We compare the hiring of in-house, freelance, and outsourced developers and give tips on how to search for the right candidates and analyze their skillset.

How can you find and hire the best app developers?

  • Liliia Harkushko

    Market researcher


Coming up with a great app idea is hard. But not as hard as finding a great app development team. Evans Data Corporation estimates there are 23 million people working as desktop, web, and mobile app developers worldwide. If you pick one of them without putting too much thought into it, you’ll harm your business. This article provides a few tips on how to find app developers.

Step 1. Define your business needs

Before you start searching for developers, ask yourself a few questions. 

  • What specific business challenge would I like to solve?

There are three common scenarios:

a) You already have an in-house team but need more specialists. Depending on the scope of the project, you can hire an in-house professional, a freelancer, or a developer through an outstaffing agency. Outstaffing is when you rent a specialist from another company for a period of time. 

b) You want to implement technology you’ve never used before. For instance, say you want to rewrite a website in React. You can wait till your developers learn React, hire a new developer, or hire specialists from an outstaffing company. 

c) You want to develop a project from scratch. This scenario is common for both startups and existing businesses. Startup owners usually have budget constraints and want to quickly enter their niche, so they opt for outsourcing. Existing businesses want to automate business processes and choose between hiring an in-house or a dedicated team.

  • Should I outsource development or hire an in-house team?

As a rule of thumb, business owners want to release a new app quickly and without much investment. And of course, this app should be of the highest quality. At this point, the question arises of whether it’s worth hiring an in-house team or outsourcing. To make a wise decision, let’s consider the pros and cons of both options. 

In-house team

An in-house team is a group of developers that work with you in the same office. In-house employees provide the following advantages:

  • A deep understanding of your product, your company, and your corporate culture;

  • Easy communication and fast responses to your inquiries;

But this option has several disadvantages:

  • You need to pay developers a full-time salary, meaning that you pay them even if they have no tasks or take vacations or sick days.

  • You need to take care of equipment, workspaces, office supplies, and so on.

  • When hiring an in-house team, your list of candidates is restricted to the specialists living in your city or willing to relocate.

  • An on-site team cannot guarantee the effective work and quick response to your inquiries. Setting up business processes is as crucial as hiring experienced specialists. So if you want to meet deadlines and get a product that meets your expectations, you should also hire someone to manage development. That means hiring additional employees and increasing spending.    

Outsourced development

While companies were skeptical about outsourcing in the past, nowadays it’s common practice in the business world. When outsourcing, you have work done by another company or an independent contractor. 

The main advantages of this approach are the following:

  • When outsourcing, you can hire top coders from all over the world, so recruiting will take less time.

  • You can quickly add team members and replace developers, giving you flexibility and enabling you to start development quickly.

  • You pay only for time when developers work on your project and don’t need to spend money on costly equipment and office space.

  • You can hire skilled developers and professionals with experience in the domain, leading to high quality of your final product. 

Lack of face-to-face communication is the main drawback of outsourcing. Your development team might be in another time zone; if you hire individual developers, it may be hard for them to communicate with each other. But communication software like Slack, project tracking software like Jira, and online conferencing tools like Zoom come to the rescue. Also, most outsourcing companies offer ready-made dedicated teams with established internal communication structures. 

[Here are pros and cons of the outsourced and in-house team]

You can choose this option when you decide to automate processes or develop an app that solves common problems in your industry. For long-term projects requiring ongoing tech support, some outsourcing companies offer post-release support services.

  • Should I hire a freelancer or go with a company?

The answer to this question depends on whether you can manage the development process yourself and the degree to which you can lead the project on your side. Even if you have some serious technical chops, it’s quite a risk to hire a freelancer, since managing people located hundreds or thousands of miles away is extremely difficult. 

Moreover, some freelancers work on several projects simultaneously, so there’s always the risk that a developer won’t be fully invested in your project and won’t meet deadlines. There are also no guarantees that a freelance developer won’t suddenly leave the project. After all, there’s no project manager or CTO managing their work.

An app design agency, on the other hand, is supposed to provide you with project management services in addition to developers, designers, QA specialists. Agencies follow a specific methodology, established communication channels, quality control, and a streamlined workflow.

Another great advantage of striking a deal with a company is knowledge sharing inside the team. Good development companies document their development challenges and the ways they solve them. So over years of work, the company accumulates knowledge which evolves into ready-made components, development approaches, and best practices. Also, developers that work in an outsourcing company can ask for advice and help their colleagues. Unless you have a small task that can be handed off to a freelancer, we recommend choosing among companies.

