Sometimes things just don’t work out as expected. You may have felt great about your chosen app developer when you first started working with them. But now you feel like it’s time to move on.

You’re not seeing the app you expected. Perhaps the app doesn’t work well or is full of bugs. Maybe your developer is months behind schedule or exceeded your expected budget. It feels like there is no end in sight.

If you find yourself in this situation, you’re not alone. Many of our clients have been in this position. They started with another app development agency and eventually found themselves in a bad situation. A few of their apps were 90% complete, but they didn’t believe that their old app developer could finish the job.

Here are some tips for deciding if it’s really time to change app developers, and some advice on how to find a better app development partner.

Six Reasons to Replace Your App Developer

There are a lot of ways a relationship with an app developer can go wrong. Here are the six most common reasons our clients have decided to change app developers.

1. The App Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

Perhaps your app works, but it doesn’t feel like the app you expected. What the developers built did not match the design, or doesn’t look right on certain screen sizes or certain devices. Some features may not perform well: it may take several seconds for certain features to load. Your app may crash frequently or has bugs that make it unusable.

2. You’re Not Getting the Value You Need

Some developers fall into the trap of building a list of features. They’ll look at the requirements, build everything on the list, and consider the app done. However, that’s rarely how successful apps are built. The best apps test out ideas and iterate on features, fine-tuning the user experience until it becomes a product that people love. Unfortunately, some development teams are unable to adjust how they work to meet your needs.

3. The Developer Doesn’t Understand Your Business

One reason a developer may stick strictly to building your feature list is that they don’t understand your business. They may not understand the value of the app or how the app will help you reach your goals. Further, the app developer may not understand your industry at all. Without at least some familiarity with your business, your development team may not be able to build the app you need.

Now, it is unlikely any app developers will know as much as you know about your own industry. However, they should strive to learn at least as much as an entry-level employee in your company. Within a few months, they should be using your industry’s vocabulary, have a solid understanding of your business, and know how your app fits into your overall business plan. Your developers should be asking questions and researching your industry. Without this knowledge, they will have a difficult time building the app you have envisioned.

4. Your Developer Is Not Communicating

One of the most common complaints from clients is that their former app developers were not communicating. You may be left completely in the dark about the status of your app. Some agencies will avoid delivering bad news at all costs, even if it means delivering no news at all. It’s impossible to build an app with a developer that refuses to communicate clearly and honestly.

5. The Timeline Keeps Slipping

“Just a few more weeks until launch” is a phrase that many of our clients have heard from their former app development agencies. Project estimation is an inexact science, but your app agency should have increasing confidence about the timeline as your project progresses. If your app developer is consistently missing deadlines, they may be experiencing problems that they are not sharing with you.

This is often most noticeable near the end of a project. Early on, a non-performing team may hide problems by showing progress in easier parts of the app. As the project nears completion, the team will be forced to confront the problems they’ve been hiding. That shows up as insurmountable bugs, incomplete features they said they had finished, or a sudden and noticeable slow-down in work.

A miss or two on the timeline is not that surprising. Especially if your team is testing out ideas and iterating on features, their original estimate may not have accounted for all of the work they have undertaken. However, repeatedly missing deadlines that they agree to is a bad sign.

6. You Haven’t Seen a Working App

Surprisingly, we’ve seen some agencies bill their clients hundreds of thousands of dollars without ever delivering a working app. The client may have seen a few screens, but never a working app they could install and use on their own phone. This is the biggest red flag of all. If your app developer can not give you a working app that does something after a few weeks, it’s time to find a new app development team.

What to Know Before Changing App Developers

Before you end the relationship with your current app developer, make sure you have everything you need to take your app elsewhere. You’ll need all of the source code, design files, documentation, and any other assets that you’ve paid for. There are also a few questions to answer before you cut ties with the old developer.

Who Owns the Code?

Ideally, your contract with the developer acknowledges that you own the code that they wrote for your app. Most agencies will specify that you own the intellectual property in a “work for hire” clause. However, it’s still worth checking your contract to make sure that you have the rights to your app’s code.

What About Your App’s Accounts?

You also need to ensure you own your developer accounts. For mobile apps, this includes your Apple Developer account, Google Play Developer account, and any other accounts that you need to manage your app. Sometimes agencies will use their own accounts to publish your app, or will create accounts on your behalf. You should be the owner of these accounts, and have the ability to revoke access from your current developer.

