Five Myths about Outsourcing iPhone App Development

Drew CrawfordNews

When you select a developer for your iPhone or iPad app, you’re making the most important decision about your project’s future.  The right partner will make or break your project.  Whether you’re a Fortune 500 firm developing an enterprise app, an entrepreneur chasing the dream, or a startup looking to grow your user base, you want a product that you can stand behind, and a development team that can deliver, on-time and on-budget.  Choosing the right development partner is the difference between project success and project failure, and outsourcing to a cheap overseas vendor is a surefire path to disaster.

Myth #1: Outsourcing Is Cheap

Consider this scenario: a potential client will come to us and ask us for a quote, which we gladly provide.  The client discovers that an overseas firm is quoting half our price, and so they select the overseas firm.  Six months later, they ring us up and beg us to do the project for our original number, because the firm they selected has already billed them triple and they have a horrible, buggy, half-fininshed product to show for it.

Unfortunately this scenario is very common, and we “rescue” several dozen projects a year from overseas vendors.  In many cases, the quality of the product is so terrible that we have to throw it in the garbage and start over from scratch. Many unscrupulous vendors will tell you anything to get the contract signed. If it sounds too good to be true–it probably is.  Don’t listen to anyone who says that your app can be built for a few grand and a prayer–unless you have a few grand to throw away.

A good rule of thumb is that a good developer will dig deep into your project requirements, will ask for a specification or will insist on developing one, and will ask questions and make suggestions that demonstrate a very deep understanding of your project’s design and goals.  Anyone who quotes you an exact number without first receiving and asking questions about your detailed specification is someone who has no idea what you want and is making up a number to get you to sign the contract.  Don’t fall for that trap.

Myth #2: Outsourcing Is Easy

When you select a professional, local iPhone developer or contractor, you get someone who understands your business problem and is someone who can get things done.  You get someone who keeps you up to date on your projects’ progress, who doesn’t need to be babysat or micromanaged, and who you can rely on to be an excellent advisor and partner in designing and developing your project.

When you outsource a project to a bottom-of-the-barrel software vendor, you get a different kind of service.  Language and cultural barriers conspire to prevent you from communicating about problems and issues effectively.  Work may be performed based on a bad specification (or even no specification!).  Issues and errors constantly have to be corrected, and the client often develops a severe mistrust for the vendor.  Cheap developers skimp on code quality, failing to prevent bugs, and even critical components like verifying that the software basically works for its purpose.  Working with a cheap developer means constantly listing and re-listing, e-mailing and re-emailing about every single problem, managing and micromanaging each individual task, and continually worrying about whether the vendor will ever get it right.   Do you want to stay up late at night wondering if your project is six months or six years behind schedule, or do you want a vendor that you can count on to get it right?

Myth #3: All Programmers Are About The Same

Paul Graham, an angel investor who makes his money picking software companies wrote that “A great programmer might be ten or a hundred times as productive as an ordinary one”.  Not to mention how many times an average programmer might be better than a bad one.  The variation in skill between programmers is enormous.  A good programmer can get your project done ten times faster and five times better than a bad one–if the bad one can even get the project done at all.

Myth #4: My Project Is Really Simple

There are no simple iPhone or iPad projects.  Each project requires a unique expertise and attention to detail.  The iPhone and iPad are some of the only platforms remaining that require the rare and esoteric skill of manual memory management, which often makes up well over 50% of the complexity of any iOS project.  Even many good developers do not have experience in this area and as a result iOS development is one of the most difficult types of software development today.

Not to mention the special challenges of performance on a low-power mobile device, battery life, navigating Apple review, limited memory, and testing and diagnosing bugs across many different devices.  Creating an app that is fast and easy to use requires a lot of experience.  Make sure you pick a vendor who is prepared to meet the unique challenges that your app will present.

Myth #5: This Cheap Vendor Has Many Success Stories

You only see the success stories.  IBM claims that over 80% of software projects fail because they were “over budget, late, missing function, or a combination”.  At DrewCrawfordApps, we have a proven track record of delivering custom software right, on-time and on-budget.

Large outsourcing clearinghouses have incredibly high turnover.  Smaller shops are bought and sold, and your project may pass through any number of developers’ hands.  How do you know the people working on your project are the same people who built the company’s portfolio?  You don’t.  How do you get in touch with the developers who actually work on your app?  If you’re lucky, you can e-mail a person who can e-mail a person who can talk to the developers actually responsible for doing the work.

At DrewCrawfordApps, I personally oversee all our projects.  Our clients all have my cell phone number and can always talk to myself or another senior engineer directly who can solve their problem or give them a status update.  We have no slimy sales people, no telephone menus, nobody to screen our calls, and nothing to prevent you from getting any concerns or anxieties you may have dealt with immediately.  Since I personally handle all our client aquisitions and proposals, I can answer any questions you have and because I’m a developer, not a sales guy, I’m not afraid to tell you if for some reason we’re not the right fit for your project.

Choosing the right development partner is the most important decision in ensuring your project’s success.  So before you outsource that project, think about the hidden costs.  Doesn’t your app deserve a professional developer?

Contact us today to discuss your projects’ unique needs.  But even if we’re not the right fit for your project, we’d encourage you to choose a local professional developer, or even an overseas developer of comparable quality and cost.  But we’ve rescued enough botched projects to know that if you solicit quotes from a cheap shop you’re asking for trouble.