Inhouse Developers vs App Development Company – Part #3

Over the last 11 years, I’ve worked as both an app developer building innovative apps for startups and large organisations working on game-changing technologies and I’ve also worked for a number of app development companies as a consultant advising startup (and corporate) entrepreneurs alike. This guide is a collection of my thoughts and things I’ve learnt from working on (building, designing, advising on etc) countless mobile apps and web-applications. This guide give you the information you need to understand the difference between hiring an inhouse app developer vs hiring an app development company.

=== Guide Articles ===
Part 1 – Guide Introduction
Part 2 – The App Development Team #1
Part 3 – The App Development Team #2 (you are here)
Part 4 – Hiring an Inhouse App Developer #1
Part 5 – Hiring an Inhouse App Developer #2

Part 2 – The App Development Team #2

In the last article we looked at three of the 5 key people involved in building your mobile app or web application. Let’s look at two more, then consider why this is important for the success of your business / project.

Front-End developer
Like the back-end developer, the front-end developer is not involved in designing the features or layout of the mobile app or web-application. Instead they accept blue-prints from the UX designer and visual designs from the visual designer and create the required interfaces / screens for your app. If we use the apartment complex metaphor again, they would be the ones who connect the plumbers, electricians, plasterers and painters. They don’t decide the colors, lights switches,

However, in the mobile app and web-application world, they need to build interfaces (screens) that can work on different screen sizes and different types of devices (mobile, tablet, laptop, watch etc). If they are building an interface for a web-browser, they also need to factor in different types of browsers (they all act slightly different), older browsers and factor in accessibility considerations for the visually impaired, for instance, to support screen readers or braille boards (for reading). Accessibility is generally a greater concern for government agencies building apps than for startup founders / corporate entrepreneurs.

Project manager
This person is obviously good at planning a project, however they also have a lot of connections to front-end devs, back-end devs, UX designers and visuals designers and they know what each of these people is worth (so they’re not easily fooled on price). They also know what they need for a project and can find the most appropriate person with experience in either the technology or the industry your app is in.

When you work with an App Development Company, you get pro-rata access to each of these specialists. The number of specialist disciplines you get access to is one of the main advantages you get when working with with an app development company.

However as your startup grows, an app development company can become too expensive and not culturally integrated into your team. If your mobile app or web application is part of your core-services, your design and dev team is better suited to being in-house over the long term. That said, I suggest against hiring a developer from the outset but instead suggest working with an agency first and then building your team.

The next article in this series will discuss why.

P.S. There is also the infrastructure / sys-admin discipline, however this discipline is generally seen in a later stage startups (after they’ve released their first product) unless you have particularly heavy server requirements from the get go (uploading large videos, heavy processing tasks, large storage requirements etc).