For businesses and software houses alike, bespoke software development is a complex project to tackle. Whilst the team here at BSPOKE software strive to simplify the stages of software development for our clients, there’s no denying that a huge amount of time, effort and resources go into creating a tailored software solution. Considering this, it makes sense to become as informed as possible and stay aware of common industry pitfalls that other organisations can fall into.
With over a decade of bespoke software development experience, we have a huge breadth of experience across a host of different industries and sectors. Leveraging this knowledge, our team have put together a list with six of the most common and easily avoidable mistakes businesses make when it comes to bespoke software projects. Utilise this as a resource for your upcoming plans or simply as a reference point throughout your software development journey.
1. Forgetting to Outline the Project Goal at the Beginning
To begin with, it’s important to fully map and decide upon the scope and goal of your bespoke software project before beginning the development cycle. For both software houses and internal development teams, there are few things as frustrating as an ambiguous brief that lacks focus. To ensure you are going to be fully satisfied with the result of your development work, the brief should be as detailed as possible to give the developers a full understanding of what you want and what you aim to achieve.
If you find yourself unsure about a project’s scope, aim or specification, this should be highlighted, worked through and decided upon before any design or development work occurs. This way, there is no risk of people spending hours on unnecessary features or slightly incorrect design choices; which leads nicely onto the next point.
2. Over-Complicating the Bespoke Software Solution
Creating a system which can solve multiple pain points is usually the very purpose of investing in bespoke software. That said, trying to build a solution which solves too many different pain points can lead to issues not only in the development process but for users, too.
For developers, the more complex the system the longer it will be to design and create. Furthermore, with more moving parts and a greater number of variables at play, an over-complicated software solution is significantly more likely to have bugs and broken parts, meaning more time testing and a greater likelihood of some issues slipping through the testing process.
For users, over-complexity can result in defeating the very purpose of the software in the first place. User experience designers work with developers to create a clear and effective user experience. If the brief is too complex or the software is designed to do too much, creating an easy user experience can go from challenging to nearly impossible. This issue then trickles down to the end-user who has a very sophisticated tool at their fingertips which can do a huge number of things, yet, it is too complex, long-winded or confusing to use effectively.
Therefore, you’re left with unhappy users after a longer and more drawn out development process – not to mention the likely drop in productivity after this software is rolled out. To summarise, ensure the scope of your project is not too broad. It’s often impossible to optimise every organisational process with a single piece of software.
3. Neglecting the Power of Developer and End-User Testing
Over the last decade, the team here at BSPOKE have worked with a huge variety of clients and something that we often get queried about is software testing. How long will it take? Can it be finished more quickly? Why is it important? Whilst the time taken to complete testing can vary from project-to-project, the importance of end-user testing, as well as developer quality assurance testing, cannot be emphasised enough.
Developer testing is something that we do extensively for our clients. This is the act of testing the software to identify bugs, inconsistencies and issues, which are then patched and fixed by the development team. This is important from a functionality perspective; developer testing makes sure that your bespoke software solution works as it should. Read more about the importance of quality assurance software testing here.
On the other hand, end-user testing is less about the nitty-gritty details of the code (though, if an end-user recognises a bug, that should be highlighted) and more about the practical impact of the software solution.
Every business enters the bespoke software conversation with a vision or goal in mind. You would like to solve a specific issue, optimise a certain set of processes or provide your software as a service (SaaS) for a client. Regardless, the people who will be benefitting fro your software – the end-users – are those best placed to provide constructive criticism and feedback on the solution. End-user testing is about giving the all-but-completed software to your target market or audience and asking them to highlight areas of improvement which would make their lives easier. This is invaluable for fine-tuning your bespoke solution and ensuring you achieve the very best final product.
4. Refusing to Consider Off-the-Shelf Software Integration
For many, particularly in the SaaS sector, the idea of incorporating other software into their solution seems counter-intuitive. Why invest in a bespoke solution if you’re just going to use other, off-the-shelf software to make it operate at its full capacity?
Whilst API incorporation and software integration aren’t suitable for all projects, it can be incredibly useful for some; in particular, for software solutions which require a fast turnaround or specific compatibility with data from market-leading sources. API integration can drastically speed up the development process by removing the need to built custom tools to function as the integrated software does. Similarly, for businesses which need access to certain datasets or information which are collected and stored by external providers, it makes significantly more practical sense to pull this data automatically via an API within the bespoke software, rather than house it externally.
Whilst not suitable for everyone, off-the-shelf software integration can be incredibly helpful and should be seriously considered.
5. Downplaying the Importance of UX
Whilst we have already touched on how certain pitfalls can impact user experience, it’s important to make a point of emphasising how essential UX is to creating effective bespoke software. UX plays an essential role in software design as it has a direct impact on the value of the software once it has been implemented. Without intelligent information architecture and UX decision making, you can build an exceptionally sophisticated and impressive piece of software than has little-to-no impact on productivity or the end-user, simply because they struggle to use it effectively.
Whatever the purpose of your bespoke software project, UX should also be considered within your design decisions.
6. Identifying Key Industry Trends and User Expectations
Finally, particularly for SaaS businesses, conducting competitor research identifying industry trends and defining user expectations is key to creating a successful and disruptive bespoke software product. Whilst every SaaS business strives to have a USP which separates them from competitors, for most, much of their product’s scope and specification will be similar to others in their sector.
Often, clients see similarity as a bad thing; they strive for differentiation so that their brand can stand out and whilst this is a great point, it should be moderated. Customers develop an expectation from the software they use, particularly if it is a business tool. These expectations can vary from terminology to specific functions. For example, most digital marketing software will include analytics data and that analytics data will also use the same units and abbreviations.
Identifying these industry standards and incorporating them into your own bespoke software product is essential for providing future users with an easy learning curve and transition. This is fundamental for customer or user acquisition and, more importantly, retention.
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At BSPOKE, we pride ourselves on tailoring our service to you and your specifications. With dedicated account managers, both fixed and hourly pricing as well as years of hands-on experience, we are here to leverage our expertise and create the perfect solution for you and your business.