18 min read
Mobile App Development Team Structure: How to Build a Great Product
Building an app is a complex process with lots of milestones. In April of 2022, more than 48% of small businesses already had an app, and another 27% were planning to release one. While in 2021 mobile games revenues surpassed PCs and consoles revenues combined. At the same time, the mobile markets are probably the most competitive ones on the internet. The times when you could just built an app, publish it to App Store or Google Play and start getting free or cheap traffic are long gone. The traffic is extremely expensive today, which means 99.9% of apps will never earn any money, while the top 0.1% of mobile products generates 99% of the stores revenue.
Now, how to build a successful mobile app? What is the right development team structure? Who to hire — except for engineers — not just to build an app, but to achieve the famous product-market fit? Let’s figure that out.
Modern Mobile App Development Team Structure
So, what types of people you need on your mobile development team to launch a successful product?
“In the mobile world, the days of developers are gone. Now it’s time of product managers, marketers, data analysts, and growth hackers.”
Founder at ExpertRemote
Product Manager’s Role in Mobile App Development Process
Product manager creates a vision for a mobile app, develops a strategy for its positioning on the app stores, defines the monetization model, and contributes to acquisition channels choice. Product managers create and oversee the roadmap for product development. Except founders, product managers are responsible for the product-market fit.
Soft skills product managers must possess are genuine curiosity about users and analytical mindset. They must be creative and think outside the box, in order to identify and solve user’s painpoints.
Finding the right product manager is probably one of the most important parts of building a great product. If you make a mistake here, everything else will automatically fail as well. But don’t worry, we’ve already screened hundreds and picked top 1% of mobile product managers here.
Build your mobile app team with ExpertRemote!
Here you can find pre-vetted product managers, designers, developers etc.Get in touch
Marketing Manager in App Development Team
On the app development team, the marketing manager — or user acquisition manager — is responsible for traffic. They analyse competitors’ acquisition strategies, come up with ad creative ideas for motion designers, launch experiments on various ad networks to test hypotheses and then scale the ones that work.
Since traffic is the most expensive part of building a mobile product, marketing managers are trying to get the lowest user acquisition cost (CAC — how much money you spend on average to acquire a single paying user) and the highest lifetime value (LTV — how much revenue on average this user generates over 3/6/12 months). There’s another metric called ROAS — return on ad spend, which is basically calculated as LTV/CAC * 100%.
With regards to soft skills, UAMs are quite similar to product managers. They should be both creative and analytical.
Product Marketing Manager in App Development Team
If your mobile app development team structure already has a product manager and a user acquisition manager, you don’t need a PMM. The product marketing manager role is basically a combination of both. Since mobile market is getting more and more sophisticated, companies now prefer to hire people with both marketing and product expertise.
UI/UX Designer in Development Team
UI/UX designers are responsible for making the app beautiful and user-friendly. Together with product managers, designers create a customer journey, build UX wireframes and the actual product designs, usually in Figma. Sometimes, they’re also called CX designers (customer experience).
As for soft skills, UI/UX designers should have great people skills (in order to conduct user interviews as well as collaborate with the rest of the team), critical thinking (to be able to identify user’s painpoints and remove bottlenecks in the UX), attention to detail and, of course, great taste :)
You can find top 1% of UI/UX designers here.
Mobile Developers’ Role in Product Development Team
Mobile developers are actually coding the designs that product manager and UI/UX designer came up with. There’re two types of mobile app developers:
- Native app developers: an Android developer (they write in Java or Kotlin) or an iOS developer (they write in Swift or, rarely now, in Objective-C).
With regards to soft skills, mobile developers should be great collaborates (to interact with other team members), responsible (in order to meet the deadlines), and have good English. You can find more info on hiring mobile developers here.
Backend Developer’s Role in App Development Company
In a mobile development team, the backend developers’ are responsible for the server-side of the app. Unless your app is a content-based, you will probably store some data somewhere in the cloud, have some additional logic etc. Back-end developers handle user data processing, integration of third-party services like payment gateways via APIs, integration of various algorithms like search engines, and other technical aspects.
You can read more tips on hiring a backend engineer here. The soft skills of a backend engineer are similar to mobile app developer.
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QA Specialist’s Role in Mobile App Development Team
The work of QA specialists is to find imperfections and help developers address them. The responsibilities of QA engineers in mobile app development teams include reviewing quality specifications, creating test plans, estimating and coordinating test activities, and providing clear and timely feedback.
Their most important soft skills are attention to detail and a rigorous, thorough approach to their work.
The best software QA testers could be found here.
Data Analyst’s Role in App Development Team
The data analyst’s main task is to measure and analyse how users behave on Android and iOS’ versions of your app, gather insights from this data in terms of in-app engagement, app performance, monetization, and advertising.
