap between actual and plan is what it’s all about. As long as these are defined up front of course. You’ve got a huge role to play here, and a huge opportunity to generate on going monthly recurring revenue from the initial app project to help the owner of the app optimize and improve the commercial performance of the app.
What is the monetization strategy for the app?
If it’s a B2E app, solving internal problems for a business to improve staff productivity, then there is still a money angle and a Return on Investment business case. If it’s designed to increase revenue for the business, how is it going to do that? in app purchases?, subscription model?, will features be unlocked with staged payment?, is a physical or virtual product being delivered after payment (so do you need logistic tracking)?, will there be in app advertising to monetize traffic through the app? Knowing this and building the app around the business goal will keep the client focused. Agreeing the MVP and building the Backlog of features acid testing each feature and function against the business goal will mean you’re focused on doing the important things in priority order.
How will they buy?
Different from monetization. How do they physically pay for the product or service within the app, credit card, biometric payment (ApplePay and the like). Depending on the answer, you need to be thinking about security/encryption and device compatibility the app must work on. So testing regimes, influence that Native vs Hybrid decision, security & data encryption etc.
Are there other apps that the client likes that can be used as inspiration for how this new app should look?
This isn’t about copying or plagiarizing someone else’s design, this is about using completely unrelated apps to help get you into the head of your client and understand how they are thinking. It’s easier if your following an already predefined UI/UX design and corporate guidelines, but it’s still important to do this, if only to help you decide how essential it is to build a native app so it accesses all the rich handset functionality.
How is the app going to be found when it’s ready to go live?
If it’s a B2E app, this may not be that important, but for B2B and B2C apps getting found in GooglePlay and the AppStore is going to be important to draw users to the app. Don’t think this is an afterthought. Its not. You have to think of this at the design and development stage. Make sure it conforms to design guidelines of each store it’s listing in, if it doesn’t follow the rules its going to be tricky to get it listed. You’ll also need a good app store optimization tool to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords. Carefully think about future releases, as this has a huge influence on discovery. An App that’s continually being developed will rank better in the store. Also make the icon impactful so it communicates the value and purpose of the app is really important. And don’t discount video. Including a short video demonstration of your app will have a huge impact on driving download conversions from your app store listing page.
What about post launch? What’s the ongoing plan to learn & improve?
There needs to be one, right?
No matter how awesome you are as a mobile app development agency you’re just not going to get everything right first time. You’re also probably not going to be able to deliver all the features your client wants, within the budget they have to spend and the timescale you’re presented with. The clients going to be very very focused on the first delivery point, getting the mobile app live. That’s natural. But your job is to coach them to think longer term. Get them to think about the MVP, and getting them to build the backlog creates the mind-set that this is an ongoing project. The first phase is version 1. This means you get them thinking early about the ongoing phases of releases as well as the promotion of the app.
Making sure that there is good data coming from the app is also critical. In addition to crash reporting & diagnostics, using data & analytics to know how the app is performing particularly focusing on recency, frequency, duration and lifespan. Getting your client to predict up front what is the expected “Norm” and tracking variance from that will help your and your client prioritize the remedial work that will be needed to get the app downloaded, used, and reused frequently.
Bonus Question – Question 21
So lastly, and consider this as a bonus question, given we are through the 20 questions promised in the title.
What dependencies are there, that we need to consider before we can get started with your new app?
Its good if you can get the client to clearly tell you what needs to happen before they sign the work order and kick the project off. Do you need to run an ideation workshop (to make sure an app is actually what they need)? Does a purchase order need to be signed off by the budget-holder? Are you both covered by a Confidentiality & Non-Disclosure agreement? In short, what are the barriers to starting this project in the next hour?
20 Questions to Ask your Clients to make your app project a success
Of course, no set of questions will be the same for every project and every client and every mobile app use case. Hopefully this gives you good coverage of the main points. Asking the questions, documenting the answers and playing these back to the client in the format of “You Told Us This… so we will therefore do that” will make sure you are both on the same page. Better this than stumbling in to bear-pits through the project.
OK, so we’ve given you a bunch of questions to ask your client, but what about when you have questions about your mobile app business? No worries – we’re here to help. That’s why we’ve started a FREE business webinar series that addresses many of the questions that app development agencies have in mind.
The webinars are intended for Business Owners, CEO’s, Sales & Marketing VP’s and Commercially minded CTO’s. They’re 100% business focused, so they’ll give you ideas on how to drive more retainer based income for your Mobile App Development Business.
