Custom software can drive incredible change for a business – whether as a consumer-facing product or a business process application for internal use. Yet many decision-makers imagine that the cost of developing custom software puts it out of their organizations’ reach.
It’s not hard to understand why. Much of the software that we use on a daily basis – applications like Microsoft Word or Gmail – are built by giant companies that have sunk millions and millions and millions of dollars into the project in question. Knowing this can understandably lead to the impression that you would have to be a major corporation (or independently wealthy) to fund serious app development.
But the fact is, custom software development doesn’t need to break the bank. There are more cost-effective software development options than ever before, and today it’s possible for even smaller and medium-sized businesses to build custom software affordably.
Here are three reasons why it’s cheaper than you might think to develop a custom app:
1) There are a variety of ways to develop your software.
Today, you’ve got an entire globe of software development partners to choose between, from international companies to individual developers based right in your area. Depending on your needs, development costs might run the gamut from $50 an hour to $200 an hour.
The first step is to find the right fit for your project, figuring out what your budget is and determining who will do the best job for the best price. There are great software developers all over the world, and many of them would likely make effective matches.
The challenges of a project will differ according to the type of partner you choose. The most common issues you might run into when developing with global partners, for example, are communication and cultural difference. If you’re not prepared to engage on that level, you can end up with a problem (and may wish to pursue a more local developer). But with the right expectations and preparation, these projects can work out affordably and successfully.
2) Mixing and matching off-the-shelf products has made it easier to do it yourself.
If your project isn’t highly complex or requires only a limited degree of customization, you may be able to build it on your own.
Larger businesses pursuing complex projects often won’t have the time to dedicate to this approach, but off-the-shelf products are a great option for very small businesses – those based out of homes, say, or just getting started setting up some basic software functionality.
3) Adopting a user’s perspective can help you keep costs down.
If you’re ready to go out and engage a professional software developer or firm, there are process-based ways to keep your costs down.
One of the most important is to examine the product you want to build from the perspective of the user, not your own perspective as the owner of a business. This exercise helps you strip down the first version of your product to the simplest form that will be useful.
Imagine someone who uses your application every day – and then extrapolate the features that will provide the most value to that user. Many people fall into the costly trap of wanting to pile every feature they can imagine on the first version of their application, but that can be an expensive and ultimately wasteful proposition.
Many features might sound exciting or make a great fit for the second or third phase of your app, but the most efficient first step is to imagine the handful of key features that users will get the most use out of. Then allow your users to tell you what they need: whether they are consumers or employees, you’ll get lots and lots of feedback, and this data will define future features for you. If you try to pile on features, you’ll spend money building functionality your users don’t need or want; it’s much safer and more cost-effective to first implement features that you know people need, and then proceed based on hard data.
Many organizations have learned this lesson the hard way, but those mistakes have yielded useful instruction for businesses that are just starting out in software development. By finding a software development partner that matches your needs and defining a simple Version 1.0, it is possible to affordably develop a custom app that drives your business forward.