What to Look for in a Digital Product Development Firm

Jake Senkbeil

7 min read

Sep 7, 2020

What to Look for in a Digital Product Development Firm

For digital products, the journey from concept to launch can follow a complicated roadmap. 

No matter the product, no matter the industry, the development process is one best entered into with intention and purpose.  Often, the difference between success and failure comes down to your preparation and ability to respond to challenges as they arise. 

Because creating a successful digital product is a significant undertaking, many companies enlist the services of a digital product development firm. But if you need help, you can’t just partner with any digital product development company. With a job so important, it’s critical that you work with the right one—a team that aligns with your goals, values, and needs. 

In a word, you want a digital product development company that takes a holistic approach. 

A Holistic Approach To Digital Product Development Services 

Ideally, the innovative firm you choose should act as both a partner and a guide. They’ll team up with you to not just enact your vision, but to fully build out your product idea before the new product development even starts. And, once the design work starts, the designers should point you in the right direction and walk with you each step of the way until you reach your destination with a great digital solution.

What that looks like in practice is a firm that takes a holistic approach to development. That means taking a comprehensive strategy that begins with an assessment, turns into development, QA, and delivery and carries on through with continuous engagement. 

So what are the qualities to look for in a digital product design firm?

They Listen To What You Want

The root of a great relationship between client and firm involves an open and respectful dialogue. When searching for the right firm for you,  it’s essential that you partner with someone who will listen attentively and respond thoughtfully to your product vision. 

For the process to be successful, your firm’s team needs to know exactly what you’re looking for from your digital product—details such as your ideas, concerns, and budget. To do this they must ask the right questions—questions such as:  

  • What are your goals both as a company and with the app?
  • How would the app fit into your current business model? 
  • How would the app benefit you? 
  • What are the mandatory features you’re looking for in the app?
  • How do you envision the design? 

All of these details help your firm’s team anticipate problems and brainstorm possible solutions for your digital strategy. Through this, you can begin to flesh out the minimum capabilities you desire from your digital product. 

In the initial phase, it’s not important that you have answers to everything; however, when you work with a firm that listens and asks pertinent questions early on, you can start your innovative product project out on solid footing, pointing you and the project in the right direction.  

They Push Back

Digital product creation is part art, part science and collaboration is key. A huge part of that success comes down to being hypercritical and willing to speak the truth when something does or doesn’t work. It’s much better to have a disagreement along the way and a happy ending than a peaceful process that winds up with you disappointed.  

After all, there’s a lot riding on the development of a digital product—both from a business and cost perspective. You can’t waste valuable time and resources on a firm who is unwilling to push back. You want someone on your side that will offer the most strategic eye in the name of creating the best product possible. 

You Can Trust Them To Turn Your Vision into Reality

It’s important that you find someone who you can trust and who’s experience aligns with your vision. So, it’s worth thinking about how well known they are within the industry? What sorts of global clients have they worked with? Can they create similar solutions or outcomes with your new product as they did others? 

Qualities that you should consider include: 

  • A full-service team – Digital product development never starts and ends with just the code. A full-service team includes engineers that develop your app;  a dedicated project strategist that ensures that your vision is carried through on time and on budget; a designer working to create a seamless and intuitive experience for your end-user; and a QA tester double and triple-checking the product. 
  • Multiplatform development – From the beginning, you should know what devices your product will appear on, and if you’ll need it to work across platforms. Are you focused on Android and iOS? Will it be web-based? You’ll want a firm that has deep experience developing in native technologies but with the adaptability to produce true multi-platform development if needed. 
  • Communication – It’s vital that you not only enlist the services of a team that works seamlessly with one another, but that also communicates effectively with your operation. The entire digital product development process can take months, so you need a partner that will be open and communicative every step of the way. This will prevent bugs, delays, mistakes, or other issues from derailing the process. 

A Holistic Team

To get the most of a digital product, it needs to look great, have an intuitive interface, and be technically sound on both the front end and back end. This takes a team of skilled engineers and developers with specialized focuses, whether its UI/UX design or cloud-based communication. Together, this team helps create a final product that works on all fronts.

