When building a mobile app development team for your project, you’ve likely hit three major roadblocks: breaking the work down into specific roles, finding the right people to fulfill each function, and budgeting for your staffing needs.
If you’re feeling stuck at any point on your journey towards developing a power team, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to let you in on some tried and true methods for finding the right experts, all the while sticking within your time and budget constraints.
What Does a Mobile App Development Team Consist of?
Planning goes a long way when it comes to deploying the best strategies for your app development projects; and building your team makes no exception.
Start out by assessing the complexity of your project. Determine the main tasks that you will need fulfilled, the scale of the project, as well as the post-production sales and marketing you anticipate will be required once the project has kicked off.
You will need to factor in these details and any other particularity your project might have when deciding on the size of your team and the distribution of roles. As a reference, we recommend the following team structure, which is likely to meet most mobile app development projects’ needs:
- A Product Owner
- A Project Manager
- A UI/UX Designer
- Mobile Developers (iOS and/or Android)
- A Backend Engineer/Developer
- A QA Specialist
- A Marketing and Sales Specialist (optional)
Let’s zoom in on each of these functional units of your team.
The Product Owner
Since you want your product to be successful on the market, you’ll need a Product Owner. This role will be for a person that’s part of your Agile team.
- Managing the budget
- Defining and prioritizing tasks
- Streamlining the execution of tasks in the backlog
- Maintaining the integrity of the features & implementations of the product
- Keeping account of all components of the product
They will coordinate with the Project Manager at all times, assuring the completion of business objectives and the successful launch of the product. Post-launch, their involvement is refocused on marketing and sales, collaborating with the appropriate teams to maximize efficacy and efficiency.
Complex development projects may require additional personnel to tackle strategic tasks. In some cases, you may find it necessary to bring a Product Owner on board to define and refine your product’s (the app) positioning within the market.
Unlike a Project Manager, your Product Owner’s ultimate task is to ensure the product-market fit for your app. Their main roles can be broken down into:
- Performing ongoing product research
- Doing competitor analysis and benchmarking your product against the market landscape
- Using and formulating insights based on user analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Hotjar, Microsoft’s Web Analytics etc.
- Using and formulating insights based on survey tools such as Typeform, SurveyMonkey, or even Google Forms
- Defining and prioritizing product features based on market insights
- Reporting on findings and making suggestions for improvement
- Outlining product updates and new feature releases
- Tracking the success of each initiative via specific KPIs
- Designing and running beta tests
The Project Manager
A project manager is responsible for all aspects of a mobile app development project, from inception to completion. They will ensure that deadlines and budgets are observed, and that deliverables are received as per the project roadmap. They will also liaise between you and the technical team.
It may help to think of your Project Manager as a business consultant who is capable of translating expectations, guidelines, documentation and feedback between all members of the team.
What you should look out for in a Project Manager:
- Excellent knowledge of the industry
- In-depth understanding of technical concepts
- Management and team leadership skills
- Ability to communicate clearly and thoroughly
- Ease in handling multiple overlapping tasks and/or projects
- Track record in using project management tools, such as Confluence, Asana or Trello
An essential aspect you should consider before kicking off a mobile app development project, is becoming familiar with the concept of Agile methodology. Your Project Manager should have a thorough understanding of the Agile process and be able to ensure its implementation in the team’s flow.
All in all, this person will need to oversee all the stages of the app development and strategize so as to make the most of the available resources. To give you an overview of their concrete roles within the team, you can expect a Project Manager to:
- Assign responsibilities to team members, prioritize and ensure that deadlines for sprints are met
- Make agile decisions and adapt the project roadmap depending on its development
- Monitor costs and ensure that budgets are observed
- Serve as a single point of contact for the mobile app development team
- Find solutions to roadblocks and mitigate risks
- Ensure quality standards are met
The UX/UI Designer
The backbone of mobile app design consists of documentation. Once the requirements are communicated to the team, they will create a set of wireframes, some schematic blueprints which outline the main navigation of the app.
The wireframes are like the skeleton of your app’s user interface. The UI/UX designers then proceed to create an app prototype as well as designing the actual user interface, bearing in mind the user flow and their likely interactions with the app.
