Do you have an idea for a website or mobile phone app that you’d like to have built? Choosing a software developer can sometimes be a daunting decision, but it’s the most important one you’ll make. Ben Liebert, founder of Blackball Software and author of How to know if your software developer is trying to kill you, provides some top tips on what to look for.
If your website goes down in the middle of the night, or a client has an urgent feature request, you need your developer to be ready and available. A good way to get an idea of this is how easy they are to contact. Do they respond to emails or phone calls promptly? If they are delayed, do they advise you early? Can you phone them directly or just their office phone?
Every idea you have for your product will be filtered through your developer, so it is imperative that you can communicate well with them. A good developer won’t just listen to what you’re saying – they will also listen to what you’re trying to say and incorporate this into your planning. But be wary if they seem to take in every word you say, offering no advice of their own. Remember that they’ve been building software for a long time and have seen a lot of successes and failures so their experience is a valuable resource. Make sure you listen when they speak up – good communication is a two-way street.
The internet offers plenty of options for contracting a software developer from another country, and the cost savings can be pretty tempting – up to 30%. However, you must remember that this only represents value if the product is delivered to an equivalent level of quality and timeliness. Even if the skill of the developers is at a comparable level, the communication difficulties due to time zone or language differences can often negate any benefit gained. Unless you have a good understanding of the software development process, your best bet is beginning a project with a local developer and moving off-shore later once your development processes are more established.
The price of your developer is one of the first and most tangible things you can ascertain about them. Obviously, you want to keep your costs low but there are a few important things to keep in mind. Firstly, a low hourly rate means nothing if they take twice as long to complete the project. Secondly, a higher hourly rate generally means the developer is more experienced, which means they are better equipped to handle that one in a hundred disaster that could tie up a junior for days. Finally, people often concern themselves too much with the up-front and short-term costs of a software developer. Trust me – a talented and reliable developer, who prices themselves accordingly, will save you money in the long run with an extensible architecture and software that your customers love.
- Platform Selection
Your software “platform” is analogous to the box of tools your developer will use to build your software and it can have a big effect on the design, usability and overall cost of your project. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, and while a platform may offer extensive features, some of these features may not be relevant to your project. Conversely, the platform of choice may offer a great design for your software, but lack some of the functional capabilities that your project requires. The best way for you to ensure that you choose the right platform is by doing as much research as you can into the matter and then when meeting with the developer, asking them as much as you can about it. If they answer your questions and make it clear for you, then it’s probably a good decision, however if you’re still unclear it might be worth shopping around a bit more.
Embarking on a new software project is a fun and exciting process and hopefully these tips will help get you off on the right foot. For more insightful info on finding the right developer, coupled with relatable metaphors and pictures of bears on tricycles, check out Ben’s book – How to know if your software developer is trying to kill you