How to Start Building Web3 Concepts into Your Roadmap

Today’s internet grew from a Web 1.0 world of read-only static webpages to today’s centralized Web2.0 ecosystem.  Large tech companies control most of the user data and access. This concentration of data and power raises questions that range from privacy to ethics and beyond. 

In 2008, on the heels of the worldwide financial crisis, Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin white paper. While Satoshi’s actual identity remains a mystery, the paper detailing how an alternative currency might be created and distributed garnered early interest and followers created the current Bitcoin market. 

To provide a trustworthy ledger for the new currency,  the paper also proposed that transactions be recorded on a blockchain. Pre-blockchain concepts have been around since 1979, and the Bitcoin Whitepaper introduced the idea of a "chain of blocks." Bitcoin’s adaptation brought blockchain into the public eye. The point is, though, that blockchain is not synonymous with bitcoin or alternative currencies, and the market potential is much larger than just cryptocurrency.

Get the bonus content: 15 Non-Art NFT Use Cases

The 2021 global blockchain technology market size was USD 5.92 billion. Analysts expect the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 85.9% from 2022 to 2030. Increased venture capital funding in blockchain technology companies is a major factor in the market growth and forecast. 

How to Start Building Web3 Concepts into Your Roadmap

Source

Let’s define the basic blockchain concept because it enables most of the innovations people refer to when they talk about Web3. Even the normally understated Big Blue (IBM) blog says,  “Blockchain presents a tremendous opportunity for software development.”

Blockchain Basics

People describe a blockchain as a transparent distributed ledger of immutable transactions. That’s quite a wonky mouthful. Let’s break it down. 

Depending upon the use case, the blockchain may also have varying degrees of decentralization. Unlike distributed, which refers to geographic distribution, decentralization refers to shared control and governance. No one person controls what happens on the network, all participants have a say, depending upon the rules the community put in place. 

As the burgeoning DeFi industry shows, the financial system was a logical first target for blockchain disruption. However, blockchain as a technology is sector agnostic. Major mainstream corporations such as Walmart began building internal blockchains for supply chain management as early as 2016; a trend that continues to accelerate. 

So when you hear people talk about Web3, they are usually referring to a larger idea of using technology, most of it run “on-chain”, to decentralize control, enable peer-to-peer transactions, break corporate social medias’ chokehold on access to customers and data, and restore privacy control to the individual. 

In reality, the degree of decentralization needed depends upon the purpose or use case. In a public Defi blockchain with lots of users who don’t know each other, decentralization is very important for trust in the network. 

A corporate supply chain blockchain has limited transparency for outsiders and less decentralization because the users have a pre-existing relationship and have been vetted for access. 

Blockchain technology also has some drawbacks. It isn’t suited for fast retrieval or efficient storage. Ironically, blockchains can create their own siloed ecosystem because they don’t talk to each other unless they are adapted for interoperability. 

It is unlikely that a universe of blockchains will replace the Web2 internet. It is more likely that Web3 will integrate with much of what we already have. Click To Tweet

Web2 and Web3 do not talk to each other because of differences in architecture and protocols. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) such as Cloudflare offer distributed web gateways that provide an HTTP interface to Web3 protocols like Ethereum and InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). These gateways provide a bridge between different versions of the Web.

Blockchain applications are called Dapps. The D stands for decentralized, but then you probably knew that.  Hyperledger is a great place to start to learn more about blockchain and get involved with an open-source blockchain community. 

So what kind of use cases should companies be thinking about for their roadmaps? That depends upon your product or service of course. Below are a few areas we are seeing the mainstream adoption of Web3 concepts. 

Web3 Token Economy 

Tokens are defined assets built on a specific blockchain. They may refer to one-of-a-kind assets, (more about that in a bit), or they may be interchangeable, like red poker chips.
Tokens can also have smart contracts that include additional information. Tokens are minted on the blockchain and stored in “wallets” which, just like a real wallet, are private and specific to the user. 

Security Tokens

Security tokens are the most famous types of tokens as they are “coins” related to cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Ether. Security tokens hold a store of value. They are associated with their native blockchain. 

It's important to remember that not all tokens are coins, because the US government subjects the sale of security tokens to SEC regulations. You (or your clients) don’t want to position utility tokens (see below) in a way that could be construed as digital “money” or currency. If you are unclear about this, be sure to check with an attorney prior to going public with a token strategy.

