The Ultimate Guide to Changing App Developers Mid-Project

By Joshua Gross, 30 July, 2022

Switching app developers mid-project is less than ideal, but sometimes it's absolutely necessary. Whether your current developer has been missing deadlines, is too inexperienced, or the scope of the project has outgrown their capabilities, passing the project onto a new development team is something you'll want to do carefully and thoughtfully.

In some cases, you might decide to move on to a new developer even though you have a positive relationship with your existing developer. This is great news because it means that you can incorporate your current developer into the transition process. You'll save time, money, and a lot of headaches this way.

This won't always be possible, though. If your old developer has stopped responding to your emails or you're embroiled in a conflict, the chances that they will cooperate in this process are incredibly slim.

If the time has come for a new developer to take on your ongoing project, you can take several steps to make the transition as smooth as possible. Let's dive in and look at everything you need to know.

What to Know Before Changing Developers

It's difficult to change developers in the middle of a project, but sometimes it's necessary.

Maybe your current developer isn't able to handle the technical challenges that come along with increasing traffic to your app, or maybe they have proven that they are incapable of meeting important deadlines. Sometimes they aren't even doing anything glaringly wrong, but you feel that you aren't a great fit working together, and you want to find a developer better suited to your personal style.

Whatever the reason is, it's important to understand what you're signing up for when you decide to transfer a project from one developer to another.

Let's look at some of the steps that you'll need to take to help you get a sense of what the process will entail.

Transferring Knowledge and Resources

When you've decided to change app developers in the middle of a project, it is vital to have transparency between your old developer and your new developer. It's therefore ideal to schedule transfer sessions where any ongoing projects' details are shared between developers.

When it comes to transferring knowledge and resources, you'll want to include:

  • Any code that is under review or has been finalized
  • All of the documentation that is relevant to the app
  • AWS or other cloud hosting accounts
  • Apple App Store dev accounts and certificates
  • Google Play Store dev accounts and certificates
  • Documentation with deployment steps based on different environments
  • Accounts and credentials for database management services
  • Any other account credentials for third-party services

When switching developers, you want to minimize the amount of time in transition and keep your project on the right timeline. An even more important concern, though, is to make sure you avoid any legal trouble that could crop up.

For that reason, make sure that the old developer lets go of the ownership they have over the code unless it is considered to be their own intellectual property.

Are you considering changing developers because you think your current developer is charging you too much money? Take a look at our guide to help you determine if your developer is overcharging you.

Transferring Documentation

Your new developer or team of developers will need to receive any code that has been written so far. When both the development roadmap and the documentation for the code are passed between developers, the transition will be a lot more seamless and fluid.

When choosing a new developer, make sure you find someone that is familiar with legacy migration or cloud migration. They'll need to receive all the necessary assets, including the source code, logos, and GitHub repositories.

Transferring Ownership

It's essential that you make sure all of the code in your project belongs to you. You'll want to check your project's IP/Source Code for this purpose.

Any certificates used to create your apps on various app stores will need to be handed over to your new team of developers. On top of that, you'll also want to make sure all p.12 keys and .pem keys are transferred as well.

You'll want to get the old developer to put in writing that they won't keep any of the details of your projects, including the code.

Ongoing Assessment

When you've switched between development teams, it can be tempting to put all of this behind you. However, this is a great opportunity to learn from any mistakes that were made and avoid them in the future.

You'll want to assess what went wrong, what can be improved, and how you want to proceed with your relationship with the new developers.

How to Change App Developers Mid-Project

It's important to have a well-thought-out action plan when you're switching developers. Without one, you'll likely find that the transition is stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. On top of that, you could run into legal issues with your old developer.

Determine the Right Time to Make the Switch

Unless a developer has completely ghosted you or isn't fulfilling their end of the bargain, it can be hard to know when to pull the plug and make the switch.

There are better and worse times to transition between teams, and it's a good idea to have your old developers finish any features that are near completion if possible. This is because it will take a new developer a lot more time to complete little bits of unfinished work than it will for your current developer. Assuming, of course, that you have a decent relationship with them and are confident in their ability to finish this part of the project.

Ask Your Old Developer to Write a Hand-Over Document

In some instances, you might be switching developers simply because the scope of your project has grown too large for your current developer. The relationship hasn't gone sour; it's just time for you to part ways.

