So, you have an idea for a new software solution. You know, that you need a development company to make this idea a reality. Probably, this is where your certainty ends. There are so many things you need to take care of to make development kick off, and your final product's quality will depend on everything you do when choosing the development company.
It's natural that the scope of pre-development tasks may terrify you, especially if it's your first rodeo. It is great to know your choice. Well, fear not - we have prepared a comprehensive guide to custom software development. Keep reading, and you'll find out how to make all the right choices.
The first question you should ask yourself is: "Do I really need a custom solution?". You can have an alternative to developing a custom solution - acquiring an off-the-shelf one. Besides, you can customize an off-the-shelf solution to tailor it to your needs.
Let's make one thing clear. If you aim to develop a solution for the market and you want to profit from it (e.g., a game or a task manager app), a custom solution is your only choice. It is only when you need a corporate solution that you may consider an off-the-shelf solution.
So, why could an off-the-shelf solution be your best option? Here's a list of reasons to opt for it:
Usually, an off-the-shelf solution is the best choice for small businesses that need budget software. However, there are some cons you should be aware of:
If these cons are something you can't accept, a custom solution is going to be your choice. By its definition, a custom solution is tailored to your every need, so there will be no unnecessary features or scalability issues, upgrades will be done as soon as possible, and the solution will be integrated with your other software. As a result, a custom solution will be your competitive advantage.
On the other hand, getting a custom solution has its cons: higher development costs and longer waiting time. So, make sure you can afford these. For a more detailed overview of custom/tailor-made software pros and cons, make sure to read this article.
So, you've made sure custom software development is what you need and what you can afford. Now, it's time for you to choose who to hire. Generally speaking, you have two options here as well: hiring an in-house development team or partnering up with an outsourcing company.
Hiring in-house developers has the following advantages:
However, there is a number of challenges you'll need to overcome:
All in all, an in-house development team is the best option if your product keeps evolving and you need to be able to make changes immediately.
If this is not your case and you need a development team for a certain period of time, here's how outsourcing can benefit you:
However, nothing is without a con, so you should pay attention to the following challenges (all of them can be avoided if you choose your development partner wisely and make everything clear):
All in all, outsourcing your software development is for you if:
Read this article for more information on choosing between in-house and custom development.
So, you've determined that custom software development is a better fit for your needs. Now, you need to choose the company to work with. There are three outsourcing options based on the companies' location you can choose from:
If this is the first time you outsource development, read this article for more tips you'll find helpful in your particular situation.
Onshore Software Development
Onshore outsourcing has some considerable pros:
However, you should take into account that onshore development usually costs more than offshore or nearshore one. So, it's a good option if your development budget allows for this. Surely, the development costs depend on the hourly rates of your country (e.g., they amount to $100-150 on average in the US), the developers' level of expertise, and the company itself.
Should you choose a local or non-local development company? Well, this depends on your personal preferences. If you don't mind taking a flight to meet with its representatives, a non-local company is a good enough choice. We strongly suggest you not choosing the company based solely on its location instead of focusing on its expertise. It's better to work with the right team rather than a conveniently located one.
Offshore Software Development
Offshore software outsourcing means turning to a company operating quite far away from you. The most popular choices include Eastern European countries, China, and India. Although you may have heard that this option means getting a low-quality product, this is not always true. To avoid this outcome, you need to be thorough when choosing the company to partner up with.
There are three main benefits of opting for offshore software development outsourcing:
Apart from the potentially low product quality, you should take into consideration the following challenges:
All in all, offshore software development suits the companies with a tight budget and well-defined project specifications. Besides, you need to make sure you have an experienced project manager to facilitate the development process on your end.
Nearshore Software Development
Nearshore development combines the perks of onshore and offshore outsourcing. You get to hire developers at a lower cost than in your own country (although it will be higher than in the case with offshore development). Another perk is that you can integrate developers into the process more easily as you are in the same time zone and cultural differences, even if present, are insignificant.
On the other hand, you still need to account for design and UX challenges that are the same as in the case of offshore development. Besides, you'll need to define your project scope in detail before starting the cooperation with a nearshore software development company.
All in all, nearshore development services are usually the best scenario if you need to expand your current development team with several developers and your budget is tight. Take into account that you can need a project manager on your end as well.
The technology stack includes all the programming languages, frameworks, and tools that are used during development to create your product. Defining them beforehand is crucial as you need to know what expertise your development partner should have.
