Project Management

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pieces of a mobile app in the making

Hire Flutter Developers for a Successful Product Release

by
Maja Nowak
Maja Nowak
,
October 13, 2022

Flutter is one of the most popular cross-platform frameworks, but there’s a limited pool of experienced developers. Learn how to hire the right developers.

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Find out where to find seasoned Flutter developers and how to include them in your next mobile app project.

What to Consider When Hiring Flutter Developers?

Native mobile development experience

Developers without native mobile app development might have gaps in knowledge that can lead to lengthened problem-solving. This can generate more costs and uncertainty if a solution picked by the developer is actually the most effective one. Developers with 3+ years of experience in native app development have a greater understanding of mobile environments and best practices. This helps them find the most optimal solution faster.

Cross-platform experience

For small projects that require only one developer, it’s great to find someone experienced in developing for two platforms: iOS and Android. This way, you’ll be able to release your product for two platforms and have certainty that the developer is familiar with the differences and requirements present on both platforms.

Drive to learn

Flutter is a dynamic technology that’s constantly evolving — you have to follow the news and upgrades to know which solutions work best for specific use cases. That’s why when talking to developers about your project gauge their eagerness and interest in the technology. Flutter is relatively young: not every use case has been explored. Also, while Flutter can be used for web development, there aren't that many libraries available for out-of-the-box integrations.

Why Do You Need an Experienced Flutter App Developer?

It seems like a no-brainer, but experience in native development is hugely important when considering Flutter developers. The development is rarely straightforward — there are always problems of varying complexity bound to crop up. Different issues can surface when inexperienced Flutter developers work on the project.

Here are just some of the possible scenarios:

  • New product launch
  • Additional maintenance
  • Rebuilding the existing software
  • Native app into a cross-platform
  • Web into mobile (or mobile into web)

All these scenarios have edge cases that require experience to implement well. For example, during a new product launch, it might be wiser to hire a team that consists of a designer, developer, and product manager to validate an idea (by using no-code discovery) before jumping straight into development. That way, you can minimize the risk of spending money on a solution that doesn’t have a problem among your target audience.

two people working on a 3d mobile app in flutter

Improve Business Outcomes with Flutter App Development Services

by
Paulina Nowicka
Paulina Nowicka
,
October 3, 2022

To fully leverage the power of cross-platform Flutter development services, the key is to approach the project in a structured yet agile way.

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Flutter helps you create pixel-perfect digital products that run on multiple platforms from one codebase. To fully leverage the power of cross-platform Flutter development services, the key is to approach the project in a structured yet agile way — positive business outcomes can happen faster when you make decisions supported by data.

Overview of Flutter Product Development Steps

While the product development cadence for Flutter is similar to that of other cross-platform mobile frameworks, Flutter’s flexibility lets developers improve efficiency during all stages of product creation. The code can be reused across platforms to make development and maintenance easier.

Strategy and idea validation

A product strategy helps ensure that the mobile app meets customer needs and is viable in the market. The validation process includes market research, user feedback, and competitor analysis. The results of the validation process will guide the development process. If the product should be available to audiences on different platforms and devices, picking Flutter as the frontend technology will help lower development costs: You can build Flutter apps for mobile, web, and desktop.

Product design workshops

Product design workshops let the team collaborate and discuss product requirements, user experience, and design elements. Workshops help ensure that the product’s UX and UI resonate with target audiences and meet the goals of the project.

During this exploratory part of the project, the team brainstorms to create people-centered designs. The team creates a roadmap for the product and discusses any potential problems that may arise. The workshops also help align stakeholders on the product vision.

overview of app screens
People-centered design is key to building sticky apps. Source: nomtek

Development services

Flutter lets developers create truly stunning digital products. The SDK has a set of customizable widgets and built-in animation support, which make it easy to create beautiful, fast, and responsive user interfaces. Flutter also has a hot reload feature that lets developers see the changes they make to their code in real time, which speeds up developments. A built-in robust testing framework for writing and running unit and integration tests improves the QA process.

