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Defining a Great Mobile App Developer

19 Aug 2019 Developer News
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Great developers are the superheroes of IT. They’re rare, and once you work with them, you get used to the highest standards. But how do know which developer is great?

One of the biggest challenges of hiring new developers is the screening process. There are plenty of ways to source candidates, but determining their worth is always troublesome.

In 2015, mobile traffic officially outgrew desktop traffic. Nobody was surprised -- mobile devices have become so powerful that some people don’t even need a bigger machine to satisfy their virtual needs.

Along with spiking mobile traffic, the need for mobile programming spiked as well. Because of that, in addition to all other responsibilities, now managers in IT need to be able to recognize a great mobile developer.

Since mobile app development is one of the most prominent categories in our outstaffing service, I wanted to share a few bits of advice from my own experience, as well as show you how others define a great developer. Let’s get into it!


What makes a great software developer

As a foundation, we should first understand what makes a great software developer regardless of specialization.

It’s a combination of soft skills, technical proficiency and theoretical knowledge. Prominent software blogger Yegor Bugayenko recently touched on this topic.

He writes that a developer who has no understanding of how the code works, and what happens beyond the code, is like “a monkey trying to start an aircraft”.

If we were to create a fundamental skill matrix of sorts, or list of personal skills of a great developer, it would look like this:


Soft skills

Technical proficiency

Theoretical knowledge


Writing clean, understandable code

Understanding how the code works


Documenting what the code does

Fundamental concepts of computer science

Problem-solving approach

Using version management software

Knowing how software interacts with hardware

Business understanding

Using the best tools for the job

Staying on top of new tools and updates


Quickly adapting and learning new tools

Grasp of security, database management, memory allocation, etc.


The above soft skills are necessary for any modern job, they don’t apply only to coders.

Combined with the technical and theoretical skills, we arrive at the image of a great programmer: efficient, smart, communicative, knows how to code but also understands how the code works.

Caleb Taylor neatly packages these traits into 3 distinctive qualities of a great developer:

  • Being a firefighter - understanding how the code can go “up in flames” and being prepared for any issues that might arise
  • Recognizing bottlenecks - proactively improving the efficiency of the development process
  • Questioning existing patterns - no copy-pasting and leaving things “as they are”, regular code re-evaluation and refactoring

These things make a great developer. But different projects have different requirements. What are the traits and skills particularly important in mobile projects?

Software skills required for mobile developers

Not every great developer knows how to make an app (she’d be able to learn it pretty fast, though). There are several technological aspects that pose unique challenges for a junior developer.

Senior mobile developers should understand them, and know exactly how to approach them. Like Kevin Toth, whose article nicely outlines some of the most important things

The fundamental, need-to-know aspects of mobile development are:

The importance of UI -- apps don’t compete with functionalities, they mostly compete with design. A sleek look and intuitive interface are absolutely necessary.

The app needs to load and operate fast, and the user should never have to think about where to find important functionalities. Developers who don’t understand the importance of UI are not good mobile developers.

Cross-platform development -- the mobile market is vast. There are countless different devices and multiple important operating systems. Users might have the latest and fastest device, or an older device with an outdated system that doesn’t work that well.

The best mobile developers understand this, and know how to build apps that will work on virtually all systems (if the project requires it), and even on slow devices.

A few other important aspects, neatly described alongside the above in an article on the RedBytes app dev company blog, are:

JavaScript proficiency -- this powerful language, with it’s cross-platform mobile frameworks, is one of the most popular tool sets for mobile development.

With frameworks like React Native, it enables developers to write one codebase that will work on all systems (it’s not the only tool that enables it, but it is the most popular).

If not JavaScript, then the developer should be proficient in her technology of choice, aware of the alternatives, and able to learn new tools as required. This makes it worth paying the usually hefty mobile app developer salary.

Internet of Things -- this is worth mentioning, but perhaps not crucial. IOT is a developing market and not all mobile developers need to have a deep understanding of it.

However, they should definitely be interested in this topic. As the market grows, users will eventually start to expect easy interconnectivity between their favorite apps and their IOT devices.

So in essence, it’s not a “must” yet, but it’s growing in importance.


Now you know how to find great mobile developers

Hope this article helps you clearly see what makes a great mobile developer, and it’ll be easier to hire them, and work with them.

Because requirements and teams can differ greatly from project to project, remember something that I often talk about in my articles -- the best people are the ones who fit your project perfectly.

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