If you don’t control these accounts, you should ask your developer to transfer them to you. Even if you are completely happy with your current developer, you should still own your accounts because they are necessary for running your business.

Do You Control Your App’s Hosting and Domain Names?

In a similar vein, ensure you own any domain names or hosting accounts used for your app. Even if you don’t have a full-fledged web app, most mobile apps have some sort of API or web services that are being used behind the scenes.

If you don’t own your domain names and hosting accounts, ask your developer to transfer them to you. This can sometimes be a bit complicated if the developer has used a shared hosting account for you and other clients. That alone is a good reason to move to a dedicated account: your developer should never use the same hosting account for multiple clients.

Do You Have All of the Documentation?

There’s a good chance that your app developer has created some documentation for your app. This could be a wiki (e.g., Confluence), Word documents, or Google Docs. Many agencies keep extensive meeting notes and technical documentation to track decisions made throughout the life of your partnership. Having a copy of this documentation will help your next development team get up to speed quickly.

Do You Have Any Contractual Obligations?

Before cutting ties, always check your contract. Your development contract may have a termination clause that requires you to give notice before you can end the relationship. Some contracts even require you to pay a fee to terminate the contract early. Consult with your attorney if you have any questions about your contract.

How to Find a Better App Developer

Now that you have everything you need to move on, it’s time to find a new app development partner. You may be tempted to just start searching for a new developer, but it’s important to take some time to plan your next steps. Here are some tips for finding the right app development partner.

1. Define Your Requirements

Ask yourself what you’re looking for in a new app development partner. What did you not experience with your old developer that you’d like to see in your next developer? What do you picture when you think about your ideal relationship with your app development partner? What are your goals for the app?

Write down your expectations and be sure to share them with any potential partners. See what they think about your requirements and how they would approach your project.

2. Create a Shortlist of Potential App Developers

Find a few app development agencies—say, four or five—that you think would be a good fit for your project. There are many ways to find developers. Consider the following methods for finding the right app development partner.

Ask for Referrals

Start by asking your network for referrals. If you have friends or colleagues who have worked with app developers, ask them for recommendations. People you know are only going to recommend developers they trust, so you can be confident that their recommendations are worth contacting.

Search App Developer Directories

Online directories are another way to find developers. Consider starting with local app developers. Staying local has benefits: you can meet with the team in person and they’ll work similar hours to you.

Clutch is one of the most popular directories for finding app developers. You can search for app developers by location, budget, and technology. For example, Clutch ranks the top app developers in Nashville. You can even search based on the technologies your app already uses. If you want Flutter app experts near Nashville, search for the top Flutter developers in Nashville.

Investigate Apps You Like

If you use apps that you absolutely love, find out who built them. Many apps will have mention their developer in their app store listings or somewhere in the app itself. Note that some apps are built by in-house teams, but it’s worth checking to see if an agency built your favorite apps.

Talk to Twin Sun

If you’re looking for a new app development partner, we’d love to talk to you. We’ve helped several of our clients transition from their old app development partner and brought their apps to the finish line. We’ll help you understand your options and make the transition as smooth as possible. Contact us if you would like to add us to your short list of potential app development partners.

3. Interview Your Shortlist

Once you have your shortlist, meet with them to discuss your project and your experience so far. Try to get a sense of how they would approach your project and how they would work with you. Here are some questions to ask during your interview.

How Long Have You Been in Business?

While every company has to start sometime, it’s safest to start with a company that has been around at least a few years. You want to work with a company that has a proven track record of success. A company’s longevity is a good indicator of their ability to deliver on their promises.

Where Are Your Developers Located?

If you’re looking for a local app development partner, ask where their developers are located. Even if you aren’t concerned about working with a local team, you should know where your developers are located.

Time zone differences can be a barrier to communication. While your developers don’t need to keep the exact same hours as you, you should ensure that you have several hours of overlap during your work day. Real-time communication is essential for a successful partnership.

How Many Developers Do You Have?

Team size isn’t necessarily important for completing your project: most apps start with just one or two developers. However, you want to know that your app development partner has the bandwidth to support your project for the long term. If your lead developer leaves the agency, you want to know that your project is still in good hands. Don’t be afraid to ask about the company’s turnover rate, either.

What Apps Have You Built?

Ask your potential app development partner to show you some of their work. You can ask to see apps they’ve built for other clients. What you’re looking for is a portfolio of apps that meet your quality expectations. Direct experience with your exact type of business is a bonus, but less important than being able to generally deliver high-quality work.

Can I Speak to Your Clients?

