Gone are the days of traditional software development where the barrier to entry was prohibitively high due to proprietary technologies with high license costs, high infrastructure costs and a small pool of resources to create software.
Things have changed in the last decade and a half where more of non-technical founders are now building tech products. The barrier to entry is at its lowest with the proliferation of open source technologies and cloud services among others.
While the costs are at their lowest as compared to the earlier decades, startup founders could do with every bit of saving they can in the first phase of their journey.
While building the first version of the product, be it a website or a mobile app, here's how founders can save development costs by nearly half, without compromising the quality of the product.
1. Focus on the must-haves
Enough has been said and written about building the first version of the product in a lean manner, where one focuses on the must-have features and does away with all the nice-to-have features.
To a founder, it's often challenging to segregate the must-have features from the nice-to-have, but one thing that can help focus on the must-have is to identify what's the core value offering of the product.
Once you've identified that, automate just the experience for the end consumer, leaving everything at the backend to be managed manually. Gradually automate various features of workflows at the backend once the product has achieved product/market fit.
For instance, if you were to build a food delivery app, let the order placement experience for the customer be completely automated. You could however, have all the orders come to a central place that manages the restaurants and deliveries, rather than have automated processes for restaurants to receive the orders directly, as do the delivery professionals.
You can save a ton of money and time to market by focusing on launching just the core value of the product.
2. Consider outsourcing
It's a big fallacy that outsourcing is bad. Some of the most successful products that you use today were outsourced in their initial version(s). Some of the examples are Slack, Fab.com, Skype, GitHub, AppSumo, Alibaba and UpWork, among many others.
Outsourcing gets a bad name for people have had bad experiences outsourcing to Eastern Europe and India. But the fact is that there are many similar incidences emerging from the developed markets as well. There are good and bad developers everywhere.
Most founders fail to qualify developers and that often results in bad products.
Outsourcing the initial version(s) of your product helps you keep the costs at minimum and accelerates time-to-market. Once you have product/market fit, you'd be able to raise funding and build an internal team.
3. Build for one platform
Part of the lean development strategy is also to build for one platform in the initial version(s). Most often, founders end up spending too much money upfront in developing for multiple platforms at the same time (for example, develop an app on both iOS and Android), for want of capturing a much wider audience.
Don't make this mistake, unless your product's core value proposition is the interaction between multiple operating systems - such as in the case of WhatsApp.
How many customers do you need to kick-off your product journey with? How many do you need to validate your product idea? Is a million not enough? Each platform has hundreds of millions of customers to tap into. Save money by building for one platform initially.
4. Create requirements analysis
Your planning stage has to be impeccable. You must detail every bit, feature and workflow in the application for the first phase. Most often, costs escalate through the development process when founders start building with high-level requirements.
A detailed requirements analysis document breaks the product down into bite-sized components that help with the wireframes, design and even development (without assumptions). If you don't have the skills or knowledge to create the requirements analysis document yourself, have a development team create this document for you before you fix on the project pricing.
Once the requirements analysis document is drafted, it brings clarity to yourself as well as your development team, thus estimating the timelines and pricing more accurately - saving you tons of money through the development lifecycle of the first version.