Dos and don’ts of custom software development

11 min read
July 14, 2023

Are you planning to develop custom software for your organization?

We think it’s a smart step.

Custom software has plenty of benefits, including seamless integration, ownership, and even cost savings.

But it can also be a challenging undertaking.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the risks of custom software development and increase your chances of success.

And it starts with implementing the dos and avoiding the don’ts of custom software development.

The Dos

Let’s go through the best practices you should follow for every custom software project, starting with the most important:

Planning out the project from the outset

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” is perhaps the best piece of advice that any software developer should live by.

Any software project is a complex undertaking, but even more so if it’s custom. There are many moving parts and factors that could easily derail the project or, worse, make it fail.

By planning out the project from the beginning, development is more likely to progress on time, within budget, and with minimal issues.

That’s because you can lay out each step carefully, anticipating possible problems that might pop up along the way.

The best time to do this is during the product discovery phase.

Product Discovery Lifecycle

Source: Net Solutions

This development step is primarily for further refining the app idea, i.e., ensuring it fits the market’s needs.

But product discovery is also crucial for clearly defining the requirements of the project – the features, timeline, budgets, development plan, and other components necessary to build the software.

To give you an idea of what this can look like, below are some deliverables to expect after the discovery phase.

The more of these you can accomplish, the more polished your app planning will be.

software development costs discovery phase

Source: Do IT Software

The most important deliverable is arguably the software requirements specification (SRS).

This comprehensive document describes what the software does (features and capabilities) and how it will do it (metrics).

An SRS acts as the software’s blueprint, ensuring all team members work towards a common goal and vision.

Overall, planning can be a huge drain on your time, energy, and resources. But when you do it right, you’ll benefit from it significantly in the long run.

Opting for Agile software development

When it comes to custom software development, one of the key things you’re going to have to decide on is your methodology.

Methodology refers to how the software is developed, which involves the frameworks and approaches you’ll be using.

It impacts how successful and on-time your project will be, which means it’s crucial to opt for the right one.

There are many different methodologies available, each with its own use cases.

However, we strongly believe that the Agile approach is the right choice when it comes to custom software development.

To explain why, let’s contrast it first with the traditional method – Waterfall.

The waterfall model

Source: Actitime

In the Waterfall approach, development happens sequentially. Planning comes first, then design and development, and finally, testing and launch.

Once you go to the next phase, you can’t go back to a previous one.

Additionally, you can’t just change things in the middle of development. This makes the Waterfall method very rigid.

Contrast this to the iterative approach of Agile.

In the Agile methodology, development is divided into sprints. Think of each sprint like a “mini-Waterfall,” each containing all the steps, from planning to testing.

Agile vs. Waterfall


At the end of each sprint, the client and the development team review the work in progress and gather feedback.

They can then implement the agreed-upon changes in another sprint or deploy the software if ready.

One of the biggest benefits of this approach is that you can catch more errors earlier and more often. This can ultimately lead to a more polished, stable product.

Let’s compare the failure rates of Agile and Waterfall projects and see who comes out on top:

Agile Projects are More Successful than Traditional Projects

Source: Linkedin

As you can see, the failure rates of projects that follow the Waterfall approach tend to be significantly higher.

The bottom line is that Agile is the best fit for modern software projects, especially the due to the often-changing requirements of custom software development.

Choosing the right tech stack for the project

The tech stack refers to the technologies and tools you’ll use to develop the custom software.

This includes the programming language, database systems, plug-ins, third-party libraries, and server infrastructure.

server side and client side of tech stack

Source: K&C

Your tech stack is a crucial factor to consider because it can make or break your project. There are some software that require specific technology in order to work efficiently and safely.

So how do you pick your tech stack?

Choosing a Technology Stack

Source: Medium

The most important consideration is the project requirements. Note the features and benchmarks you want to achieve, then research the best technologies to implement them.

For example, Java is preferred for fintech and enterprise software because of its stability and security.

Next, consider the cost of each tool, including any recurring payments you’ll need to make in order to keep using them.

That powerful plug-in might make your software 15% faster but could cost thousands of dollars. Ask yourself – is it worth it?

Also, make sure to consider the scalability of your tech stack. Some platforms might work well only for a certain number of users, so you need to make sure they fit your needs.

Security is another important factor. Some tools from unknown developers might contain vulnerabilities that could allow cybercriminals to hack your app.

Finally, consider expertise. It doesn’t matter if Python is the best tool for your software if no one on your team knows how to use it.

Evaluate whether training your team, hiring an experienced developer, or switching to another tech stack makes more sense.

Adopting a user-centered approach

All software, whether custom or off-the-shelf, should operate on one principle – the user is king. After all, the software is made for them.

Thus, your custom software should be designed to fit your users’ goals, dreams, and preferences.

And you can only do this if you have deep knowledge about your target market.

That means not only knowing basic information like age and location (i.e., demographic data) but also their attitudes, beliefs, and preferences. This is called psychographic data.

Customer segment

Source: Gary Fox

Some niches can be neatly grouped using demographics, which makes looking at psychographic data even more crucial.

For example, you can’t generalize that all 30-year-olds are following the keto diet. But if they expressed an interest in healthy living or are into sports, there’s a chance they might be.

The question is – how do you gather this data?

The best way to do it is through qualitative market research methods like interviews and focus group discussions.

