Choosing a custom software developer is arguably the most important decision you’ll make when creating a mobile app. Much like a contractor for a home remodel, your developer should be someone you can trust—an honest, reliable, and accountable partner throughout the process. Switching contractors mid-project is extremely challenging, not to mention expensive. Without exception, thoroughly vetting your potential partner up front saves you time, money, and frustration down the road.
Choosing well can literally be the difference between success and failure. We’ve come to the rescue on more than one project that went south as a result of poor alignment, lack of due diligence, or simply not knowing how to spot hidden issues in the evaluation process. To that end, based on our diverse and extensive industry experience, we’ve put together this list of red flags to look for to help you navigate when choosing a custom software developer. Be wary of any potential partner who:
1. Doesn’t ask probing questions.
In order to understand your goals, align expectations, and uncover hidden costs, your developer should ask you frequent and probing questions. Even standard features and basic expectations can be misunderstood if your developer doesn’t ask enough–or the right–questions.
For example, a client came to us with a specific requirement for their app: notify users when they are within the geo- fence of an airport. While a standard development approach could have easily addressed this request, our team quickly realized this feature would require the app to be active at all times, sacrificing utility by draining the user’s batteries. In this case, custom development was necessary to deliver the required result. And while custom is often more expensive than standard development, recognizing this need early allowed us to budget accordingly and avoid costly late-stage adjustments.
2. Fails to understand your businesses concerns.
It’s not too much to ask that your developer understand the business problem the technology is intended to solve. Savvy development partners recognize this integral cause/effect relationship. Choosing a partner who can’t appreciate both exposes you to pitfalls at best, and misses the mark entirely at worst. If they aren’t asking about your business objectives along with your technical requirements, they’re only considering half the equation.
3. Fails to outline assumptions.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times—details matter. What you assume is “blue” could easily be interpreted as navy, turquoise, robin’s egg, or myriad other shades of that hue. Outlining assumptions is essential to communicating effectively. Without careful definition, gaps in expectations can easily crop up in mobile app development. Take notifications, for example. Where you might envision a combination of SMS, email, or in-app options, your developer may consider in-app the default choice. A seasoned developer will know how to tease out assumptions and codify them into a shared understanding for the project.
4. Hasn’t highlighted existing unknowns.
Many times, unforeseen problems and possibilities won’t show up until later in the development process. The further along you are in that process, the more expensive they are to explore or resolve. Therein lies the value of a clickable prototype, where unanticipated issues become evident early enough to be accommodated without blowing your budget. For instance, perhaps you planned on an email login feature, but in clicking around your prototype you realize a Facebook login would be more natural. Even a seemingly small change like this discovered too late in the process can have a drastic impact on your budget. A clickable prototype as part of your initial engagement affords you a realistic opportunity to identify issues and opportunities before you commit to full-scale development.
5. Hasn’t shared potential ongoing costs.
Failing to fully disclose potential costs is a trust issue, and trust is one thing you absolutely need in a development partner. Let’s say you’ve decided on SMS/email notifications for your app. Has your developer informed you of any ongoing or additional charges associated with that approach? They should. Failing to do so is not only unethical, but fiscally irresponsible. Failing to fully understand the long-term ramifications of a decision could be potentially disastrous. Honest and upfront discussions about costs and process are non-negotiable and essential to success.
6. Offers a proposal with a significantly lower cost or shorter timeline than other shops.
As the saying goes, “Good, cheap, and fast—pick two.” Many developers are inclined to give low bids as a strategy to win deals because once you’re in with a developer, it’s often really hard to leave. Misguided optimism, overpromising, and a “say anything” mindset can also show up in the proposal stage, with developers distorting timeline expectations in order to secure the project. Often, this is the result of poor communication about the scope of your project.
7. Has a poorly defined process.
Strong partners are upfront about their process and intentional about ensuring you understand exactly how that process will unfold. Savvy developers take the time to understand the risks early in the engagement and mitigate them where possible. They are frank about potential issues and are able to recommend creative solutions to address them. Experienced professionals always have a proven process designed to help you mitigate risk and avoid costly complications.
At AppIt Ventures, we create high-value apps that enhance impact and improve people’s lives. We believe so strongly in technology’s potential to enhance client impact and improve people’s lives that we are willing to share in the up- front risks of development. That includes helping you recognize red flags and ask the right questions of any potential partner.
Contact our team today for a free project consultation.