But you don’t want a firm that will just let you do whatever you want since a demanding partner with a critical eye is more likely to help you reach the best possible solution for:

  • Strategy
  • Design
  • Creative
  • User Experience

Similarly, it’s crucial that your firm of choice protects your budget. If someone is always looking to nickel and dime or upcharge, you’re in for a world of trouble. Ideally, your partner will always keep an eye on the budget and your best interest at heart! 

 They are Creative and Solutions-Based 

If a firm isn’t creative, the final product will likely fail to blow away the end-user. According to Clutch, “User experience (UX) design needs to be creative in order to truly connect with users. UX designers solve problems, and the only way they can do so effectively is to think of innovative solutions.” 

In a sea of digital products, it’s vital that yours stands out. Both UX and UI involve aligning intuitive ease-of-use and behavior suggestions with the digital products’ objectives. The more a developer can tailor the app to the intended use and convenience of the target audience, the more success it will yield. 

Additionally, a creative firm can help you find solutions that keep your business in mind. Obstacles are inevitable—you need a partner that can help you go over, under, around, or through them. It all depends on what’s the best answer to that given problem. For that, it takes a team of people who think outside of the box.   

So, as you interview digital product development agencies, be sure to check out their portfolio to ensure that they have eye-catching, high-quality, creative products across various platforms. 

They Break Down the Digital Product Development Process 

This is where the rubber meets the road—it’s the reason why you’re hiring a digital product developer in the first place. 

By thoroughly understanding their app development process, you can ensure that the product is not only finished by your deadline but that it exceeds your baseline expectations. 

At Big Nerd Ranch, for instance, our holistic process involves three critical stages (not counting the initial kickoff meeting). Once we’ve figured out what you want from the product and its features, we dive into phase one of the app development process:

  • Discovery – We thoroughly review and discuss your unique business needs to get a better understanding of:
    • Your team’s capabilities
    • The project’s demands
    • Your needs
    • Your end-users needs

In addition, we’ll create a detailed roadmap that lays out the product’s path. This will allow you to see what’s coming and better understand the work involved to get you from your idea to your finished product. 

  • The Build Out – Depending on your internal resources, we either partner with you or take complete control of the buildout. From prototype to MVP, to usability testing, to launch, we maintain an open line of communication with your team. 
  • Go-to-Market – The work doesn’t end the moment we provide you with the finished product. We’ll ensure that the launch to the relevant app stores or hosting platform is as smooth as possible. In addition, usability testing will continue after launch to ensure that you’re receiving crucial feedback and data analysis. 

Big Nerd Ranch – Experts That You’ll Actually Like Working With 

The product development process can take many months, if not years. So, it’s not only essential that you look for a firm that takes a holistic approach, but that you also find help from digital product development services that you’ll enjoy partnering with. 

Big Nerd Ranch is the premier go-to for everything from design and development to large-scale digital transformations. Our company culture is rooted in a people-first mentality. We make it our mission to not only become intimately familiar with your company and its goals but to nurture lasting work relationships along the way. That means taking the time to get to know your staff better.  

Put simply, we love what we do and the people we work with. Your biggest hurdles are our most compelling puzzles. We’re Nerds, remember? So, if you’re looking for a digital product development agency,  then welcome to the Ranch.  


Clutch. Why Creativity Matters in Design.


Jake Senkbeil headshot

Jake Senkbeil

Director of Sales

Jake joined the Ranch as Director of Sales in the Winter of 2020 and brings over 10 years of experience in sales leadership and management.

Juan Pablo Claude

Reviewer Big Nerd Ranch

During his tenure at BNR, Juan Pablo has taught bootcamps on macOS development, iOS development, Python, and Django. He has also participated in consulting projects in those areas. Juan Pablo is currently a Director of Technology focusing mainly on managing engineers and his interests include Machine Learning and Data Science.

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