The Kumulos platform started life as a hosting and API management system to help build and manage the server side of the mobile app. It’s now evolved into the most comprehensive mobile app management platform for mobile app agencies with Push Notifications, App Store Optimization, App Analytics, Crash Reporting & API Endpoint Monitoring, Document sharing & Collaboration and Content Editing all in one place.
But that’s not all. It comes with a number of unique, turn-key features, custom built to help busy mobile app agencies offer services to their client. Services that help keep the dialogue flowing, so they stay close and win regular follow up client work. And the best bit, services that the agency charges monthly for, so they get more app projects on monthly retainer, once the app goes live. Ask for a demo, or sign up for a 30-day free trial today!
Selecting a Mobile App Agency that’s near at hand makes sense for most mobile app owners. Gets you the face to face time you need to flesh out your ideas and make sure you’ve all got a common understanding of what you need the mobile app to achieve.
Picking the best isn’t a one size fits all approach. A good fit for one app project or one business faced with enterprise mobility transition, may not work for another. You have to think carefully about what help you need and who is best to provide it.
How important is help with defining and stress testing your strategy, what platforms do you want your app to be on, what up stream services and existing databases need to be integrated, how well defined is your brand and UI/UX and lastly, most importantly, how are you going to drive users and create engagement within your app to make sure your awesome app gets found and used.
Here’s our list of Best Mid West Mobile App Agencies to help you find the right mobile app agency. We are highlighting how strong each of our Best Mid West Mobile Agencies are at each of these steps, so you can right fit the agency to your project.
Detroit Labs – Best Mid West Mobile App Agencies
Detroit Labs, was founded by Paul GlomskiNathan Hughes and Dan Ward, in 2011. As the name suggests they are based in Detroit. This mobile app development agency is one of largest to make the Best Mid West Mobile Apps Agencies list with more than 80 full time designers, project managers and app developers. Their clients include major international brands like Domino’s , VW, General Motors and Hyundai.
It’s their refreshing approach to doing business that sets them apart and is believed to be the secret to their success. They offer a highly distinctive “all in it together” culture that means responsibility and accountability flows through the whole organization. This means that although they are big, that doesn’t make them feel “corporate” to work with.
They describe themselves as a team of thinkers, doers and makers that make and ship intuitive apps. They offer a strong blend of creativity and business acumen to make sure that the mobile apps they build deliver for their customers. An example of their highly collaborative style is they offer the choice of a team based on the clients site. They are one of very few mobile app agencies that offer this.
Outside Source – Best Mid West Mobile App Agencies
Indianapolis based Outside Source is a broad-line B2B agency that covers a wide range of digital services, not just the mobile app build. They will work on brand strategy, web design, content marketing, mobile app development and video production. Run by Mike Peck and CEO Dan Linginfelter they are an example of the increasing number of digital agencies building strong expertise in building mobile apps.
They cover a number of B2B sectors that include manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare IT and logistics.
Best way to get a feel for their work is to check out their video channel for some examples of the work they do. They could be a good choice if you’re looking for a broad services agency that can handle your web and mobile app needs as well as the rich media content, like video, that you need to get the message across.
OraInteractive – Best Mid West Mobile App Agencies
The Chicago based oraInteractive are big on Interface and UX design, but also strong on app development (particularly C++ and Java) and if you need it mobile responsive web development. Founded and run by Mike Kelly back in 2009, Ora has built up an impressive client list its just as happy to work with enthusiastic start ups as it is large established corporates.
The offer a well structured process that covers the full mobile app lifecycle. They start with Discovery where they work up your mobile app idea, so it’s clear what the app owner wants and how its best executed. They have a deep understanding of App design and UX/UI design covering HTML5, iOS Human interface designs and Google’s Material Design Standards so they know that what they build will be approved by google play and Apple’s App Store. Their App Developers follow an Agile development methodology so you see builds often and early.
What sets OraInteractive apart from the standard mobile app development shop is they work with their customers once the app is live to build user acquisition and retention marketing campaigns, so if you want them to they will stay with you across the full lifecycle of the mobile app.
AMBR Detroit – Best Mid West Mobile App Agencies
They are happy to work across a wide range of platforms including laravel, jQuery, Cordova, sendGrid, simplrJS as well as WordPress CMS. They seem at home building mobile app and responsive websites or re-purposing an existing application to bring them into a mobile first world.
