Finding Good Software Developers
So, you’re working on your new startup. You’ve got a great idea for a new smartphone app and website. Your business plan is in place, and you’ve even got some marketing materials created. But there’s one problem: You aren't a software developer.
This is a regular occurrence and, of course, there a lots of people out there with great ideas that need to find a software developer to execute for them. But courting software companies can be tedious. What’s with all the buzz words? How do you know they truly know their stuff? What are you really getting into? These are questions that can plague you and, to be sure, they can be difficult to answer.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the topics you’ll want to discuss, some questions you’ll want to ask, and some of the things you’ll want to avoid with any potential software developer you may be looking to work with. Hopefully, by the end of it, the entire process will be a little more clear to you, and you can start looking for a software developer with a nice confidence boost.
Steer Clear of the Cheapest Companies
The old adage of you get what you pay couldn’t apply more to software development. Cheap development services almost always indicate poor development skills. What’s worse, is that by the very nature of software development, cheap development will actually cost you even more in the long run. Here are a couple of reasons why:
This a term used in the software industry to indicate that a debt is owed to the software. Cutting corners, using hacks, writing quickly-written code that accomplishes a goal but not efficiently — this is all technical debt. When these things go into a live program, it’s something that will eventually need to be addressed. You will be under mountains of technical debt with a poor software developer. And you’ll have to pay that debt by hiring a competent one.
Many companies that offer cheap services upfront attempt to pull a fast one on you by getting you to pay for their software development and then attempting to license the same software to you. Or they’ll give you compiled programs and demand extra for the source code. Avoiding the cheap developers will help you avoid these sorts of issues.
Understand the Tech They Use
Any development house worth its weight is going to be highly proficient in just a few programming languages and technologies. If you come across developers that claim to work in a plethora of languages, give them a wide berth. The rare exception to this rule would be if you were using a large, enterprise-level firm.
Moreover, you’ll want to do your homework about the kind of technologies that can be used to build what it is you’re trying to build. Take your notes and compare these to what the developers are offering. Seek the ones that offer what you need.
Another thing you’ll want to inquire about is their methodologies. Keep in mind that most software development firms will be using an Agile methodology, complete with SCRUM. The developers should be able to tell you about their sprints and stand-ups during their projects. If they don’t subscribe to a development methodology, keep on moving.
Dig into Their Portfolio
Just as a person’s experience defines them, every agency’s past work defines them. More specifically, it defines their portfolio.
Take a long, hard look at their portfolio. Don’t just look at their website though. Go and visit the sites they’ve made. Download the apps they’ve created. Play with them and learn about them. Think about whether or not the quality of these things are on par with what you’re expecting.
You’ll also want to ask for recommendations to previous clients they’ve worked with. Reach out to them and find out how it was for that company to work with this agency. Software development takes a lot of time and resources, so it’s important to be thorough here.
Say No to Yes
A terrifying prospect when talking with software developers are the ones that respond with “yes” to all of your inquiries. This is a huge red flag. Keep in mind that these people supposedly have very intimate knowledge of the systems they’re designing and building, where you do not. So, it’s nearly impossible that every feature you’re requesting is reasonable. At some point, they’ve got to respond with a negative. If a developer responds with, “no, this feature will take too much of your time and resources to implement,” then they’re probably telling the truth.
Yes, chemistry. No, not the stuff you did in high school. Assuming the agency you’re talking to has passed muster up to this point, you’ll want to think about the chemistry you have with them. Do conversations flow easily? Do their values match those of your business? Do you share a laugh with them here and there?
This may seem insignificant to some, but it’s immensely important. Software development, when done correctly, takes a very long time. You may be spending the next several months collaborating with these people. So, with this in mind, it stands to reason that you should get on with them.
Software development is a tough game, and there are definitely some less-than-savory companies out there. But you probably didn’t get this far by being swindled easily, so, take what you’ve learned from this guide and go forth and make that app.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shane Zilinskas is Founder and CEO of Los Angeles software development agency ClearSummit, and Co-Founder and CTO of TuneRegistry, a music rights SaaS platform. He also provides consulting services to startups and enterprise companies. Prior to working in the agency space, he built news media backends and part of the FAA’s air traffic control system. He has a passion for efficiency and combining the best tech and design to solve complex problems.