app developer spaghetti code

23 Warning Signs Your App Developer Is Actually Hopeless

“My app developer turned my app into spaghetti. Can it be fixed?”

Good question.

Let’s talk about how to identify if your project is screwed, and how to get it back on track.

If you’re new to app development it can be hard to tell whether or not your app developer is doing the right thing by you.

Here are some simple tell-tale signs that will let you know if your app developer is out of their depths. Followed by tips for what you can do if your app developer screws up:

Signs you’ll see before the project goes ahead

  • They’ve never built anything of the size that you want – check their portfolio
  • They don’t have any customers to vouch for their work – ask for testimonials for previous projects.
  • They quote a price too low, and/or they provide a quote straight away.
  • They don’t really understand your business or what you’re trying to achieve.
  • They don’t understand marketing – apps are all about marketing.
  • They assume the project is going to be easy – a big mistake that most people make.
  • They haven’t documented the product or completed a detailed scope of work prior to going ahead.

What to do: If you see any or multiple signs that your app developer is out of their depths then consider getting out as soon as you can.

Drop it and leave. It’s not worth your time; and it’s much harder to leave later.

Related post: Ongoing Maintenance Of A Mobile Application

Signs you’ll see during the development stages

  • They haven’t provided a development schedule or a testing plan – or they aren’t sticking to the development schedule.
  • They don’t seem to have any processes.
  • You don’t get allocated a Project Manager.
  • They have poor design.
  • Lack of communication.
  • They let you change the way the application works midway through development without charging extra – changes are expensive and if they aren’t charging for changes you can assume they aren’t dealing with them properly.
  • They don’t seem to have any technical expertise.
  • There’s little or no progress made between sprints.
  • Timelines have been drawn out by weeks and then months.

What to do: Request to stop all work immediately and speak to their director.

If this doesn’t improve the situation then take your project elsewhere. The amount you’ve invested so far is far less then what you may loose in the long-run.

Related post: The Ongoing Maintenance Of A Mobile Application

Signs you’ll see during the debugging stage

  • They don’t have dedicated testers.
  • Old bugs keep popping up and can’t seem to be removed.
  • They’ve lost all respect for timelines, let alone deadlines.
  • Communication has almost completely dropped off.
  • You get the sense that your project is no longer a priority.
  • You’re losing or have already lost all momentum – you’re not feeling passionate about your project anymore.
  • They keep telling you “We’re almost there” every week with little or no progress.

What to do: At this stage you’re probably feeling very frustrated. I speak to a lot of people who are at this stage and it’s the hardest time to do anything about it.

If you’re at this stage, your options are:

  1. Walk away and waste no more time, pay no more money.
  2. Ask for some compensation and walk away with what you can.
  3. Get your source code off the existing app developer and give it to a new one to evaluate. If it’s a mess you may be able to get some compensation.

Try to avoid getting into a legal battle. The last thing you want is to start your new business in a court case.

Your only focus should be to build your company.

Related post: How To Get Google To Buy Your Startup

You get what you pay for

It’s important to understand how app development works before you get involved or start looking for the right app developer.

Building apps takes a lot of time.

The way apps are priced is based on an estimation of the hours it will take to develop.

Each of these hours are costed at anywhere between $75 for an intern developer under supervision, to $275 for a senior software engineer.

See the examples below:

  • Small apps; 80-200 hours = $12,000-$30,000
  • Medium apps; 200-500 hours = $30,000-$75,000
  • Large apps; 500-1600 hours = $75,000-$240,000
  • Huge apps; 1600+ hours = $240,000+

If you want a cheap price you’re going to get a cheap app.

Look for a freelancer or a student straight out of school. There are significant risks involved in this, as you can understand.

However if you need something done on the cheap and you’re not caught up on quality then this is your best solution.

If you want clean, scalable and fast software then you’re going to need to work with a team of professionals.

Related post: 7 Questions Most Startup Founders Are Scared Sh$tless To Ask About App Development

What to look for when picking your app developer:

Providing that you fall within one of the brackets (small, medium, large or huge) you’ll need to find an app developer that suits your requirements.

Check out some of these characteristics of a great app developer:

  • They try to get to know your business and what you’re trying to achieve.
  • They have a systematic approach that can only be developed from experience.
  • They can add value to your ideas.
  • They DON’T provide a quote straight away. It’s not feasible. Kind of like quoting on “2 bedrooms, a kitchen and a garage.”
  • They’re not just an app development company – you need a strategic partner who ‘gets’ your business.
  • They have great experience working with other apps and businesses.
  • They know how to get results and can guide you from experience.

Related post: How To Pick The Right App Developer

Got an app idea you’re ready to bring to life? Don’t miss the guide that helped a startup app sell for $12 million…

startup guide to app development

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Logan Merrick is the co-founder and Director of Buzinga, as well as one of Australia's most recognised entrepreneurs, keynote speakers, investors and mentors. His writing on startups, technology and mobile marketing has been featured in The Australian, Business Insider, Startup Smart, Smart Company, and more.