Tips for Hiring a Software Consultant
Software is an inherently risky business. The industry is well-known for having a disproportionately high rate of failure.
Here are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk when hiring a software consultant.
1. Create a set of mockups.
Incremental design is one thing. Making it all up as you go along is another story. It's both frustrating for the consultant and costly for the client when the project is ill-defined.
The best way to clarify your vision is to create a simple mockup of each page of your application. It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact a "low fi" approach is usually best. Balsamiq is a tool that's both inexpensive and easy to learn.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and creating a mockup will go a long way toward refining and communicating your ideas.
2. Hire a (web) designer.
A good designer will produce a set of HTML, CSS and image files that will serve as a template for your application's look and feel.
Most apps will need a few custom pages done by a designer. Your software consultant can then take these files and build the site around them.
As an alternative, Twitter Bootstrap can be used if your app does not have specific look-and-feel requirements. It's great for creating a site with a simple, yet consistent style that looks good in all modern browsers.
3. Use an issue tracker.
Every software project has features, milestones and (unfortunately) bugs. An issue tracker helps you manage all of these. Many people try to use email for this, but it simply does not scale.