Dedicated TeamBY RabIT software engineering · May 14, 2020

The 4th industrial revolution has caused traditional businesses to shift their focus towards digitization. Many organizations that don’t have software developers on their payroll now need to decide whether to form their own development teams, or outsource their projects to outside providers.

Because you are currently researching this topic, we are going to assume that you’ve already decided to hire external professionals instead of building an in-house development team.

Deciding whether to hire freelancers or an agency to carry out key development projects is not an easy one either. Most software projects require significant time and money investment, and the future of your entire business can depend on the results.

Disclaimer: Since this article was written by a software development agency, it’s fair to expect some bias in here. However, our goal is not to say that agencies are always the 100% right choice in all cases. Instead, the article is only meant to outline the general thought process one should follow when deciding whether to hire freelancers or an agency. There are projects for which working with freelancers makes more sense and vice versa.

With this out of the way, let’s start by examining the benefits and downsides of hiring freelancers as well as agencies.

 

Benefits of hiring freelancers

Lower development rates –  Because they have no overhead costs to worry about, freelancers are usually able to offer more cost-effective rates compared to agencies.

We list this as a benefit here, but lower rates alone don’t mean that your project will be more cost-efficient. If a project gets delayed due to poor source code quality or project management issues, the actual final cost can become much higher.

In-house employment is an option – Companies often decide to permanently hire freelancers who perform well over a longer period of time. The availability of this option only depends on the freelancer’s plan for the future, while it is rarely possible with agencies.

High-level specialization – Freelancers often decide to become specialists in a few development technologies, making them reliable experts in their own field. This can sometimes be a downside too, if your project requires the use of a wider range of languages and frameworks.

Scaling the team is easy – Recruiting new freelancers for a project is relatively fast and easy. There are many freelancer platforms and recruiting agencies out there who can help you do this as well. Once you recruit new team members, the senior development lead can help on-board them to the project.

Note: While finding freelancers is easy, it’s fairly difficult to realistically assess their competencies before actually hiring them. If you don’t have a thorough skill assessment procedure in place, finding the right people to join your project can also take a long time.

 

Potential downsides

Management issues – After a certain point, it becomes very difficult to manage a large team of freelancers. This is especially true if they are working from different locations and time zones. Tracking performance and work progress are among the main management challenges.

Working from home in general can have its own downsides. At first it might sound great, but in practice it can be difficult to provide consistent results if the work environment is too unstable. Potential distractions, and lack of control can cause work to slow down and lose focus.

Communication can be difficult – Without careful coordination,  working from different time zones also weakens the flow of information between team members. It can be extremely time-consuming if you constantly have to ask for updates from each freelancer on your team. Agencies often solve this by dedicating a person to this role full-time.

Also, if there are too significant cultural differences between the employer and freelancers, the effectiveness of communication can decrease further. Even carefully written task specifications can be misinterpreted by the other party, causing delays in the project.

Work overload & split focus – Freelancers often work for multiple clients at the same time. They can also get distracted by solo projects of their own, potentially slowing down the progress of others. Motivating freelancers to focus more on your project can also be difficult. Increasing salaries only works as a motivator up until a certain point.

Potentially high fluctuation – Freelancers often have a change of heart about their careers, either deciding to seek full-time employment or change specialization. This can mean high fluctuation over the course of a longer project, causing progress to slow down every time you have to on-board a new team member.

On the other side of things, agencies will likely remain available for the long run.

Replacing key team members is difficult – If a developer who has spent years developing your software suddenly decides to leave the project, replacing him or her can be a real challenge. Without having detailed documentation, it can also take weeks or even months for new developers to figure out how everything works in the source code.

 

 

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Benefits of hiring  an agency

Streamlined project management and QA processes– Agencies usually have highly optimized project management methodologies in place. Dedicated project managers can help you take care of team monitoring and communication tasks. This allows you to focus more on other, also important areas of your business. You can be sure that the team will be able to effectively communicate in your language, because project managers are specifically trained to possess the necessary language skills.

It is not the case for every agency, but many also have in-house quality assurance and code review processes, which guarantee higher software quality.

Larger knowledge pool – If you work with an agency, you gain access to the combined technical knowledge of dozens of development experts. This is essential for larger, more complex projects that require in-depth experience with multiple platforms, languages and frameworks.

Higher accountability and reliability – While freelancers can disappear from a platform overnight, agencies are registered and regulated by their local governments. If managed well, they can serve as long-term partners over the course of multiple years or even decades.

Signing legally binding development contracts with them also provides much more security for your business, with clearly defined accountability.

Takes care of scaling the team for you – You don’t have to worry about scaling the development team either if you choose to work with an agency. They usually have plenty of available developers to dedicate to a project. They are often also in constant contact with IT recruitment agencies to be able to hire additional developers quickly if necessary.

You also don’t need to worry about replacing key developers if they unexpectedly become unavailable. Agencies can seamlessly take care of this as well.

 

Potential downsides

Higher development rates – Agencies usually work with somewhat higher hourly rates than freelancers. This is understandable, as they also have to cover certain overhead costs. Also, most of these expenses will serve the purpose of ensuring a smoother development process and higher product quality.

They are able to offer added services such as team scaling and recruitment, QA, project or product management and more.

Changing teams can be difficult – If for some reason you decide to take your project to another development agency, this can be hard to do in certain cases. Some agencies might refuse to give you full ownership of the source code, or the contract can even prohibit changing providers over a previously agreed upon time period. We don’t do any of this to provide a high level of freedom for our clients, but these practices do exist in the industry today.

Can’t employ their developers in-house – Permanently hiring a dedicated developer into your in-house team is usually not an option. If it is, it usually comes with a very steep price. However, agencies like ours are always more than happy to long-term partnerships with clients.

 

Based on these benefits and downsides, we can already draw some conclusions.

From our own and our clients’ experience, it’s usually more effective to hire freelancers as an extension to your own team when you already have a well-established development process setup. Management, on-boarding, mentoring, issue tracking, review and other methodologies and processes already should be in place by the time you look for external people.

Without these processes, there will be no way of telling if the cooperation is truly effective or not.

On the other hand, development agencies already have these processes, and competent ones can be trusted to handle the setup of the entire development team. Although this comes at a steeper price than working with freelancers, they can help project owners with either technical or non-technical backgrounds find a fitting solution.

 

How to decide if you should hire freelancers or an agency for your project

Depending on who you ask, and how you define project failure, the IT project failure rate is around 50-70%. Many software projects get cancelled or run out of budget due to project management issues, lack of development experience and various other reasons.

This happens regardless if someone decides to hire freelancers or an agency, or even in-house developers.

With all this said, it is clear that project owners need to be extra careful when choosing development partners. In our opinion, some projects are really well-suited for freelance teams, while others absolutely require the full attention of a dedicated software development agency.

We aren’t saying that it is impossible to complete a certain project with either freelancers or agencies. Our experience shows that some types of projects are simply better suited for one setup than the other.

Many different aspects need to be considered before making this decision. Some of these are:

 

hire freelancers or an agency comparison

 

 

Project scope

In project management terms, scope means the defined features and functions of a product. It can also represent the scope of work needed to complete a project.

If the scope of your project contains the development of a wide range of features for multiple platforms, using different programming languages and frameworks, you should probably consider hiring an agency.

For shorter projects with a more narrow scope, such as developing a website or building an application with only a few core features, it is often more beneficial to hire freelancers.

 

Complexity

Similarly to project scope, you should also take software complexity into account here. A highly complex program is comprised of many different parts that all interact with each other, often through multiple software platforms. Building such a system requires careful coordination, planning and management throughout the whole project.

Agencies are usually better equipped to handle such a project. They have optimized project methodologies in place, and can dedicate specialists to each management and development role.

We’re not saying, of course, that complex projects are impossible to complete with a team of freelancers. If you decide to go with this setup though, you must be prepared to dedicate a significant amount of time to managing the team and monitoring their progress.

 

Scaling

As we mentioned, managing a large team of freelancers can be very difficult. For projects that require you to scale the development team over time, it is definitely more beneficial to work with an agency.

