Disclaimer: I have never done this before. I have no idea if this is the proper way to go about building an app. So far, it's been working pretty well for me, here's how I've done it.
The number one question I get when I tell people I'm building an app is "How are you doing it?". It's pretty evident that I don't code so people are curious. Remember in my last article how I mentioned I would seize every opportunity in my network and pick their brains? Well by constantly seeking advice from people I discovered the site UpWork.com. Ken Sim, the co-founder of Nurse Next Door, my previous employer, mentioned a site E-lance to me. E-Lance merged with oDesk which then relaunched as Upwork.
So what's UpWork? Upwork is a site where you can hire a variety of freelancers from editors, photographers to developers. I like to think of it as an Airbnb for freelancers. I chose to use this platform instead of hiring somebody locally for several reasons.
- Secure Payment.Through UpWork, if you hire somebody and pay them for a project, you are protected through a fixed rate billable system.
- Accountability. You are protected through the Work Diary where can track the hire's progress on a project through viewing screen shots of the work through each stage.
- Ratings & Reviews Similar to Airbnb, you can review the freelancers feedback history, star rating and track record of how many hours they've worked through UpWork.
- 24/7 Customer Service. Since my developers are based out of Russia, we are literally working on this app around the clock. We've only encountered a couple of technical issue's on UpWork and because of their 24/7 customer service they were resolved in a jiffy, most likely when either myself or the team in Russia was sleeping. LOL.
The first thing I did was post a vague job description explaining that it was a video app and the features I required. I kept it vague because I had the fear that somebody would steal my idea and run with it. I had 53 people apply to the job, their rate ranged from $12.50/hr USD to $85/hr USD. PS. I'm going to do deep dive into budgeting & cost in a different post, feel free to subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this post so you stay in the know!
Creating Wire Frames
Once I posted the job I turned my vision of the app in my head into wireframes using a very manual photoshop process. I have an interest in design so figured I would add the designs to the wireframes too so it was clear when it came time to hiring a graphic designer the look and feel I wanted to achieve. I remember staying up until 4am one night working on them because I was THAT excited. Wireframes are made so you can display the functions & roadmap of what your app does. It doesn't need to be fancy by any means, you could even draw out wireframes on napkins if you really wanted to. I chose to add the designs in because I'm anal like that, lol. Once the wireframes were complete I sent them to a team that I was very interested in hiring based out of Russia.
Why I Chose a Team Out Of Russia
When a member from a development team based out of Russia sent their pitch to work on my project I was pleasantly surprised by their reviews (all 5 star!), a 100% success rate, over 20,000 hours logged, 135 projects completes and paid through UpWork and lastly their price was affordable. Their pitch was personalized and asked detail questions regarding the development, wireframes, deadlines, etc. They also sent over relevant apps they worked on. This sounds pretty standard but you'd be surprised on that amount of people that would just click "apply" without sending a message along with it.
Here are my Tips for Hiring a Team that Isn't Local
- Keep written communication on UpWork
- Do a video call/ google hangout. Red flag if the person isn't willing.
- Make sure their English is understandable. Explaining a new idea that a developer is expected to bring to life is already a challenge, so it's crucial that the person understands what you're talking about.
- Provide detailed wireframes through UpWork so you can get an accurate quote
- Get the developer to breakdown the cost. The team gave me a best case scenario & worst case scenario. They broke down each feature and estimated how many days they think it would take to complete each task. For my app, best case scenario was 30 working days and worst case scenario was 50 working days.
"How do you trust this team overseas? Sounds sketchy!"
I hear this a lot when tell people where my developers are based. I have definitely heard a fair share of horror stories of people hiring somebody oversee's, they steal their money and the person is SOL. So why did I go down this route? Because, UpWork. Perhaps I was naive going into this blindly trusting the system, I honestly stored all my fate into the trust, safety and reputation of UpWork. I also did a lot of research on other people that used UpWork and everything was so positive. Yay user generated content!
Get a VERY detailed Quote
When I began the process of communication with my developers I kept all communication on UpWork - so it's secure. I remember feeling a little uneasy when she asked if I could share my wireframes. There she goes, the heart and soul of my idea being sent to people I have never met over the scary interwebs. This has to be done so the team can provide an accurate quote and help with basic UX in the beginning stages. After many google hangouts to go over what the scope of work would be, I officially hired them. I also had my friend Chris of The Reel Law Firm, LLC customize an NDA agreement for me. Would highly recommend hiring him or another lawyer that understands what your app does they can can ensure you are 100% protected.
I Did Hire my UX/UI/Graphic Designer Locally
Back to me utilizing my community... my amazingly talented singer friend, Katherine Penfold, connected me with her husband, Luke Starbuck, who is top notch digital marketer! He works for a startup based in San Fran....fancy, right?! Luke was kind of enough to meet me for coffee, offer advice, help me goal set and let me ask him 101 million questions about this. He has a lot of experience in this field so if there's somebody I could trust about making big business decisions, it is him! Luke, if you're reading this, THANK YOU!
I'm somebody that admires a good user experience and simplified design, so I wasn't surprised when Luke emphasized the importance of this and how I should have a person that could wear the "UX (user experience)/Graphic Designer" hats during the development stage. This is when he recommended Marcus, a UX/Graphic Designer genius based out of Victoria, BC that had the capacity & interest to take on my project. Wahoo! Marcus has provided such a positive influence and impact when it comes to making decisions on the user experience & design.
1.5 Months into Development
Yikes, this post is getting long. I wanted it to be informative so if there's somebody out there like me - 9 months ago - they would have guidance on how to do this. I've been in communication with the developers since April and have been in official development for 1.5 months. The team of developers have been AMAZING. I seriously cannot speak highly enough about them. Their communication, transparency, patience and hard work really shines through. The communication is key and these are the systems we have in place to ensure full transparency on the app's progress.
- Roadmap. The roadmap has each work week built out (stints). Basically what tasks will be completed each week.
- Daily Reports. I get an email daily from the team updating me on their progress of what they accomplished, challenges they came across and what the next steps are. From here I can see if we're on track or not by reference the roadmap.
- Weekly Development Calls. Every Monday at 7:30am I have a call with Alex. Alex is the liaison between the developers and myself. This where I get to see my app come to life and go over new features/designs they have implemented from the previous week. It is VERY exciting to your idea come to life.
2 Weeks to Go!!!
That's right!! The app is supposed to launch in approximately 2 weeks. AHHH. How crazy is that? I feel like it's creeped up on me. My biggest struggle now is creating promotional material for the app before it launches, but the app isn't finished so I can't use it to create the content if that makes sense? I need the app to be completed so I can create samples of what the app does.
Since I'm asbouetly terrible at explaining the app, I'm going to wait until I have an example of how it works before I reveal what my app does. Cool? Cool!! I will also release a lengthy video of my vlogging the whole experience. In a lot of the vlogs I'm talking about what the app does, hence why I cannot show it just yet.
Happy to answer any questions you may have, comment below and I will get back to you! If you're considering building and you're looking for a team of developers, please email me directly and I'd be happy to put you in touch with the team I'm using! :) (Hello@Bolandia.com).
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