Surely, if you are a non-technical founder yourself, this part is going to be tricky for you. So, if this is the case, we recommend you to turn to experts for advice. Yet, be careful - don't rely solely on your competitors' tech stack or someone's subjective opinions.
Here's what you need to consider when choosing the tech stack for your project:
Bonus tip: if you need a mobile app, make sure to think about multi-platform app development and decide whether you need a native, hybrid or web app.
As the development itself consists of two main parts, front-end (or client-side) and back-end (or server-side) development, you will need to come up with the tech stacks for each of them.
Front-end Development Stack
The front-end part of your software is what your user sees and interacts with.
If it's a mobile app you're after, you'll have to use Swift for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android.
Back-end Technology Stack
Back-end is invisible to your user. It powers the logic of the app, and it's responsible for passing data from the user side to the server side and vice versa.
The LAMP stack is considered to be the most popular one for web service development. It consists of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (sometimes, Python or Ruby replace PHP in this stack). The MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, and Node.js) is often used as well. Another popular choice is the Microsoft stack that includes the .NET framework, C#, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Azure, Visual Basic, winjs, ReactXP, etc. You can read our article on choosing the tech stack for web applications here to find out more.
SDLC stands for software development life cycle, and it is the framework that a development company follows during the development process. Basically, it is a set of tasks that have to be fulfilled at every stage.
There are a variety of approaches a development company may be using, but we won't cover all of them. Instead, we'll focus on two most common ones: the Waterfall model and the Agile software development cycle methodology.
The Waterfall Model
The Waterfall model is the oldest one, and it is often referred to as the 'traditional' model. Its underlying principle is simple - you finish one stage and only then you can start the next one because you rely on the previous stage results.
On the one hand, waterfall has its benefits:
On the other hand, there are considerable cons you need to take into account:
All in all, this approach suits the projects that have well-defined clear requirements and are not innovative one-of-a-kind solutions. If you opt for Waterfall, you need to be sure your requirements reflect the needs and wants of your end users and your hypotheses are correct.
The Agile Methodology
Agile itself represents guidelines that are the basis of full-fledged development frameworks like Scrum, Lean, Kanban, etc. Its main distinctive feature is that the Agile development cycle is not linear - it is iterative. Each iteration results in a working product release.
Its main benefit is that it suits projects that don't have clear requirements yet as you can introduce changes in-between iterations. Besides, this allows you to create an MVP and enhance it with incremental changes with each next sprint. This allows for earlier testing and fine-tuning the final products. Overall, the development process is less rigid than it is under Waterfall.
On the other hand, you should prepare yourself to be uncertain when it comes to launch dates and the final budget.
All in all, the Agile software development life cycle is a good choice if you are unsure about your project requirements and you aim for a revolutionary solution using advanced technologies.
There are tons of articles dedicated to calculating software development costs, and they may even contradict one another. So, we'd like to give you a general idea of what factors impact potential development costs. Basically, they are roughly calculated as the number of working hours needed to develop a solution multiplied by the hourly rate.
Bonus tip: add a buffer of 30% to your custom software development cost for unforeseen circumstances.
Hourly rates vary depending on:
The number of working hours for your project is determined by the complexity of your solution. It, in turn, depends on:
Bonus tip: some technologies and APIs are proprietary, and you'll need to pay for using them in your solution (usually, it is a monthly or annual bill).
There is no universal answer to the question "How much does custom software cost?". So, we recommend you to either get a professional estimation for the software development budget or request a quote from a potential development partner.
The final amount of money you'll pay for development will also depend on the pricing model. Software development agencies typically offer you to use one of two pricing models today: Time & Material or Fixed Price.
Time & Material
According to this pricing model, you are charged based on the number of hours developers spent on your project plus the costs of materials (technologies fees, for instance). This means that you will pay for the actual work done by the development team.
The main perk of the Time & Material model is flexibility. This is why it suits projects that don't have a precisely defined project scope beforehand and/or long-term ambitious ones where the idea is tested with end users and evolves based on their feedback.
On the other hand, you need to brace yourself for unclear development budget - the costs may change throughout the development process. Besides, take into account that you'll need to be more involved in the whole process to be in control of expenses.
This model is simpler and more straightforward: your development partner gives you the price list, you negotiate it and agree upon a fixed cost you'll pay for development.
On the one hand, this means no surprises - the development cost will not change halfway through.
Typically, such certainty comes at a price, and development costs are higher than when using the Time & Material model. Besides, as you need to determine the full project timeline to calculate the costs, this will take more time before the development start.
