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How to Choose the Right Custom Software Developer

choose custom software developer

There’s a reason people consider tech a frontier. It’s full of all those “never been done before” possibilities to create something new, something novel. From the mundane (but super helpful) database development to cutting edge social platform apps; custom software development transforms the “what could be” and makes it into reality. For many, that’s where custom software comes into play.

While we could talk for hours about all the cool ways software has created new solutions and options in our tech lives, let’s talk about what’s possibly the most crucial part of any custom software project; the software developer.

Choosing a custom software developer can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s talk about what you can do to find the right software developer for your custom software project. We’ll start by looking at what you can do to prepare for your project before moving onto what to look for in a software developer candidate.

Hiring a Great Software Developer

Going from the idea to the product stage can be challenging. Design and development are two of the most crucial areas. Often, embarking on a project to create a custom software solution requires partnering with a software developer. How do you find someone with the right mix of creativity and experience who is also affordable, reliable, and capable?

In a 2018 report on State of Software Development, over 33% of companies listed hiring talent as their biggest software development challenge. So clearly, finding the right person or team to help bring your software development goals into fruition is tough.

custom software development

First step: Identify You Custom Software Needs

Before you jump into quotes and interviews, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of what you need, what its purpose will be, and when you’ll need it by. Without a clear understanding of what the project needs from a developer, you won’t know who’s really qualified for the project.

“The better you describe your needs and what you are developing, the better software developer you will be able to hire.” togglehire

The four questions below should help you clearly define your project before you look for a software development partner.

#1-Is this a new or existing product?

Creating from the ground up is very different than changing something that already exists. Something that exists will be coded in a specific language (think Java, C++, or Python). That means anyone who works on that existing product has to know and be capable of writing in that programming language. When you create from the ground up, you won’t necessarily face that challenge.

Alternatively, creating something new requires much more planning, development, testing, and overall, more time. All of which can be difficult to find and costly.

Each project is different and deciding to update or recreate can be difficult. If you’re having trouble deciding if you should expand functionality on an existing product or create something entirely new, consulting with a reputable IT team can help you identify the pros and cons of each option.

Regardless of which option you choose, having a clear vision of what you want your outcome to be is the first concrete step in a custom software project.

questions#2-Who, What, Where, and Why?

OK, so technically this is four questions rolled all into one, but bear with us here. These are the nuts and bolts of your software. The answers to these questions will help your team build the product to suit both your needs and ambitions.

Who will be using this software? Customers, employees, or both?

What are you building? Are you building a certain software application? A CRM tool? A database solution?

Where will the software be? Will it be an app on mobile devices? Will it be used on computers in an office?

Why would they use this software instead of something else or nothing at all?

The more detail you can provide when answering these questions the better aligned your team will be on what the goals of the project are and what success looks like.

#3-When is the deadline?

This question is difficult. While tomorrow always feels like a great answer, it’s typically not the reality. Providing an honest and realistic target for completion is important. Consider that speed normally comes at the expense of budget or quality.

Most projects can also be completed in phases, rolling out functionality and enhancements over time. Your initial goal may change as you work with your development team on milestones, resources, and budgets. But starting with a target helps everyone involved prioritize and plan.

#4-Will you need help post-launch?

Do you have folks on staff who can pick up maintenance of your software once it’s launched? Or do you need a long-term partner to support your software? If you’ll need help long-term, you’d ideally want the same team that built your software to support it. After all, there is no one else in the world that will know it better.

It would be wonderful if your custom software worked flawlessly and never needed any updates from the first launch day, but we all know that’s not a guarantee. While many development firms offer ongoing support, it’s not a given and should be discussed before embarking on a project together.

Second Step: Choosing a Custom Software Developer

OK, now that you’ve nailed down what you want, you can move on to figuring out how to hire a software developer.

Hiring a custom software developer is more than just finding the right price. Software development is a blended skill that includes both talent and experience. But this process isn’t just about them. You need to make sure you’re comfortable and that you’ll make a good team together.

Are They Qualified?

Qualified can mean a couple of things here. In the most basic sense, you want to know they have the technical expertise to complete the work. In the case of some projects, that may be an array of skills involving things like project management, creating wireframes, writing code, testing, and maintenance.

As you define your project and scope, you may quickly find that the qualified party isn’t just one developer but a group. Many projects require a team approach and require working with a development company instead of an individual contractor.

While that may sound more expensive, hiring a company instead of an individual usually isn’t money but does offer a lot more value. As a client, you’ll be happy to see a broader skill base, faster development timelines, and extended support hours.custom software agreement

Do They Understand You?

Ask any couple what’s been the secret to their success and many will tell you communication is key.

A good partner will take time to get to know what you do, what you need, what you want, and what you’d love to have. A great partner will create a proposal that shows how well they understand the job and you. They’ll explain why they would not only do a great job completing the project but adding value to your business overall.

Can They Provide References and Recommendations?

If they’ve done great work before, there will be people willing to tell you about it. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and recommendations. Don’t be shy about contacting references you’re given, either. Make sure to ask their references what their experience was working with the business.

Ask questions like:

  • Did the project stay on budget?
  • Were they easy to communicate with and quick to respond?
  • Did they provide ongoing support?

After all, good companies will be proud of their work. Steer clear of anyone who doesn’t want their work talked about.

Do They Have the Capacity?

This question can depend on your timeline. If you need work urgently completed, do they have enough team members with the time and ability to work on your project?

Can the company complete independent elements concurrently? When can they start on your project? Having explicit conversations about what their team can do, what can be done when, and other timeline issues before starting work will ensure that everyone understands abilities and limitations.

Can You See Yourself Together Forever?

Well, maybe not forever. This doesn’t have to be a story about two star-crossed lovers finding happiness. But it is fair to ask yourself if you could see yourself working with them for a long time. For this one, it’s definitely OK to go with your gut.

Most custom software development involves lots of communication, collaboration, and post-launch support. So if you don’t enjoy talking with them before their hired, you may hate working with them forever. Because custom software is unique in its design; you benefit from the developer being involved in any ongoing maintenance and support.

So you’re likely looking at a long-term relationship. It’s worth finding a group you enjoy working with.

Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about how they work and what their culture is. There are three types of questions to understand a company better:

  • General (work process, communication, responsibilities)
  • Technical (tools, tests, documentation, practices)
  • Business (rates, management, experience)

And for the logic side of us on this one, picking a company that’s stable and well established also pays off here. Since you’re going to need ongoing support, it’s best that you choose an established company with a strong reputation. Nobody can predict the future (as we’ve seen with the COVID pandemic) and staffing problems or a lack of physical office space could hint at instability. It pays to do your homework and most of all, listen to your gut.


Custom software can be exciting. It’s the gateway to creative solutions and new ideas. And often, it’s absolutely the right investment for your business. Take your time, create a plan, find the right partner, and get started.

If you’re ready to start your custom software development project, Atiba’s Half Geek, Half Human team is ready to dive in and find the right fit. Reach out to us today for a free quote!

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