How to communicate your ideas to offshore developers

How to communicate your ideas to offshore developers

August 2, 2016

Successful entrepreneurs like yourself usually have no qualms about pitching. In order to get where you are today, you will have no doubt pitched your ideas to countless investors in order to secure the funds that you need to grow. Furthermore, you will also be pitching your ideas, goals and instructions to your workforce on an almost daily basis, ensuring that the whole team understands the company's business objectives going forward.

However, when in possession of a brand new idea for an application or a piece of business software that you believe will take the company to the next level, it's not unusual for entrepreneurs to become a little flustered when trying to communicate the finer details of the vision to developers – and offshore developers especially.

This is not to be unexpected, of course, and certainly nothing to feel embarrassed about. Computer programming, coding and application design are extremely niche and esoteric skills. If you don't have any sort of background in such things, explaining exactly what it is you're after can seem to present a unique challenge that a normally-confident entrepreneur suddenly feels unequipped to accomplish.

In these circumstances, the go-to (though often ineffective) solution is to simply allow the development team to take over and proceed as they see fit. Unsurprisingly, however, what too often results in this scenario is an end-product at odds to the original vision.

The better solution employed by only the most professional development houses is to have an appropriate communications system in place that will ensure that the development team has a crystal clear grasp of exactly what it is the client wants long before even a single line of code is written. It is only through making extra efforts during these preliminary stages that the eventual outcomes will match the client's desires and ultimate satisfaction is achieved.

Break down your project idea into bite-sized chunks

Communication problems tend to occur when trying to explain the whole idea at once. Instead, it's far better to strip down the project into bite-sized chunks, so that developers will be able to understand exactly what you want the software to achieve. This practice will actually help you clarify the vision in your own mind as well, so the benefits here are multiple.

The minimum viable product (MVP) plan

First thing's first. You need to be able to pare down your vision for your app or piece of software to just its very bare essentials and write them down. All you need to do at this stage is describe only your product's core features – i.e. only those that you believe make the product an absolute necessity for your business.

This is your MVP plan. You will no doubt have many additional features that you would like the end-product to support, and you can add these later. The MVP plan has no bells and whistles. Just core features – which might just amount to one or two.

How will people use the software?

Your next job is to write down exactly how you envision people will end up using the software product once complete. Once again, it's important at this stage that you be just as sparing with the finer details – all you're trying to communicate is the very crux of the idea. For example, if you want an app that will help you sell your new range of wearable cameras, you don't need to detail anything about the cameras themselves. Instead, just write down the bare essentials: “Users will be able to browse a catalogue of wearable cameras and associated accessories, and make a purchase.”

Create a flow chart

The next stage is to create a flow chart that explains exactly what will happen and where users will be directed after every click they make. This stage drills down a little further into the finer details of your project plan, so you must be thorough. With this in mind, when creating your flow chart, use “if-then” branches. For example:

Upon opening the application:

  • If it's a new user, then the user is taken to the welcome/sign-up page.
  • If the user already has an account, then the user is directed to his/her account page.

When making a purchase:

  • If it's the user's first purchase, then the user is taken to the credit card registration page.
  • If the user has already registered card details, then he/she is offered to complete the purchase with one click using a pre-registered card.
  • If the user wants to pay with a different card, then the user is directed to the credit card registration page.

Detail all desired features

On a separate page, you can now start to list the details of all features that you wish your end product to include. This page goes beyond the core features of your product, so it's important to be thorough and concise in your descriptions.

If we use the wearable camera sales app again as an example, the details of additional functionality might include:

  • Before users complete a purchase of a wearable camera, they are presented with the option to browse the associated accessories catalogue.
  • Each time a repeat user logs on, the application will display smart purchase recommendations based on catalogue browsing history.

Create visual mockups

Visualising your idea will help all parties. If you have a clear vision of how you wish your homepage to be displayed, draw it. You don't have to have good artistic skills to create visualisations. On a sheet of paper or on your computer's design app, simply mark-off sections in boxes. Within each box, write “logo goes here”, “sign-up form is here”, “navigation menu is here”, “purchase recommendations appear here”, and so on.

The dream deadline

All project plans should contain a dream deadline for the completion of the project. However, be prepared for discussions, for you may have to be flexible. Depending on the size of your project, it may simply not be possible to have your software completed exactly as you want it within your desired timeframe. The development house will be able to advise you on this.

Name your budget

One last key piece of information that the development house will need is the budget they have to work with. With your plan in place, the dev house will be able to tell you right away if your project is feasible within your budget. Declaring how much money you have to spend will also avoid the chance of any unexpected and possibly unwelcome surprises arriving at your door when it comes to billing.