If possible, it can be immensely helpful to have your old developer write a hand-over document. Your new developers are going to have to jump into the deep end to understand the ins and outs of your project, and your old developer will be able to help them get a head start with a well-written explanation of what's going on.

Some of the things that you'll want your old developer to include in this document are:

  • The larger concept underlying their architecture
  • The major decisions that led to certain outcomes
  • Explaining and showcasing any critical infrastructure
  • Pointing out weak spots or unstable areas that will need special attention

In the case that a freelance developer completely disappears or you are embroiled in a conflict, you might not have the luxury of this step in the process.

Instead, your new developers will have to piece together the details on their own. Any qualified developer you hire should be fully capable of this task, but it will likely add billable hours to the project.

If you're on bad terms with your old developer, make sure you create a backup of the code and database of your app and store it somewhere safe.

Compile Useful Information

The easier you make things for your new development team, the less time they'll have to spend getting their bearings. When switching developers, take the time to gather useful information that will help them understand the specifics of what needs to be done to complete your app and its purposes.

When you're onboarding your new developer, you'll want to share with them:

  • A description of your business
  • The problem that your app is solving for users
  • The major features of the app
  • A to-do list of the work that isn't yet completed, broken down into categories of bugs, started but unfinished features, and features that haven't been started
  • A copy of your current site's code and database (you might consider having the new developer sign a nondisclosure agreement)
  • Your expected timeline for the project
  • Your budget
  • A description of your hosting infrastructure
  • Any existing development procedures that you're happy with

Do you have an app idea, but you aren't sure how to make it into something tangible? Check out our step-by-step guide to turning an app idea into reality.

How to Avoid Needing to Switch Developers

Sometimes, you simply can't avoid the reality that you need a new development team to take over your project. However, prevention is ultimately better than the cure. If you're hiring a developer for a new project, let's look at some things you can watch out for to reduce the likelihood that you will have to switch developers halfway through.

Set the Terms From the Get-Go

One of the best ways to avoid having to switch developers in the middle of a project is for both of you to be on the same page. There are a number of things that you'll want to have clearly in writing before the project begins. Some examples include:

  • How will decisions be made about site design, and how many changes can you ask the developer to make before there is a price increase?
  • How much extra will it cost if you need to make more changes than expected?
  • How long will the design process take?
  • What can be changed down the road, and what design choices need to be determined ahead of time?
  • What functions and features will the site have?
  • Who is responsible for writing copy on your site?
  • How many pages will your site have?
  • How should you deliver content and copy to developers if you're the one writing it?

Getting as much in writing as possible will help ensure the picture you have in your head of your app is in line with what your developer is envisioning.

Communicate Clearly About Deadlines and Timeline

It's essential to be very clear about the timeline you have in mind for the project and any important deadlines. Even if you aren't in a rush, you don't want to sign on with a developer without them agreeing that they can deliver the project by a specific date.

Of course, there are some things that can make a timeline change during app development. It's a good idea to outline acceptable reasons for pushing back the completion date.

Write Post-Launch Expectations Into Your Contract

Apps need ongoing maintenance, and it's important to determine whether your developer will be participating in this process. Otherwise, you might find that they are MIA after site launch when you have important questions about maintaining the site or problems that pop up.

For this reason, you'll want to know what you can expect later ahead of time.

Talk to your new developer about whether they will train you regarding how to update the site later on. Will they include written documentation? Will they be available after launch to answer questions, and will there be an additional charge for these communications?

What happens if you notice issues after launch? Will they be willing to fix those things without charging extra, or will it cost more?

If they aren't available to help you after launch, you can ask them to recommend online resources or other people that could answer any questions you might have.

You'll also want to ask if your developer has availability in their schedule in the future and if you'll receive priority if you need any additional features or upgrades in the coming months.

Are You Looking For a New App Development Team?

Sometimes you have to know when to cut your losses with a developer and pass the project on to a new team. While switching developers halfway through a project is far from ideal, only you can determine whether it is the right call based on the work of the current developer and your intended outcomes for the app.

Whether you're searching for a new team after your current developer stopped returning your emails, or you're looking for developers for a brand-new app idea you have, we'd love to hear about it. We work with clients that range from fresh startups to Fortune 500 companies and consist of a team of developers, designers, and product experts that can help turn your app idea into a reality.

If you're in the market for a new app development team, drop us a line and tell us about your project.