The fixed price model works well combined with the Waterfall methodology as you need to define the project scope beforehand. All in all, you should choose this pricing model if you have a fixed project scope, a budget you can't exceed, and time limits, your project duration is small up, usually up to 3 months.
Any business endeavor implies taking risks, and custom software development is no exception. There is a number of things that could go wrong, so you need to make sure your risk management is on top to avoid the worst case scenario. So, how do you ensure quality in the software you create? There are six risks you need to be aware of.
Source Code Ownership
It seems obvious that you own every part of your solution, right? Well, it's not always the case. Depending on the company and its policies, it may turn out that it owns your source code, not you. Besides, sometimes, software development agencies include the source code in the pricing but don't provide you with everything you might need to hire another development company afterward (for support and maintenance, for instance).
How can you avoid this scenario? Negotiate these peculiarities and make sure the agreement includes the transfer of ownership of the source code to you.
So, your development partner says they can finish your solution in five months. This may mean one of four things:
Surely, the first option is the most desirable one. To avoid the other three ones, we suggest you get a third-party timeline estimate and make sure the development partner has experience in your type of projects. Besides, always account for potential unforeseen circumstances that may slow development down.
What is more important, you should check the ongoing development progress regularly. Most companies offer you access to a shared task management system where you'll be able to see whether tasks are completed on time.
Just like the deadlines, the cost you are promised isn't always the amount of money you'll have to pay eventually, especially if you opt for the Time & Material model. As frustrating as it is, you will have to deal with this with the 99% probability.
First of all, you'll need to come to terms with the fact that it's a very rare case when you can estimate the cost up to a dollar. So, make sure your budget has a room for unforeseen expenses.
If your budget is tight, prioritizing certain features will help you stay within it - during the development, you'll be able to refuse the not-so-important functionality to save your budget.
So, you get your final product, but you are frustrated with how it turned out. This is a quite plausible scenario, yet it's easily avoidable.
To make sure this is not going to be your case scenario, you need to do three things:
Miscommunication will happen; it's inevitable. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't mitigate this risk and its consequences.
First of all, don't expect to lean back and just wait after the development kicks off. This is not like you order a ready-made item online. You need to be communicating with the development company regularly to make sure you get what you want.
Secondly, make sure you voice your expectations and needs precisely. It's not enough to say "I want a mobile game like Angry Birds". You should discuss every detail of your vision and the cooperation process itself beforehand and make sure they are clear by putting them in the product requirements document. Besides, you should learn to give feedback to make changes efficiently.
Finally, write instead of calling. What's said during calls is forgettable. Your messages are what developers will refer to when reacting to your feedback. Make sure you phrase your thoughts accurately and in detail so that they are easy to understand.
Want to know more about making your requirements clear for any development company? Make sure to check this article out.
We suggest you make communication with the development company regular and consistent. This way, you'll be able to keep your hand on the pulse.
Solution Overloaded with Features
You may want to squeeze every potentially helpful feature in your app. (This is common among both developers and clients.) So, you may end up with paying extra money for features that end users will find useless.
To avoid this, make sure you understand what core functionality you absolutely need. If you need a custom solution for the market, think about that one or two features that will make your solution stand out among countless others. If you need a business solution, analyze your working processes thoroughly to identify which features will optimize them.
You shouldn't feel lost during this journey - if you do, you won't be efficient enough to make it stress-free and predictable enough. The basic outline of any software development process consists of six main stages. Let's take a quick look at each of them.
Don't jump into outlining your requirements just yet. You need to understand why you need this particular product or, in other words, what end users' needs it will meet - this will be the core of your strategy.
To get a comprehensive software strategy, you should determine:
Prioritized Feature List
Now you need to pinpoint what exactly your solution will do. To do this, think about how your end users' will interact with your app. We suggest you follow the user persona formula to make sure this list will be clear to developers: As a [user type], I want to [achieve a certain goal] in order to [the reason]. You can learn more about user stories here.
Bonus tip: interviewing your potential end users can help you determine relevant user stories, especially if you gather their feedback on competitor solutions and watch them interact with such solutions.
Once you've created the list of features, you need to prioritize them (we've already mentioned why feature prioritization matters). There are many prioritization techniques you can use. The bucket method is among the most popular ones: basically, you put every user story in one of the buckets. The number of buckets may vary depending on the solution's complexity, but the one with the highest priority should include features that you can't launch the solution without.