In a nutshell, the designer or design team will be in charge of:
- Understanding the information architecture for the app
- Outlining the user flow and creating wireframes accordingly
- Creating the app visual (and audio) interface
- Delivering all the creative assets for the app (images, video, audio, and text content)
- Iterating their designs based on feedback from other project stakeholders (project manager, QA, users)
Although it is important to note that the UX/UI designer is not a developer, you will ideally want your design team to have at least some coding knowledge. This will ensure smooth communication between developers and design.
Needless to say, it is imperative that the design team be familiar with the most recent trends in terms of wireframing, prototyping and UX research, and that they are experienced in design tools such as InVision Studio, Sketch, Adobe XD or Axure – to name a few.
Mobile App Developers (iOS and/or Android)
At this point, the scope of the app is clear and the wireframes are ready. This is when mobile developers step onto the stage to implement all this into code.
Depending on the scope of your project, you may be looking to develop apps for multiple operating systems or a cross-platform app. Whether your app is intended to span platforms or it is built exclusively for one depends on your budget and on your user persona.
More often than not, you will be working with mobile developers specialized in either iOS or Android, since the two operating systems come with their fair share of technical differences. Here are the main technologies and skills each developer should know depending on their specialty:
|iOS Developers||Android Developers||Cross-Platform Developers|
|Knowledge of Swift or SwiftUI programming languages
Xcode IDE – the development environment integrated within Apple devices
iOS Frameworks – “predefined” kits and code that allow easier implementation of standardized feature
APIs – enable developers to interact with third party services
|Knowledge of Java or Kotlin programming languages
Android Studio – Android’s integrated development environment
Android SDKs (Software Development Kit) – libraries which enable developers to access various mobile device functions, such as the camera
APIs – enable developers to interact with party services
|Knowledge of Flutter or React Native programming languages
Knowledge of platform differences and how to make apps feel native on each platformSpatial reasoning – the ability to visualize in 3D and understand spatial relations between objects
While technical expertise is crucial, you should also aim for your developers to be endowed with soft skills, the most important of which is agility. Circling back to our discussion about Project Managers, it is not just them who need to adhere to the Agile methodology.
It is likewise important that developers are able to work efficiently in sprints, to take feedback and pivot so as to meet newly communicated requirements and expectations. This sets the basis for success and cuts down on costs where optimizations can be made along the way.
In the long run, an agile approach ensures that the product-market fit is achieved and validated before the official release.
The Backend Engineer/Developer
Moving deeper into the technical workings of your mobile app, you would need a backend developer or engineer to deal with several functionalities which go beyond the visual interface.
While part of the team is skilled in frontend development, the backend developer takes on a rather different role. The infographic below is a perfect illustration of the difference between the two.
As part of a mobile app development team, the backend developer would be responsible for a set of tasks which include, but are, of course, not limited to:
- Maintaining databases and servers
- Writing code that’s intended to run on said servers (for business logic residing on the server: storage, authentication, etc)
- Ensuring that payment systems send, receive and store the correct data from the front-end part of the code (what the users see, the UI)
- Coding and implementing the business logic which powers the app
- Implementing APIs
- Mastering at least one of the backend programming languages such as Swift, ReactNative, PHP
The QA Specialist
Agile testing is an essential part of the framework and this is where quality assurance (QA) specialists step in. Their job is to ensure that the deliverables put forth by the design and the development teams are up to the mark and the quality standards for the final product are met.
Some of the key functions of the QA team include:
- Benchmarking quality standards
- Testing the product through manual and/or automated techniques
- Identifying bugs and documenting the progress of their resolution
- Anticipating and reporting on roadblocks that users may encounter while navigating the app
- Reporting on the progress of test cases
The Marketing and Sales Specialist(s) (optional)
Your mobile app development team can function optimally with just enough members to fill the roles described so far. However, it serves to have a go-to-market strategy and trained people to implement it at the right time.
After all, the ultimate purpose is usually to achieve a fair return on your investment and to maximize the profit from your app. Of course, you could also have an app that’s not going to generate revenue directly. Some brand-specific apps will have an indirect positive effect on your income.
Consider the benefits of having information flow between departments and the members of the team.
Your Project Manager and/or Product Owner may be in a suitable position to advise your sales rep about your users’ avatar. Similarly, your marketing team may have great input for the design team in terms of generating and optimizing content.
Remember that you do not need to wait until your product has been fully released to start marketing it and creating a rapport with your audience. With the right team in place, you can build anticipation and generate demand way before the app is launched.
