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When you're ready to scope out a custom application for your small business to improve business processes, interactions with customers, or some other purpose, it may be hard to find a qualified developer who you like and has a reasonable price. Eventually, you'll find one, agree on a price, and they'll start building the app. But if you haven't researched the platform they use, you could be stuck with them for a very long time, increase your long term costs, and pigeon hole your vision.

The Questions to Ask

What language will you use to build my application? 

If they tell you Alpha, then say goodbye. Acceptable languages are Javascript, C# & VB.Net, Java, PHP, and Python. Languages to avoid are Perl, Cold Fusion, Visual Basic, ASP (classic), Alpha, Objective-C, and Ruby. Some of these may still be highly capable, but I'm listing them because of the age and current usage patterns. If there is less active development with these languages, then there are fewer developers using them which can easily correlate to higher costs and longer wait times.

Who helps me if you're hit by a bus?

This is a legitimate question. Don't be afraid to ask it because if the developer actually gets hit by a bus or suffers some other tragic demise, who will help you? If they can't answer with confidence that they're using a popular platform and there are many other developers who can help, then you should part ways. Otherwise, you could be stuck with them for a long time and tethered to their price increases.

What is your average turn around time for bugs, changes, and issues?

This is a very important question and is obviously dependent on scope. Unless your developer is in-house (which small companies probably shouldn't do anyway), they will have other clients and need to be able to say with some degree of certainty that within a short period of time they can resolve major issues. 

Can I have 3-5 references of other clients?

Don't skip this. When you get references, make sure you ask the them the following questions:

  • How long have they worked with the developer?
  • What languages/platforms they used?
  • Who else can help if they're away?
  • How responsive are they? 

If you're interested in reading more, please visit the original blog post on the Marketpath CMS site. 

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