Hiring a Digital Product Development Company? Ask These Questions

Choosing a product development company you’ll trust with building your amazing new digital product is no trivial affair. Many say it’s not far off from choosing a romantic partner. After all, it’s a relationship you’ll be invested in for a while.

Designing and developing custom digital products can take months, in case of ongoing cooperation, even years. During that time, you’ll work closely with your chosen product development company’s experts as they build out the product that will affect your business for years to come. 

Top 10 questions to ask a digital product development company

Our answers are only as good as your questions

Having guided companies of different scales and industries to transform their businesses with technology for nearly two decades, we’ve been at that exciting place where a new project is born countless times. It is kind of like a first date – both sides are testing the waters, asking tentative questions, eager to find out more without looking too eager. 

In the Business Development team, we’ve heard it all. We have the answers to the burning questions one should ask when they are about to make this serious commitment. We know your time is precious, so why don’t we cut the small talk and get down to business instead?

Ask: “Have you ever done anything like this before?”

Not: “Do you have experience in the XY industry/niche?”

A question we often get from potential clients who’ve seen our previous work usually goes like this: “Do you have experience in the XY industry?” Chances are, we do. We have done projects in finance, healthcare, automotive, telecoms, music, hospitality, and many other industries, and that experience is valuable.

However, we believe that an even more significant indicator of expertise is experience with a certain technology. For example, we built a digital product that harnesses the full power of our long-term partner Signify’s cutting-edge lighting hardware, such as smart wireless switches, sensors, and luminaires from Signify’s MasterConnect line, around Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Zigbee protocols.

Later on, we started projects in entirely unrelated industries, which also involved connecting IoT peripherals using various protocols, Bluetooth included.

How were these projects related? We nailed all of them because of our teams’ technical expertise (and impeccable problem-solving skills), not because Infinum is specialized in either of those industries. 

Not being married to a specific industry supports out-of-the-box thinking. A strong technical background allows us to find new and innovative ways to apply our knowledge to practically any field.

Ask: “What cooperation models do you offer?”

Not: “How much does it cost to make an app?”

Everyone is interested in the costs of a digital product development project. This is very difficult to predict in the early stages, as we’ve explained in detail in our blog post ‘How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?’ – Wrong Question.

Instead, shift the conversation towards the collaboration models available to find the one best suited for you and your project. Read more about the models that we offer and the benefits of each one.

Dedicated studio teams

A dedicated team is tailored to the needs of your project. It may include a product strategist, a solution architect, two designers, and three developers, or it may need six developers, a QA engineer, and a data expert. 

With this model, the client is charged monthly based on the actual time worked by every team member and specific fixed parameters, like hosting or licensing costs (if they occur). This type of cooperation facilitates long-term collaboration and is best suited for projects with uncertain requirements and potential changes in scope.

Time & materials

With this model, we calculate the number of hours our teams spend working on the project plus the cost of materials. It is best used for long-term projects with dynamic requirements. At the onset of a project, we still don’t know its full scope, and since we work in an agile setting, requirements can be adjusted, direction shifted, and features replaced during its course.

Team augmentation

A model best suited for teams who already have strong in-house technical expertise but might lack the numbers or the proper skill set to bring their project to completion. It is a very straightforward type of cooperation but also the least engaging one. The best results are achieved when a dedicated group works on a project from start to finish.

Ask “What other services do you offer?”

Not: “When will we go into production?”

When you set out to develop a digital product, you’re entering an ecosystem. If you want your product to be a market fit and yield the best possible results, you need to approach it from all angles, not just focus on the development part. 

Sometimes when you decide to work with a digital product development company that offers only certain services, you will miss out on the opportunity to make your product the best it can be – and the worst case scenario is that this lack of expertise shall surface when you’re already deep in the project. 

As a full-stack digital agency, we have the whole lifecycle of a digital project covered. From the initial strategy workshops through design and development to quality assurance and data analytics.

Some of the best projects we’ve worked on included all the stages and scaled up or down as necessary.

On the other hand, some projects started requiring just one of our services, and then the client decided to build up on the original concept mid-course. For example, this was the case with Repsly, a B2B platform for field sales management.

The team at Repsly initially turned to us for advice on user experience. Having conducted an in-depth review of the existing information architecture paired with user research and testing, we did a complete design overhaul. The users are saying that the app now looks and performs better than any other competitor’s software.

Ask: “Are you able to scale the project team quickly?”

Not: “How many developers do we need?”

Digital product development projects are living organisms. Changes can and do happen. Sometimes, the project scope will change, and sometimes external circumstances will dictate a shift in direction. For these reasons, it is crucial to have a flexible project team. 

At Infinum, a planning department allocates our staff to project work, ensuring optimal availability. And we have a special buffer called Infinum Alliance – a network of individual and agency contractors we trust and cooperate with regularly. Sometimes, a project will require an engineer specialized in a less widespread technology and need it ASAP. Thanks to Alliance, they are never far out of reach.