What Are The Stages of Mobile App Development? What is Each Team’s Contribution?
Since we ended our previous section with a recommendation to not treat marketing efforts as an afterthought, we feel compelled to warn you about this other mistake we see clients make all the time.
Do not assume that your technical team’s involvement with the project will end once the app is released. Very likely, your app will require ongoing support and maintenance. You may run into bugs, you may need to update the platform so as to keep up with the ever-evolving technology.
You may want to scale or you may want to pivot. You may want to add new features or drop others. It is safe to assume that technical support will be required to some extent for the entire lifetime of your app.
Let’s dive into the 5 main stages of the mobile app development process and how each team can be expected to contribute.
|Discovery||Technical Documentation||Building a prototype||App development||App deployment|
|Teams involved||Project manager
Development team leaders
QA team leaders
|Deliverable||Initial documentation on goals, targets, features
Low-fidelity designs (mockups)
High-fidelity designs (mockups)
|Metadata for the app listings
Listing on app store(s)
Stage 1: Discovery
It all starts with you communicating your business idea to the development team in a well-structured way. As you would with any business idea, you will need to provide the business plan which will be the backbone of the project. At the end of this phase, you will need to have all these figured out:
- your app’s vision
- your ideal app user’s characteristics
- the priority order for the features you would like to offer
- use cases for the app
- the first wireframes of the app
- the competitive landscape
- a phased plan for releases
- a plan for beta testing
Your Project Manager is going to be your go-to person during this initial stage of the app development. They will make sure that all important bases are covered and that the team has all the details needed to provide you with mockups for the initial prototype. They will ask you guiding questions and help you set realistic budgets and timelines.
The UX/UI design team will also be involved at this stage. Based on your input and the conclusions of your discovery brainstorms, they will provide a low-fidelity design, the first mockups for your app.
In addition to the above, the technical team will need to be involved and kept in the loop about the progress of your app concept. They will determine your project’s feasibility, the scope of your app and then outline the main milestones in the development of your app’s architecture (such as potential third party integrations).
Stage 2: Technical Documentation
At this stage, the team will be writing the technical documentation which will be used as a reference throughout the app development process going forward. Your input and feedback will be required throughout, as specific guidelines are drafted for the app’s functionality and design.
You can expect the technical documentation to include details such as:
- the scope of your app
- the number and types of users you need to cater to
- the technologies which will be used
- other technical suggestions and recommendations
- the app design
- the app navigation structure
Your Project Manager will be overseeing the process, ensuring that deliverables are received on time, that the documentation is thorough and covers the main use cases. The developers and the UX/UI designer will be the main characters at this stage, but it is not uncommon for the entire team to be asked to share their input and expertise.
Stage 3: Building a prototype
Using the business plan and the technical documentation elaborated in the previous stages, the designer or design team will now create a prototype of your app, including:
- sketches – a graphical representation of the logic behind the app’s navigation
- wireframes – a visualization of the app’s architecture
- a clickable design – an interactive visualization of the user flow, covering most use cases
- final design – the final visual and navigational structure of the app
This will give you an accurate idea of how the final product will turn out and is a great opportunity for you to give feedback and/or request iterations.
Once you’re happy with your prototype, the UX/UI designer will proceed to developing the visual elements to be used for each platform. Your QA testers may also jump in at this point to share their insights about the app and make sure that its navigation is intuitive and user-friendly.
Stage 4: Technical app development
Once the design is ready and you’re happy with the prototype, the developers will start coding life into your app. By the end of this stage you will have your minimum viable product ready – a version of your app not fully developed but featuring the most important design and functional elements.
The front-end developers will be working on the client-side aspects of the app. They will make sure that the navigation and user interface are seamless and that the app is visually appealing, as per the designers’ documentation.
The backend developer will be responsible for the workings of the server-side part of the development work, ensuring that the information is passed correctly and efficiently to the frontend.
It is at this stage that agile testing is performed by the QA specialist (UX, functional, performance, security, platform testing). The team will work in sprints and QA testing will be done on an ongoing basis to ensure fast delivery times and remove bugs early in the process.
Stage 5: App deployment
Once your MVP has been turned into a final product, validated and approved, it is time to take your app to the marketplaces. You will work with the developers and, ideally, a marketing team to prepare all the metadata needed to submit to the app stores.