But to develop great user experiences in Flutter across all platforms (iOS, Android, and desktop) the Flutter app development company should have native app development skills. This way, the app will have a familiar feel. Each mobile platform (be it iOS or Android) has its own unique set of characteristics and requirements, and using native development techniques ensures that an app will be able to take advantage of the full capabilities of the platform. Experience in developing native apps is crucial.

Product management

Skilled product managers navigate the product backlog through the availability of resources to meet the deadline and budget requirements. Flutter helps product managers communicate better because there’s only one team for the whole product regardless of the platform.

Fewer meetings mean more time for quality development work and the discovery of opportunities.

Quality and assurance

The quality assurance process for Flutter development is similar to that of other mobile app development frameworks. It involves testing the app to ensure that it is functional, reliable, and user-friendly. Testing for performance, usability, or UX lets developers identify any issues and make improvements before the app is released.

Support and maintenance

Support and maintenance services are essential for ensuring the success of a product. Ongoing support and maintenance ensure the product continues to function properly and provides a good user experience.

When providing app maintenance services, it's important to consider the following:

  • Engagement model. Different businesses have different needs when it comes to support and maintenance services. It's important to choose an engagement model that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. Some common engagement models for support and maintenance services include managed services, where the service provider manages all aspects of the support and maintenance process; and a support-only model, where the service provider provides support and assistance but does not manage the entire process.
  • Availability and uptime. One of the key goals of support and maintenance services is to ensure that your product is always available and functioning properly. This can improve customer satisfaction and drive business growth. When choosing a service provider, it's important to consider their availability and uptime guarantees, as well as their track record of meeting these guarantees.

Dedicated Flutter App Development Services

Flutter app migration from other tech stacks

Flutter can make it easier to manage a team and ship features compared to native app development and many other cross-platform app development technologies. It’s a cost-effective long-term strategy for products intended to be maintained for years. Still, keep in mind that migration is a big endeavor, so before deciding to migrate to Flutter, consider the following:

  • Compatibility. Is the technology you’re migrating to compatible with the features and functionalities of your existing app? How much effort would it take to write them? Can the technology meet your future scalability and extensibility needs?
  • Cost. Migrating an app to a new technology can be a costly and time-consuming process, so it's important to weigh the costs and benefits of the migration, in the short and long term.
  • Support. Will you have the support and resources available for the technology you are migrating to? Is the technology well-established and widely used, with a strong community and robust documentation and support resources? Are skilled developers readily available on the market?

Flutter app upgrades

Upgrading an app to the latest version of Flutter can provide many benefits, including enhanced business continuity, security upgrades, and improved performance. New Flutter releases also come with new features and improvements. To ensure the upgrade doesn’t cause regression or generate bugs, a team should review the app's code to check for potential compatibility issues.

Flutter product consulting services

Flutter product consultants help businesses determine how this cross-platform technology can support business objectives. Working closely with experts, businesses can improve their time-to-market, customer engagement, and business outcomes. With a customized approach to development, product consultants analyze data and conduct experiments to help companies get the most out of their investment in Flutter-based digital products and find opportunities within the target audience’s needs.

Flutter architecture setup

Architecture refers to the overall design and structure of a mobile application. It includes the high-level components and modules of the app, as well as the relationships and interactions between those components. A well-designed architecture is important for several reasons:

  • Maintainability. A good architecture makes it easier to maintain and update the app over time. This reduces maintenance costs and effort.
  • Scalability. A well-designed architecture can be scaled efficiently without excessive costs.
  • Performance. Architecture plays a key part in ensuring a close to native performance of the Flutter application.
  • Extensibility. A proper mobile app architecture lets developers add features to the app faster with little overhead.

