Mobile Apps · Mobile development

How do you distinguish between a killer mobile app developer and an ok one?

Sivan Soffer Founder / CEO at KeepYourPantsOn.com

February 21st, 2015

I am the founder of the first ever website for women's belts. I am looking to develop a one of a kind app that enables shoppers to snap an image of an outfit with their phone and pair it with the perfect belt from our site. We will revolutionize the way belts are bought and sold.
Where would I find a killer developer? (on FounderDating, yes I know)
But how will I know when I find the right one since I am not a developer?

Sean Lazenby --

February 21st, 2015

Hi Sivan,

When you talk to developers you will find that many of them will talk about what is not possible instead of talking about what is possible. These are some of the factors I would use in finding a killer developer:

1. They use an agile process which allows you maximum feedback during the development process.  
2. They are proactive instead of reactive.  This can be seen in the sales process, are they trying to push solutions down your throat?  Or are they trying to find out what you want, and then offer solutions based on your needs.
3. They speak English, not "techese" this means they are able to accurately and efficiently explain solutions to you.
4. They are as passionate and committed to your project as you are.
5. They create realistic expectations, even if the answers are not what you want to hear.

I hope this helps you.  We are developers ourselves.  Feel free to send me an email at sean@dv8mobile.com and I will be super happy to discuss your project with you.

Andrew Westberg Nike+ Running App Android Developer at Nike

February 21st, 2015

As an app developer myself, here are my thoughts. 

1.) A killer app developer will want to create a native app. Appcelerator, Phonegap, etc.. are good for proofs of concept, but for the ultimate in user experience, they'll push you to go native on each platform you are targeting. End users expect a native experience on the platform they have chosen. Nothing is more disappointing to a user to open an app on Android and have it feel like iOS... or vice versa.

2.) They'll have an understanding of both iOS and Android. They won't necessarily be an expert at both, but they'll have an appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of both platforms. If they're a snob about either one, it's not necessarily a red flag, but it's maybe a reason for caution.

3.) They can show you an app they've developed. They do NOT necessarily have a published app on one of the public appstores. There are many skilled mobile developers that just do internal company apps who are open to freelancing a bit on the side.

Those are just some of my initial thoughts. If I have more, I'll chime back in.

Burr Sutter Product Management Director, Developer Products

February 21st, 2015

Based on how you describe KeepYourPantsOn.com, I would first consider some of the better mobile app design/consulting companies.  Yes, they are going to be more per hour than person you can find on odesk/elance but a great consulting company will have previous work product for you to review and a team with diverse skills where one of those skills is design and usability. Having high performing, well structured, well documented code that correctly leverages the appropriate design patterns and recent libraries/APIs is important BUT great visual design and usability is an absolute must.  This takes a team - not an individual.

Igor Moliver

February 22nd, 2015

Hey Sivan,
I'm using a great on-shore/off-shore mobile team for my startup. The architecture, project management, high level work is managed by a senior team in NJ, while the coding is completed by senior engineers in Belarus.

My experience has been very positive.The devs in Belarus all speak English, work standard workday hours, and, most importantly, think like real tech team members, not hired hands. The prices are very good, and it's allowed me to extend my company's runway significantly.

I've recommended them to others, and everyone who has used them has been happy with the results. If you're interested, I can put you in touch.

Best Regards,
Igor

Aleksandra Czajka

February 23rd, 2015

Andrew, disagree on pushing toward iOS. If you're a good technical person, know what you're talking about, you will never push for one technology for every concept. You will actually think about the best technology depending on what the project is. iOS is not best suited for every app. Phonegap can actually be great for a lot of things. 

Karl Schulmeisters CTO ClearRoadmap

February 23rd, 2015

Why do you need a "killer app developer"?   what it sounds like is that you do not have a technical side of the company sorted at all, and in essence you are betting that if you get a "killer app developer"  they will do all of the technology for you.   The reality is that augmented reality in  retail is nothing new http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/augmented-reality/10-examples-augmented-reality-retail/ 

and most of it has to do with the back end infrastructure and NOT the "mobile app".   because the image analytics to build the recommendations on what is the best belt for an outfit is NOT part of the mobile app but rather the backend.

So I think you are buying yourself a bunch of trouble if you think your solution will be doable by a "killer mobile app"

Erlend Wilhelmsen Partner, Fabric; Co-Founder Card Labs

February 23rd, 2015

Who you need depends on a few things:
  • The state of your product design (UX/UI) and documentation. If you have a well documented MVP, you can probably do with a strong iOS or strong Android engineer. If you don't have use cases, wires, flows, and a decent handle on your tech requirements (backend/API etc) - then you should find a product design + engineering team.
  • Your funding and venture stage. If you need a prototype with x users/transactions to convince investors to come into a Seed round, then you can build fast (PhoneGap can work) and get past your proof of concept stage.
Happy to talk for a few minutes if that would be useful for you.


Andrew Westberg Nike+ Running App Android Developer at Nike

February 23rd, 2015

Aleksandra. I agree that phonegap can be great for a lot of things. In the question, Sivan asked for a "one of a kind app". I don't view phonegap as meeting that particular requirement.

Lalit Sarna Business & Technology Leader

February 23rd, 2015

If you are hiring a contractor then perhaps this is not pertinent. However if you are looking to build your tech team then here are my two cents:

In my  experience, for early stage companies, killer attitude trumps killer developer skills. Start-ups are challenging, filled with surprises and uncertainties.  Your code, technology choices, product features, almost everything is up for change. The only thing that is certain is that you will need to iterate and adapt.

I have always found devs who have an innate hunger to learn and figure things out to be far more effective.  Before I dig deep into technical expertise, I look for what the developer has done to improve himself. How their curiosity inspires them, and do they invest in picking up skills beyond the call of their duty? Once I am convinced that I have a builder on my hands, I give them a tough challenge outside their experience level and see what they come back with. 


For early stages, tenacity in the face of hardship is the number one quality I seek in my team mates. I have built 9 teams and this criteria has yet to fail me.

Narjeet Soni Mobile Apps and eCommerce expert, Lean Startup and Agile evangelist , Entrepreneur, EU resident

February 24th, 2015

For the end consumer, the product is the experience he/she has on it. What happens in the background, technically does not matter to him/her. But it takes a lot of effort and iteration to build that user experience.

Now for a killer user experience, the only way to achieve that is to study what is there in the market, what your customers are looking for, and build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Get that version out, and talk to as many people as possible to get the feedback on what sucks, what they like, what would make them use it everytime they shop.

There are analytical tools you could implement, and see how your current customers are interacting with the product. Learn from that and continuously improve the product.

In terms of development, you need a team that is aligned to your vision. Your smallest team would comprise of a developer (iOS, Android), backend developer, UX designer and a Scrum Master (who is also a Business Analyst). As others said, follow Agile, do development in Iterations, have daily stand ups, and use tools such as Rally and JIRA to keep everything on track. Following Agile, you will see the output of the product in 2-4 weeks, something tangible you could use and start showing others.

I work with such a team, whom I have personally trained during my projects. If you want, I can connect you. In last 5 months, we have together pushed out 6 MVPs