These days, everyone seems to have an app or software idea, and thanks to the availability of custom software developers, it’s possible to make those apps a reality. Software development is something you can learn, but it takes years of experience (and oftentimes a team of collaborators) to create a functional finished product—and most aspiring entrepreneurs don’t have the time or patience to go through these steps on their own.
However, merely hiring a custom software developer isn’t going to be enough to guarantee your product will be built the way you want it. There are hundreds, if not thousands of available options, and thousands of variables that could impact your project along the course of its development.
So what steps can you take to ensure your project is successful when hiring a custom software developer?
Validating Your Idea
Before doing anything else, take the time to think critically about your idea for an app or software project; you’ll need to focus on two main dimensions. First, consider whether your idea makes sense from a business and marketing standpoint. There are likely already versions of your idea that exist in the marketplace, or at least some ideas adjacent to it. How are these currently performing? Is your idea truly unique enough to stand on its own and differentiate itself from these?
Second, consider whether your software can be built from a logistical standpoint. This can be harder to determine. While hypothetically, software engineers can create anything, there are some logistical and functional limitations that could impact the feasibility of your idea.
For example, if you want to build an app that integrates with hundreds of third parties, or an app that needs AI more powerful than anything else on the market, you should be prepared for significant cost and time obstacles to build the app the way you envision it. Consider sharing your idea with a programmer or software engineer you trust to get a high-level assessment of your project’s feasibility.
During this stage, you may need to revisit and tweak your idea before you move on.
Choosing the Right Custom Software Developer
Once you’ve established that your software idea is buildable and marketable from a business perspective, you can move onto finding the right custom software developer. Don’t think of this as choosing a vendor, the way you’d choose a store to buy a specific product. Instead, think of it as choosing a partner.
In the words of Simform’s Maitrik Kataria, “Your custom software developer will be working with you from start to finish, so it’s important to choose a company that’s not just competent, but also communicative and easy to get along with.”
You’ll need to consider many different factors when making this decision, including:
- Area of expertise. Different software developers have different areas of expertise. Some may specialize in apps with a specific type of functionality, and some will specialize in building apps using one specific programming language. If your software idea has technical limitations or necessary specifications to follow, you’ll want to choose someone who’s an expert in this area.
- Capacity. If you’re trying to finish your software project as quickly as possible, you won’t be able to choose a one-man operation that already has multiple projects in queue. The bigger the capacity of your custom developer, the faster and more efficiently your project will be completed.
- Proximity. You may prefer to have a custom developer based in your home country, or even one in your city. Outsourcing your development project to another country could save you some money, but you might have to deal with workers in a different time zone, or you may encounter a language barrier. Working local could allow you to meet with account reps in person, which many entrepreneurs value.
- Trustworthiness. Software development is becoming increasingly accessible, which means more teams and individuals are starting their own operations. But how can you be confident that these operations will do a good job, or deliver what you paid them to create? Trustworthiness can be hard to gauge, but it’s an important factor to consider. What are this organization’s credentials? What kind of reviews and testimonials has it gotten?
- Communication. As you start shopping your idea around to different software developers, consider the flow of communication. Is it easy to get in contact with a representative? Do they seem to understand what you’re saying easily? Do they articulate themselves effectively? If you have communication problems early on, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the project.
- Cost. Cost is often a byproduct of the factors listed above; a developer with glowing reviews, tons of expertise, and incredible communicative reliability is probably going to be more expensive than their competitors. You often get what you pay for in this regard. Still, you may consider shopping around if your first choice can’t complete the project at a rate that fits within your budget.
Articulating Your Idea
Once you’ve decided on a custom software developer, you’ll likely need to be involved in some kind of kickoff meeting, where you’ll articulate the full scope of your idea. This is a make or break point for most projects. If you don’t explain your idea well, you could end up with a software product that looks very different than what you have in your mind.
Accordingly, it’s important to think of your software idea from as many angles as possible. Consider the high-level goals it’s trying to achieve. Visualize what it looks like to an end consumer. Imagine what the logical architecture must be to support this functionality. A good custom software developer will use questions to prompt you to provide the right information, but it’s still wise to have a plan for communication on your own.
This is also a good time to articulate your expectations for the project. How often do you want to receive updates? Who will you be communicating with?
Managing Your Timeline
At this time, you’ll also need to think about the timeline for your project. Do you have a soft deadline for the development of this application? If so, you’ll need to hash that out with the development team. Do you have a backup plan in case that deadline isn’t hit? What milestones will you need to achieve along the way to feel confident that this team is going to complete your app in plenty of time.
You can ensure the project adheres to the timeline by communicating effectively, providing all materials as they’re requested by the developers, and by avoiding the addition of new scope. Scope creep will almost always increase the length of time it takes to develop a project, as well as the total cost.
Most projects don’t go exactly as expected throughout the entirety of their development trajectory. This is why so many custom software developers employ an agile development strategy, leaving plenty of room for adjustment. It’s important for you, too, to remain flexible. If developers run into a technical challenge that none of you have foreseen, work with them to come up with an alternative solution. Prepare multiple, redundant backup plans in case your primary vision doesn’t pan out the way you thought.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean you should bend over backward to accommodate whatever your developer says is important, but it does mean you shouldn’t commit too hard to a singular vision of how this project should play out.
Most people who take the above steps end up with a custom software development project they’re proud of—and are satisfied with the process they experienced along the way. With the right mentality and the right expectations, you should be able to achieve all your software development goals, without spending too much time or money in the process.