On the other hand, if you are prepared to manage the work of a few freelancers, and you know for sure that you won’t need to scale the team in the future, you can safely choose this option as well.

If your team is prepared to handle scaling management, technical recruitment project management, etc., then hiring freelancers can still be a viable path for you.

 

Accountability

As many other forms of investment, development projects also come with a high amount of risk. Over the course of a longer development project that can last multiple years, many things can go wrong.

In this case, you want to have certain measures in place that guarantee your business’ safety. As government-registered and monitored entities, development agencies are easier to hold accountable if they fail to hold up their end of the deal.

If your project is really key to your business’ success and involves a high level of risk (high investment), we recommend hiring an agency over freelancers.

 

Risk management

This factor is also somewhat connected to the previous one. The best way to prevent failure is to implement risk prediction and prevention measures. Having constant performance monitoring and quick issue resolution procedures can greatly increase your project’s success.

Agencies can usually offer more risk management solutions compared to freelancers. There are more eyes on the project at all times, if a key team member becomes unavailable, someone else can quickly fill in for them. Dedicated project managers can also warn you about potential delays and risk factors in time.

Again, consider the level of risk involved in the project carefully before deciding whether to hire freelancers or an agency.

 

Technical recruitment capabilities

As we mentioned earlier, assessing and verifying software development capabilities can be quite difficult. If your team isn’t equipped with the proper knowledge to complete the vetting process, you risk hiring people with the wrong capabilities.

Agencies usually already have these skill assessment processes in place. They need to make sure that they only hire capable developers, as this is directly linked to their success as a service provider. They can also invest time and effort into improving certain skills of their developers.

If  you are able to set up the necessary technical recruitment processes in-house, hiring freelancers can be a good option for you. Otherwise, go with an agency.

 

Project management capacity

This issue only comes to light when the project has reached a certain level of complexity. After a certain time, product owners notice that they dedicate too much time to monitoring the developers’ progress, and other, also important areas of their business doesn’t get enough attention.

To avoid this, you need to make sure that you have someone on your team who is able to handle project management tasks, even when the project reaches its later stages. If this is not a problem for you, working with freelancers can be beneficial.

If you don’t want to worry about project management, or don’t have in-house knowledge about the right methodologies, we recommend that you work with an agency.

 

To Summarize

The decision whether to hire freelancers or an agency should always be based on the project’s specific requirements. Certain projects can be much better suited for freelancers than agencies and vice versa.

Before making a decision, consider factors such as project scope, software complexity, future scaling, accountability and risk management.

If you aren’t satisfied with the performance of your initial team, don’t be afraid to change to another provider. It is much better to cut your losses early and focus on getting the project back on track instead of wasting additional resources.

Thanks for reading our article. We hope it provided you with some useful new insights. Best of luck to you on your search!

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

NewsBY RabIT software engineering · May 13, 2020

It’s undeniable that Covid-19 has caused a significant impact on the way we work, shop and make payments. People are quickly turning to safer ways of using and managing their money. The increase of digital transactions is already noticable, and experts predict that they continue to rise more rapidly over the coming years.

According to new research conducted by AksjeBloggen, global digital payments are expected to reach $6.7trn in value by 2023.

Earlier data gathered by Statista showed that in 2017, the global digital payments market was valued at $3.1trn. In the last three years, this value increased by more than 50%, reaching 4.7trn in 2020. Statistics indicate the entire digital payments industry is set to continue growing by CARG of 12% by 2023.

The research also indicates that digital commerce represents the leading revenue stream in the digital payments market with a $3.7trn transaction value in 2020, which is almost 80% of the entire market value this year. According to Statista, online buying and selling of goods and services will remain the largest revenue stream of the global digital payments industry in the following years, reaching a total of $4.5trn in 2023.

Statistics also show that throughout the following years we will witness a significant increase in mobile POS payments. In 2017, this segment of the digital payments market was valued at $368.6bn. Since then, mobile payments rose more than 175%, reaching $1trn value in 2020. This rapidly growth is expected to continue in the following years with mobile payments becoming $2.1trn worth industry by 2023.

The recent pandemic has visibly pushed the digital payments market to unexpected heights. This trend will most likely require even more traditional businesses to open online stores with digital payment options.

The rise of mobile POS payments mean that companies in the commerce industry will have to focus on optimizing the mobile user experience of their online more than ever. Based on this research, we can conclude that market players in the eCommerce industry will depend on mobile transactions more than ever over the coming years.

As the future of work, shopping, entertainment and life in general over the coming years remain uncertain, businesses will need to become more flexible and rapidly adapt to changes in the lifestyle of their customers and employees alike.

 

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RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

NewsBY RabIT software engineering · April 21, 2020

According to TechCrunch, on April 21st Apple announced the launch of its App Store, Apple Podcasts, iCloud and Apple Music services to dozens of additional markets in Africa, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Middle East.

According to the tech giant, the App Store, Apple Arcade, Apple Podcasts, and iCloud will now be available in 20 additional nations, while its music streaming service, Apple Music, launches in 52 new countries.

Apple introduced the App Store, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and iCloud in the following countries:

  • Africa: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Libya, Morocco, Rwanda and Zambia.
  • Asia-Pacific: Maldives and Myanmar.
  • Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
  • Middle East: Afghanistan (excluding Apple Music) and Iraq.
  • Oceania: Nauru (excluding Apple Music), Tonga and Vanuatu.

 

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Apple is hoping to increase their sales in the above mentioned countries thanks to this expansion. Their users in these regions have been complaining that they didn’t have access to a wider service ecosystem through recent years.

This can also be good news for businesses that are planning to launch new iOS applications for an international audience.  They will have the opportunity to benefit from the increased reach and exposure resulting from this expansion.

This is the largest expansion performed by a large IT company until now. It is definitely a good time to develop for iOS platforms, as the App Store is now available in 175 countries, boasting half a billion weekly users as per the press release.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

NewsBY RabIT software engineering · April 07, 2020

On Monday, April 6th the European Data Protection Supervisor has called for an EU-wide coronavirus tracking app to be created, instead of every country making its own individually.

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, stated that “The European Data Protection Supervisor, as a data protection authority and as a EU institution, is fully committed co-operate with other European Institutions to put in place as soon as possible efficient measures to fight this existential threat to Europeans, to our economy and to our way of life.”

 

But will this be compatible with GDPR regulation?

According to Mr. Wiewiórowski, “the General Data Protection Regulation, allowed the processing of sensitive private information when it was in the interest of public health.”

After this statement he also added “big data means big responsibility”, meaning that participating organizations must know what they are doing and know that they are responsible for the results of their activity.

 

Therefore, the EDPS ensures the public that they are going to make sure that
“any measures taken at European or national level will be:
Temporary – they are not here to stay after the crisis.
Their purposes are limited – we know what we are doing.
Access to the data is limited – we know who is doing what.
We know what we will do both with results of our operations and with raw data used in the process – we know the way back to normality.”

The GDPR also permits processing of sensitive data when it is necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, such as protecting against serious cross-border threats to health.

 

A number of EU member states have already started developing mobile applications that use different approaches to track identified coronavirus cases.

The EDPS currently considers using Bluetooth for contact tracing to be a “viable path”.

 

The main objective would be the development of a single coronavirus tracking app, coordinated at a European level. The process would ideally involve the World Health Organization as well to “ensure data protection by design globally from the start”.

He reminds us that the crisis will not be over in a few weeks. It will probably take months to overcome it and years to recover afterwards. This solution is meant to connect citizens at a Europe-wide level to be able to solve issues we wouldn’t be able to handle with national tools only.

You can watch the entire video address here, or read the full text here.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

SoftwareBY RabIT software engineering · April 06, 2020

Significant advancements in cloud technology and automation over the past decade have led to the rise of new, disruptive outsourcing solutions. Remote personnel can now be more closely integrated into a company’s everyday work processes. Compared to traditional IT outsourcing, hiring a dedicated software development team is seen as more like a strategic partnership.