An agency that you will enjoy partnering with should have existing clients who are happy to talk about their experience. Ask your potential app development partner if you can speak to some of their clients.

What Is Your Process?

Agencies will have different processes for building apps. Some agencies will have a very structured process, whereas others may keep things very loose. It’s important to know the type of work environment you’re walking into.

Coming from an app developer who failed to meet expectations, you will likely benefit from a more structured process. Regular check-ins and development milestones will help the team stay aligned with your goals for the app. A weekly call or demo makes the team accountable and helps you stay up to date on the project’s progress.

How Do You Communicate?

Your new app development partner will only be successful if lines of communication are open. That doesn’t mean every team member has to give you their cell phone number. However, you should have a way to share information, ask questions, and get answers quickly. You will also want to know who is in charge in case you need to escalate an issue.

What Is Your Rate?

When you switch app developers, you may not immediately know how much time it will take your new app developer to complete your project. However, you should know what they charge per hour. The rate and other factors will help you compare agencies on your shortlist when you are making your decision.

Some agencies charge the same rate for all developers, whereas others will charge based on developer seniority. High-quality U.S.-based app developers typically charge between $100 and $200 per hour, but may go as high as $300 per hour for senior developers.

Can You Give Me an Estimate?

Asking for an estimate to complete your app is a good test of how well your potential app development partner understands your project. An estimate or proposal will also show you how the agency communicates cost and timeline expectations.

Some agencies will give you a fixed price for your project, while others will give you a range of time and money.

When Can You Get Started?

If you’re looking to switch app developers, you may be under a tight deadline. Ask your potential app development partner when they can get started on your project. If they can’t start right away, ask them how long it will take them to assign a team and ramp up on your project. Most agencies will be able to start within a few weeks.

4. Review Their Proposals

Once you have met with your shortlist and asked them for their estimates, review the information. Compare the proposals, but don’t focus only on cost. Estimation is an inexact science, so just because an agency gives you the lowest price doesn’t mean they will actually be the cheapest. They may just be the worst estimators!

Instead, consider cost alongside other factors. Compare the agencies’ processes, communication styles, and experience. Who feels like the right partner for you?

5. Choose Your New App Developer

Once you’ve made a decision, it’s time to sign a contract and get started.

Tips for Making the Switch

To become successful, your new app development partner needs your active participation in the relationship. Below are my suggestions for making the transition to your new team as smooth as possible.

1. Be Honest

Be upfront about why you wanted to partner with a new app development company. Describe your concerns from your previous development experience and the things that concern you with starting this new partnership. Your new developer will be more likely to address your concerns and avoid the same mistakes if they know what matters most to you.

2. Be Clear

Do not assume that your new developers know everything that you know. They don’t have the project history or business knowledge that you have. Sometimes people are afraid to repeat themselves because they don’t want to come across as condescending. This is not one of those times. The best thing you can do for your new partnership is communicate clearly, even if that means repeating yourself a few times or sharing things that you believe everyone already knows.

Similarly, never be afraid of expressing your concerns. If you start to feel like your new developer is going down the same path as your old one, speak up. Note your concerns with their approach, what you would like to see instead, and why. The more you communicate, the better your new partnership will be.

3. Be Patient

Forming a new partnership takes time. It may not be completely smooth sailing at the start of your relationship, and that’s to be expected. The new team may take a few weeks to understand your project and how to best work with you.

That’s no excuse for non-performance, though. At most, this normalizing period should take a month. You should still see progress during that time, but it may not be as fast as you would like. Don’t wait to raise concerns, either. If the first week isn’t going as well as you’d like, immediately share your concerns. Give the team the opportunity to adjust early and often.

4. Be Available

Your new development partner needs your time and attention to be successful. As the product owner, you are responsible for defining the project’s success. That means setting goals, defining feature priorities, and regularly offering feedback. At a minimum, you should have a weekly call to discuss progress, answer questions, and review the latest app build.

Consider Your Options

At the end of the day, you need to do the best thing for your business. If you’re not happy with your current app developer, you should consider your options.

Even if you decide to stay with your current developer, that doesn’t mean things can’t change for the better. The above tips for changing app developers can be applied to your current developer as well.

If you’re not quite ready to replace your app developer, consider having a conversation with them about your concerns. Though, if they are not receptive to that conversation, you should absolutely look for a new app developer.

Are you unsure of where to start your search for a new app developer? Contact us to discuss how we can help you complete your mobile or web app.