Utility Tokens 

Utility tokens aren’t meant to be used as a store of value, aka money. They are also called consumer, incentive, or reward tokens. Reward tokens have their roots in “gamification”, but people don’t have to be video game fans to understand and participate in token reward programs.

Brands can use utility tokens to engage followers, build community and perceived value. Community members can trade their tokens with each other. Similar to reward programs, members can collect tokens to earn additional rewards in the real world. A quick web search on token economy reveals a wide range of reward use cases for utility tokens, from classroom to fitness to earning access to events or merch. And that leads us to a specific type of token, the NFT.

NFTs in Web3

In 2020 - 21 art NFTs made a big splash, creating a speculative bubble market in art NFT buying and selling. That bubble seems to have popped but the promise of NFTs is just getting started. 

An NFT is a type of token, or record, on a blockchain that identifies a unique asset. You can create an NFT for any unique object, virtual or real. NFTs are not just for digital artwork. 

Companies and brands are starting to use NFTs and a blend of virtual and in-person experiences and merchandise to build community with their biggest fans. The advantage for companies is NFTs represent a trackable way to engage with fans outside of social media. 

With its roots in programming, video gaming, and finance, v 1.0 of Web3 is not user-friendly for the mainstream. As demand increases to access the utility of tokens outside of cryptocurrency, platforms with better UX are popping up to simplify access. Here are a few to check out: 

Unlock-protocol - for building membership communities

GET Protocol -  NFT ticketing

Mint.store - a platform for white label NFT marketplaces and token experiences. 

Web3 Edge Computing

The physical infrastructure Dapps run on, including servers and storage, is also geographically distributed. This is called edge computing. The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is a decentralized storage architecture, which provides cloud storage by building on principles of content addressing and P2P networking. As of February 2022, IPFS is used by more than 230k peers per week, serving tens of millions of requests per day. 

Just as we are seeing NFT service providers entering the market, a blockchain infrastructure and ecosystem service startups are arriving on the scene to support Web3 hosting, services, and metaverse activities.

Get the bonus content: 15 Non-Art NFT Use Cases

Moving Ahead with Web3

People like to rally around causes that make them feel good. Eternal optimists tend to flock together. Sometimes the last thing they want to admit is that there are limits to the upside. The dotcom era and the US stock market, in general, are perfect examples. To borrow a phrase from former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in referring to a previous market bubble, Web3 has its share of fans infused with ‘irrational exuberance”. 

One risk is over-engineering projects onto the blockchain that don't need to be there. In fact, Rawnet’s CTO James Crooke holds the informed if somewhat grumpy view that “The ratio of terrible to good ideas in Web3 is 10000:1, if not more”. 

Even so, the Web3 space is expanding rapidly.  Unlike the early adopters, most mainstream people and companies are token and blockchain agnostic. They aren’t emotionally attached to coins or founders, they are looking for real results.

The bottom line? Web3 will affect you or your customers’ business at some point. Don’t give in to FUD or hype; do your homework and adjust your roadmap with a strategy that includes a strong FOMO filter. If you are interested in exploring Web3 blockchain applications, contact us to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help.

Minimize Downtime & Avoid Bugs with an APM Solution

Imagine that you're searching for a product and click on a Google search result. How long would you wait for the page to load? If you're like most people, you'll stick around for a couple of seconds at most. If the page doesn't load, you'll quickly click the back button and move on to the next search result – and you'll probably shy away from that brand in the future.

Let's take a closer look at why application performance is so important, how to spot problems with application performance monitoring, and how to build these tools into your day-to-day workflow.

A high level of performance is essential to the success of most web applications, making APM tools critical to spot any performance issues before they turn into bigger problems. Click To Tweet

Why Performance Matters

Application performance is critical to the success of many web applications – especially consumer-facing apps. According to Aberdeen, every second beyond the two-second mark results in a 7% drop in conversion rates and an 11% drop in pageviews. Poor performance also leaves visitors with a bad perception of the overall brand.

While a poor user experience is the biggest concern, slow performance also negatively impacts search engine rankings. Google penalizes pages with slow loading times even if they have more relevant content. That's because many users that experience a slow website will immediately click back to the search results page – telling Google it's a bad result.

