19 September 2017 | Jack Fisher
Outsourcing app and website development can be an extremely stressful experience for a business owner. There are several pitfalls that people fall into that can cause pain and misery on both sides of the equation. These mistakes are often costly, and can lead to projects running overbudget with delay after delay. I’m going to try and make you aware of some of these mistakes and offer some advice on how to avoid them. So, without further ado, here are my 5 things to consider when outsourcing app and website development.
Freelancer or Agency?
One of the first questions you might ask yourself when outsourcing app and website development as a business owner is “should I use a freelance developer, or an agency?”. As a member of Pogo Studio, I’m obviously going to suggest you use an agency (perhaps even ours?) but I think I have a compelling reason why. It is true that a freelance developer could get the job done cheaper than any agency could, due to their reduced overheads. But there’s a risk, and it’s a big one. Picture the scene: you’re days away from the launch of your new project, and you call your freelance developer to make sure everything is on track – but he doesn’t answer. You email – nothing. Your developer has gone quiet days before your project is due to launch and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can say goodbye to your project, and goodbye to any money you’ve paid up until this point. Now this might sound like a far-fetched scenario, and I’m certainly not suggesting that every freelance developer would do something like this. But it’s not unheard of, and it’s definitely a risk you don’t want to be worrying about. An agency gives you security that you don’t get from a freelancer – contracts, invoice terms, a statement of work, and the knowledge that they won’t disappear on a whim with no explanation leaving you high and dry.
Does size matter?
Here’s that age-old question again – “does the size of the development agency matter when I’m outsourcing my project?” Should you go for a large agency? Small agency? Maybe even a medium agency? It’s no secret that there are literally hundreds of agencies to choose from for your app and website development. So, when it comes to size, how do you know which is best for you? If you’re a large company with hundreds of employees then you probably want to match that size with a large development agency. This is because your project is likely to be a very big one, and you’ll need the manpower to get it completed. Of course, if you’re a business owner with a company that large you probably don’t need to be reading this article, because you’ll most likely have enough experience with outsourcing development work to know what you’re doing. The same rules apply for smaller businesses looking to outsource. A good starting point is to try and match the size of the development agency you use with the size of the project you are creating. One of the downsides to using a large development agency is they often have so much going on that the smaller projects get swept-aside whilst their focus is applied to the larger ones. If they haven’t given your project the care it needs then it can turn out buggy and feel unpolished. This is where the smaller agencies have the advantage – they only take on a small number of projects at once ensuring that each one is given the attention that it needs to be great. It’s also easier to communicate with smaller agencies – you can usually just pick up the phone and speak to the CEO if you have any queries. Which leads me nicely on to my next point: communication.
Communication is key
One of the most common reasons businesses end up dissatisfied with the project that they outsourced is due to a lack of communication. When both parties aren’t abundantly clear about what is being delivered it only leads to misunderstanding and ultimately disappointment. So how is correct communication achieved? There are a few things you can make sure your developers are doing to ensure that things go to plan. The first is to ensure that you receive a proper scope that outlines exactly what will be achieved during the development of the project. Secondly, your developers should be giving you regular updates throughout the lifecycle of the project to keep you in the loop. This may even involve showing you some early stages of the project so you can physically see the progress. If you’re using a development agency then this will usually be handled by a client manager who will always be on hand to answer any of your questions and keep you updated on progress. But good communication is a two-way street, so what should you be doing to keep up your end? Well it all starts with my next point: proper preparation.
It’s all in the preparation
Proper preparation is extremely important. What exactly do I mean by preparation? Ideally you want to have a clear idea of what you require from a developer before you begin discussions with them. Perhaps you want an app for your business. You need to think about exactly what you want this app to do. Some good things to think about are what the app will be for, and who it will be targeting. If you can answer these questions then it will make the next step much easier – outlining all the features of your app. This starts with the function, and trickles down to how many features it has, what those features do, how the user interacts with these features. The more detailed you can make this the more likely your project is going to turn out how you want it to. Don’t get me wrong, if you use a good development agency they will assist you with developing the features of your app, especially with developing the layout and UI (having an expert in UI/UX is extremely helpful in making a great app). However, the more you can get down on paper before starting discussions the faster your project will get going, and the better the overall result will be.
Don’t judge a price by its cover
One of the first things you’ll want to know when you decide to outsource the development of an app or website is how much it’s going to cost. This is logical because at the end of the day cash is king. With that in mind, a common pitfall people fall into is going with the cheapest option without considering why there might be price differences between the options available. Development agencies cost their projects based on time taken to complete. If you are quoted 3 vastly different prices then you should be wary. This could be a sign that the scope of the project hasn’t been communicated clearly. It could also be a sign that an agency is pulling the wool over your eyes, and compromising on quality or planning to add hidden costs once the project is underway. If you are not a technical person it will be almost impossible for you to know that you are being ripped off. The best thing you can do is get a few comparison prices and make a decision about which price seems the fairest. Something else to look out for is the technologies the developers plan to use – make sure they are reliable and trustworthy. The bottom line is that the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the best option – buy cheap by twice.
Outsourcing the development of an app or website can be daunting, especially if you are not from a technical background. I hope that this blog has provided some insight into what to look out for, and the common mistakes to avoid. If you’d like to hear more then please get in touch at – firstname.lastname@example.org