Apart from providing staff augmentation services, these teams also actively participate in making critical product-related decisions. Working with a dedicated software development team can feel like having your own remote IT department, with the added flexibility of an on-demand service.

However, reaching this level of efficiency requires careful planning, effective management and a lot of optimization.

The goal of this article is to guide you in building a high-functioning dedicated software development team and identifying ways to improve their efficiency.

 

Why should you consider hiring a dedicated software development team?

While cost optimization remains one of the main reasons for outsourcing, it’s no longer number one. Today, most businesses primarily hire dedicated software development teams to gain access to technical skills that are not available in-house.

When executed well, this can also provide competitive advantage by improving organizational operations, making them more agile, efficient and effective.

Other benefits of hiring dedicated teams are:

  • Faster, more cost-effective hiring process
  • Improves flexibility in use of resources – they can be scaled up or down quickly
  • Allows management to focus more on core business processes

 

1. THE SELECTION PROCESS

Of course, at the core of every development project there is the product itself. Before starting the search for a dedicated software development team, you must already have a clear, well-defined product vision.

Here we’re referring mostly market-related questions. You must define who the intended users are, what the software should do and for which platforms (and devices) you want to develop it.

One of the greatest benefits of working with a dedicated team is that they can contribute to the project from the early planning stages, well before the actual development work begins. They can help you make key technical decisions related to software architecture, features and user stories, and then plan the development process accordingly. This is especially useful if you don’t have any in-house technical expertise.

When selecting your dedicated software development team, keep in mind that you aren’t simply looking for a service provider, but rather a strategic partner. Apart from having the necessary technical skills and experience, they must communicate exceptionally well, and be open to work with you in a completely transparent manner.

This means giving you full insight into their processes and a clear understanding of the ongoing work at all times. Without this, you wouldn’t be able to keep control over the project, and it could easily lose direction over the long term.

 

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When making a decision, collect all relevant information such as team size, composition and seniority, technical knowledge, project history etc., from at least 3-5 vendors. When this is done, evaluate them based on the following criteria:

  • How they communicate – language skills, response time, detail and clarity of information.
  • Have they successfully completed projects with the same level of complexity?
  • Do they have developers with the required level of seniority and technical knowledge?
  • Since we’re talking about long-term cooperation, do they also have a system for expanding their knowledge pool and incorporating new innovations?
  • Do they have effective project management quality assurance processes in place?
  • What did their previous clients say about them? Try to find third-party verified reviews from sites like Clutch.co, or ask if you can speak to any of their former clients directly.

 

2. DEVELOPMENT METHODOLOGY

There is no such thing as a perfect, one-size-fits all development methodology for all teams and all industries. The recommendations in this section are based on our own experience and preferences.

We usually recommend using an Agile methodology based on Scrum or Kanban. We prefer these as opposed to the traditional waterfall methodology because they allow us to include development partners much more closely into the development process. Thanks to regular meetings and product demonstrations, they are constantly able to provide feedback about the completed work, making sure that project stays on track.

Scrum is a project management framework that breaks up longer development processes into two-week periods (or sprints). After completing each sprint, the progress is demonstrated to the product owner, who can then give feedback and make adjustments to the project if necessary.

Close communication and constant inclusion of the client makes the project much more likely to stay on course and deliver positive results.

 

dedicated project manager scrum board

Scrum board example

 

Unlike Scrum, the Kanban approach is not iterative, so it allows the software to be developed in one large development cycle. This cycle has no predefined end point. The software requirements get broken up into smaller work items, which then enter the development process in a prioritized order.

A work item is not allowed to move on to the next phase until some capacity opens up ahead. This approach is more useful if fixed timeframes aren’t sustainable for the project.

 

dedicated project manager kanban board

Kanban board example

 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all methodology. Copy-pasting the Agile manifesto for your team won’t be an ideal solution.

This is why we only recommend it as an outline for your process. It will be up to you and your partner to optimize each aspect of the methodology to fit your organization and in-house team composition as much as possible.

What we do is optimize every aspect of the development process to the needs of each individual client. Everything from frequency and channels of communication, team size, composition, monthly work hours, issue tracking and reporting and much more can all be customized to fit unique organizational requirements. Because of its flexibility and iterative nature, this is called an Adaptive Agile methodology.

 

3. SETTING UP THE INFRASTRUCTURE

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, recent innovations in cloud technology provided developers with some essential new tools for working together from different locations. There are many available solutions for communication, issue tracking and version control that can greatly improve development speed and efficiency.

Which tools your team uses will depend on specific project requirements and personal preferences as well. From our own experience, we recommend choosing from the following solutions:

1. Communication & presentations

  • Skype – For daily updates, group calls and live demos
  • Slack – Dedicated channels where development teams and the client can discuss project-related issues
  • Hangouts – Group video calls, video meetings
  • TeamViewer – Great for screen sharing during live demos

 

2. Issue tracking – tools for managing and maintaining a list of issues (or tasks). We use these to manage tasks during development sprints. We also give access to clients to help them oversee what’s happening with their project. Issue trackers are absolutely key to keeping the development process efficient.

  • Jira
  • Asana
  • Trello

 

3. Version control – tools that allow teams to track changes to a set of documents. They are an essential part of every software development project, where a team of people concurrently make changes to the same files over a long period of time.

  • GitHub – one of the world’s largest software development platforms that provides hosting for software version control using Git.
  • GitLab – popular web-based DevOps lifecycle tool that provides a Git-repository manager providing wiki, issue-tracking and CI/CD pipeline features.
  • BitBucket – also web-based version control repository hosting service for source code and development projects that use either Mercurial or Git revision control systems.

 

4. Other tools

  • Atlassian Confluence – an enterprise knowledge management system that is used to help teams prepare and share software documentation (setup guide, technical details, etc.) efficiently.
  • Jenkins – a CI/CD tool (Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery) that helps automate building, testing, and deployment, to allow continuous integration and delivery during software development projects.

 

4. QUALITY ASSURANCE

Quality assurance plays a very crucial role in the process of software development. It saves money and time by spotting bugs and errors early in the software development life-cycle.

Software that is newly developed may have inconsistencies, redundancies, and flaws; therefore, we think that proper QA should be mandatory. Software testing ensures that the product a company is developing meets all requirements, truly provides value to end users and has a long lifespan.

When hiring a dedicated software development team, make sure they have quality assurance processes in place to perform at least the following types of tests:

  • Usability testing – Checking if end users will be able to easily use and understand the software. Helps identify usability issues and improve user experience.
  • Compatibility testing – Verifying that the software works perfectly on devices with various screen sizes, running different operating systems. In case of web applications, this includes testing cross-browser compatibility as well.
  • Functional testing – Checking whether the software works in accordance with feature specifications and business requirements.
  • Performance testing – Also known as load and stress testing. It means testing the robustness and stability of the software under extreme conditions.

We recommend that quality assurance should be done by at least one person on each team. Before committing new features, their functionality and effect on already existing features should be thoroughly tested in a safe environment.

If done properly, this will greatly improve software quality throughout the software’s entire life cycle.

 

dedicated software development team composition

Example of our own dedicated software development team composition

 

5. CODE REVIEWS

Code review is also a kind of quality assurance activity, where a software developer checks an already written source code for errors and bugs. Apart from manual code reviews, there are also a lot of automated tools available for static and dynamic code analysis.

We also consider code reviews to be an essential part of every development project. The work of each developer on the team should be reviewed by a senior colleague. This is especially important for junior developers, but everyone else’s work should also be reviewed by at least one other expert.

Here are some commonly used code review methods:

  • Over-the-shoulder reviews – When the author writes a code and simply calls the reviewer over to have a look at it.
  • Pair-programming – Two developers write code together at the same workstation.
  • Tool-assisted code review – Reviewers and authors use specialized tools designed for code review. The tools are used for collecting metrics, transmitting and displaying files, commentary, collecting files etc.
  • Email pass-around reviews – Most open-source projects used to prefer this form of code review. Here, the author emails complete files to reviewers. Reviewers then examine the files and suggest changes. It is rarely used today, mainly as an alternative if tool-assisted code review isn’t an option.