These approaches allow you to ask follow-up questions that provide you with deeper insights from respondents – something that’s impossible with quantitative approaches like questionnaires.

Once you have user insights, it’s just a matter of keeping them in mind while developing your app. It’s also crucial to conduct usability testing to ensure your assumptions are correct.

The Don’ts

After the positives, let’s review the negative custom software development practices you should avoid.

Ignoring the need for open communication

If there’s one thing that destroys a perfectly good development team, it’s a lack of communication.

A study concluded that 86% of employees say ineffective communication is the top reason for workplace failures.

And it’s also a major cause of morale drops, as the infographic below shows:

Collaboration statistic 33 of employees said a lack of open honest communication has the most negative impact on employee morale

Source: Bit.AI

In order to prevent this from happening on your project, it’s important to promote open communication in your development team.

Daily communication is a must, as it enables better alignment within your team. To achieve this, we recommend organizing daily standups.

In addition, clients should be encouraged to communicate with their development team regularly in order to get updates.

This is the approach we follow here at DECODE because we want the client to be kept in the loop.

Moreover, they are able to speak to each individual team member, and not just the team lead or project manager. This ensures faster communication and transparency.

But open and constant communication might be hard to achieve without platforms and tools. So you need to make sure you get the right ones.

Also, you need to cover both synchronous and asynchronous communication. This guarantees seamless communication no matter the circumstances.

Common Tools Used for Asynchronous Communications are Shown on the left with Synchronous Tools on the Right and Tools with Some Overlap in the Middle

Source: Research Gate

For example, if your developers live in different time zones, asynchronous tools like Jira or Basecamp would allow them to still communicate efficiently.

Client presentations can then be done synchronously via Zoom, for example.

Changing important decisions mid-project

We’ve covered earlier that planning ahead is one of the best things you can do for your project. And that’s mostly to avoid making drastic changes mid-development.

Now, that’s not to say all changes are bad. Minor ones are tolerable and even expected. After all, complicated projects and dynamic markets often require you to pivot quickly to adapt.

But frequent or major changes can cause your project to exceed its allotted timeframe and budget. It could also affect the team’s morale or cause burnout.

At worst, drastic changes can even cause outright project failure:

common causes or prof

Source: Acceler8 Consultancy

We’ve already discussed how you can avoid this issue – and that’s to plan your project thoroughly.

But you should also recognize that the unexpected can happen. That’s why planning for contingencies is smart, just in case.

For example, you can create two timetables for your project. One is used by your team, which gives the estimated schedule.

The other is for your client, which adds extra days. Thus, when a delay happens, it’s already accounted for in the client timeline.

Failing to ensure the security of data

Nowadays, not protecting your data adequately is asking for trouble. Hundreds of statistics show how dangerous and costly security breaches are.

But probably the most worrying is the following: it takes 277 days on average to identify and contain a data breach, according to the Cost of a Data Breach 2022 report.

In other words, once your data is breached, it’s game over.

But you can combat that by implementing strong data security in your software.

One of the most important things is encryption. This process scrambles the data, thus making it unusable even if hackers manage to steal them.

Just make sure you’re encrypting data during transmission and while at rest for maximum protection.


Source: The SSL Store

But you should also build up adequate protection around your entire app ecosystem. This includes the web server, database, and the network housing them all.

Standard protocols like firewalls and anti-virus software will go a long way in protecting your work.

Neglecting to perform thorough QA testing

Testing might be time-consuming, but you should never neglect it. That’s because it’s absolutely critical for creating a stable app.

Without adequate testing, the software will likely launch with bugs and errors.

This will hamper performance and negatively impact the user experience. And in 32% of cases, the software could even fail altogether.

To avoid this, testing should be considered throughout development, not just before launch.

This allows you to spot more errors earlier, where they’re cheaper to fix according to the 1-10-100 Rule.

How The 1 %E2%80%93 10 %E2%80%93 100 Rule Can Help Your Company Save on Return Costs 1134813 GraphicsBlogPost1 10 100Rule B6 072821

Source: Inspectorio

The best approach for this is the software testing lifecycle (STLC).

STLC is a framework for testing software systematically throughout development. It ensures you have the right QA plan, test cases, and methods well-suited to your project.

You should also have a balance of manual and automated testing methods.

Automated tests can be executed faster and more consistently, thus allowing you to comb through more errors.

However, they can’t evaluate qualitative aspects of your app, such as usability, which is where manual tests come in.

It’s a harmonious synergy of the two that makes your QA much more effective.

Need help with custom software development?

We hope these dos and don’ts will help make your next custom software project successful.

Of course, it takes more than just a few best practices to achieve that. It’s best to also have the right team on your side!

That’s where DECODE comes in.

With our extensive track record and the best developers in the industry, we’re more than equipped to bring your next software project to life.

Interested? Schedule a consultation with us today, and let’s talk!

Written by

Marko Strizic

Co-founder and CEO

Marko started DECODE with co-founders Peter and Mario, and a decade later, leads the company as CEO. His role is now almost entirely centred around business strategy, though his extensive background in software engineering makes sure he sees the future of the company from every angle. A graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, he’s fascinated by the architecture of mobile apps and reactive programming, and a strong believer in life-long learning. Always ready for action. Or an impromptu skiing trip.

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