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How to choose a mobile app development company

Here are some inside tips and tricks on how to pick a better mobile app development company for your project

Richard Kacerek
Richard Kacerek


There are 5,806 mobile app development companies in Europe, 1,232 in the UK and 461 of those are in London, according to Clutch (at the time of writing). There are estimated 400,000 app developers in London alone, and the UK has some of the best app developers in the world.

There is no doubt, London is a technology powerhouse. So how do you choose the right company for you and your project?

If you have never built a mobile app, choosing the right app development agency can look like an impossible task. Looking for top London app developers takes a long time and patience. Working with the right partner app development company can transform your app project into a global success.

You might be tempted to simply throw a question out there into the wild and ask a complete stranger on LinkedIn or Facebook to recommend some mobile developers to you but then, even if something worked for someone else; it does not mean it will work for you. The mobile app development market is very lucrative and can attract a variety of competition. After all, you just need a laptop to build an app, right?

We will explore all essential aspects that you could use to size up your potential candidates and pick and choose whatever suits you. So let’s start with some distinct business markers. We will share industry insights with you to help you make a better decision when hiring a mobile app development company.

Registered UK company and history

The most obvious marker is whether your chosen mobile studio is actually registered in the UK as a company. Of course, that can be tricky to find because according to our research there are more than half of companies in the UK mobile development market which are registered but only use virtual company address, a P.O. Box essentially. More than half of mobile application development companies in London are not even in the UK!

Working with UK registered company carries certain benefits. You know who you are dealing with and what to expect. Manageable taxation system, skill and experience in western markets and greater flexibility. UK registered company usually means a higher level of professionalism and guarantees.

How long the company has been in the business is also a good indication of stability and quality and whether the directors are in the UK at all.

Ask for full company details such as registration name and number, addresses and name(s) of the directors.

Virtual address

A large proportion of the mobile application development companies we researched are hiding behind faceless P.O. boxes in London or virtual offices. It is very easy to create a UK company, with UK based address, without ever being in the UK. Compared to other EU countries, creating and registering a company in the UK takes about 5 minutes and costs less than £30. Nearly impossible to do in Germany or France.

And the trend continues. Lot of companies we looked at have different resellers in many other countries, thus appearing to be much larger and having offices in different countries. Some virtual addresses have over 25,000 companies registered at the same address. These app development companies operate a franchise model, with resellers in each country.

Co-working office space

If you are looking for a company with an office in the UK, be prepared to pay a premium for that privilege. UK and London have the highest cost per sitting desk employee than any other country in Europe. If you need this service, then ask for it. Don’t only assume that every company must have an office space. There is a reason why office downsizing is so hot right now, and more people are allowed to work remotely. It increases performance and productivity, decreases growing costs and cuts about 30-40 hours of commuting per month for each employee. An extra day or two they can spend with their families.

The need for a physical office is always an open debate. If you need one, then ask for it and be prepared to pay for it. If you just need to regularly meet up with your provider, that’s fine too, it does not need to be in office.

Another thing we noticed during our research is how many app development companies in London hire co-working offices and pass the entire complex as their own. That’s wrong. If you hire a desk somewhere, you can’t say the whole office belongs to your company. Unfortunately, this is quite a frequent deception we encountered. Be aware of this tactic, where companies are trying to look larger then they really are.

Empire Elements works remotely with hand-picked individuals across Europe. We like working remotely as it increases work quality and working with measurable milestone approach, remote collaboration is a bliss. We’d be happy to meet with you in person of course, anywhere in Europe or the UK! We regularly meet clients in Monaco, Berlin, Amsterdam and Vienna.

Ask for physical office, co-working or no office at all.

Our process

Empire Elements has done thorough competition research, and even we were sick of “the process”. Every agency is focusing so much on their process, completely forgetting about you and your app idea. You are the client and if their process does not fit with you, then maybe that process should be changed? Far too often we heard a reluctant tone on the phone saying: “well, you will need a minimum of £200,000 to have a serious conversation with us”.

With us, you don’t need to follow our process, no jumping through hoops to make our job easier. Our process is simple and flexible:

  1. first we listen to you and your app idea
  2. we take your idea and create a plan
  3. based on our experience we create a proposal

Listening and applying our knowledge and experience to your project, to make it better is our goal. We work with companies, entrepreneurs and investors often, we like crazy new ideas and challenging projects. We take time to understand your idea and your business, then propose a custom plan on how to build that idea into an excellent application that can be scaled up to millions of users. Throughout your project, you will be talking to Richard and Vera, out two hands-on CEOs with a decade of experience.

Discovery workshops

As one of our clients has elegantly put it: “complete waste of my time”. Some mobile app development companies insist that the so-called design sprint is an industry standard, I can assure you it is not. You would need to follow their process and attend a series of meetings, in some case a week long, where you work with an agency to create wireframes and customer journeys. In most cases, you don’t even get the design. These workshops can cost anywhere from £1,000 to £20,000 and only after you complete the workshop you will get a breakdown of cost to complete the rest of your project.

This whole process is nonsense. We understand that we need to mold your idea and develop it with you, but there are better ways to go about it than a series of meetings in London where you have to tells us how your app is meant to work. That’s why you are hiring Empire Elements!