In our own development processes, every line of code must pass peer review before being committed. This might seem like a lot of extra work beforehand, but it actually saves clients a considerable amount of time and money in the long run. If the code is clean and low on errors, new features can be developed much faster. It also decreases time is spent on fixing errors later, because most of them were already discovered during reviews.

Throughout our work we’ve encountered many software projects that were struggling to move forward because the code base had gotten so unstable that it was difficult, or straight up impossible to develop further. In a few cases, more than 12 months worth of development investment would have resulted in an unusable product without intervention.

You can read about our approach to code reviews in much more detail in our earlier article:
Why Source Code Quality Is Crucial in Software Product Development

 

TO SUMMARIZE

As opposed to traditional outsourcing, dedicated software development teams can serve as integrated product development partners. If managed properly, they can work closely with you to deliver top-notch digital products while also helping to make your entire organization more agile, flexible and efficient.

From selecting a qualified team, all the way to managing development and quality assurance processes, they should be seen as a strategic partner, instead of simply as a service provider.

Your management team must work together with them to optimize work processes, just like they would with an internal IT department. This should include everything from development and project management methodologies, all the quality assurance and code reviews.

Building an effective cooperation with a capable dedicated software development team can provide ways for your organization to constantly innovate and gain a competitive edge while also reaping the benefits of traditional outsourcing.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

SoftwareBY RabIT software engineering · March 30, 2020

With the rapidly growing popularity of digital entrepreneurship and business process digitization, demand for software products is at an all time high.

Due to the accelerating demand, global competition, as well as other factors like the increased use of outsourcing, low development costs and faster time-to-market are quickly becoming top priorities over product quality.

 

“Why should I care?” you might ask.

If you are planning to, or already in the process of developing a software product, ignoring the quality side of the process can easily lead to wasting the entire development budget and severely hurting your business.

Throughout our work we’ve encountered many software projects that were struggling to move forward because the code base had gotten so unstable that it was difficult, or straight up impossible to develop further. In a few cases, more than 12 months worth of development investment would have resulted in an unusable product without intervention.

 

The goal of this article is to highlight the importance of maintaining high source code quality throughout the software product life cycle. We will talk about the possible effects of low-quality code on your project (and entire business) and list effective ways to ensure high product quality.

 

 

What does high source code quality mean?

To avoid being vague, first let us try to elaborate on what we mean by high source code quality.

High quality code means that your source code must perform well with regard to the following:

  • Optimization – The code is written in an optimized structure, meaning that it’s not overly complicated and convoluted.
  • Readability – The source code is easy to follow, standards of indentation and formatting are met, so that the code and its structure are clearly visible.
  • Maintainability – Signifies the efficiency by which the code base can be understood, repaired, or enhanced.
  • Compatibility – The software’s ability to properly run on all intended devices and operating systems.
  • Security – The code base is continuously being checked for vulnerabilities like malicious code that can be discovered and exploited by outside parties.
  • Understandability – The code is easy to understand for new developers in the future for increased time-efficiency.
  • Documentation – All-inclusive and up-to-date source code documentation is written throughout the project.

 

 

What does low-quality code look like?

Now that we’ve established what high source code quality actually means, you probably have an idea about what poor code looks like. If a code base is lacking in the qualities listed above, it is considered low quality.

To be more specific, low-quality source code:

  • is written in an unnecessarily complicated structure,
  • is difficult to read and understand for developers,
  • is difficult (and expensive) to maintain and develop further,
  • has compatibility issues with different devices and operating systems,
  • has easily exploitable vulnerabilities,
  • is poorly documented.

 

In our opinion, it’s a bad idea to wait to check the quality of your product’s source code before live release. By that point, fixing these issues becomes much more expensive and time-consuming than it should be.

This is why source code should be written following high quality standards in the first place. We talk about ways to achieve this in the sections below.

 

How does poor source code quality affect a project or business?

Technical debt is “a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.”

It’s pretty much the software development term for sweeping issues under the rug that you’ll have to deal with later. Constantly choosing the easy way out has real consequences for long-term projects. Too much technical debt can eventually cripple the development process entirely.

Technical debt has to be “paid” sooner or later. Even if you change development teams mid-way, the new team will have to deal with the extra work left behind by their predecessors.

Simply ignoring mandatory periodical maintenance and refactoring tasks also creates a lot of technical debt during long projects.

 

technical debt source code quality

Dilbert by Scott Adams

 

The symptoms of low-quality code only start to appear in later project stages, by the time software features are getting more complex. This only makes them more dangerous.

If developers don’t review the source code frequently, by the time they notice something’s wrong, it’s usually too late. Development tasks start to take longer to complete, bug fixes take up more and more of the team’s time, missing deadlines and prolonging crucial updates.

Spaghetti code causes even more headache if there is a decent amount of fluctuation in your development team. New developers will have trouble understanding the code base and it will take weeks until they can effectively contribute to developing it further.

Poor code quality also makes it impossible to predict how long it takes to add new elements without breaking others. This causes future development estimations to become highly inaccurate as well.

 

From a business perspective, software product development is an investment from which you expect a return – so just like any other. This return can come in the form of revenues if we’re talking about an SaaS solution, or cost savings and increased efficiency if we’re talking about software for internal, organizational use.

However, with a low-quality product that doesn’t sell, or effectively improve internal processes, your chances for a return drop significantly. In more severe cases, if the final product doesn’t reach live release at all, the development project can be considered a complete loss. This can mean multiple tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pointless spending, which can be crippling for most businesses.

If you can’t maintain an acceptable level of code quality, the “best case” scenario is that you’ll eventually get a working product, but at a much higher total investment cost.

Poor source code quality can also negatively impact customers’ perception of your product, and the whole organization. If a new release receives overly negative reviews from early users, it will take a lot of time and effort to win them over. While experience shows this isn’t impossible, it’s still better to prevent a fire from starting than having to put it out!

 

How can you ensure high code quality?

If you don’t have the necessary technical knowledge, it will be difficult for you to assess code quality without help from the development team. You’ll most likely only notice client-side issues related to speed, device compatibility and others directly affecting the user experience.

A good practice is to ask for frequent reports from the development team (sprint reports, release reports, etc.). These reports must contain the key project and code quality indicators. If you don’t have a technical background, ask the team to explain these indicators as many times as necessary.

If you still need help evaluating them, you can hire a third-party consultant who could even check the source code if necessary. If this is not an option, however, the development team must introduce their own quality assurance and code review processes for quality management.

 

Quality assurance

Quality assurance, or QA should be an essential part of the software development life cycle. Its goal is to validate the quality and functionality of the software before release, and make sure that the final product provides the best possible user experience.

Note: QA focuses on testing the quality and functionality of new product versions, not the source code directly.

However, quality assurance still plays an important role in detecting bugs and errors in the software before it gets released.

 

Here are a few widely-used types of quality assurance:

  • Usability testing – Checking if end users will be able to easily use and understand the software. Helps identify usability issues and improve user experience.
  • Compatibility testing – Verify that the software works perfectly on devices with various screen sizes, running different operating systems. In case of web applications, this includes testing cross-browser compatibility as well.
  • Functional testing – Checking whether the software works in accordance with feature specifications and business requirements.
  • Performance testing – Also known as load and stress testing. It means testing the robustness and stability of the software under extreme conditions.
  • Security testing – Systematically checking the software for exploitable vulnerabilities. Today there’s a whole separate field in IT specializing in security testing called Ethical Hacking.

 

Code review & analysis

Code review is also a kind of quality assurance activity, where a software developer checks if the written source code complies with coding conventions and style standards. It is also used to examine whether the best possible technical solution was used by the developers or not.

Apart from manual code reviews, there are also a lot of automated tools available for static and dynamic code analysis.

Code review is a process by which developers review each other’s source code. The two roles present in a peer code review are:

  • The author: the person responsible for developing the code being reviewed.
  • The reviewer: the person who is responsible for examining the code.

