3 Questions You Must Answer Before Contacting a Software Development Company

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As a company that develops custom applications, Segue often gets calls from entrepreneurs with great ideas for new businesses, websites, or applications which don’t currently exist. When these contacts are for applications or websites that are in the concept stage, they have a tendency to go like this:

Caller: “I have an idea for a new app/website with tremendous potential and I’d like to know how much it will cost to build it.”

Me: “Well, there’s a lot to consider, so it’s hard to give a specific price at this point. Why don’t you tell me a little about how you want this thing to work?”

This is usually followed by a discussion of some of the higher-level functional elements of the app/website. Sometimes, the caller has a really good handle on how it all fits together, and sometimes they’ve just got a basic start of an idea. Either way, we will typically reach a point in the conversation where I’ll have to say something like:

Me: “It’s hard to put an exact price on that sort of thing without getting more detail, but I’d say you’re probably looking at a range of x dollars to y dollars, as a guess.”

Caller: “Really? But I just need an application that does _______.”

In many cases, the caller has estimated a lower price and is wondering how I came up with that range. On the surface, it does sound like it should be simple and relatively inexpensive to build software that “just does _____,” but it isn’t always so. There are a lot of costs and considerations to be taken into account when hiring a company for custom software development, and even a seemingly basic development project involves a lot of moving parts. When a customer has a preconceived notion of how much work there is to be done, but lacks sufficient knowledge of custom software development, it’s even trickier to synch up a rough estimate with their expectations in order to proceed to full solution definition and formal quote.

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Below are some questions you can answer for yourself to prepare you and your entrepreneurial application/website to contact a software development company. Each of these questions supports how software development companies like Segue arrive at an estimate, and the answers can greatly impact how high or low that estimate can be. Answering these questions can also give you a reliable set of information to provide to multiple vendors, so that you can effectively compare their quotes.

Questions You Should Answer Prior to Contacting a Software Development Company:

  1. What is your budget? (and maybe more importantly, how did you arrive at this number?)
  2. What is the single most important element of your site/app?
  3. Could you explain the functionality of this site to a 6-year old?  How about your grandmother?

Based on the answers to the above questions, we should be able to get a reasonable understanding of your needs and determine a rough estimate of effort required for key project components such as Requirements Definition (depth and breadth needed), Development (best technologies, complexity, resources needed), Testing (appropriate methodologies, scope), and even User Interface design. Good software development may be the key to  the success of your product or idea; approaching a development company with the right frame of mind can help the process get started in the best possible manner.

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