Data Analysts use Google Analytics 360, BigQuery and other data warehouses; know SQL; can set up an analytics system like Amplitude or Mixpanel and configure funnels there; set up A/B tests and use Cohort Analysis; provide data for product managers and user acquisition managers. In small teams, this job role is performed by a product manager.
As for soft skills, this folks should be extremely good at numbers in order to find insights in raw data.
Motion Designer’s Role in App Dev Team
Motion designers are responsible for ad creatives (photos, videos etc.) that are used by UAMs in ad campaigns.
Core skills of motion designers lie in the mastery of Adobe software (After Effect, Premiere, Photoshop); Blender, Maya, or other software for modeling & building immersive experiences.
Motion designers must be creative, up to date with trends & new emergences in the world of digital art, and have an experienced eye for creative content in advertising.
App Development Team Roles at Each Stage
Now, let’s dive into the mobile app development process.
Ideation is coming up with an app idea and refining it via market research. At this point, a number of product hypotheses are formed. Actually, there’s usually one main big hypothesis, called value hypothesis that includes audience, main problem and our solution. In order to define it and work on it, product managers use various methodologies: personals, jobs to be done, user journey maps, etc. On the basis of this data, UI/UX designers create wireframes and designs of your mobile application MPV (minimum viable product).
2. Clickable Prototype
The next step is to produce a concrete result of research and ideation. UI/UX designer and product manager create, on the basis of sketches and wireframes, a clickable prototype in Figma/Sketch/etc.
3. Customer Development
The product manager takes clickable prototype and organizes CustDev interviews with potential users who fit user personas. Their feedback is used to alter the prototype.
The product manager conducts as many in-depth interviews as necessary. The general rule is to stop when you start getting the same answers.
The result of a CustDev is finalized designs of the MVP (minimum viable product).
Then comes the development. Mobile developer alone (or mobile developer and backend engineer) start working. Their goal is to bring the clickable prototype to life. The result of this stage is a mobile app MVP.
QA specialist tests the app, and the development team fixes all bugs found. QAs conduct functional tests (check the app’s performance on different devices, its functionality, navigation, error messages, etc.), API tests (if the data transfer works appropriately), usability tests (for coherency/readability of app’s interface). They also make sure the app looks good on various devices.
6. Setting Up Analytics System
The app is ready for launch. The product manager (or data analyst) sets up analytic systems. Together with founders, PMs should define main metrics they want to measure after the first launch. And then build charts/funnels in the analytics system. This work should be done before app launch, cause your product is not the app, your product is your funnels. And what you care the most is your conversions. So, define it upfront.
7. Setting Up Ad Networks & Configure Ad Campaigns
The user acquisition manager (or product marketing manager) sets up ad networks. Usually, it starts with “warming up the ad network”, which means running ads with small budget for a couple of weeks. Otherwise, you can get your ad campaign banned by ad network bots for no reason, because your ad account is new. It’s actually a nightmare, so, make sure you register ad account and start “warm ups” at least 1 month before the launch.
8. Release & Traffic Launch
All analytics systems are set up, so it’s time for the launch of your MVP (first product version). The software development team releases the mobile application in stores and starts advertisement campaigns to attract users.
We should say couple of words about publishing to App Store and Google Play. App Store has Review Guidelines, so, even before you start developing your app make sure you will comply. Otherwise, you will not get your app published. Google Play publishing is easier, but still we suggest you to create accounts 6-8 weeks before release and prepare for reviews.
After the app is released, you will run traffic for 2–3 weeks to get 2,000–3,000 users, then stop and analyse results. You will probably spend $2–3k on traffic. And you need these numbers in order to get statistically significant results from your launch, otherwise, the data should not be trusted.
9. User Analysis
When you look at your data after the first launch, don’t worry if the numbers doesn’t add up. It is never successful anyway. The goal of the first launch is just to get the first data. Unlike B2B where you have dozens of clients, in mobile app development you have thousands (and later millions) of users, so, all product and marketing decisions are data-driven. Below are the most common metrics PMs and UAMs analyse on a regular basis:
|Metric||How to calculate||Insight|
|CTR (Click through rate). Tracks how many people who’ve seen the ad clicked on it.||(Clicked the ad / Seen the ad) * 100%||Shows the efficiency of your ad campaigns.|
|CVR (Conversion rate). Tracks the rate of people from those who’ve clicked on the ad to those who installed it.||(Installed the app / Clicked on the ad) * 100%||Shows the efficiency of your Play Market/App Store screenshots.|
|CPI (Cost per install). Tracks a price paid to acquire one new customer who will install the app from paid advertisements, for instance on Facebook or Google.||$ Ad expenses / New installs from ad||Shows the efficiency of your user research, audience segmentation, and quality of communication.|
|DAU/MAU ratio (Monthly/Daily active users) ratio||(Unique users per day / Unique users per month) * 100%||In-app engagement metric that shows how many users continuously enjoy your app, returning back to it.|
|Retention rate (per month/per day)||(DAU or MAU / Installs per day or per month) * 100%||Engagement metric, shows how many users from those who install your app become repetitive users.|
10. Iterative Improvements
After the data is gathered and analysed, the product manager and UAM formulate a set of hypotheses for changes in product and advertisement that will improve those metrics.