 

Some commonly used code review methods:

  • Over-the-shoulder reviews – When the author writes a code and simply calls the reviewer over to have a look at it.
  • Pair-programming – Two developers write code together at the same workstation.
  • Tool-assisted code review – Reviewers and authors use specialized tools designed for code review. The tools are used for collecting metrics, transmitting and displaying files, commentary, collecting files etc.
  • Email pass-around reviews – Most open-source projects used to prefer this form of code review. Here, the author emails complete files to reviewers. Reviewers then examine the files and suggest changes. It is rarely used today, mainly as an alternative if tool-assisted code review isn’t an option.

 

Apart from improved source code quality, code reviews also make it easier to train new development team members. In the long run, they lead to the team having a more consistent coding style overall, improving the whole development process as well.

For both larger and smaller code bases, your team will likely have to use automated code analysis tools as well. The difference between static and dynamic code analysis is already in their names.

Static code analysis tools examine the source code without executing it. Dynamic analysis is conducted while the code, or a part/unit of it (for example unit or integration testing) is being run. Code analysis tools help developers save a huge amount of time on fixing errors by identifying them in a matter of seconds.

 

Our own team mainly uses these code analysis tools:

  • Checkstyle – a static code analysis tool used in software development for checking if Java source code complies with coding rules.
  • StyleCop – a static code analysis tool from Microsoft that checks C# code for conformance to StyleCop’s recommended coding styles and a subset of Microsoft’s .NET Framework Design Guidelines.
  • PMD – or Programming Mistake Detector is an open source static source code analyzer that reports on issues found within application code.
  • CPD – or Copy/Paste Detector is PMD’s duplicate code detection for (e.g.) Java, JSP, C, C++, ColdFusion, PHP and JavaScript code.
  • ESLint – a static code analysis tool for identifying problematic patterns found in JavaScript code.
  • TSlint – static analysis tool that checks TypeScript code for readability, maintainability, and functionality errors.
  • ReSharper – a group of products that provides a series of features for Visual Studio developers including code analysis, refactoring, navigation, test runner, build runner, etc.
  • JUnit – a unit testing framework for Java often used in test-driven development
  • JaCoCo – an open-source toolkit for measuring and reporting Java code coverage.

For version control:

  • GitHub – one of the world’s largest software development platforms that provides hosting for software version control using Git.
  • GitLab – a web-based DevOps lifecycle tool that provides a Git-repository manager providing wiki, issue-tracking and CI/CD pipeline features.
  • Bitbucket – also web-based version control repository hosting service for source code and development projects that use either Mercurial or Git revision control systems.

 

So what should the development methodology look like?

There is no such thing as a perfect, one-size-fits all development methodology for all teams and all industries. The recommendations in this section are based on our own experience and preferences.

Note: While the main topic of this article is code quality, these development methodologies also focus on assuring the overall quality of the finished product.

We recommend using an Agile methodology based on Scrum or Kanban. Scrum in particular can be very beneficial for product owners to keep a close eye on the project’s progress. Frequent communication and product demos allow you to have a good overview of the newly completed features and even test them yourself.

This methodology also helps your team break down large and complex projects into smaller, more manageable chunks called sprints. These are 2 weeks long by default, and they contain a previously agreed-upon set of user stories and development tasks.

 

dedicated project manager scrum board

Scrum board example

 

As for team composition, QA experts and senior code reviewers should be integral parts of both small and larger teams. We also recommend to regularly include less experienced developers as code reviewers for training purposes. In these cases they must still be assisted by a senior colleague.

If you have to coordinate the work of multiple parties, a dedicated project manager can also be a valuable addition to the crew.

Here is an example of our own team’s composition for most projects:

 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all methodology. Copy-pasting the Agile manifesto for your team won’t be an ideal solution.

This is why we only recommend it as an outline for your process. It will be up to you and your team to optimize each aspect of the methodology to fit your organization and in-house team composition as much as possible.

We also do this sprint after sprint with our own clients, which is why we recommend it to others. For example, it might not make sense for a small team to hold daily stand-up meetings, if team members are working really closely together and they already know what everyone is working on at all times.

In these cases, it might be better to organize a single, longer weekly team meeting instead. It should also be examined whether sprint planning and retrospective meetings work effectively in their standard forms, or if they could be organized in a better way.

Most other aspects of this methodology can be optimized in similar ways as well.

 

To Summarize

While low code quality is rarely among the leading agenda during product management meetings, it is an increasingly important topic for businesses that rely on custom-built software to grow.

Apart from drastically increasing development costs and time – hurting profit margins -, low source code quality also negatively impacts customer satisfaction.

When it comes to software products, you only have a few seconds to form a positive first impression with users. If their first experience with your product is slow, clunky, or results in a crash or any kind of bad experience, you will need to invest a lot of time and effort to better their opinions.

Instead of having to put out the fires, prevent them by integrating coding standards, quality assurance and code review into your development process as early as possible. While it may just seem like extra work early on, it will most definitely save you a lot of headache and resources in the long run.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

NewsBY RabIT software engineering · March 18, 2020

The company’s CEO Nat Friedman announced on the 16th of March that GitHub has acquired NPM, the world’s largest software registry.

 

 

The npm Registry is a public collection of packages, open-source code for Node.js, front-end web apps, mobile apps, robots, routers, and countless other needs of the JavaScript community. The registry was created in 2009 to help JavaScript developers easily share packaged modules of code. Since then, it has largely contributed to the expansion of JS technology and its community as well.

GitHub itself is one of the world’s largest software development platforms that provides hosting for software version control using Git. Microsoft acquired the company back in 2018. At first, the developer community was concerned about the future of the platform and its open source projects.

Since then, Microsoft hasn’t done anything to risk losing the trust of the GitHub community. On the contrary, they have added new features to aid the community such as Actions and Projects.

Nonetheless, the same concern rises again now that GitHub has acquired npm. The largest one is that Microsoft now controls an overwhelming part of the JavaScript ecosystem, which has always been open source.

 

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Of course, the company promises to keep things the way they are and only improve on user experience and introduce new features.

In the announcement Friedman promises that npm “will always be available and always be free”. Their key focus after closing the deal will be to:

  • Invest in the registry infrastructure and platform. This is crucial because of the rapidly growing JavaScript ecosystem. They promise they will make the investments necessary to maintain speed, reliability and scalability.
  • Improve the core experience. Improve the everyday experience of developers and maintainers, and support the ongoing work. They also promise to introduce some bigger features, Workspaces and improvements to the publishing and multi-factor authentication experience.
  • Engage with the community. Engage with the JavaScript community to get ideas and help define the future of npm.

GitHub will be hosting a Reddit AMA to answer further npm-related questions in the coming days.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

Startup & MVPBY RabIT software engineering · March 11, 2020

Thanks to increasing healthcare costs and the wide availability of devices like smartphones, smartwatches and different IoT sensors, demand for digital care is rapidly on the rise. Through healthcare mobile app development, innovators were able to greatly increase cost-efficiency of healthcare service delivery, and help answer this growing demand.

However, there is still much to be done, and plenty of room for new innovation. According to Grand View Research, the global home healthcare market size was valued at USD 281.8 billion in 2019, and is expected to have an average growth rate of 7.9% over the next decade.

 

healthcare mobile app development market size

Source: grandviewresearch.com

 

A rapidly growing population forces governments to constantly expand public health care systems. This means that healthcare expenses will also continuously increase throughout the foreseeable future.

In order to make health services more accessible to patients everywhere, innovators must find a way to make them more scalable and less fixed in time and space.

 

What Are the Factors Accelerating Healthcare Innovation?

 

According to a 2019 research conducted by Deloitte, the key factors driving innovation in healthcare are:

  • Cost pressures on traditional models
  • Shift to prevention and well-being
  • Consumers’ heightened demand for transparency, convenience, access and personalized products and services
  • Consumers’ increased access to and control over personal health care data

Thankfully, new technological advancements make it possible to answer the most pressing challenges in this sector. One of the most effective tools here is data management, which has evolved from just storage to drawing insights. This helps medical professionals make better-informed decisions and increase diagnostic precision.

