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5 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Custom Software Development

Far Reach blog Common Mistakes

Like any other complex endeavor, custom software development is a learning process. I’d like to tell you that at Far Reach we’ve never made a mistake during any of our custom software development projects, but here’s the truth: no project is error-free. The good news is that mistakes can be fixed (and learned from). The bad news is that fixing mistakes costs time and money.

So let’s see how we can take steps to avoid them in the first place.

5 Common Mistakes in Custom Software Development and How to Avoid Them

Custom software development is neither cheap nor fast. It is, however, one of the best ways to future-proof your business and get an edge over your competitors. We’ve written more about the pros and cons of bespoke software here

Let’s see how you can take advantage of the benefits while avoiding the most common pitfalls.

Poor Planning

Planning in custom software development is a tough balancing act: you don’t want to rush into the project with no plan, but you also don’t want to decide every little detail before you start writing code.

Since this is a lengthy process, the scope of work may change along the way and, consequently, flexibility and adaptability are two big benefits of custom software.

This is why it’s a good idea to decide on and flesh out requirements for the must-have features and functionality toward the beginning, leaving the nitty-gritty details of lower priority features for later in the project.

Solution: Ask your development team what they need from you to get started and provide that information. An experienced team knows that the scope of work can (and, very likely, will) change along the way, so the focus will be on determining the highest priorities.

Poor and Fractured Communication

This is where your software development partner should set the tone: communication has to happen throughout the project, not just in the planning stages. Some people think that once the development team knows the plan, they will contact you only when the MVP or the final product is ready.

But this is a recipe for disaster.

A worst-case scenario, which used to happen a lot with the waterfall development approach, would be a client finally seeing a finished product after months (or years!) of development and realizing that the system isn’t what they needed. Requirements were misunderstood or needs changed since the plan was developed, and now rework is required.

Your needs will change throughout the project—as you learn from your team and users—and your development partner needs to know because it can affect priorities. 

Solution: Assign one person who is in charge of communication with your development partner. We call this person the client product owner (PO). They should be in the loop through the entire process and have regular meetings and communication to discuss details of the project. This will give you an opportunity to ask questions, address any concerns as they arise, and to ensure you’re building out the highest priorities at any given time.

Not Budgeting for Contingencies

There are three major components to any software development project:

  • Time 
  • Cost 
  • Scope

If one of these changes, it will affect the others. For instance, if you increase the scope of work, the project will take longer to complete and it will be more costly. If you need a feature (or entire system) implemented on a faster timeline, you will likely have to decrease the scope of work.

In our experience, such changes are inherent to every project. We work hard to account for routine changes in our project estimates, but sometimes a client learns something that requires additional features or functionality. 

Solution: Add a contingency to your planned custom software development budget. This will ensure that you don’t have to scramble for additional resources mid-project or delay the system’s delivery if something radical comes up. You can read more about budget contingencies in software development and how to set them here

Skipping the MVP Phase

An MVP (minimum viable product) is a must-have step in every custom software project. Chief among the reasons for starting with an MVP include:

  • You get to use the mission-critical features of the software sooner
  • It’s easier to make beneficial changes when the software is tested in real-life scenarios

Contrary to popular belief, an MVP doesn’t add to the development time—it shortens it. By getting the system into users’ hands early, you can start collecting feedback and adjusting system requirements based on it.

Solution: It can be tempting to ask for full product delivery right out of the gate. Maybe you feel like you don’t want to put an “unfinished” product in front of your users. But in our experience, getting an MVP into users’ hands saves time and money over the life of the project. 

Prioritizing Design Over Usability

Avoiding this pitfall is especially relevant for internal-only applications that only employees will be using. Extraneous design elements—like fancy transitions and effects—add needless complexity to the software system. It can slow down the system, confuse users, and eat into the budget unnecessarily.

Think about it this way: design is what attracts users, usability is what gets them to stay or, in internal software, what makes them more productive. A cool design looks nice but doesn’t necessarily help you meet your goals.

Solution: Usability should be your main concern when thinking about look and layout. Practical is usually better than pretty (when you have to choose between the two). A well-built custom software system can look plain but revolutionize internal workflows.

Wrapping Things Up

No one benefits from extended deadlines and a long string of avoidable mistakes—not the developers, not the clients, and not the users. Most of these custom software mistakes can be avoided by working with an experienced team that has your back. 

This is why, at Far Reach, we act as your partner. We guide you every step of the way and warn you when a decision can have unintended consequences. We know that our success depends on yours, so you’ll always have us in your corner.

Curious about what working with a real custom software development partner looks like? Reach out, we’d be happy to guide you through our process.