Post-release support should always be a part of the mobile app development’s lifecycle. To stay relevant in the fast-paces ecosystem of mobile apps, you will need to make sure that the technology is always up to date and that any issues reported by users are addressed swiftly and efficiently.
How Many People Do You Need on Your Mobile App Development Team?
The simple answer to this question is that the size of your team depends on how well the work can be split up. Also, there are two other important variables: your time and budget constraints.
Understaffing your project when the work volume is high will result in delays. On the other hand, hiring too many specialists will make your costs go through the roof.
So, how do you solve this dilemma? While there is no mathematical formula, here are a few things you can consider that will guide your decision:
- the scope and complexity of your project
- the seniority you expect of your team members
- the number and type of features you would like your app to have
- your budget
For example, if your app is simple (no-frills design, basic functionalities) you will likely only need a handful of specialists. Moreover, some middle level and even entry level professionals may be able to complete the tasks and deliver as expected.
If you have a medium complexity app, you will require more expertise, more time investment, as well as more advanced graphics.
Lastly, if you have an idea for a complex app (for example you may need to integrate payment systems and other third party services), you will need at least a few seniors on the team not only for execution but also to advise you and make recommendations.
If you need support or assistance staffing your app development project, let’s connect! That’s what we do best.
How Do You Hire a Team for Application Development?
The demand for highly skilled IT professionals is growing and building a team of available experts – all the while staying within your budget – can seem like a daunting task.
Here are the most common 4 options you can choose from:
Option 1. Hiring your app development team in-house
Pros: This option will allow you to be in constant communication with the team and cooperate closely.
Cons: On the flipside, there is little space for cost optimization. You can expect to incur heavy costs both in terms of capital and time spent headhunting.
Option 2. Hiring on freelance platforms
Pros: There is a huge pool of candidates on websites like Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer.com. This is a cost-effective alternative, as you can hire for the lowest hourly rates and without the hassle of signing employment agreements.
Cons: Since you’re unlikely to establish a long-term relationship with a freelancer hired on these gig platforms, there may be security risks involved. Unlike established teams, it is not common for freelance developers to work with project management tools. Moreover, you cannot always rely on their on-going support, which is vital for the success of a mobile app project.
Option 3. Staff augmentation
Pros: Staff augmentation allows you to bring on additional staff to fill your vacancies for specific projects. It is a great financial option, it allows you flexibility, control, and a fresh outlook on the project. These are just a few of the benefits that staff augmentation can bring to your team.
Cons: Although a great solution for many, you may find it inconvenient having to onboard external talent. Another challenge may be ensuring the cultural fit between your in-house team and the external staff.
Option 4. Outsourcing or managed services
Please note that managed services are different from staff augmentation. If you’d like to understand the difference between the two, we recommend reading this article.
Pros: A company providing managed services will take care of all the aspects of your app development lifecycle. They will assist with everything from idea validation to implementation, testing, deployment and technical support.
Cons: This arrangement may be challenging if you prefer to keep a close eye on the development of your project. Communication expectations need to be set out clearly from the start.
Remember that your project doesn’t need to rely exclusively on one of the options above. You can find your own formula to drive the best results. For example, we have found that managed services and staff augmentation can be very well used as complementary staffing strategies.
If you’d like to know how to create an integrated staffing system, drop us a message and we’ll be happy to share our expertise with you.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire an App Development Team?
The total cost for your mobile app development project will greatly depend on a series of factors. You will ideally be able to optimize your spending without compromising on the quality of the work.
Some of the most relevant aspects which are likely to influence the final cost include:
- the scope and complexity of the project
- where the development team is located
- the model/type of collaboration (contract, hourly rate, etc.)
According to Business of Apps, the cost of hiring a US app developer is around $90,000 / year. As for the price tags for various types of app development projects, they quote the following ranges:
- Simple app development – $40,000 – $60,000
- Medium complexity app development – $61,000 – $120,000
- Complex app development – $120,000+
After reading this article, you should be equipped with the essential information needed to build your mobile app development team. We do understand that, in practice, it is often inconvenient to keep so many balls in the air at the same time.
Outsourcing the execution of your idea often turns out to be a strategic and worthwhile tactic. It clears out time for you to focus on more business-oriented tasks.
We have helped many clients design and develop their projects. If you have an idea and need an app development team to help bring it to life, let us know and we’ll make sure to make it happen.