Of course, poor performance also impacts existing customers. According to Salesforce, 47% of customers say they'll stop using a software product if they encounter a bug or other quality issue. Unhappy customers may also leave negative reviews, resulting in lower long-term growth rates given that 40% of customers don't buy when there are negative reviews.

Application Performance Monitoring

Maximizing performance is simple with small applications, but today's distributed architectures create new challenges. Fortunately, application performance monitoring, or APM, software can help monitor and manage performance across the application stack. As a result, you can minimize downtime by immediately identifying any problematic issues.

APM Performance

New Relic’s dashboard makes it easy to spot performance problems. Source: New Relic

There are a few types of APM solutions:

These solutions may have several features:

There are hundreds of different APM products out there, ranging from open source to enterprise solutions. The most popular solutions include New Relic, AppDynamics, Dynatrace, ScoutAPM, and Datadog. Ultimately, the right decision depends on your organization's budget and technical requirements, but these options are some great starting points.

Download our Checklist of Popular APM Solutions to discover different options for your project.

Creating a Feedback Loop

Application Performance Monitoring helps you spot performance issues and even diagnose their root cause. However, these tools don't communicate the problem with the rest of your team or actually fix the problem. As a result, you'll need to create a feedback loop that sends impactful problems to the right developers for follow-up.

The good news is that it's easy to automate these processes. For example, many APM solutions integrate with continuous integration and development (CI/CD) processes to spot code-level issues. Bug trackers and communication tools may also integrate with them to streamline the promotion of performance issues into tickets or issues.

When designing a feedback loop, it's essential to keep in mind that not all performance issues may be worth fixing. For instance, issues that only impact a handful of users in edge cases may not be worth the development time to fix right away. On the other hand, issues impacting VIP users or customer SLAs may be extremely urgent.

The Bottom Line

Performance is essential to the success of web applications. In addition to turning off visitors, poor performance can cause increased customer attrition and hurt brand reputation. Fortunately, APM solutions can help spot these problems and address them before they become larger problems, making them essential to long-term success.

Don't forget to download our Checklist of Popular APM Solutions to discover different options for your project.

If you need help addressing performance issues, Sharkbyte has decades of experience in custom software development. Our team augmentation services can help you increase development capacity to resolve these issues and ensure they don't affect your business.

Contact us today for a free consultation!

Listen to Customer Problems, Not Feature Requests

Most software businesses receive plenty of feature requests through conversations with account managers, customer support tickets, and even social media. While most feature requests originate from a real pain point, they may be half-baked solutions to the real problem. Therefore, it's essential to understand the problem before jumping to a solution.

As Rob Fitzpatrick wrote in The Mom Test, "You aren't allowed to tell [customers] what their problem is, and in return, they aren't allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution."

Let's take a look at what's wrong with many feature requests, why customer support tells a better story, and how to create the right feedback loop to keep your product on track.

Customer support provides the best signal to guide your next features. Click To Tweet

What's Wrong with Feature Requests?

Henry Ford once said, "if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Customer feature requests arise from a real problem or frustration, but they're not always the best solution. For example, Basecamp received numerous requests for Gantt charts to visualize projects. However, Basecamp's business model is to simplify project management. As a result, customers would be better off learning its approach.

Get the bonus content: Feature Request Validation Checklist

Other problems with feature requests include:

In short, many feature requests are solutions that have an ambiguous or non-existent problem. Rather than accepting them at face value, product teams should try to understand the underlying problems facing a customer before thinking about a solution. In many cases, the best solution doesn't look anything like the original feature request.

Customer Support Tells a Better Story

Product managers should have regular conversations with customers, but customer support should always have the most contact with customers. Customer support fields questions and listens to complaints every day, trying to solve problems and close tickets as quickly as possible. As a result, they have the most knowledge about common pain points and challenges.

Unfortunately, many customer support teams are focused on closing tickets as quickly as possible rather than understanding customer problems. By shifting the mindset from solving to understanding, you can capture common problems and come up with creative solutions. For instance, you try the “five whys” technique to narrow down problems before solving them.

