Some of our most successful projects have been spearheaded by clients who were tech novices when we first started working with them. What they lacked in tech experience, they made up for with knowledge of their business, customers, their eye for detail and genuine enthusiasm for the product.
If you are about to embark on building an app with little tech experience, don't be shy. Take the first couple of steps (assuming some funding is in place): Find the right team and articulate your idea to them.
The right tech team should guide you through the process by explaining everything in laymen's terms and ensuring you learn as you go. It's worth spending time on finding a great fit.
There are plenty of capable agencies and freelancers out there, but finding a team that you vibe with and can rely on is another thing completely.
Your budget will steer you on who you should be getting in touch with. Like most things, you'll get what you pay for; but with an increasingly competitive market there is value to be found.
Below are the most frequent avenues we see people go down when searching for a team. For context we'll assume we are talking about a project with roughly 400 hrs of work involved.
$0 - Build your own team and convince everyone to take equity versus money
Certainly cost efficient! However, there are some downsides. Expect to give away a good chunk of your business. Also, the team will likely need to make money through other avenues, so be prepared to wait as the team squeezes other jobs in over the weekends and evenings.
This realistically might not be an option unless you have some talented, close friends who believe in you and your idea.
$10-20k - Offshore freelancers
Can be risky business and is more often miss than hit. If this is the only option due to financial restraints, really get the word out and try to find web designers and developers who come recommended and have actually completed a project to someone's satisfaction.
Be prepared to write specs for days. With language barriers, and often times cultural differences, no details are too small to exclude. If it's not 100% spec'd out, don't expect it to come back 100% complete. There are a few cowboys/cowgirls out there so be careful not to find yourself in an unenforceable refund situation abroad.
$20-40k - Local freelancer
There are lots of really talented freelancers out there who enjoy the freedom of working for themselves. The greatest challenge here is finding and coordinating these freelancers, which can be a big ask for someone taking on their first web product.
Expect lots of back and forths, and be ready to have to really drive the project.
$40-80K - Small/medium sized studio or agency
Working with a small or medium sized team, who complete projects from start to finish with each other on a regular basis, and are accompanied by a project manager, should ensure a smooth project. Studios and agencies have a brand to uphold, case studies to show, and past clients you can talk to which minimize risk.
Look to make sure the work stays in-house, and doesn't get outsourced to an offshore team. Otherwise you are paying a huge markup and project management fee, and the quality of the completed work may not match what you paid for.
>80K - Large agency
This option is out of most folk's budgets, but is a safe option if you can afford it. A large agency will have multiple people who can execute your project, and chances are that they have been involved in a larger, more challenging project in the past.
Make sure you get the attention you deserve, and are not just another project in a long list that ends up getting dished out to a group of junior designers and web developers.
>150K - Hire a full time team
Often times this is the most ideal situation for a product with an aggressive go-to-market strategy that expects regular support post-launch.
A challenge will be finding the right fit in a web team: from a skillset and cultural perspective, to the cost of financing their salaries.
Once you've narrowed your search for a web team, explaining your idea is the next step (which can be deceptively difficult).
The following worksheet, Holy Crap, It's an App, is intended to help you collect and organize your thoughts so that you can communicate what you are trying to build to a potential web partner. It doesn't need to be perfect, but it's a great first step.
Best of luck with your project :)