Developers update the product according to new requirements, motion designer updates ad creatives, UAM updates ad network settings and then comes a new launch.
This stage is not the end, it’s actually the beginning. The real work has just started. From now on, app development teams go through dozens and hundreds of experiments to find product-market fit and fine-tune the funnels. Though, most teams never find PMF and fail. The reality is harsh.
Hiring the Best Mobile App Development Team: Costs & Timelines
“I want to do everything right. But I don’t want to spend a fortune.” Well, let’s find out how to effectively launch a mobile product.
Team & Costs Involved
- Clickable Prototype. Unless you’re a great product manager, you need one. Product manager plus UI/UX designer on part-time/full-time for 1–3 months will be enough. If you don’t invest in it, you will likely fail. Product managers rates range from $50 to $100 per hour and designer rates are $40–60/hour. Totalling $10–20k to build a prototype.
- Cross-platform app development. To launch on both iOS and Andoid you will need 1 mobile developer and maybe 1 back-end developer, depending on the functionality. It usually takes 4–6 months to launch an MVP. The average rates for remote cross-platform developers (Flutter or React Native) are around $40–50/h ($6800–8500/month). So, if it’s a simple content app and you don’t need back-end dev, your cost for development would be $30–40k and 3–4 months. If it’s a more complex app and you need a back-end dev, the cost would be $50–80k and 4–6 months. In rare cases you will spend more than $80k and 6 months on MVP development.
- Native app development. With native app development, if it’s just one platform the costs are the same as outlined above. If you want to release your MVP on both platforms, you need to have 1 iOS dev and 1 Android dev, plus maybe 1 back-end dev. So, the timelines are the same, but the costs would be $60–80k for small apps and $90–120k for larger apps. But we would recommend to launch on one of the platforms first. The purpose of the first launch is to gather initial data anyway.
- Ad creatives. You can get decent 5–10–20 ad creatives for $1k.
- Ad networks. At the beginning you don’t need a full-time user acquisition manager. Just find a person who will help you with your launch on a part-time basis. Finding the right person is key. Otherwise, a product manager can set it up initially. Let’s say $2–3k for UAM help.
- Ad budget. $2–4k for traffic.
“If you calculate all costs involved, you will get minimum $50–60k and 5–6 months for a small app. Or a $100–150k and 7–9 months for larger products. The costs could be reduced if you’ve got hands-on experience in product management, user acquisition and analytics yourself, plus if you know an extremely cheap development team. Otherwise, stick to these numbers. And if you fail at some of the hires or steps in the process, the timelines and budgets can increase dramatically.”
Founder at ExpertRemote
How to Structure the Roadmap to Launch on Time
Planning product development is tough. But after the initial release, it’s the same hypotheses-implementation-analysis loop.
The recommendations below will help you launch your app on time. If done well, you will launch it in 5–6 months. Otherwise, it could drag on for a year easily.
- Dedicate 1–2 months for the product manager and UX/UX designer to create a clickable prototype for an app at the very beginning of the project (at this time, the product marketing manager/UAM will be figuring out ways to promote the product).
- Add one month on top of your mobile developers’ estimations. Software development is never on time.
- Add some buffer time before the launch for App Store/Google Play publishing & review delays.
- Start researching the audience and thinking about your advertising strategies 2–3 months before the launch.
- Set up an analytics system 1–2 months before the launch.
How to Hire Mobile App Development Team
To launch your product fast you can’t waste time on searching for a full-time candidates. If you consider contractors, there’re multiple options.
Using and outsourcing firm will help you find good developers fast. But you will spend time going through 5-10 outsourcing firms first. Second, it will be costly. And third, outsourcing firms only understand the development which is just a small part of the process as you’ve just learned.
Another option is going to a vetted developer marketplace like ExpertRemote. We’ve sourced and screened tens of thousands of product managers, developers, UI/UX designers, etc., to pick top 1%. It’s fast, easy and cost-effective to hire with us. And you can assemble the whole team at one place. Contact us to find out more.
Hope this article gave you a better understanding of how to organize your mobile app development team and launch a great product.
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