Understanding Flutter’s architecture is another element that helps build the mobile apps architecture with best practices in mind.

flutter architecture
Flutter’s architecture. Source: Flutter

Continuous integration (CI)

Continuous integration (CI) is a mobile application development practice where Flutter app developers regularly integrate their code changes into a shared code repository. Automated tools build, test, and validate the changes. Using continuous integration in mobile app development can provide several benefits, including:

  • Improved code quality. By regularly integrating code changes and running automated tests, developers decrease the likelihood of bugs and other issues, for example, those that affect performance.
  • Faster feedback. By implementing changes to the code daily, the team can get faster feedback to identify and resolve issues.
  • Better collaboration. Continuous integration improves collaboration among developers by making it easier to share and integrate code changes.
waterfall design thinking lean startup agile

What Is Waterfall vs. Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile

by
Maja Nowak
Maja Nowak
,
February 22, 2022

There are many methodologies to choose from in software development. Learn the principles of Waterfall, Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup.

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Today’s software development utilizes many methodologies to facilitate building applications and software solutions. We have Waterfall, Agile, Design Thinking, or Lean Startup as well as their combinations and variations. What are the principles of these methodologies? How do they support software development? Let’s explore the differences between the Waterfall methodology and a combined approach that includes Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile.

Waterfall

The Waterfall approach to software development describes a sequential process for building software—i.e., one step has to be completed before the next can begin.

In the Waterfall methodology, the project scope, outcome, and requirements are documented fully before any development begins. The documents, among many other aspects, include functional specifics, user interfaces, architecture, data structure.

The traditional Waterfall project structure is split into six phases:

  1. Requirements and analysis. Collect client requirements pertaining to the product. The information collected during this phase should be enough to validate the product idea and let developers grasp the client’s intended vision of the product. The following is established: budget, risks, completion date, dependencies, and success metrics.
  2. Design. Agree on a programming language, specific design elements, system design. Documents produced during this phase will be the framework for the implementation (coding) phase.
  3. Implementation. Turn client requirements and design documents into the software.
  4. Testing. Test the software for bugs and check if the goals from the requirements document are met.
  5. Deployment. Release the software to the client.
  6. Maintenance. Fix any problems found once the software has been released to the customers.
step-by-step waterfall methodology
In the Waterfall methodology, a project's structure is split into six phases.

Benefits

  • Better manageability. Because each step is documented and deliverables outlined upfront, it’s easier to manage the project.
  • Fixed price and deadline. The cost and delivery date can be determined with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Clear instructions. Developers and designers involved in the project know exactly what to do and when to do it. With detailed documentation available, the project can be completed by different teams.

Drawbacks

  • Once the development begins, it’s difficult to adapt the project to any changes in requirements or new market insights. Whenever significant changes are needed, the project has to go through the requirement and design phases.
  • Requirements don’t always reflect real user needs.
  • Because users receive the software only once it’s finished, it’s difficult to gather any actionable feedback beforehand and adjust the product to better align with user needs. This increases the risk of project failure caused by a potential lack of market need or low satisfaction.
  • Projects relying on technologies that have frequent release-cycles need to be updated often to reflect the changes. As a result, the estimations in documentation will be less accurate.

Use Cases for Waterfall

Taking into consideration the principles of Waterfall and its resulting pros and cons, this methodology is best for building projects with clear specifications and client requirements. We can think of using Waterfall with projects that are simple, predictable, and well-defined.

For example, the Waterfall approach can be used when adjusting an application to meet specific regulations (e.g., when developing medical systems), or when integrating software with existing infrastructure—e.g., banking systems. In both cases, clear and detailed documentation and specifications are critical to successful project completion.

Here are specific project features that determine if the Waterfall approach is a good fit:

  • Product definition is stable.
  • Technology is understood.
  • There are no ambiguous requirements.
  • Ample resources with required expertise are available freely.
  • The project is short.

The Need for Different Software Development Methods

The Waterfall methodology has been around for decades, initially serving as an essential and structured approach to software development. In the 1990s, however, the Internet technology began evolving rapidly — the Waterfall approach proved inefficient in the increasingly dynamic and complex environment.