In addition, customer support teams should follow up with customers to collect feedback. For instance, if a workaround fixed the problem, the team might want to follow up to ask if the workaround was a satisfactory resolution or if it’s still inconvenient. If there’s a common problem area, customer surveys can also help identify if many users experience the same frustration.

Many companies separate customer support and software development after reaching a certain size. As a result, developers have less context into how customers actually use their software and what problems they face with it. Product managers attempt to translate feedback into feature requests, but there’s often a lot lost in translation.

Creating Tighter Feedback Loops

A better approach is building customer support into development workflows by encouraging developers to take on some customer support shifts or involving customer support teams in product-level discussions. By involving everyone in customer support, you can build a culture centered around the customer and solving their problems.

Customer Feature Requests

An example continuous feedback loop. Source: UseResponse

Many companies are hesitant to force engineers into customer support roles due to the high opportunity cost. In addition, some engineers prefer to avoid talking to customers. However, there's growing evidence that talking to customers can help improve products by keeping everyone on the same page and promoting more empathy.

There are several benefits to encouraging developers to take on some customer support tasks:

You can involve customer support teams in early product discussions to ensure that new features address real problems. For instance, if you use behavior-driven development (BDD), a customer support person might be part of the “Three Amigos” team that discusses new features and builds the specifications for their implementation.

Get the bonus content: Feature Request Validation Checklist

The Bottom Line

Most software businesses are inundated with feature requests. Rather than taking them at face value, try to understand the customer's underlying problem before thinking about a solution. Or, even better, get the entire organization involved in customer support to improve empathy and guide the development of future functionality.

If you're looking to level up your software, Sharkbyte provides everything from roadmap development to team augmentation to full-service development to bring your ideas to life.

Contact us for a free consultation!

How Vulnerable is Your Application to Security Breaches?

Nearly half of data breaches stem from application vulnerabilities, according to a Verizon study, doubling over the past year. At the same time, the Ponemon Institute and IBM estimate that the average data breach costs nearly $4 million, translating to a significant cost for even large businesses capable of absorbing it.

Let's look at the most common application attack vectors and how you can protect your application to reduce risk.

Nearly half of data breaches come from application vulnerabilities—how vulnerable is your application to data breaches? Click To Tweet

What Are the Most Common Attacks?

Cyber attacks and data breaches come in many different flavors. While it would be impossible to cover every attack vector in a single blog post (or an entire blog), there are a handful of common attacks to watch out for. By understanding and protecting against these attacks, you can dramatically reduce the odds of a data breach.

Application Security Vulnerabilities

Data breaches are often an avoidable problem. Source: Mobidev

#1. SQL Injection

Most data breaches—not surprisingly—arise when hackers infiltrate a database. While there are many ways to access a database, SQL injections are the most common attack vector. 

These attacks involve inserting SQL statements into web form fields. If web applications don't sanitize form input, hackers can dump the database contents to access email addresses, passwords, or other sensitive information. In other cases, they may edit content (e.g., quietly change passwords) or delete content to cause complete data loss.

#2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Other data breaches involve hackers tricking users into handing over their credentials. In many cases, these credential thefts occur via an attack vector known as cross-site scripting, or XSS.

These attacks involve compromising the interactions that users have with a vulnerable application. In particular, hackers inject malicious executable scripts (e.g., JavaScript) into a vulnerable application that executes it. The most common example is a forum where users can embed a JavaScript script in their post that other visitors inadvertently execute.

#3. Remote File Inclusion (RFI)

A similar approach to cross-site scripting is known as remote file inclusion or RFI. In these attacks, hackers cause web applications to include a remote file that executes malicious code.

The attack works when an application receives a path to a file as an input for a website and doesn't properly sanitize it. As a result, the external URL is supplied to an include function and executes on the server. While XSS affects visitors, RFI attacks server-side code, enabling hackers to steal data from an entire database.

#4. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Social engineering is at the heart of many data breaches. Using cross-site request forgery, or CSRF, hackers trick victims into submitting a malicious request to a web application.

These attacks often use fake websites that appear trustworthy. When a victim clicks a link or button, a GET or POST request is sent to a target web application that executes the request. If the victim is signed in to the target web application, the requests appear legitimate and execute, resulting in changed passwords, money transfers, or other actions.

#5. Dependency Vulnerabilities

Most applications make liberal use of dependencies. In fact, the average application has more than 500 open-source libraries and components! And vulnerabilities in these dependencies can create an attack vector.

