Agency or freelance – Which should you choose to build your app?

By 21st March 2019 No Comments

Do you want an app building but don’t want to pay the associated agency fees? We often hear from clients who have invested their time and hard-earned money into cheaper alternatives and have been left with shallow, feature-restricted versions of their original vision.

There are a few different paths you can go down when building your app. Most clients don’t have the in-house manpower to build and support an app. Therefore, looking for a partner to offload the work on to is the way to go. The real dilemma becomes apparent when you must choose between working with freelance developers who usually present a cheaper initial fee or an experienced agency that’s going to dedicate a team to your products lifecycle.

Both options are offering to provide the same end product, but typically the freelancer will appear cheaper, why is that?

Product Design and Dedication

Joe won numerous awards at the Dreamr end of year awards, and now holds a crucial role in the SMT as Technical Lead.

When you’re building an app, you’re building a product. In order to produce a successful product, you must provide a solution to a problem. Get to know your consumers and drive your feature development based on data and market research, not uneducated expectation. There may be features you really want in your app but that doesn’t mean your potential customers agree. Make sure you don’t focus your resources on areas that aren’t going to provide your product with purpose.

It’s important to test and iterate your design prototypes. If you’re looking to create successful software, then you need to be committed. Successful apps are living-products, they usually require consistent iteration and improvement in order to build a loyal cohort of dedicated users.

The problem is that a lot of the time a freelancer will look past all of this and instead just focus on the list of requirements you’ve provided. They’ll meet those requirements and provide you with a deliverable. On the other hand, an agency will look at your proposal, tear it apart, identify any issues, focus on key features and then we’ll provide you with our plan on how we’re going to take your idea and bring it to life. Typically, multiple disciplines will be involved, including web, mobile and commercial teams. Bigger teams tend to follow best practice and test prototypes before building the final product. Sometimes all you need is a developer to jump on your project to hash out some feature work, but most of the time, if your aim is to build quality software then it takes more than that, and that’s where agencies come in.

Third party services and libraries

There are many apps out there that make use of similar features, ranging from custom UI elements such as the ‘swiping cards’ we see in apps like Tinder to more complex features like advanced search capabilities. Third parties often provide ‘out of the box’ solutions. Whether that be through open-source libraries that developers can import into their projects or SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions which provide complex server-side functionality with little input from the developer consuming it. This means that as developers we can make use of these packages to quickly add features and avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel’.

Often you’ll find lone freelancers making use of services such as these to speed up development times. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact it’s encouraged. However, what happens when your app requires unique features to be built from scratch? This takes time and there isn’t always code out there that encompasses the feature list you require. Your only option therefore is to have your development team build that functionality from scratch.

If you have tight deadlines that need to be reached then you’re going to need a flexible team willing to move more resource on to your project when it’s required. Agencies provide this flexibility; most modern agencies follow the Agile methodology which has a strong focus on adaptability and teams focusing their resources where they’re required, when they’re required.

Code quality

Running into code quality issues can feel a little like taking a bite out of some delicious-looking food and realising it doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as it looks. The problem is that no matter how visually appealing the frontend of your software may look, when you dig into the source code, it can still be an unnavigable mess.

But why should you care about quality? After all, if you’re not a developer then you’ll never have to see or work with the code. It’s true that software can be visually appealing and still not be well written, and most of your users won’t be affected by that. However, bad code has the potential to decrease the performance of your app, some tasks may take longer to perform than they could if the logic was written well. One of the main issues here though isn’t the performance of the software. It’s the architectural approach that the developers have taken. Investing time into building software that’s built properly and is correctly modularised has the potential to drastically improve the speed at which changes, and additions can be made in the future, thereby decreasing your overall financial input.

Agencies that see your app as a product rather than a to-do list to tick off tend to follow best practices when it comes to building software. That means that developers work to plan and structure the software before they write a line of code and software architectural patterns are applied so code is consistent, modular and easier for other developers to jump into later down the line. Building Initial foundations while focusing on quality over speed may therefore cost more but the overall price of the project can be decreased through this foresight — after all, your app will be a living product and you never know who’s going to be working on it a year down the line.

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