There was a pressing need for software development methods that could address the inefficiencies of Waterfall’s linear approach to building software. As a result of that need and through years of refinement, a combined approach for the entire product development life cycle was created.

The combined approach includes methods and processes that come from different backgrounds to together form a mindset for the adaptive building of products, as opposed to following a rigid project plan.

  • Industrial design -> Design Thinking
  • Manufacturing -> Lean Startup
  • Software development -> Agile

Below is a brief description of each and a summary of how they complement one another in the software development paradigm.

people shaking hands and signing a contract

Why T&M Contracts Work Well for Your Product's LTV

by
Kasia Gruszka
Kasia Gruszka
,
October 26, 2021

Read why flexibility in time and materials contracts can improve your product's lifetime value.

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Your product’s lifetime value (LTV) depends on the choices made during development and after application release. Continuously improving your product’s LTV means sustainably delivering quality and discovering new customer needs that help grow the user base.

T&M contracts work well for your product’s lifetime value because they give you the flexibility to change project requirements as per your ongoing discovery activities. In other words, when the development starts, the scope isn’t fixed — you can swiftly adapt to trends and emerging customer preferences.

The Benefits of Being Agile in Product Development

Rapid response to changing consumer behaviors

Trends come and go. What was once a lucrative idea for an application, can become irrelevant in a matter of months. The most recent example is how Covid-19 has influenced many areas of living and consumer behavior, e.g., the increase in the use of digital tools.

In T&M contracts, you approach the scope for your product’s features agilely. For example, if halfway into the development you want to include a feature that engages your target audience, it’s easier to implement it.

Daily communication

In T&M, the vendor’s team is almost like your internal staff. You communicate daily, and the team shares status updates.

Daily communication helps talk over any issues or ideas that might crop up. When there’s an opportunity to look for alternative solutions that can cut the development time or otherwise add value to the product, swift communication is key to fast implementation.

Real-time developer suggestions

This one ties in with communication. As the team works on the product, they know it inside out. They can suggest simpler ways to achieve a given goal. Also, when a better solution or a library appears on the market during development, the team gains additional means to decrease development time.

Transparency into development

In agile products with a flexible scope, you’re a part of the project. That said, you can check the progress of your app via project management platforms or move a step forward and ask for a CI/CD approach to see how your app evolves daily.

Whenever you spot an issue, just communicate it to your team so that they can deal with it comprehensively. When the software agency deals with issues poorly or delivers low-quality solutions, you can end the contract before losing any more money.

Financial stability of your partner

T&M contracts ensure cash flow and keep the software agency healthy. It’s the foundation for business continuity that promotes long-lasting partnerships. 

Quality guaranteed with senior developers

When you work in a T&M contract, there's no economically driven reason to exchange the team for less experienced and therefore cut the provider's service cost. You can verify the quality of the code during two-week demo releases, where you check how the product works. Whenever you feel the product underperforms, you can react and, for example, strengthen the team.

Less stress for the development team

With good and frequent communication where the development team acts as a partner who can suggest solutions and features based on their experience, the team becomes more invested in the project. Developers feel they’re doing the right things and doing things right.

Positive relationship dynamics encourage the team to suggest solutions that cut implementation time or improve the product. The team is focused on quality development instead of a fast release to get the buffer.

Ongoing Discovery for a Continuous Product Improvement

A product’s LTV increases the more it continuously delivers high-value functionalities. To ensure your team implements these high-value functionalities, they need to stay in touch with customers during every stage of development.

By employing a variety of methods designed to get to know the end customer better, teams can focus on continuous product improvement and value delivery. These research activities should be part of the development process and decision-making.

Customer interviews bring out valuable insights directly from customers. Rapid prototypes and experiments help introduce these insights and see how they affect a product’s value.