However, newly emerged security challenges may prolong the innovation process. When it comes to digital health, privacy is one of the most discussed concerns among patients and healthcare professionals as well. Keeping personally identifiable health information safe must be a top priority during every healthcare mobile app development project.

Mobile health requires the use of strong encryption and authentication processes to ensure the security of these data.

 

Benefits of Mobile Health Apps

 

  • Increased speed and cost-efficiency of delivering healthcare services – With solutions such as video visits or AI-powered chatbots, smaller services like patient diagnostics and check-up visits can be delivered at a larger scale, using much less resources.
  • Physicians can access health data from anywhere – Completing health care services becomes much less fixed in time and space, increasing the availability of professionals, regardless of their location.
  • They enable predictive and preventive care – Healthcare mobile app development allows providers to gradually switch from reactive care to a more preventive approach. Providing consumers with their own personal health assistant can greatly raise their awareness about potential health risks, monitor their diet, body weight, heart rate, etc.
  • Increased precision – With the integration of AI, machine learning and advanced data analytics technologies into healthcare processes, professionals are able to make better-informed decisions and spot irregularities they would’ve likely missed otherwise.
  • Healthcare services become easier to scale – Healthcare mobile app development also enables providers to answer the rapidly growing demand from patients through increased service accessibility.
  • They can help solve staffing challenges – Staff shortages are a major issue in today’s healthcare systems. Adopting advanced technologies that accelerate decision-making and eliminate routine administrative tasks is another step toward solving this challenge.

 

Most Significant Areas of Innovation in Healthcare Mobile App Development

 

1. AI-POWERED CHATBOTS AND DIAGNOSTIC SYSTEMS

These types of applications help physicians determine which disease or condition explains patients’ symptoms and signs. Patients can use these apps themselves without having to set up a doctor’s appointment.

After asking a series of symptom-related questions, the diagnostic app uses great amounts of data from electronic health records (EHR) to compare the new information to other, similar cases and provide a diagnosis. Technologies like Natural Language Processing allow these questions to be read and answered more intuitively, making the whole process feel much more natural for patients.

Of course, using an app doesn’t substitute a full diagnosis provided by an experienced professional using specialized medical equipment. In more severe cases, diagnostic apps usually recommend patients to go see a doctor as soon as possible. Nevertheless, dealing with routine queries using AI-backed messaging and voice systems can help organizations decrease physicians’ workload and realize cost savings.

 

2. CLOUD COMPUTING SOLUTIONS

Cloud computing is an appealing choice for healthcare organizations trying to build out, run and maintain infrastructure for patient record-keeping needs. Public cloud systems are more suitable for providing generic health information. On the other hand, private cloud systems can be used for more security-sensitive cases, like pharmacy orders, patient bills and physician inquiries.

HIPAA compliance is one of the biggest issues in this environment. Organizations often don’t fully embrace cloud computing because of the strict health information security regulations.

 

3. BLOCKCHAIN SYSTEMS

Peer-to-peer systems with shared digital ledgers promise great possibilities for healthcare organizations. The increased security, portability and integrity of patient data will make creating, modifying and distributing healthcare information much more efficient. Blockchain technology also allows healthcare providers to always have access to patient health records, through a shared system that is used by everyone, while still complying with HIPAA and GDPR regulations.

 

 

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4. BIG DATA & PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS

Collecting and storing patient health data has been possible for a decades now. However, analyzing these massive pools of accumulated information and drawing actionable conclusions has proven to be a challenge. More recent advances in data science will allow experts to feed patient information (personal and family medical history, previous test results etc.) into AI-based systems to draw relevant conclusions for their effective treatment.

 

5. INTERNET OF MEDICAL THINGS (IoMT)

IoMT has emerged as the combination of IoT development and telehealth technologies. It mainly includes wearable devices such as smartwatches, ECG and EKG monitors, smart scales and others. By providing consumers with devices that communicate with each other, and are easy to use, they are able to accurately and consistently monitor their own heart rate, blood pressure, body weight, and other vital health information. The results can also be forwarded to their local physician for further analysis.

 

healthcare mobile app development

 

6. AUGMENTED REALITY AND VIRTUAL REALITY (AR/VR)

From educating new students to planning procedures, or foster post-surgery improvement for patients, Augmented and Virtual Reality applications show a lot of promise. With their help, professionals are able to place patients in more enhanced and simulated environments without having to use physical therapy. While monitoring these sessions, data can also be gathered to assist therapists in devising customized treatment for each patient.

 

Also, more focus is being placed on developing so-called Smart Health Communities – groups of public, nonprofit, and commercial organizations – who’s goal is to prevent disease and improve people’s well-being, while operating outside traditional healthcare systems.

To achieve this, they are making use of the previously mentioned innovations in data-fueled technologies like AI, NLP, Internet of Things, AR and VR.

 

Examples of Successful Healthcare Mobile App Development

 

AI-POWERED CHATBOTS & DIAGNOSTIC APPS

K Health develops a mobile app that uses AI to deliver personalized primary care for patients faster and cheaper. The company is comprised of doctors and developers who are passionate about using advanced machine learning techniques to turn clinical health data into knowledge that can help patients better manage their health.

  • Over $97M raised since 2016

 

 

Sensely’s avatar and chatbot-based platforms assist insurance plan members and patients with the insurance services and healthcare resources they need, whenever they need it. The company has developed separate chatbot applications specifically for insurers, employers and pharmacies as well.

  • Over $26M raised since 2013

 

 

MENTAL HEALTH PLATFORMS

The importance of caring for people’s mental health has gained a lot of attention over the past few decades. Advances in healthcare mobile app development also provided some great tools for online therapy and aiding mental stability. The main goal of innovators in this sector is to provide anonymous, easily accessible and affordable mental care for anyone, anywhere.

 

Talkspace is an online therapy startup that offers affordable and confidential therapy with a network of professional and licensed therapists. With online messaging therapy, users have access to a licensed, professional therapist, without having to schedule an appointment.

  • Over $106M raised since 2014
  • Over 1 million users.

 

Headspace is a digital health platform that provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training. The company’s content can be accessed online, or via the Headspace mobile app.

  • Over $168M raised since 2014
  • Used by more than 8 million people in over 200 countries.

 

 

INTERNET OF MEDICAL THINGS (IoMT) PRODUCTS

Fitbit is developing wireless wearable sensors that automatically track data about a person’s activities, such as calories burned, sleep quality, steps and distance.

Their trackers collect activity data automatically while it is worn by the user all day. The collected data is wirelessly uploaded to a website where the wearer can see their data and track their progress toward personal goals. Other than trackers, the company also produces smartwatches, smart scales and other accessories.

  • Over $66M raised since 2008
  • Reportedly almost 16M devices sold in 2019

 

CLOUD DATA MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS

Flatiron Health is a healthcare technology and services company focused on accelerating cancer research and improving patient care. They connect community oncologists, academics, hospitals, life science researchers and regulators on a shared cloud-based platform.

Their platform enables cancer researchers and care providers to learn from the experience of a large number cancer patients.

  • Over $313M raised since 2013

 

AR/VR APPLICATIONS

Oxford VR’s highly immersive VR therapy, provides patients with treatments that are: faster and more effective than traditional therapy sessions, significantly lower cost to health providers and loved by users.

Their focus is on developing clinically validated, cost-effective, user-centered treatments with significant impact on patients, the health system and wider economy.

  • Over £13M raised since 2017

 

 

Summary

 

In order to be able to answer the growing demand for accessible and accurate healthcare services, organizations must continue to explore emerging, innovative tools and technologies.

The possibilities offered by the technological advances listed in this article are still only partially explored. Apart from achieving great financial results, innovators also have the opportunity to help improve people’s well-being and quality of life on a global scale.

Utilizing the potential of data science, AI, cloud computing and other emerging technologies is certainly a challenge. This is why we offer our help as development partners to healthcare organizations and HealthTech startups all around the world.

If you have a project in mind, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation session.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

SoftwareBY RabIT software engineering · March 04, 2020

DigitalOcean’s Currents report analyzes the most relevant trends of the software development world. As one of today’s most discussed topics in IT, last year’s survey focused on working with remote software developers.

