What is Custom Software Development?
Custom software development is the process of building an application for a specific individual or business that fits their precise requirements. Contrastingly, off-the-shelf software is developed to provide a general set of features for all users. Though many powerful off-the-shelf applications provide niché features, they can be challenging to implement into specialized industries.
Having bespoke software developed is an excellent way to streamline business operations, such as data handling and website management. Custom software gives users a unique UX with access to functionality otherwise unavailable.
When sourcing a custom software development company, you may be tempted to hire offshore developers. There are several lures to offshore development, but even more risks than onshore. This article discusses the pitfalls of offshore custom software development, helping you avoid hiring the wrong company.
Hiring an offshore development company means outsourcing a remote team of developers, or an individual, from another country. Often, offshore development agencies employ an unstable business model, resulting in an inferior final product (more on this later). So what exactly draws people to offshore software development?
Typically, offshore development agencies offer low rates due to reduced labor costs. This is because countries where software exportation is common have lower average wages. For example, the average yearly salary for a software developer in India is just $7,714 ($3.70 an hour/$642 per month).
US Sales Team
Many offshore development companies will employ US salespersons to generate business from offices across the states. This makes the agency look like a local American company, misleading consumers into purchasing software they believe is made onshore. As a result, consumers don’t realize they’re paying for imported software development services.
Pitfalls of Offshore Custom Software Development
No Legal Recourse
When working with an offshore company, it can be challenging to pursue legal action if a dispute arises due to differing laws and jurisdiction issues across borders. Even the most tightly written contracts may not be enforceable. This can lead to financial damages, undelivered products, and time wasted.
In some cases, hiring an offshore software developer could put your intellectual property at risk. Every country has different copyright laws, meaning that your custom software design could easily be stolen. Filing legal action would be arduous and likely to no end due to few options for legal recourse.
Low Prices Are a Myth
Perhaps the main draw to custom offshore software developers is the low prices, promising excellent value for money. Offshore development companies mislead clients into hiring them with offers that are too good to be true.
Recently, an individual approached Idea Maker, looking for bespoke onshore software development. This person had previously worked with an offshore company charging the attractive rate of $15/hr. However, after requesting additional features, the offshore agency quoted 1000 extra hours of work, pushing the cost of development up exponentially.
This story serves as a warning about the hidden cost of offshore development. No matter which development company you’re working with, it’s always important to evaluate the total project cost rather than the hourly rate.
Poor Product Quality
Offshore development agencies typically focus on achieving a high output volume, meaning they cut corners on quality. There are many ways to develop a project, but this attitude often results in poor research of industry regulations and socio-economic factors. This leads to software that doesn’t comply with local laws and mandates, as well as unprofessional code.
For example, ensuring your software is ADA compliant is crucial in the US; otherwise, you could face an ADA lawsuit. An offshore developer will likely not understand the importance of ADA compliance, resulting in software that fails to satisfy regulations. This means not only could you face legal action, but your software would be inaccessible to disabled Americans.
Bad Programming Practices
Offshore custom software development companies will often sacrifice quality for speed and cost. This typically is a result of the business model offshore companies follow, where contractors are free to come and go on a project by project basis. The high turnover rate means contractors have no incentive to produce quality code
Often, many developers are assigned to the same projects for faster output without proper communication channels. In one example, duplicate code was created by the various independent workers leading to functions clashing, more bugs, and delayed projects. .
After hiring an offshore developer, one individual took to Reddit to voice their concerns. They explained that their project had been left without development for months, after reaching 85% completion. The delay resulted from a poor working attitude and a lack of professionalism, potentially costing the client thousands more in fees.
Substandard Architecture Choices
In order to increase their rates, offshore custom software developers will make substandard architecture recommendations. For example, one client reported that offshore developers used enterprise-level third-party services that cost $1000 per month. This was unnecessary and exponentially boosted the cost of development.
Another client became stuck with a developer that chose to use a microservices architecture. This was a costly and complex service that was a challenge to manage. As a result, the project cost was likely increased due to expensive architecture use and extended development time.
No Post-Development Support
Once a client’s project has reached completion, the offshore development team will want to move on straight away. This leaves clients with unsupported products, post-development. As a result, it’s difficult to get bugs fixed and carry out general maintenance without hiring a new developer.