Unfortunately, the number of vulnerabilities found in public repositories has sharply risen over the past few years. At the same time, component-heavy development patterns often lead to development teams that don't understand what components they use in their applications and fail to keep them out of date—exacerbating the problem.

How to Protect Your Applications

Data breaches impact even the largest companies and it's impossible to completely secure any Internet-connected application. That said, there are many best practices that you can implement across your organization to reduce the risk of a data breach, mitigate their severity, and quickly recover when a data breach does occur.

Download our Data Breach Response Checklist to learn how you should respond to a data breach to minimize impact and protect your business.

Some best practices include:

Beyond these best practices, many organizations use Static Application Security Testing (SAST) to scan their source code for vulnerabilities as part of a continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) process. In addition, Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools and manual penetration testing can further harden security after deployment.

In addition to these tools, many organizations use monitoring tools to observe production applications for attacks or leaks in real-time. For example, runtime application self protection (RASP) acts as a reverse proxy that observes incoming attacks and enables applications to reconfigure automatically in response to explicit conditions.

The Bottom Line

A growing number of data breaches arise from application vulnerabilities, including SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and other common attacks. Fortunately, there are a handful of best practices, actions, and software tools that you can take to harden your application and reduce the risk of a data breach.

Don’t forget to download our Data Breach Response Checklist to learn how you should respond to a data breach to minimize impact and protect your business.

If you need help hardening your application, Sharkbyte provides team augmentation services where our senior engineers can step in and provide insights into ways to improve. 

Contact us today!

Speed Up Your CI/CD with Containerization

Agile development teams rely on continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) to quickly test and deploy applications. However, keeping development, test, and production environments in sync is a challenge. Fortunately, containerization can help solve these problems, speed up CI/CD processes, and scale infrastructure faster.

Let's take a look at what containerization is and how it can help speed up your continuous integration and deployment processes.

Containerization can help keep development, test, and production environments in sync, speeding up your CI/CD workflows. Click To Tweet

What is Containerization?

Many Linux developers may be familiar with cgroups and namespaces, which limit resources to specific processes. In 2013, Docker applied a similar concept to separate application dependencies from infrastructure. Since then, containerization has become common across software development and IT operations (DevOps).

While virtual machines abstract physical hardware, containers abstract at the app layer that packages code and dependencies together. As a result, a single machine and operating system can run multiple containers. These dynamics mean that containers take up less space than a virtual machine while supporting a far greater number of applications.

Why Containerization Matters

Most Agile development teams are familiar with the testing and deployment challenges that arise from a lack of standardization. For example, a test engineer might identify a bug that a developer cannot reproduce. Or, a developer might deploy a piece of code that works locally only to crash in a production environment.

Download our Checklist of CI/CD Best Practices to maximize quality and minimize the chances of errors reaching production users.

Containers ensure that everyone is working in an identical environment. For instance, a Dockerized application will contain a Dockerfile that defines a specific environment. Then, when a developer pulls down the code from a remote repository, the Dockerfile will build that particular environment on their local machine to ensure compatibility.

Over time, development tools and platforms have integrated containers into their products and workflows. For example, many IDEs have built-in support for managing containers, while PaaS and IaaS platforms support Dockerfiles and other containerization platforms. These tools have made it easier for developers and DevOps to stay on the same page.

Overcoming CI/CD Challenges

Containerization is especially useful for continuous integration and deployment, or CI/CD. For example, by using a production container when testing, DevOps engineers can ensure that a build that passes a CI test suite will run without errors in production. And using the same container during CD processes eliminates any potential errors.

Containers are also much easier to scale either vertically or horizontally. Using container orchestrators, such as AWS ECS or Kubernetes, DevOps teams can easily manage containers and add capacity to improve performance as needed. These tasks are much more manageable than juggling multiple environments requiring manual configuration.

Streamlining DevOps also means that smaller teams can accomplish a lot more. For instance, startups can quickly scale their platforms using containerization without hiring large DevOps teams to manage resources and ensure consistency. As a result, teams can launch more quickly and at a lower cost than ever before by harnessing the power of containers.