They work on internal and public facing apps, mobile & web projects for clients large and small.
Eight Bit Studios – Best Mid West Mobile App Agencies
Eight Bit Studios work with you to understand your customer and build out the user experience that best engages with them. They then take this into the front end and backend mobile app development phase using their core skills in html5, JQuery, AJAX and across iOS (Objective-C & Swift) and android (java), Ruby on Rails and Unity 3D C# platforms.
They offer an extensive range of services and a well mapped out multi-stage development process that looks to be able to scale up to cater for the very largest and most complex mobile app builts, or scale down to “right-fit” the more conventional custom mobile app build.
Their key strengths are around taking the creative idea and working out how to translate that into an engaging and effective mobile app and browser based application. Everything about Eight Bit Studios says unconventional, but it’s the creativity of their work that best describes their unique talents.
One really interesting aspects of Eight Bit Studios is what goes on beyond their walls and how engaged they are in the wider tech community in the Chicago area, including BytesOverBagals and MobileMakers.co .
MentorMate – Best Mid West Mobile App Agencies
MentorMate is an award winning software development business. Founded in 2001, in recent years its build a formidable reputation in building awesome custom apps on mobile and desktop platforms. With around 150 staff based in their Minneapolis and Bulgarian offices they offer diverse web and mobile app development capabilities that can scale up to cope with the most complex mobile app projects. Run by CEO Björn Stansvik they offer consulting around defining mobile & web app development strategy to make sure the big picture fits with the business need. They focus on creating mobile apps with an inviting and engaging user experience and do that by building up an in-depth understanding of the app owner and app users needs. This is then translated into mobile and web app builds using a combination of their Minnesota based team and their multiple development centers in and around Sofia, Bulgaria to keep project cost down.
They have a strong emphasis on building a deep understanding of the underlying strategy and ROI of mobile app project from the off. They pride themselves on being able to join bold ideas with the strategic understanding of how to make them become real. Rapid Ideation, along side graphic user interface designs, together with feature definition and user flows with wire frames, helps accelerate the development phase. Their focus on building you a features roadmap is what is really intriguing. They use this to focus on the essential features in the first release and then help priorities features for future releases. That way the mobile app gets to market faster, with the essentials for a minimum viable product, but with a clear understanding of the follow-on features to further enrich the in app user experience.
It must work. They’ve been working with some impressive brands for many years. International names like Thomson Reuters, nativeX and Cargill with an impressive portfolio of more than 800 projects delivered over the last 14 years.
Stansvik has taken his passion for mobile well beyond his software consulting and app development business. For the last 14 years they have been heavily involved in MobCon, where they teach tech innovators, entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies about digital enterprise.
Picking from the best mobile app agencies list is going to save you time in selecting the mobile app agency that best fits you and your mobile app project. Best fit is key. Even the best mobile app agencies come in many shapes and sizes, what’s important is picking the mobile app agency that works best for you, your project type, the right balance between strategic direction and build execution. You’ll also have to think about how important ongoing support will be to drive the success of your app.
Here’s what we see as the Best Mobile App Agencies – North East USA.
SixAgency – Best Mobile App Agencies Award
Based in New York, Six Agency has been building awesome apps for some of the world biggest brands. Founded by Khalid Meniri back in 2007, this makes SixAgency of the longest established and most experienced mobile app agencies to make our list. This award winning interactive design agency does a great job bridging the theory with practical application, working from concept, through to design and development across native mobile apps and hybrid web solutions.
They specialise in Art Direction & Visual design, Native and Web App development, Systems Integration and App Maintenance, so they offer a strong blend of creativity with the ability to execute complex mobile apps.
Fueled, with offices in New York, London, Los Angeles and Chicago, they are one of the largest mobile app agencies to make our list.
Founded by the impressively bearded Rameet Chawla they pride themselves on offering a service that extends well beyond simply building great mobile apps. They deliver a range of services that also help app owners launch, drive demand and grow engagement within their mobile app. They do this with a well defined engagement model taking you through Concept & Strategy, Defining the Feature Set, Branding & Design, Development & Launch, and most importantly Marketing, to drive demand and engagement in the mobile app once its in the App Store & Google Play.
Based in New York City, appetizer is a creative mobile app development business that specializes in Consulting, Mobile App Development and Mobile App Marketing. Founded by Jordan Edelson, they cover the full life cycle of the mobile app. Ideation, Mobile App & Game Development, Platform Integration, Social Media Optimization, Search Engine & ASO, Mobile Marketing, along with App Hosting on scalable mobile back-ends and Maintenance to keep the app running smooth.