Step 2. Start searching for potential IT vendors

You’ve defined your goals and know exactly how to hire. Now it’s time to create a list of candidates! Let’s assume you’ve opted to outsource development. How can you actually find developers?

1. Define the destination

North America, the UK, India, and Ukraine are the most popular outsourcing destinations. Let’s take a closer look at them.

North America accounts for more than half of the IT specialists in the world. Silicon Valley speaks for itself. And the headquarters of leading IT companies are located in the US, even if their R&D offices are somewhere across the ocean. According to research by Evans Data Corporation, the United States is the country with the largest number of developers.

In Europe, guess where the most app programmers hang out? You’re probably thinking it’s London or Berlin, and that’s exactly what the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey found out. The United Kingdom, with 5.01% of all developers worldwide, brings in more than a third of total European revenue from mobile software development, making it the second most important tech hub in the world after the US. Germany, which has 5.68% of all developers, comes in second for revenue among European countries.

[The costs for IT services in Europe]

India is a well-known outsourcing destination. Business there is concentrated in so-called IT clusters, which include the local Silicon Valley of Bangalore. According to Evans Data Corporation, by 2023, India will overtake the US by number of developers.

In 2017, the GSA UK Awards named Ukraine the Offshoring Destination of the Year. Ukrainian programmers frequently get hired by companies and individual entrepreneurs from Western Europe, the UK, the US, and Canada. With 79% of all Ukrainians having completed higher education and 57% of IT specialists holding STEM degrees, Ukraine boasts a great number of highly qualified local developers who are constantly expanding their expertise. 

At the same time, Ukrainian developers can afford lower rates compared to those in the US, Western Europe, and Australia without compromising on quality. The average cost for development services in Ukraine ranges between $25 and $50 per hour, and it’s about the same ($30 to $50 per hour) for mobile app design.

2. Conduct research

Those looking to find an app developer usually start their research on a freelance website where they can check a candidate’s profile, a list of clients and their references, and completed projects. Here’s where you can find developers for hire:

  • B2B directories. These websites contain lists of companies categorized and grouped by their location, specialization, and ratings. Clutch.co is one of the most popular platforms in this category, boasting advanced search as well as an extended review and ratings system.  

  • Freelance websites. As the name implies, these websites come in handy when you’re looking for a freelancer. But they’re less helpful when searching for an outsourcing company that provides full-cycle development. New companies offer their services on freelance websites, but after scaling, they leave these platforms in favor of other marketing channels. Upwork is the number one solution for hiring web and mobile app developers in this category. It offers both hourly and fixed-price jobs. It also has time tracking tools to ensure guaranteed payments. Other freelance networks for developers include People Per Hour and Guru.

  • GitHub. Great design isn’t everything when it comes to hiring the best app developers. Perfection in code combined with excellent design is what makes a team really stand out. The easiest way to check samples of source code is to visit GitHub.

  • Tech blogs. Hey! This is where you are now 🙂 

  • Design communities. Networks for designers can be a great resource for finding app developers since many teams provide design along with iOS and Android development services. You should definitely check out Dribbble, a community of designers and design teams that will keep you glued to the screen for hours. Behance is another spot for inspiration and a destination for talent. It allows designers to create bigger projects rather than upload shots. You can definitely find a great team on one of these sites!


Step 3. Make a list of candidates and analyze them

After you’ve found several developers that can make your idea a reality, it’s time to create a list of the best IT vendors for your project and carefully analyze them. Here are several things to consider when choosing app developers for your project. 

Already at the research stage, in addition to a list of candidates, you should also create a list of questions that will help you make a wise decision. You can find the answers to some of these questions by carefully analyzing a company’s website; other questions you should ask after contacting a company. 

This list may vary according to your business goals and the type of project you’re working on. We’ve gathered the eight most crucial questions that will help you find reliable and talented developers.

1) What do clients say about them?

You can find this out by looking at B2B directories. If you previously didn’t pay attention to reviews and only checked out the ratings of your candidates, it’s now time to carefully read extended reviews. Testimonials from a company’s clients can tell you more than several calls with programmers. You’ll be able to understand how responsive, reliable, and results-oriented the team is.

2) What market segments do they focus on?

Instead of dealing with everything, most companies define the domains they work with and deepen their expertise in them. Many companies have a Services page where you can find information about their areas of expertise. 

3) Do they have relevant experience? 

