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App Agencies or In-House Developers? The Main Differences

Apr 25 2019

The need for an app in today’s digital climate is crucial.  Brands big, small, experienced and fledgeling are all looking for ways to connect with their key customers in new and exciting ways.  For a society continually glued to its smartphones and tablets, app development is a no-brainer. Whether or not your startup particularly revolves around the idea of an app is irrelevant.  Developing an app is all about presenting your brand in a way that can be easily digested on a daily basis and for spare minutes at a time.

You may already have ideas for startup apps.  Identifying gaps in your market is a fantastic place to start. However, app startup costs and funding will always need to be considered.  What’s more, how do you effectively build a mobile application from scratch?  If you’re unable to design and code yourself, who can you bring on board to help?

There are a couple of avenues to pick from.  One popular route is to consult with an app agency, which would take your project on in-house.  The second is to search for an individual freelance developer to bring into your team. But which option is more viable for your needs and your budget?  Whether or not developing an app is high on your list of priorities, it’s worth doing some research.



What is an App Agency?

App agencies are very appealing to busy startups.  For one thing, an outsourced team will be able to solely work on developing your brand for the mobile market.  For another thing, it will also mean that you can open up a simple dialogue between your marketing team and a dedicated unit working on your behalf.  On paper, it’s time saved, which may well be money saved, too. Let’s take a look at some of the more obvious benefits of assigning app development to an agency team.

Experts at Your Fingertips

There’s no doubt whatsoever that app development agencies have the best people working for them.  For an agreed fee, you’ll have access to a variety of different app specialists who can all weigh in on what you need.  That means graphic designers, coders, quality assurance, testers and marketers.  You may only have a handful of these engineers working for you as a startup. Assigning your app to an agency means you hit the ground running with a great app which will be ready to compete.

No End to Talent

App agencies can be hotbeds for genuinely talented people.  These are people who live, eat and breathe app development. If there is anyone you are going to need on-side to help develop your app for the wider market, it’s these guys.  While plenty of people can learn to develop apps and code efficiently, you can’t learn talent. Think about your app needs. To emerge as a real competitor in your market, it may be a good idea to lead with a team at the top of their game.

Experience is Golden

Hiring an app agency means you’ll also be able to tap into, serious expertise.  Agency teams are generally comprised of seasoned developers and experts. Therefore, they’ve already studied the markets, know what works well with consumers, and can point you in the right direction.  While you can take on app development in-house, there are always going to be some risks involved.

Outsourcing means you get access to instant expertise and experience.  Of course, you should always be doing your homework as far as finding a solid agency is concerned.  As a startup, you should probably think about investing in the best available. It’s tempting to help out another startup along the way, but it might not be what you need right now.

No Hiring Woes

Hiring or training an app developer in-house means time and money spent on your behalf.  While you are going to need to weigh the difference in terms of budget for agencies and individual experts, it’s safe to say that it’s also fairly hard to get a great app developer to join your team immediately.  Filling a developer position is almost a full-time job in itself. Many developers and talented experts find agencies alluring.

App developers are in high demand.  They generally cost more to hire year on year, too.  Therefore, from a startup perspective, the agency route may seem like a more feasible option.  However, let’s not discount in-house developers completely.

Why Hire an App Developer?

App agencies take plenty off your plate, but there are pros and cons.  For one thing, an internal expert will have instant access to your brand.  There is also the factor of money. During your research, you should always have a clear budget in mind.  App developers will require wages per annum. Agencies may only accept project fees in a flat sum. Which is more convenient for you?

More Experience of You

Hiring someone in-house means they’re a part of your team.  That much is obvious. That means they have frontline exposure to your brand, your ethos, your day to day running.  This also means that they will be able to develop an app for you with little need for revision or negotiation. They can work alongside your other startup members to help create the perfect platform.

No Scope Creep

Hiring an agency may mean that the budget changes as revisions are requested.  Not all agencies will do this; however, it is something to bear in mind. With an in-house developer, you can at least seek and receive revisions to your software while continuing to pay your expert a set wage.  The costs of building an app can vary. Therefore, the agency route might end up costing you more if you need to be flexible along the way.

Efficiency and Flexibility

Having an expert in-house to help you means app development occurs quickly.  Negotiating with an agency could mean reams of emails, endless meetings and days waiting to get signed off.  As a startup with very little time on the slate, you’re going to need to act fast.

An app developer working in your team can turn around revisions within a matter of hours or days.  There’s no need to sign off in any kind of elaborate way. You have direct access to your developer throughout the working day.  You could request a visual change at 9 am and have three alternatives drafted for you by 5 pm. That’s the kind of efficiency you’re going to need to harness.

Ease of Communication

In line with the above, while it’s easy to call an email an agency, it’s even easier to talk in-house.  Not only can you directly call or email your app developer without an intermediary, but you can also speak with them face-to-face at short notice.  Getting a startup app developed will need specific care and attention. That means that some details can be lost in communication. Get in some face time with a developer, and there are no missed directives.

The Choice to Make

All startups are different; let’s be clear.  There isn’t a correct answer when it comes to picking between an agency and an app developer.  While some startups may prefer the expertise of an agency, others will prefer the flexibility of an in-house expert.  Let’s break this down into more simple terms.

Choosing an Agency

  • An app agency will offer you years of expertise and genuine talent.  
  • Hiring an app agency offers minimal risk for your investment.  It’s the perfect approach if you’re building a one-off app.
  • Agencies also take lots of work off your plate, meaning you can outsource while working on other areas.
  • However, you run the risk of a flexible budget if you need to make changes.
  • Changes and revisions also need to be signed off.  This means, as you’re working on a B2B basis, a lot of potential waiting around.  Do you really have that time to spare?

Choosing a Developer

  • A developer is right there in your team.  They know your brand, and they know your ethos.
  • You can speak with them directly, and changes can be requested and made within a day’s notice.
  • Developers are flexible.  They’re great for continuous app development and brainstorming.
  • However, they may be more expensive for you over time.  It’s not often so easy to find an app developer at short notice.
  • One or two developers compared to a whole team with years of expertise?  You may be losing out on higher quality results.

What’s Next?

It’s a matter of taking a look at your budget as well as your short and long term needs.  If your startup is dependent on your app being developed, you may wish to choose the option which guarantees most care and understanding of what you need.  However, if your budget is tight, you may need to look for a quick fix for the time being.

There are agencies out there which offer a hybrid approach.  This means that they can supply in-house developers for specific projects.  That may be the bridge you need to make an app development decision. Do some research and don’t take this matter too lightly!


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