Wondering how many people it takes on an app development team to create a successful mobile application? Keep reading to find out the answer.
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With startups turning overnight into billion-dollar companies thanks to a great idea and innovative mobile app, it’s good to know all the ins and outs of building an efficient mobile app development team able to create top-grade solutions for mobile devices.
In this article, I will focus on how your development approach determines the size of your mobile app development team as well as on its structure and roles of its members.
If you prefer to hire mobile app developers from a reputable software development company rather than build a dev team on your own, you can partner with DevTeam.Space. Tell us briefly about your mobile app project and get a complimentary discovery call from one of our tech account managers.
Now let’s delve deep into the topic of mobile app development team structure, key roles, and size.
Your Development Approach Determines the Size of Your Mobile App Development Team
The mobile consumer market is saturated, and users will not settle for anything less than high-quality software. The mobile dev platforms and frameworks are now extremely well-developed.
As a result, one person simply can‘t hold all the necessary knowledge and experience to build and support a complete product.
Sure, you can find a few that claim they can, but even then, they would tell you they have someone else helping them somewhere along the development process (contract designers, dev-ops specialists, etc.).
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What development approach are you adopting? This has a bearing on your development, and in turn, this impacts the size of your app development team.
You need to factor in the following while formulating a development approach:
Native-vs-hybrid app development
Hybrid app development frameworks like React Native can deliver a near-native user experience (UX). You create one app only and run it on both Android and iOS, therefore, your development and maintenance costs remain under control.
However, hybrid apps still can’t deliver the UX that native apps can since native development utilizes platform-specific technologies.
Native apps deliver greater performance and security too, as we have explained in What is the best development approach to guarantee the success of your app?
Developing your APIs vs. using 3rd party APIs
Would you like to reinvent the wheel every time? You probably wouldn’t, therefore, in some cases, you might want to use market-leading 3rd party APIs.
While that makes sense, you also need to exercise caution before adding too many external dependencies to your app.
I recommend you develop your RESTful APIs for your core features and factor this in while estimating the number of people you need in your app development team.
Need help with API development? Read our guide “How to build RESTful API for your mobile app?”.
Securing your app
Are you targeting a heavily-regulated industry like financial services or healthcare? You will need to pay extra attention to securing your app since these industries operate under stringent data security regulations.
You need a sufficient number of competent people that can mitigate application security vulnerabilities and review your code to unearth any hidden security risks. Factor this while estimating how large a mobile application development team you need.
Wondering how to mitigate application security risks? Our guide “How to secure your Fintech app” could help.
Bearing in mind all this, it’s pretty easy to understand why the answer to the question “How many programmers does it take to make an app” is so complex.
But that’s not all there is.
Forming an App Development Team: Structure and Key Roles
If you plan to invest over $30K and several months of your time in developing a project – you better do it right and get a professional team.
Even if you choose to build a product internally, you will still need to build an in-house team (which is harder than hiring an existing team).
So, who do you need to build a mobile app?
Here is the list of people who would be involved:
- Mobile developer (full-time)
- Backend developer (full-time)
- DevOps specialist (part-time)
- UI/UX designer (part-time)
- QA engineer (part-time)
Total: five people!
Oh, and don’t forget about the tech project manager who will manage all these people. The role of a project manager is key to success of your app idea. The project manager will be responsible for completing your mobile app project on time, he or she will see to it that the product your team delivers meets all the requirements and is of top quality.
And that‘s a bare minimum for your app development team structure. If you want to move fast and build a cross-platform app that will run on both iOS and Android, you would need to add at least one more person.
If you want to move even faster, you should add two more people (that is both Android and iOS developers), which means a total of 9 people.
Sure, you can try to go lean and survive with only three people (mobile developer, backend developer, and UI/UX designer).
However, this would be enough only to start, but it still begs the question: how many hours should developers take to build an app?
Some stats say that on average, it takes approximately 18 weeks to build a native app. However, it all depends on the scope of your project, the complexity of the app itself, as well as the expertise of your developers.
And that brings us to yet another challenging task — how to hire mobile developers who are experts in their field, reliable, and ready to invest their energy and experience into building an outstanding mobile app?
But, there’s one more factor that plays an important role in determining how long it will take to complete your app – team management.
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Team Management: Making Your Mobile App Development Team Productive
Great developers account for only 20% of your mobile app success. 80% is down to good product management.
If you never managed a mobile development process before yourself, you need to hire a product manager to avoid making a fatal error that could result in total project failure.
So at a minimum, any project to create a successful mobile app really needs from 4 to 10 people on the team.
For example, we had to allocate 6 developers, one Project Manager, and one Account Manager to help Adventure Aide with their product launch and growth.
This helped turn their project into a success story. Here is what they had to say about our help:
To summarize: If you’re wondering how to make a successful app, you should extensively prepare before you decide to invest a penny and your time.
You want to make sure your product development is split into phases so you have time to validate the market and core features before you invest more into growth.
I would recommend you start with only one platform, not a hybrid, but a native one, preferably an iOS app (though it depends on your target audience).
Once you have a successful launch, you can validate the market and start working on the Android app.
Keep in mind one more thing — marketing. For that, you will need to have a website too. Even if it is only a simple one, what‘s important is you have your own corner of the internet to showcase your products and start building your brand.
So add one front-end developer for creating advertising materials like branding websites, etc., on your mobile app development team.
Hiring Your Mobile App Development Team
After evaluating your mobile app development team structure and how many people you will need, you then need to decide where to get them. You have 3 options:
- Hire in-house
- Hire individual developers
- Hire a dev team
Hiring in-house is brutally hard and risky. Imagine you find out that you need to pivot or close your company after your MVP isn’t accepted by the market. Also, hiring 5–10 really good people would take you several months.