Traditionally, there are two ways to learn how a company deals with products without contacting them – by looking at their portfolio and by reading case studies. Developers may also show their portfolios upon request.

Portfolios and case studies can help to define whether a company has experience creating apps for your business niche, how they approach development challenges, and what design principles they follow. But take into account that most companies are unable to post all their projects in their portfolio due to non-disclosure agreements (which we’ll talk about a bit later). So if you haven’t found similar projects in a company’s portfolio, it’s best to ask them about relevant experience.

Another important suggestion is to pay attention to the company’s website in general. App creators with old-fashioned, uninformative, and plain sites simply can’t build great products! If they don’t care what their own service looks like, they won’t care about your app.

4) What technologies do they use? 

This is a crucial factor when you want to hire an IT specialist through outstaffing or outsource the development of a particular part (for instance, just design and frontend development). Look at what technologies a company uses and see if they match with technologies your in-house development team uses. Obviously, you should look for a company with Golang developers if the backend of your product is built with Go, for instance. 

Get to know what programming tools they use and how they tackle common development challenges. Usually, development companies have a page showing technologies and frameworks they use. If not, ask about the tools they use. 

5) Will they steal my idea?

In the IT industry, Intellectual Property (IP) protection is paramount – especially when hiring an IT vendor abroad. In terms of security, hiring an IT company is better than hiring a freelance app developer. 

Read also: How Technology Companies Can Protect Intellectual Property

You’ve probably heard some stories about remote teams stealing their clients’ ideas, code, or even products. Before sharing details of your project, you’d better ask a company to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Some companies go further and include a “send me an NDA” button on their contact form. This shows they care about your idea and your business from the very beginning of communication.  

[The Send me NDA checkbox in the contact form]

6) How can they guarantee the quality of development?

Top Android or iOS developers, as well as web developers, follow certain standards that ensure the quality of their services. These standards  should combine a set of tools, methods, and techniques used to achieve a consistent and stable architecture, reusable code, and an excellent user experience.

7) How will the development process run?

This question won’t arise if you hire one developer and manage them by yourself. But if you need a team to develop your product, your vendor should have a streamlined development process. Consider several things when choosing a development team:

  • The company’s SDLC. Software development life cycle, or simply SDLC, is a term used in the software industry for a framework that defines tasks performed at each step of the software development process. A good company should have a clearly defined SDLC that they adjust to their clients’ needs and that provides continuity and stability during app development.  

  • Project management frameworks. Besides having a well-structured SDLC, good development teams use project management frameworks and methodologies to optimize the development process. So ask a team about the methodology they use. The most famous methodologies and frameworks are Agile, Scrum, Rational Unified Process (RUP), and Waterfall. The right choice of framework depends on how quickly the team can respond to changes while still delivering the product on time. At Yalantis, we adjust our SDLC and choose a management framework for each client and each specific project.   

  • Communication and transparency. As a company, how will you communicate with your team and will the team demonstrate intermediate results? A good team should provide you with a kick-off meeting (to introduce the team), calls upon request, demo presentations (presenting functionality developed during the sprint), and sprint reports. Many companies use project management software like Jira, where you can see the current progress. If an app design agency doesn’t let you talk to each member of the team, limiting your communication to a manager only, you should question their efficiency. 

Building a mobile app or web app is different from developing other software. What’s more, working with established enterprises isn’t the same as working with startups. That’s why you need to clarify every single detail of your collaboration with a team of developers before you entrust them with your project.

8) Will my app withstand a high load?

Your app may become so popular that thousands of people will use it simultaneously. For these cases, you should ask your potential vendors how they deal with a high load. A development company should thoughtfully pick the tech stack, clone the app server, and perform manual code optimization during development.

You may also ask other more specific questions depending on the needs of your product. For instance, if you’re a healthcare business, you should ask whether a company has expertise enabling hardware integrations.

Step 4. Hire the best app developer!

After you’ve carefully analyzed all candidates, it’s time to make up your mind. We hope you find top coders for your project. Here’s a bit of final advice for you:

  • Write down all your findings. Sometimes, the list of candidates is pretty long, so it’s hard to keep everything in mind. We recommend creating a table. It may contain a list of candidates and criteria to pay attention to. During the third step, make notes in it. 

  • Don’t jump to conclusions; clarify controversial points with your potential developers. Ask as many questions as needed to define whether a company can solve your business problems. 

It would be great to know what you think about this article and if it helped you figure out how to find an app developer.

Read also: How to Write a Request for Proposal to Your Potential Software Partner

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