In Waterfall projects, there's little space for experiments when the product is in development. The scope is fixed.

Time and materials contracts support ongoing discovery activities.

Why Waterfall projects inhibit continuous product improvement

In fixed-price projects, once you do customer preference research before development, this activity rarely gets repeated in the later stages of development.

To be able to continuously deliver value and improve your product to increase its LTV, you need to involve the customer in the decision-making — in an ongoing capacity.

Digital projects are rarely finished with the first release. Take Instagram or Strava for example. Both applications have evolved tremendously over the years, with numerous new features and user interface modifications.

There’s always something that can be improved to deliver new value for the customers. These improvements can be ongoing, without the need for scope reevaluation — think of these improvements occurring every week or even every day.

With proper analytics set up, you see how those tweaks in the product perform.

Being close to the customer lets you discover how they perceive the product — in effect, you can make efficient decision-making where customer input drives the product.

a man and woman creating a contract for a mobile application

Why Waterfall-Based Cost Estimation Is Practically Impossible for Modern Digital Products

by
Kasia Gruszka
Kasia Gruszka
,
October 19, 2021

Learn what makes estimating fixed-price projects practically impossible if you want to target shifting customer needs.

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In the software development world, fixed-price projects often mean fixed scope — just like in the Waterfall methodology. To prepare a fixed scope, you need to make lots of upfront planning.

But today’s software development is a highly volatile environment where technology trends and customer preferences change rapidly.

In the end, all the effort put into upfront scope planning can crumble, either at the product launch or during development itself. Learn what makes estimating fixed-price projects practically impossible if you want to target shifting customer needs.

The Evolution of Complexity in Software Development

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, simple websites were built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With fewer technologies available and lower adoption in general, software was much less complex than it currently is. That simplicity meant predictable scope.

But in the 2000s, Python 2.0, C#, and JQuery were released, allowing developers to build safer and more robust software and websites. With the release of these technologies, the complexity of software increased. More complex software took longer to develop, and the standard approach to development at the time — the Waterfall methodology — started showing cracks.

Complex projects often resulted in irrelevant software that fell short of customer expectations — by the time the solution was released, the market and customers already had different needs.

Welcome Agile Manifesto

Because of these growing complexities in software development, fixed-price contracts became increasingly difficult to estimate accurately. The need for a change was recognized, which gave birth to the Agile Manifesto.

Following the Agile principles let developers release software in iterations and collect feedback that guided further development. Agility in that sense meant delivering relevant and highly user-focused digital products.

Of course, it doesn’t mean all projects have to be Agile and that the Waterfall methodology is inherently flawed. To learn which types of projects are a good fit for fixed-price contracts, read Waterfall methodology vs Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile.

Note: Even the projects that can be built in a Waterfall model, should be broken up into chunks for the stakeholders to review and give feedback. This helps avoid a situation where the product has already lost its relevance at the launch date (by that time so much development work has been done that any changes are simply not viable financially).

Let's see what may happen if we try to build successful projects in a strictly fixed-price model.

Fixed-Price Model’s Potential Pitfalls

Handing the project to junior developers

When a software agency can’t deliver a complete product within budget, they might restructure the initial team and let junior developers finish the work. This frees up their senior devs to pursue more profitable projects.

Scope cuts or workarounds to meet the deadline

When a vendor nears the deadline but the product is far from being finished, the company might turn to quick workarounds or scope cuts. Quick workarounds make the product unstable and unreliable in the long term. On the other hand, scope cuts result in an unfinished product that doesn’t meet the initial requirements fully.

Inability to get all details prior to project’s kickoff

The fast and hectic decision-making process in software development projects makes it difficult to collect all the details upfront. Even with a detailed specification, there's always some level of assumptions on both sides.

For example, during development, it might turn out that certain parts of the app have to be written from scratch to secure a fully custom code that’s not limited by OS policies or third-party solutions. Another example can be the inability to use certain paid tools and libraries.