Refining the mobile app development process so they will actually work well as a team would take you several months more. And dealing with the employment and other paperwork – you know what a pain that is.
However, if you have $2M+ in your bank account, experience in building and running teams, and project development, then it might be an acceptable way to go.
Hiring individual developers is super-risky and also means your project won‘t be scalable. After all, for each of the individual freelancers you hire, you are yet another “project”, nothing more. In a scrape, they can easily leave you.
IP ownership, teamwork, and many other important aspects – forget about trying to get it all together with a bunch of freelancers.
Professional Development Team
Hiring a professional development team is a blast. It‘s not just a bunch of people but a team with already refined and set-in-stone processes and standards. Obviously, you need to make sure to evaluate different teams and pick the best one.
I actually go through this process regularly at DevTeam.Space. I personally interview different dev teams together with my colleagues. We regularly interview new dev teams and accept only the best of the best in our exclusive community.
The software development market is so big that the number of teams is enormous. That‘s why we pick less than 1% of the teams who apply to work with us.
This allows us to have a super-tight community of the best dev teams where each team is a field expert in a particular market or a technology stack.
We then keep track of their performance by rating each dev team from project to project. This way, we can guarantee that our clients only work with top-rated dev teams.
Another crucial point is the actual process teams follow. For example, at DevTeam.Space, we have created our own unique process and trained all of our dev teams to follow it.
So we can effectively manage hundreds of projects. You should have your processes in place too, or you should learn the processes of the mobile development team you hire.
Additional factors that impact the app development team structure and strength
The following additional factors influence the number of people you need in an app development team:
1. Project complexity
Have a complex project at hand? You should have some cushion built into the software development team structure and strength. Complex projects often require more app developers than simple or medium-complexity projects.
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2. Technology stack
Do you have a run-of-the-mill native mobile app development project at hand? You will use programming languages like Java or Kotlin for Android development. For iOS development, you will likely use Swift.
All Android app development teams know Java. Many of them know Kotlin. Nearly all native iOS application development teams know Swift nowadays.
Kotlin and Swift are relatively modern languages. However, we can’t call them niche skills by any stretch of the imagination. You don’t have to mitigate niche skills-related risks in such projects.
On the other hand, does your project also involve cutting-edge technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Internet-of-Things (IoT)?
You need to mitigate niche skills-related risks. You need more software development team members for such projects.
3. Complex UI/UX
Does your app idea involve complex interactive features? You need to put a lot of thought into the user interface and user experience.
Consequently, you might need more senior UI/UX designers. You might also need more designers.
4. Complex backend
Certain app development projects involve complex backend development. You might need to develop several APIs. You might need to choose carefully between using SQL vs. NoSQL databases.
Some of the APIs might utilize complex queries. You might need more backend developers for such projects.
5. Stringent non-functional requirements
Some software development projects have stringent non-functional requirements (NFRs) like performance, scalability, security, maintainability, etc.
Highly challenging NFRs can make the whole app development process more complex. You might need more developers for such projects.
6. Experience level
Do you have access to experienced developers? Such developers have sound knowledge of technology and the app development process.
Their knowledge of the software development processes, methods, and tools is essential. They can better navigate the complexities arising at the various app development stages.
You might need fewer developers if you can find experienced developers. Engage a trusted app development company like DevTeam.Space to hire experienced programmers.
7. Using a remote team
Let’s assume a realistic scenario. You have an in-house team for software development. This team is highly skilled and experienced.
However, this team has its hands full. You can’t use it for new projects to develop web or mobile apps. Your project manager speaks highly of this team, and the PM wants people with similar track records.
Hiring highly skilled and experienced developers locally can be hard due to the demand-supply imbalance. You are interviewing remote developers to access a larger talent pool.
Hiring remote teams can indeed help. However, managing a remote team can be hard. It adds to your project risks. Adjusting the app development team size is a common way to mitigate risks, therefore, you might end up hiring more programmers.
Planning to Build an App Development Team?
As you can imagine, the hardest part is finding the best mobile application development team to create a successful mobile app. I just described how we do that. So from now on, you should do that too. Here, our guide “Freelance app development team vs. field expert software development teams” can help you.
Now, where is the best place to hire the dev team? Abroad – legal risk and IP ownership risk. If you know how to handle that, then go with the option of a foreign third-party development company.
If you don‘t know, then you are much better off hiring mobile app development companies or a dev team with a legal entity in your country and a physical office with employees. That way, you are fully protected.
If you are looking for such a local mobile app development company in the United States, DevTeam.Space can help you with its expert software developers community and AI-powered project management processes.
If you are developing a mobile application and need to scale your team with additional skills and expertise then take a moment to tell us about your project requirements. One of our dedicated tech account managers will be in touch to show you similar projects we have done before and share how we can help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
You will need to create a project specification and build your development team to create a mobile app. After you have got your team together, set up the infrastructure, and outline the sprints. Then get stuck in.
The answer to this question really depends on the complexity of the mobile application you wish to create for Google Play or Apple App Store. A basic application for mobile devices can be anywhere from a few thousand dollars, while a commercially viable app will be in the tens of thousands and up.
Head to DevTeam.Space to find the best mobile application development experts. All mobile app developers come with industry experience and have been vetted for excellence. Developers are managed to ensure they maintain performance and quality standards and also to help the client managers.
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Alexey is the founder of DevTeam.Space. He is among the Top 26 mentors of FI’s ‘Global Startup Mentor Awards’ and is a Band Of Angels Technology Expert.Hire Expert Developers