Ask: “How do you ensure the quality of your work?”

Not: Settle for the best-written website headline promise.

Every agency will swear they are the best and their work is top class. Don’t take their word for it – ask about their steps to ensure that. 

For example, we ensure a remarkable quality of our work with consistent investment in knowledge-sharing, education, and professional improvement of our experts. That’s probably one of the reasons that they’ve awarded us Best Employer several years in a row.

Also, we have mechanisms like code reviews and pull requests in place, which ensure no line of code goes out without being checked by an (at least one) additional pair of engineering eyes. In addition to this, we have an outlined mentoring practice in place, we don’t lock our client in by gatekeeping source code, and we test everything several times over – automatically and manually.

Ask: “Where are you located?”

Not: Just run for the cheapest option without considering the implications.

You’d think that, in this day and age of remote work, the location of your chosen digital product development agency would no longer bear significance. However, there are implications for your project you would be wise to think about in advance—for example, the time difference. If you want to keep the lines of communication with your agency partner open, you would do well not to choose one with more than an 8-hour time difference. 

Here’s another situation where location makes a difference. An American client of ours highly values data privacy, so they prefer to work with European companies because they know they take GDPR very seriously. Another one manufactures a strictly regulated product, so only EU-based engineers can work on its supporting app. Thanks to our geographical coverage, we could accommodate this and make sure no development takes place in, let’s say, our office in North Macedonia.

By the way, we also have offices in London, Amsterdam, and New York, and cover both U.S. coasts, so that all of our partners have a point of contact close to them.

Ask: “Can you build me a clickable prototype?”

Not: “Can you build me an MVP?”

You want to ask about the MVP. Everyone asks about the MVP, but here’s why clickable prototypes are a much more valuable output. 

The most common reason a client asks for a minimum viable product is to secure funding for its full version. However, building an MVP takes longer and costs more than creating clickable prototypes. All the while, your funding is still uncertain.

A clickable prototype looks, feels, and acts like a real app – a perfect showcasing tool for attracting investors. It demonstrates your vision for a product better than an MVP, for less $.

Ask: “How do you manage security during project work?”

Not: Rely on promises instead of certificates, hoping for the best.

Security is often among our clients’ biggest concerns, and rightfully so. Security in the IT sector, cybersecurity, and privacy protection can make or break organizations these days, so it’s crucial to ensure the product development company you partner with provides digital safeguards to keep the integrity of your data protected at all times. 

Infinum’s development and QA processes are optimized to keep your data secure, while our dedicated SecOps team ensures all products comply with industry security standards. 

We have the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certificate, the highest international standard for information security management systems (ISMS). The certificate is an independent, third-party confirmation that we implement technical security measures such as obligatory data encryption and 2FA, as well as non-technical ones like employee awareness training to prevent any breach of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. We are committed to constantly improving our security through regular internal and external audits.

Ask: “How do you organize communication during project work?”

Not: “Who’s going to be our Project Manager?”

Maybe you want to be updated about your project’s progress every day, maybe you don’t want to be bothered until a significant milestone is reached. Either way, you want to ensure communication with the project team is simple and efficient, without any excess noise. 

At Infinum, we provide full transparency to our partners. They can check what’s going on, how many hours have been put in so far, or how’s their budget holding up, and they can do so via our signature agency management tool, Productive.

Establishing a communication hierarchy is essential for ensuring clear address channels for different issues. Suppose we have a large and diverse project team with various skills. In this scenario, each pillar in the development process (design, engineering, QA, data analytics, etc.) will have a designated representative, ensuring that the client has a single point of contact for any questions regarding a specific domain.

Ask: “What are your hobbies and interests?”

Not: Settle for a partner who doesn’t share your values.

A bonus question of sorts, it probably won’t make or break the relationship with your chosen agency, but it does strengthen the relationship when both sides share the same values. The popular term would be – a cultural fit. 

We are very passionate about technology and innovation, building something new from scratch, but this is not the only thing we are interested in and invested in. Over the years, we’ve supported the community by launching various initiatives. 

We regularly host Infinum Talks, a knowledge-sharing event at which we talk about exciting developments in technology and design. Also, we provide free education to engineers and designers at Infinum Academy. Some of our lead engineers and team leads are former Infinum Academy graduates!

In addition, we donate 1% of Infinum’s annual profits through our philanthropic initiative Infinum Foundation, supporting worthy causes and awarding scholarships to high school students. Last but not least, we’ve recently been awarded the Climate Neutral certification

Find a product development company you can trust, not a risky business

Hopefully, this list of questions will help you learn important information about your potential future partner. It might also help you decide whether it’s a relationship worth entering into.

While these are great conversation starters, if you want to dig deeper into the conversation and get more information about building digital products, let’s keep talking! You have our word that it will be time well spent.