This is the stage where the UX designer views your feature list and creates the solution's architecture and its flow. As a result of this stage, the following items will be created:
Also known as the sprint plan or development schedule, it reflects the timeline of the development process. It is created by the development team, but your involvement is necessary as well.
In order to plan the development, you need to estimate how long the whole process will take by evaluating the number of hours required for each feature and any extra tasks (daily meetings, etc.). Based on the number of hours, development is divided into iterations, and you determine which features get developed during each iteration. Iterations are usually one or two weeks long.
This is the domain of your development partner, true, but it doesn't mean you can lean back and relax. You should keep your hand on the pulse - review the progress in the task management system and communicate with the company if necessary.
At the end of every iteration (if developers work according to Agile), you will get a working product. You should be able to give feedback on whether it meets your expectations and introduce changes in-between iterations if necessary.
There are several things you need to make sure of before launching the release you've got:
Besides, you'll need to review the development plan and determine whether you'll follow it without changes or not.
So, you've got your product and launched it. It is not going to be perfect, and there will always be room for improvement. The iterative software development process presupposes that you'll need to begin from the prioritized feature list again or, sometimes, even the strategy behind new features.
Keep in mind that you should take into account the feedback end users give you.
Do you want to make sure you’ve secured the quality of the web development process. Download our material to learn everything you will need to do this.
The quality of the final product relies on both you and the development company. So, even if you do everything by the book but choose the wrong (i.e. unreliable) partner, you can say goodbye to your return on investment.
So, how do you make the right choice? Here's a guide on how to find software developers:
Let's take a closer look at the project proposals and quotes. You should ask every shortlisted company for one to compare them and make up your mind.
A quick sidenote. Be transparent about your decision-making process - there's no need to give false hope and hide that you are considering multiple companies at the moment.
So, you've got your proposals. What's next? Pinpoint the differences between them and how crucial they are. Neglect the proposals that seem vague (but remember that your project summary has to be detailed and precise for the proposal to be the same).
Selecting the Right Company
There are three main things you need to analyze based on your experience of contacting each company and discussing your project:
Sealing the Deal
There are three contracts that you'll need to negotiate and sign to ensure the obligations are clear:
NDAs are usually mutual. This means that you take on an obligation not to disclose any confidential information about the development company and the way it operates. They are pretty standard for the industry, but do make sure there are no obligations except for secrecy.
SOWs contain the pricing model that you've chosen. We've already covered the Time & Material and Fixed Price models above.
Now, the MSA is what you should pay the maximum amount of attention to. This contract determines the overall cooperation process, and there are four things you need to negotiate:
Overwhelming? Well, it can be, and there's no shame in this. Custom software development is hardly a piece of cake. So, you need to make sure you won't get lost during this journey. We hope that our guide has made it clear what's ahead of you.
In case you are looking for a development company, reach out to us to discuss your project. We'll help you make all the right choices and avoid common pitfalls so that you can get your solution out there in the world in time.
Artelogic can provide you with services of a highly skilled dedicated developer team to identify, target and resolve any problems related to code and program functionality. You get to save money on the headcount of your staff, as well as decrease the maintenance fees. Overall, with our help you can achieve greater efficiency and productivity, ultimately increasing your profit.
Whether you’re planning a startup or have an already functioning active business enterprise, you might have your reasons to require the help of a dedicated developer team.
Get in touch with us and let us know how we can assist you with your project following a straightforward procedure:
Specify the technology you need developed, followed by the skills and specifications you require the team to possess.
From our side, we then process the request and model our actions.
We then select the best candidates specifically for your task through interviewing and testing.
Following this, we make an agreement with you and settle our working conditions, such as management and pay rates.
Our dedicated developer team will ensure the task is performed to the highest standard, keeping you up to date throughout the process and working based on the assigned plan. We will make sure your needs and requirements are met and deliver the project in a timely manner.
You get to alter the size of the team depending on your requirements, budget and preferences.
You get the desired custom software product and enjoy your business flourish.
By the way, you could claim your the further product support and maintenance services at Artelogic as well.
Our goal as a company is to make sure that the work we do increases your profit and brings success to your business. Our aspiration is to deliver personalized service by using top-class technologies that are the most relevant to your case. By hiring us, you can enjoy the following benefits:
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There is no need for trial-and-error experience that is unavoidable with the usual hiring process. Save your time and money by letting us choose reliable specialists for you.
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By entrusting your project to us, you’re allowing yourself to focus on management, strategies and leading your business to advancements.
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