So you have a killer app idea and you want to ride across the golden rainbow to become CEO of the next Facebook or Twitter. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
But then reality hits: you realize that you don’t know anything about software or how to create your app.
It’s time to buy custom software.
If you’re new to the software development process, think of buying software like buying a home.
Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as Sparta. You may not die in the process, but if you don’t approach custom software correctly, it can be a pretty brutal experience.
Building Software: Easier Said Than Done
A lot of people seem to think that buying software is a one-size-fits-all kind of operation; that all you have to do is come up with a catchy idea, send it off to a software company to develop, and poof, there’s your million dollar app. But approaching software from this angle is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Buying software is much more complicated than just speaking your exciting new idea into existence. It’s a multi-layered process, and each aspect has to be thoughtfully considered, or you just might not end up with the app of your dreams.
At Fearless, we find it helpful to think about buying custom software like buying a house. When you buy a house, you have to consider every little logistical aspect in order to find a home that matches your budget and your fantasies. Every house has the same essential building blocks, but how those pieces fit together can make or break your dream home. And software is much the same.
When Buying a Home, You May Ask Questions Like:
- Do I want an apartment, a row house, a detached home, or maybe even a mansion?
- Do I want granite countertops, or would something more utilitarian and cost effective suit my needs?
- Do I need a big yard, or do I actually really hate mowing the lawn?
When buying software, you should ask yourself the same kind of questions:
- How many users do I want my app to be able to support?
- What kind of design do I like?
- What do I really want my app to do?
While it’s important to have a general idea of what your software will do, specificity is key. Deciding that you want to make a photo-sharing app is a great step, but remember: photo-sharing can range all the way from Instagram to Flickr! Hammering out the details as early as you can will simplify the process from the very start.
Just as you would when searching for your dream home, you need to figure out exactly what you want out of your custom software to determine whether or not your dream app is in your price range. Once you’ve decided if you want your software to be more like an urban condo or a beachfront mansion, we can try to workshop a solution that fits your budget and your needs.
Decide on Your “Must Haves”
Just like in the home-buying process, the more prepared and informed you are, the better chance you have of being satisfied with your custom software product. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as realizing that your dream app is out of reach, but doing research on the front end can help you arrive at a product that both you and your developers are happy with.
For example, if you know that hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances are “must haves” in your new home, it helps your realtor rule out properties that wouldn’t meet your needs. Similarly, if you know that your software “must haves” include a mobile and web based app and seamless integration into existing state databases, we can give you a much better estimate of what the project will entail, what the timeline will be, and how much it will cost.
In addition to coming up with a list of your own software “must haves,” we recommend that you answer the following three questions before you commission a company to develop your product:
What Can You Afford?
While many house hunters want a large home with a big yard and top-of-the-line appliances, it’s important to remember that not all would-be home buyers can afford every amenity on their wishlist. The same goes for software, so it’s incredibly important to figure out exactly what you need your software to do, and then see if you can afford the extras that you want.
Granite counter tops might be prettier, but laminate still does the job. Would you rule out a house that had more affordable finishes if it was otherwise perfect for you? Deciding what compromises you’re willing to make can help keep your dream app within your budget.
And remember, you can always add on later. Determine what your budget is for a minimum viable product, and consider adding in the extras after your app is off the ground. While not every house has walk-in closets and an en suite bathroom, these can easily be added on in future renovation projects.
What Are the Comps?
As most realtors will tell you, it’s important to get a feel for the available housing stock so you know what options you have. When you take a look at what’s currently on the market and realize what your deal breakers are, it helps you customize your search based on what works for you and what doesn’t.
So when you’re buying custom software, one of the most helpful things you can do is find apps that are similar to the one you want to design, and then identify what you like about them and what you don’t. Do they reach the same target audience, but they’re not very user-friendly? Do you like their design, but they’re still missing key features?
Our major inspiration for building the HUBZone compliance and certification tool HUBFinder was our frustration with other HUBZone mapping software. We were able to pinpoint exactly what didn’t work in the comps and create a new app that streamlines the HUBZone certification process for companies across the country.
Trust us: it’s much simpler to create something you’ll love when we know what you think misses the mark. When you can compare your idea to other apps on the market and tell us what you like and dislike about them, you make it much easier for the developers to tailor your software exactly to your budget and your needs.
How Soon Do You Need to Move?
Finally, it’s important for you to decide how soon you need your new product. Some buyers want to move into their new home within 35 days, and this might rule out houses that have a lengthier closing process. Others are happy to give their realtors and lenders as much time as they need to sort out the complex home-buying process, as long as they end up with the house of their dreams.
Before commissioning your new custom software, you need to decide where you fall on that spectrum. Do you need your new app by the end of the quarter to launch it by your company’s deadline, or are you willing to give the developers more time to work out the kinks? When you order custom software, always have your end date in mind so your new software team can figure out exactly what they can offer you in the timeline you need.
Phew. Ok, Now What?
Congratulations, you’re ready to create your app!
While this may seem like a long list of tasks for you to do, the more information you can offer your software development team before they start, the smoother the process will go. Your research will give the developers everything they need to complete the project as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
Creating custom software may be intimidating, but once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be ready to team up with seasoned developers to build the app of your dreams.