They set themselves apart with a very strong focus on business results, clear commercial objective and ROI from mobile app projects. Clients include Sony Music, NBA, Universal Music and Cityjet.
Raizlabs – Best Mobile App Agencies Award
Boston & San Francisco based Raizlabs have been crafting award winning apps since 2008. They build apps across iPhone, html 5 and Android platforms. Founded by Greg Raiz, Raizlabs was recently listed for the second year in a row in the Inc 5000 of America’s fastest growing private companies. The offer a broad range of mobile app services helping with Concept Creation, Cross Platform mobile app builds, App Distribution, App Store Optimization ASO, as well as ongoing App Interface Optimization.
Head quartered in the greater Boston area, Zco Corporation build custom mobile app software solutions for businesses. Founded by John Olapurath back in 1989, the business has evolved into a real Mobile App giant with more than 300 project managers, engineers, creative designers and programmers based in their 8 worldwide offices. They are the largest specialist mobile app agency in our Top Mobile App Agency – North West Awards.
The scale of their business, multi-locations, and having hundreds of customer mobile app builds under their belt, means they are well placed to handle even the most complex and ambitious mobile app projects. Their core skills are around iOS (iPhone and IPad), Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone, they also have real expertise in wearable technology including Apple Watch, Android Wear and Augmented Reality. Check this video out for some examples of their AR work.
They have a very impressive client list , working across a very diverse industry set. They look to be able to turn their hand to pretty much any mobile app use case.
Applico – Best Mobile App Agencies Award
Based in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, Applico work with some of the world major brands that include Toshiba, Disney, ASICS, NASDAQ and HP, to name just a few. Run by the three main principals Alex Moazed, Greg Battle and Nathaniel Malka Applico’s key strengths, apart from being an awesome cross platform app development business, are in the deeper strategic understanding of the mobile app and game changing impact it will have for the business it’s being built for. They offer a Platform Start-up Advisory service which builds the strategic framework and financial model for the mobile app project. Their Platform Innovation Workshop draws out how connected technology can deliver a meaningful business impact on a business that’s facing a journey into enterprise mobility. They can also help de-risk your mobile project with their Platform Modelling service.
Following on from this big thinking Applico of course build, launch, run and help promote apps across iOS, Android, and Windows, with framework expertise in Phonegap and Xamarin.
They pride themselves not just on building awesome apps, but also in those apps delivering game changing business impact. Applico’s clients include Intel, Sony, Philips and Disney.
Tierra Innovation – Best Mobile App Agencies Award
Tierra Innovation offer a different proposition from the rest of the Best Mobile App Agencies on our North East US list. A true boutique offering, their senior team is who you get when you work with them. Founded and run by Jamie Trowbridge and Scott Fenton, they have been building apps for all shapes and sizes of businesses and public organizations since 2002.
Working for a broad and diverse set of clients that include Warner Bros, The New Yorker, CBS and the NFL Network, they help app owners through Strategy, Design, Usability, Information architecture as well as build, test and deployment of the finished mobile app.
Twobulls – Best Mobile App Agencies Award
Twobulls are the app agency to work with if you really want to push the boundaries of what’s possible with mobile technology. Founded in 2009 by James Kane and Noah Harlan with office on 3 continents, they design and develop mobile apps, the services that surround them and the broader ecosystem for mobile, desktop and emerging platforms like augmented reality.
They offer a comprehensive soup to nuts service range. They Consult, Design, Develop, Deploy into Stores and then help run marketing programs to drive users into the app and grow revenue from the app. Their highly collaborative and support along the entire mobile enterprise journey is one of the things that sets them apart.
With Office in New York, Melbourne Australia and Berlin Germany the work with an incredibly diverse customer base.
TENDIGI – Best Mobile App Agencies Award
Based in Brooklyn, TENDIGI was founded in 2009 and is run by Jeff Soto. They work with some impressive clients that include The Home Depot, Starwood Hotels, Ford & IBM, as well as some really interesting start ups – Wheels UP, InfoHubs and Wynd.
TENDIGI’s services cover the full life cycle of the mobile app – Strategy, Mobile First Design, Development, Quality Assurance, App Marketing.
Given their background, having been started by former Apple developers, they have a natural bias towards Objective-C as well as Java. They also work across Android and web based platforms.