In many cases, projects are left unsupported because individual developers leave the are chasing full-time work. An example of this is a project developed by a toptal.com programmer. While highly skilled, the developer wasn’t interested in part-time work, providing sporadic bug fixes at best, and moved on to another project.
After the developer left, the client’s application lacked crucial support and enhancements. Thankfully, Idea Maker agreed to take over the abandoned project, providing the client with the support and maintenance their software needed. As a result, they could continue marketing and using their product.
Product Held Hostage
There have been numerous instances where offshore developers claim a project took longer than expected. In turn, they ask for more money above the initially agreed rate. Without options for legal recourse, or adequate contractual documentation, you could risk your final project being held hostage.
If the client doesn’t pay up, the agency doesn’t turn over the code. When this happens, little can be done, as the code is typically hosted on the company’s server. As a result, the project is lost until more fees are paid, and there’s usually little evidence to support the extra working hours claimed by the agency.
Difficulty in Changing Developers
When choosing a developer, you also decide on what tech stack your software is built. This determines how the back and frontend are coded and how mobile applications are built. For example, at Idea Maker, we prefer Vue for frontend, Django for backend, and React Native for mobile development.
When switching developers, the new tech stack must match the original, or further development will be difficult. This is down to the lack of documentation provided by offshore developers and obscure tech stacks being used. Resultantly, only the original developer will clearly understand the code.
If the wrong tech stack is chosen, such as one that’s new and untested or too old and obsolete, fewer developers will be available. Resultantly, working with an offshore development company that uses a widely unsupported tech stack means you are likely to get stuck. Even if the product they’re delivering is substandard, taking the project elsewhere will be an arduous task.
How to Choose a Reliable Development Company
Though offshore custom software development has many perils, there are several ways to avoid them. The following tips will help you to choose a reliable development company.
An excellent way to avoid the pitfalls of offshore development is to hire local, onshore software developers. This will mean any contracts between you and the company can be legally ratified and upheld, as well as allowing for legal recourse during disputes.
For example, at Idea Maker, we are local to San Francisco and Orange County, CA. When hiring Idea Maker for custom software development, you can rest easy, knowing we are bound by US laws and regulations. We understand your industry and businesses’ position better than offshore developers and provide a superior product.
When hiring a custom software development company at a fixed rate, the bulk of the fees should be paid at the end of development. Here at Idea Maker, we encourage this to incentivize ourselves to finish the project on time. However, if we charge an hourly rate for a project, clients receive a weekly invoice detailing our developer’s activities by the minute.
You should avoid working with companies that demand large upfront payments and send undetailed invoices. It’s essential to fully understand where your money’s going and what work is being completed throughout development.
Must Provide Basic Documentation
A reliable development company should provide basic documentation regarding your software. At Idea Maker, we provide startup instructions and algorithm explanations, meaning anyone can pick up where we left off. Though this allows you to leave us, smoothly switching developers, it drives us to work harder to keep you.
Agencies that restrict your choice to switch developers should be avoided. As previously outlined, these companies often employ questionable tactics to retain your business begrudgingly. Without correct documentation, you can quickly become trapped with low-quality developers.
Deploy Code Onto Your Server
You are paying for software development; as such, you should have control over your code. That means being able to access it during and after development. At Idea Maker, we deploy the code to your own server and add you to its repository.
Having the code on your personal server means you can access a copy of your program for review as and when needed. Being on your server also means the code is directly in your possession, ensuring the rights to your software are held safely.
Post-Development Support Options
After your software has been developed, it will require regular maintenance and inevitably encounter several bugs. As such, the software development company you choose must provide post-development support options. One way to explore the quality of support is to investigate their portfolio of work, inspecting if previous projects are well maintained.
If a development agency doesn’t provide post-release support, you could find your software working incorrectly. This would adversely impact user experience. For more on post-release support, check out Idea Maker’s guide to Mobile App Development Companies.
Custom Software Development with Idea Maker
If you’re considering hiring a custom software development company, look no further than Idea Maker. We have a team of specialist programmers dedicated to providing quality service and bespoke software.
We are a local US company, so you don’t have to traverse the pitfalls of offshore development. For first-rate custom software development, Schedule a free consultation today.