It’s close to impossible to learn which parts of the product need a custom approach before the contract begins.

Plugin validation

It’s difficult for developers to validate all open-source libraries and plugins before they actually start implementing them. Conversely, when there’s nothing reliable in the currently available resources, the necessary plugins have to be written from scratch. If the available libraries are outdated, developers have to update them.

This goes on to show just how difficult it is to accurately estimate what will and won’t be available in projects that run for, say, half a year.

Vendor bankruptcy 

If a software agency doesn’t have any inflow of cash and is waiting for product release, it can run out of money to operate and as a result, abandon your project altogether.

With a partially finished product, it might be difficult for another vendor to take over the development work and meet the release deadline. The second team needs to familiarize itself with your business and the product.

Technical lag

Once a fixed-price and fixed-scope contract is signed, you can make very few changes. If a better solution enters the market during development, you’ll still have to go with what’s agreed on in the scope.

A vendor might also use the opportunity and valuate something simple as complex to make up for the loss.

That said, you might end up releasing a product that’s already irrelevant technologically.

Missed market fit at launch

Some complex software solutions take upward of six months to develop. Half a year is enough for consumer preferences to shift. As a result, once you release your product, market fit might already be lost.

Time and materials contracts are a viable alternative to fixed-price projects.


stopwatch with a hand

How Time and Materials Contracts Work — Gain Control over Budget and Quality

by
Kasia Gruszka
Kasia Gruszka
,
October 7, 2021

Read about T&M contracts to learn how they work and how they give you control over product development.

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When choosing a vendor for development work, you have to decide on the type of contract: fixed-price or time and materials (T&M). Whereas the mechanics of fixed-price contracts are rather obvious — you pay for the whole project upfront — the T&M model begs a more detailed explanation.

How T&M Model Works

Time and materials contracts are usually woven tightly with the agile approach to software development.

As such, the project follows agile rules of development. After each two-week sprint, a part of the application can be tested and analyzed for feedback. This feedback shapes further development, which means the product’s shape can be adapted based on the learning you get after every demo release.

The core of the T&M model is therefore agility and flexibility.

You’re not locked in the scope of a fixed-price project, where it’s difficult to introduce any changes after kickoff.

In T&M, you can swiftly adjust the scope based on your growing knowledge of the product. The decision-making process is also not sealed at the start of the development, as is the case with fixed-price contracts.

Possible scenarios where scope flexibility is handy in product development:

  • UI tests (e.g., UX Cam) revealed there are too many elements in the interface, but user feedback indicates the need for another feature. This feature can improve ROI because it influences the purchase decision among early adopters.
  • Something happens in the middle of the project, e.g., a global shift to remote work, and you need to pivot and change the direction a notch. It can be done with relative efficiency in T&M contracts.

Now let’s deconstruct how a T&M contract gives you control over budget and quality.

How T&M Contracts Help You Control Budget

Predictable monthly cost

When you know the team’s composition and hourly allocation for a month, planning for the development spending in the budget is easier.

Besides, in the T&M approach, you’re being charged only for hours devoted solely to your project. Internal duties like company workshops and meetings shouldn’t be included. That said, you should have access to timesheets and be able to regularly verify the invoice status.

Adjustable design

Once the development begins but the design isn’t yet finished, changes in the design can influence the cost. This can go both ways, either increase or decrease the final cost.

For example, the greater the number and complexity of screens in a mobile app, the longer it takes to code them. So, whenever possible, the team you’re working with should suggest ready-made libraries that take less time to implement.

Good designers consult the design with developers during development. This lets them find solutions that cut development time but retain user experience.

No buffer for the software agency

In fixed-price contracts, software agencies usually add a buffer to set off any losses caused by a variety of internal and external factors.

In T&M contracts, a software agency doesn’t have to add a buffer to the final cost to ensure all unexpected expenses are covered. By principle, you only pay for the actual effort the team does on your project.