 

Their key findings on working with remote software developers

The 4300-person survey showed that:

  • Remote work has become the new normal – Remote work is increasingly practiced and even demanded by both developers and employers. 86% percent of respondents currently work remotely in some capacity. 1/3 of them work remotely full-time.
  • Remote developers are connected – The traditional narrative states that working with remote software developers results in the remote team being disengaged from the company. This is rapidly proving wrong, with teams and employers reporting that they feel connected even while working from different locations.

 

The United States and Canada are the leading countries in terms of working with remote software developers with 44% and 43% of those surveyed working primarily remotely. The following countries are the United Kingdom with 37% and India with 25%.

 

working with remote software developers by country

Source: digitalocean.com

 

Communication tools preferred by remote software developers

The survey showed that remote teams make use of all types of communication channels and collaboration software. Business collaboration software like Slack and Skype are most preferred, followed by instant messaging, email, phone (either texting or calling) and Video conference tools (GoToMeeting, Zoom, Hangouts, etc.)

 

Source: digitalocean.com

 

We can testify to this ourselves, as we also use Slack and Skype most often while working remotely with our clients.

 

How to mitigate the challenges of working with remote software developers

While it is quickly becoming common practice, remote development work still provides unique challenges and obstacles teams must overcome to reach success. You’ll find that communication, project management as well as technical aspects of software development all require a bit different mindset in a remote setting.

We have plenty of experience with this topic, as our team works 100% remotely with every client. After completing 40+ international custom software projects, we’ve gained some very valuable insights and experience about the dos and don’ts of remote development work.

 

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THE MOST COMMON CHALLENGES APPEAR IN THE AREA OF:

Onboarding

Introducing new team members to a large codebase requires quite a lot of time and effort. Under codebase we mean a whole collection of source code that is used to build a particular software system or component. If the code is messy and poorly documented, newly joined remote developers will find it difficult to understand how all pieces of the code are working together.

This is why it is extremely important to follow industry best practices and standards and to writing code. Clean code is written using suitable design patterns and is easy to read and understand for fellow developers.

Adding clear and detailed documentation is also crucial at every stage of the project. Before writing a single line of code, the first thing for new team members should be reading any available information about the project.

 

Communication

Communication-related challenges are frequently mentioned as the biggest obstacles while working with remote software developers. Collecting daily updates, discussing urgent issues, or explaining new tasks and objectives becomes somewhat more difficult if you are working in different locations, or even time zones. As remote team members often work with flexible hours as well, gathering everyone involved together in a virtual meeting room at the same time becomes a challenge of its own.

To make sure everyone is always on the same page, we schedule frequent (sometimes even daily) online meetings with our clients and other development teams. To discuss more urgent issues, our team primarily uses channels like Slack, Skype or Email.

Apart from this, we also have longer weekly meetings and a product demonstration meeting at the end of each development sprint (every 2 weeks). This may sound like a lot, but the people we work with really appreciate having such a deep insight into the project at all times.

 

Tracking progress

Without version control and issue tracking systems, working with remote software developers would be an absolute nightmare. They make web projects much easier to implement and manage in particular. Version tracking allow each team member to work on any file at anytime without having to worry about overwriting current versions, or wasting time locating where the latest iteration of a file is being stored.

Issue tracking tools have proven particularly useful for project managers and product owners to oversee complex development projects. Everyone can see scheduled work tasks and what each developer is working on at all times. We like to invite our clients into our issue trackers to help them see exactly what we’re working on at any given stage of the project.

During our remote development projects we mainly use Asana, Jira or Trello for issue tracking, and GitLab, GitHub or BitBucket for version tracking.

 

Feeling disconnected

If someone works as part of a remote team for a longer period of time, they often feel like they’re not as valuable to the team as the people working on site. This can lead to them overworking themselves to contribute as much as possible, or to them feeling depressed and demoralized.

Meeting the remote team in person and organizing team building events can have a great effect on morale. It can also help everyone involved form a more personal connection. Even if your team is located overseas, we would encourage you to meet with them at least once a year, if your’re planning an ongoing cooperation.

 

To Summarize

 

Remote work in software development has become the new norm instead of the exception. You are truly missing out if you aren’t utilizing the benefits of working with remote software developers. A few of these benefits are a larger available talent pool, higher employee satisfaction and higher cost-efficiency.

The development of sophisticated online communication, version tracking and issue tracking tools makes this form of cooperation more seamless and efficient than ever. New innovations in this space will continue to remove the remaining barriers of working remotely.

More niche products designed for specific roles will enter the market. Some experts also predict that AI technology will help keep an increasingly remote workforce aligned to an organization’s timelines, goals, and priorities.

With all the necessary technology at our fingertips, and the growing demand for software development experts, it’s safe to say that remote work will only become more widespread over the next decade.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

SoftwareBY RabIT software engineering · February 14, 2020

So you’re either considering to, or have already started a custom Ecommerce website development project. First off, congratulations! Now we need to make sure you have all the necessary information to make your new website a success.

Statista’s projections estimate that the Ecommerce industry will be worth $4.5 trillion by 2021. Competition is becoming more intense as new players enter the market for a piece of that considerably-sized pie.

ecommerce industry statistics

Source: Shopify.com

 

Despite how easy some people make it seem, developing an Ecommerce website from scratch can prove challenging, depending on product category and targeted markets.

I would say it’s only worth to start an online store, if you have a strong knowledge about your customers and the products you’d like to sell to them. It is also a big advantage if you already have a physical store before the Ecommerce website, so you have a large customer base who will provide initial feedback you can use to make it more attractive for new clients.

 

To make your custom Ecommerce website stand a chance, we recommend you to follow these steps:

 

1. Online competitor research

Chances are someone has already started selling products similar to yours online. By this point you should always expect to have competition and make the necessary precautions before investing into Ecommerce website development.

Before you start analyzing the competition, you need to determine your own business profile, as well as a detailed customer persona. Write down what customer needs your business is equipped to satisfy, and all the aspects that make it different from companies in the same space.

Do your best to create a detailed description about people who you expect to buy your product (or are already buying your product offline). Who and where are they? How old are they? How much are they willing to spend? Where do they search while shopping online, etc.

Once you know where you stand on the market, it’s time to do the digging. Search for similar competitors on sites like Amazon or Google Shopping. Examine the user experience of their Ecommerce website, pricing strategy, buying funnel, etc.

Subscribe to a few newsletters and follow their social media pages to learn about how they communicate with their audience. You can even try to order something from them, to experience the complete delivery process.

 

2. Choose the right Ecommerce platform

During competitor research, you should come across a few different Ecommerce platforms. This can also help you decide which one you’d like to adapt yourself.

First off, you need to decide if you want to use an Ecommerce website builder or have your development write the code from scratch.

The main advantages of using a website builder are lower overall development costs and a shorter time-to-market period. However, using these SaaS solutions can come with a high monthly fee, so costs can easily build up over time, especially if you want to scale your site later on.

Building your Ecommerce website from scratch gives you maximum flexibility, control and allows for easier scaling. Not to mention you don’t have to deal with support every time something goes wrong. This usually makes the development process longer and more expensive early on, however.

If you do decide to go with an Ecommerce builder, here are some good options to consider:

 

comparison for custom ecommerce website development guide

Source: Vizteams

 

3. Prepare design mockups

While most ready-to-use Ecommerce builders provide free website templates, you should consider creating custom design to make it stand out even more.

I’d recommend hiring a professional web designer who has deep knowledge about user experience and modern user interface builds as well. There are also plenty of talented freelancers you can easily hire through sites like Upwork or Guru.

When it come to Ecommerce design, remember these key aspects:

Load speed – This is the most important factor that impacts online shoppers’ user experience today. According to Smart Insights, 57% of visitors will leave your site if loading takes longer than 3 seconds. About 80% of them will likely never return to your site again.

Responsiveness – Site elements must display properly on all screen sizes, in all browsers. Also make sure that your designer follows mobile UI best practices.

Clear and visible call-to-actions – Your Ecommerce website design should help customers effortlessly complete their purchases. Your CTA buttons should have clear, concise text, and eye-catching design.