One of our current clients has left another mobile app development company in London for Empire Elements because of these time consuming and boring meetings that didn’t produce any tangible work.

Ask for a rough estimate of your project - timeframe and cost.

Code is yours

What came to us a shock, some agencies don’t even release the code to you or publish the app under your account. You are hiring the mobile app agency to build an app, and you expect to own everything - the assets, the app, the code. That’s normal, isn’t it?

Working with Empire Elements is different. We hand over our design assets to you, entire GitHub repository is yours, we even set up the cloud computing and publish the app under your accounts! What’s more, we guarantee our code to be bug-free for 100 days, and if you like to extend that period, we can agree on the SLA contract too.

Yes, we release the code to you, with all the assets, GitHub tickets and projects. Everything is yours without any licenses or release costs. And we actually develop apps under your own developer accounts (or business) right from the start.

Ask for code release and bug support after launch.

Project management cost

An interesting cost item is the Project Management Cost that you might see. Usually, it’s 10-15% of the project value being added on top of your cost to “manage your project”. This is simply a tactic some development agencies use to inflate app cost for no reason. It can be called an “administrative service” or something similar, and what does it mean you ask? Well, we don’t quite know either!

Budgeting your project is quite simple actually, all you need to calculate it correctly is the rough requirements and experience in building apps. Only then you can compare it to something done previously, and you can assume the best and worst case scenario and base the price calculations on that. Merely adding 15% on the top is just a hidden cost inflation tactic. So be well aware of agencies charging you extra for project management.

Ask for what is included in project management or administration service cost

Work they do

Probably the single most important deciding factor is the mobile app portfolio. Take a closer look at the completed projects and ask for similar types, most complex work they did, how long it took, and what challenges the agency solved. Make sure you install those apps and test them, see how they work for a real user!

Empire Elements has a complete mobile app development work portfolio available with detailed descriptions of work that we did.

We are passionate about our work and your project. We love to create amazing things and disrupt the industry. Our passion for technology and design will always be reflected in your project. Whether it is a mobile app for scooter rental in Vienna, a 3D face masks and social networking app for a client in Monaco or a UK based startup disrupting the sharing economy My Hippo Space. We welcome new challenges.

From an idea to millions of users. That’s how we like to design and build apps for our clients, to be robust, scalable, beautiful and most importantly, successful business ventures!

Ask for completed and launched projects.

Size of the team

Our own team consists of 50+ designers, developers, architects and specialists in their own fields. Our team is located across Europe and only Europe. Always ask where the development team is located. A company outsourcing work to India is going to have a different cost than a company that employs developers and designers to sit in the London office.

If you look for a company that has a physical office in London, and there are plenty, of course, be ready to pay a premium for that service.

Make sure you check the ratio of the available workforce and currently opened projects. You want to know that the company can handle your projects and that they have enough resources and manpower to deliver your project on time and on budget.

Ask for size and location of the development team.

Working together

During our research of the top mobile app development companies in London, we were overwhelmed by the complexity of such a simple thing as a communication and making first contact. It’s common to be referred to another person that uses a lot of technical jargon or no tech experience at all. Usually, you will talk to a salesperson with no idea about how app building works or a developer that talks completely different language. And nothing in between.

Empire Elements’ CEOs Richard and Vera have tons of experience and are easy to talk to without technical jargon. Or we can have a tech talk if you wish, both of our CEOs are involved with the day to day work schedule.

Vera manages interaction design and prototyping, and Richard specialises in coding and cloud architecture a brilliant blend of experience that is available to you.

Frequent and clear communication is the most essential aspect of our work. This applies for when we talk to the client or amongst ourselves. Clearly defined milestones with tasks that need to be done every week or during every sprint.

Other indicators

Many mobile agencies talk first about your budget, sometimes they even set a minimum project budget limit to just talk to them. An agency that first asks about your money and not your app is probably not all that trustworthy or interested in YOU, just getting their money.

Some agencies will even try to rope you into the “discovery phase” first, which you have to pay for, to be able to give you a rough estimate.

Client reviews

Make sure the client reviews are real. You can always ask for details of a couple of existing clients and talk to them directly, which is the best way to verify the mobile agency but there are also websites like Clutch that have done the hard work for you and interviewed their clients.

Awards vs results

Agencies seem to dwell on awards for some reason, proudly showing some award you never heard of, back from 2016. Most of these “awards” don’t really hold any value to you, the client. We got some awards, but we like to focus on our work and improving your business and app, rather than hunting or even buying awards!

We care about the work we are doing for you. We always have to do our absolute best so that we can proudly show you what we did. We take pride in our work, and a successful project and happy client is the best award we can get!


Building a mobile app is complex, and choosing the right mobile app development company in London or Europe to do the job can mean a world of difference. It can be a frustrating experience or a dynamic flow of ideas and professional collaboration. It very much depends on the team you choose.

There are great companies and bad ones. Hopefully, we gave you some tips on how to avoid the biggest pitfalls and pass through the selection process safely.

Empire Elements has been a UK registered business for over a decade, working closely with entrepreneurs, investors and companies of all sizes.

Our team of 50+ has gathered secure experience over the years, and all this industry skill is accessible to you. Let’s arrange a free, no obligation chat to discuss your project with experienced professionals.

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