12 questions to ask before developing your app

Sara Morton

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By the end of 2017 it’s predicted that there will have been 197 billion app downloads. That’s approximately 3001 apps for every person in the UK. If you’ve got an app idea and are keen to get your project started, great news – you’ve got yourself a huge potential audience. However, it also means that there’s a lot of competition. As companies continue to realise the potential of apps, there are more and more businesses out there vying for those all important downloads.

Before you go any further with developing your app idea, it’s important to make sure you:

a) have asked yourself all the right questions and

b) know all the essential questions to ask an app developer or agency

Take the time to do both of these and you’re setting yourself up for a much more seamless app development process. In this guide we’ll cover some of the most essential app development questions you should be asking.

Questions to ask yourself

1. Is there a place in the market for my app?

First and foremost, take the time to do your market research. Is there an app already existing that serves the same purpose as yours? If yes, what puts yours above the competition? What can your app offer that others don’t? If there are no other similar apps on the market then hopefully it’s because nobody has yet come up with an idea as original as yours. Or it may simply be that your app is only designed to be useful to your company or clients, such as a client portal or an employee app. In either instance, it’s worth doing thorough market and audience research to check that there is interest and an audience for your app and its proposed functionality.

2. How will the app help users?

Your app needs a purpose and you need to be completely clear on what that purpose is. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to define its purpose in a sentence; rather like a condensed elevator pitch. Ask yourself what you’re aiming to achieve with the app and how it fits within your business model. Apps are designed so that users can perform a function easily on their mobile device. Whether you’re helping users access information, complete a purchase, solve a problem, manage personal information or providing entertainment, be clear about your app’s purpose and how it will benefit the user.

3. Who is my target audience?

Drilling down into your target demographic will provide valuable information to help complete the project. Gaining insight on user behaviour, such as whether they’re more likely to use iOS or Android devices, their spending habits and how much time they actually spend using apps on a regular basis will help you create a piece of software that’s much more valuable to the user. Consider putting together a focus group and asking them to give insight into what they’d be looking for from your app. For example, if it’s a gaming app, consider asking what makes players keep going back to the app. If it’s e-commerce, which features from other similar e-commerce apps do users find beneficial and which features encourage them to complete a purchase?

4. What’s my app inspiration?

Giving your development agency insight into which features of other apps you admire and why, will enhance the design process. Analysing competitor apps and determining what you – as a user, likes is a good place to start. If you’ve completed your market research you should be able to combine features that you like with the features that your target market like.

5. What’s the budget?

We appreciate this is sometime a bit of a sticky subject, especially if you have little experience with app development and therefore have no real idea how much the project should cost. It doesn’t help either that there’s no set pricing structure for app development. Much like if you have a website designed, several factors come into play that will affect the total cost, including; functionality, design and how many people will be allocated to the project. However, having an idea of how much you’re willing to spend is really helpful. A developer doesn’t want to waste their or your time pitching an all singing all dancing app when your budget would be much better suited to focusing on key features first, and scaling up to that all singing all dancing status over time. Developers will be happy to work to your budget and advise what it can (or can’t) get you. If cost isn’t an issue, by all means put your full brief to the developer and see what you get back, but be prepared to answer quite a few questions before you get a quote…

6. Is my branding right?

If the app is for an existing company you’ll hopefully already have brand guidelines that can be passed on to your development team. If not, you’ll need to think about who’s going to do your branding. Good branding and a great logo can help set your app apart. Don’t forget that an app sits on a user’s home screen. Having an eye catching logo can increase visibility and remind a user of your brand every time they unlock their phone, which according to research by Dscout is an average of 76 times per day. Some agencies can provide both services, others may be more specialist so be sure to research who’s best to do this for you.

7. What will success look like?

In your eyes, what determines the success of the app? This could be a number of things but having key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you measure how well your app is performing in relation to your objectives. To measure the success of your app, there are several metrics you may want to consider:

  • How many downloads is your app getting?
  • Monetisation: It sounds obvious but if your app involves monetisation be sure to track revenue.
  • Downloads and installations are of course important, but measuring how users engage with the app is much more useful. Having engaged users is a strong indicator of success as engaged users are the ones that will be helping you to achieve your goals. Depending on your app, you could be interested in daily active users or monthly active users.
  • Retention rate: Are your users coming back to the app? If yes, this shows that you’ve done a strong job with your market research and defining your app’s purpose.
  • What are the key conversions you want to track? Is it someone creating an account, completing a purchase or unlocking a new level?
  • Growth rate is a good indicator of success – just make sure you’re aware of the reasons as to why there’s growth.
  • User happiness: Are people responding positively to your app? Monitoring your reviews, social shares and tracking social conversation can be really useful.

Questions to ask a development agency

8. Can I see your case studies / portfolio?

Any developer or agency worth their salt will be keen to show you their portfolio or case studies from the get-go. If not, make sure you ask to see them. Getting a feel for the kind of projects they’ve worked on before – including what they looked like and how they performed, will help you decide if they’re the right partner for you. They should also be willing to let you chat to some of their previous clients if you wish. Make sure you ask them how they found the process, what their working relationship was like and how satisfied they were with the outcome.

9. Do you use an agile process?

Ideally you want someone that offers an agile approach. This basically means that they’ll work flexibly; working in ‘sprints’ where they can test and refine their approach as the project progresses. An agile approach also means that you should be able to monitor progress with regular updates and check-ins to see how the project is progressing and if it’s going as you expected. Throughout the process it’s likely that findings will be made and new technologies or design trends will emerge. Having a team that can respond to this through their development process is really useful.

10. Who will be working on the app?

If you choose to work with an agency, ask about the experience of the people that are working on your app. You don’t need a full run-down of each person’s CV but having an idea of the team’s skills and experiences will give you an indication of the kind of service you’re receiving for the cost. Working with an agency should mean you get access to developers and designers as a minimum but many will also allocate an account or project manager. Others will also have an in-house team that can assist you when it comes to marketing the app, should you require it.

11. Is support and maintenance offered?

In the eventuality that your app suffers a bug or you decide a couple of months down the line that you’d like a change to the functionality, can your development partner offer a solution? Whether that’s through an ongoing support contract or offering maintenance work at a reduced rate, you should be able to secure something to put your mind at rest that should something occur, a fix will be a priority. If applicable, find out what additional support is offered. This could be anything from providing staff training or producing a user manual to marketing support.

12. What are the timescale and costings for the project?

Last but by no means least, what will the timescale be and how will the cost of the project be broken down? At Huddled, we use a discovery model which means that we can scope at the project fully before providing a quote. This avoids any nasty surprises for the client and helps us plan a realistic and achievable project plan. Some may split the project cost over a monthly basis while others will charge a down payment and cost at the point of deployment. Some may invoice at specified stages of the project. Make sure you have a clear understanding of payment terms as well as what deliverables you can expect at each point of payment.


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