High-quality images – As much as you want to improve load times, pay attention that your images don’t appear low-quality or pixelated. Use JPG image formats for multi-color images, and PNG for simple images. You can also use formats like WebP or JPEG XR, but they aren’t supported by all browsers.

 

 

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4. Choose payment gateway API

Payment API integration is an essential part of any custom Ecommerce website development project. It is crucial to select a gateway that fits both your business’ and customers’ requirements.

These APIs help you manage credit card payments and bank payments, and also play a key role in tracking orders and maintaining customer lists. They also help protect both online vendors and shoppers from fraud and information breaches.

We recommend using acclaimed gateway APIs such as Stripe, Square or PayPal. Our own team uses Stripe the most during development projects, but Square is also a good alternative. It is popular among small vendors with a physical storefront as well as an online store.

 

5. Develop planned features

By this point you should be able to picture your ideal Ecommerce website and compile a list of feature requirements. You will need this to ask for initial project estimations from development teams. Include as much detailed information as you can in order to get an accurate estimate.

When you start looking for development companies for custom Ecommerce website development, you need to think about how much money you can afford to invest in it and ideally how much time it should take them to finish the project.

Be sure to reach out to at least 5 different teams, and compare offers, clarity of communication, and whether they have proper development, quality assurance and project management processes set up.

If you know someone with an IT background, or a reliable consultant, involve them in the selection process as a third party to make sure you choose a capable team.

It is crucial for you to stay in constant communication with the developers, because they will need your input and feedback throughout the project. Someone from your internal management team should be assigned to follow the development process and make sure the completed features are in line with your expectations.

When it comes to custom Ecommerce website development, scalability and security are extremely important. Site architecture and databases must allow for easy expansion to be able to grow together with your business. This might require the use of cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

We also recommend to include penetration testing during the development process to discover potential vulnerabilities and protect future customers’ sensitive information.

This is how the development process looks for us.

 

6. Quality assurance & usability testing

QA testing should be an integral part of the custom Ecommerce website development process to make sure all features work error-free. Unit testing, automated testing and code reviews should be carried out continuously throughout production.

It might require some extra effort from the development team, but it would take much longer to correct coding errors later on, when critical errors start to appear.

Usability testing is also crucial to see if your Ecommerce website is easy to understand and navigate for your potential customers.

 

custom ecommerce website development testing

 

7. Import product content & write creative

The job of your website creative is to make an immediate impression, and really draw customers in. Your chances of converting visitors are much higher if you manage to tell an engaging story that appeals to their imagination and gets them excited.

Make sure to add:

Visually appealing product photos – Since customers can’t touch or interact with your product online, you must rely on interesting, high-quality images to present them. Upload clean photos and give shoppers the opportunity to zoom in and out and view items from multiple angles.

PowertoolWorld, a popular hardware Ecommerce website even includes short product videos.

Descriptive keyword-rich product titles – Titles also serve as brief product descriptions. Here you need to think like your customers and use words that they would use to search for your products. This will make your site easier to find for search engines.

Creative, engaging product descriptions – Include the most important information your customers would want to know about your products. Write about aspects that make them stand out, how they were made, and why people should be excited to own them.

 

8. Hosting & SSL certificate

There is a whole plethora of hosting providers out there to choose from. There is no such thing as an absolute best, the right one for you depends on your specific requirements.

When choosing a provider, make sure they fit your business in terms of:

  • Security capabilities
  • Performance abilities
  • Database performance potential
  • CMS software compatibility

After setting up your Ecommerce website, you still need to make it secure.

 

ecommerce website security

Source: Pixabay

 

SSL certificates encrypt visitors’ financial data and other sensitive user information. Search engines will also give your site a higher ranking if it is equipped with an SSL certificate.

If you want to get one for your own Ecommerce website, Let’s Encrypt offers free certificates as a nonprofit organization. You can also install SSL certificates through paid certificate distribution websites like DigiCert or Comodo SSL, or directly from hosting providers like GoDaddy.

 

9. Prepare content, advertising & social media strategy

Having the perfect Ecommerce website won’t provide financial results without enough traffic. Since you are likely only starting out, you probably can’t afford to advertise to a wide audience on every platform.

You need a carefully targeted and efficient content & advertising strategy to reach the right people with the right offer at the right time.

If you don’t have a background in digital marketing, the most obvious solution might be to simply hire a professional agency to take care of this for you. Although, if you’re starting out with a tighter budget, or want to keep your marketing activity in-house, you must come up with an initial strategy yourself.

This is not a marketing-focused article, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

Basically, you have to identify your ideal buyer personas, find ways to engage with them and convince them to take action (buy). You can do this organically through content, or reach them with targeted offers through paid advertising channels (social media ads, banner ads, search ads, etc.).

 

10. Search engine optimization – SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) can save a lot of money and effort when starting a new Ecommerce website. If you don’t have to advertise your site, because its the first result in search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), you can achieve a much higher profit margin.

However, if you want to stay on top of the search game, you need to invest into quality SEO development and keeping it up to date. This can be hard, because SEO requirements are always changing.

Developers need to stay in touch with these changes and update your Ecommerce website accordingly. Despite all of this, I‘d say it’s still more cost-efficient on the long run than paying for advertisement.

 

11. Maintenance and further development

Instead of a linear process with an end point, think of custom Ecommerce website development as a cycle that repeats throughout the software’s lifetime.

Once your team has successfully developed all planned front-end and back-en elements, the work is still not over. There is continuous maintenance work that has to be done in order to avoid feature-breaking errors and keep all systems up to date.

Due to the ever growing competition in the Ecommerce industry, innovation is essential for every business that wants to stay relevant. You must keep in touch with customer demand and evolve your site to be able to satisfy new needs and preferences.

Integrating newly emerging technologies, optimizing new devices and platforms all require extra development work to be done. For example, industry analysts currently predict that voice shopping, AI services and Augmented Reality (AR) will provide the next innovation challenges for Ecommerce website owners.

 

voice-shopping-ecommerce

Photo by Fabian Hurnaus from Pexels

 

A custom Ecommerce website comes with a lot of advantages and also a few disadvantages for your business.

 

Here are some of them:

Advantages:

  • You’ll have a platform where you can receive and respond to customers’ questions quickly and directly.
  • Buyers don’t have to travel to your physical store, which can save them a lot of time and money. Delivery services are often cheaper nowadays than buying the fuel to drive to a store on the other side of town. If you manage to save money for your customers, they might even spend a little extra on your Ecommerce website.
  • A big advantage is that you can almost automate the flow of the orders. If your custom Ecommerce website has integrated billing API and delivery service API, it only requires 2 clicks to prepare the invoice and the delivery note.
  • It’s way easier to manage product stock and keep descriptions, pictures, names, categories up-to-date because you can see and edit everything in an admin interface instead of writing down the changes on paper.
  • You can collect data and prepare statistics reports about orders, outgoing and incoming stock, etc. This way you can discover seasonal buying trends and place more focus on best-performing products to increase your profits as much as possible.

 

Disadvantages:

  • One of the first that comes to mind is, of course, the cost of development. Hiring skilled programmers to realize what you have dreamed can cost a lot. Especially if want to make your Ecommerce website really stand out with unique features and design.
  • Once you start an Ecommerce website, you need to constantly think about new features to improve user experience and regularly update the design of the site, so customers will see that you are taking care of your online shop.
  • It’s also a pain to pay every month for the server where your site is hosted.
  • It’s harder to show product quality and explain every information about them to customers through the internet. Presenting the items in real life and demonstrating their functionality can be much more effective.

 

To summarize

This is our broad outline of the custom Ecommerce website development process. Of course, many details are up to you to figure out, since you’re the one who knows the ins and outs of your business.

We thinks that the process shouldn’t start with the actual development, but with market research and careful planning. Once you have a clear picture of exactly what you need to do, you’ll have much better chances to succeed with development.

If at any stage you feel like you need help from an experienced team, feel free to reach out and ask your questions. Thanks for reading!

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.