How to Get Started

The exact process that you use to containerize your CI/CD processes depends on your infrastructure. That said, Bitbucket Pipelines—an integrated CI/CD service built into BitBucket—is one of the most accessible solutions. The platform automatically creates Docker containers where you can create CI/CD workflows.

Containers CI/CD
Bitbucket Pipelines YAML file. Source: Bitbucket

You can define your Docker image and pipeline in a `bitbucket-pipelines.yml` file at the root of your repository. Or, you can create a pipeline by going to the repository on Bitbucket and selecting Pipelines. Then, you can choose from a series of templates or create your own pipeline using a YAML editor and some helper tools.

Of course, teams that don't use Atlassian products may prefer to use alternative solutions, such as Amazon AWS and Jenkins. As one of the most popular CI/CD platforms in the world, Jenkins has over 1,000 plugins capable of accomplishing nearly any goal. Jenkins also features very customizable notifications through Slack, Teams, or other tools.

Best Practices to Keep in Mind

Containerization is still a rapidly evolving concept, but some best practices have emerged over time. By keeping these guidelines in mind, you can avoid many of the most common pitfalls and ensure that you're getting the most benefit out of your containerization efforts.

Don’t forget to download our Checklist of CI/CD Best Practices to maximize quality and minimize the chances of errors reaching production users.

The most important best practices include:

The Bottom Line

Containerization ensures consistency between development, testing, and production environments, making it increasingly essential for continuous integration and development. So, if you're not leveraging containerization to speed up your CI/CD processes, you may want to reevaluate and integrate the technologies to move more quickly.

If you need help, Sharkbyte specializes in helping organizations of all sizes with everything from development to DevOps. Our experienced engineers can help you containerize your environments to speed up your development cycles and launch more quickly. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.

How to Streamline Your Social Media Efforts

Social media has become a part of everyday life—for better or worse. According to Statista, the average American spends just over two hours per day on social media. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans with a social media profile (82%) now exceeds the number of households with a television (71%), making it a vital communication channel.

Unfortunately, many startups and established businesses struggle to see results from social media. The good news is that there are a few strategies that you can use to improve engagement and achieve your desired outcomes without spending hours each day coming up with ideas for posts and hoping for the best.

Let's take a look at how to streamline your social media marketing efforts using processes and automation tools.

Social media has become one of the most critical communication channels for advertisers—here's how to streamline your outreach to maximize return on investment. Click To Tweet

Finding What Works

Many businesses have dabbled in social media but struggled to achieve results. In some cases, that's because they exclusively self-promote without delivering any real value to their audience. In other cases, it's because they don’t stick with it long enough. Fortunately, a handful of strategies can help you achieve results.

Download our Checklist of Daily Social Media Tasks to discover actions you can take to improve your social media presence.

Start by creating a few personas for your audience. These are fictional representations of your ideal customers, including their demographics, desires, and pain points. Then, with these personas in place, write posts that help them solve their pain points or speak to their desires. Writing to a specific audience will significantly boost your engagement.

Social Media Efforts

Personas can help with everything from writing posts to selecting the best networks. Source: Sprout

For example, a budgeting app might have a persona for a busy 40-year-old mother of three children that needs to carefully manage their budget to control costs. A pain point might be not having enough time to budget between work and her children’s after-school activities. And a desire may be to stay organized and confident in her decisions.

When creating social media posts, it’s much easier to speak to this fictional person’s situation with helpful advice and guidance. For example, you might write about ways to save time when budgeting or how to save money on groceries with a large family. These posts are better targeted to the demographic and therefore may convert better than the general public.

Finally, about two-thirds of your social media posts should be informational and designed solely to help your audience. For example, you might share short pieces of advice or helpful links to news articles. Only one-third of your posts should be self-promotional, and even those posts should tie in a persona's pain points or desires.

Creating a Workflow

The next step in streamlining your social media efforts is defining a clear workflow. Rather than writing social media posts ad-hoc, it's best to incorporate them into your existing workflows. For example, you might add the creation and scheduling of social media posts to your content marketing workflows to ensure they get done.

Start by adding social media triggers to existing processes, such as blog posts, new product features, press releases, or events. When any of these events occur, add the creation of social media posts to the to-do list. You can schedule these posts out over days, weeks, or months to drive ongoing traffic, leads, sign-ups, or other actions.

Social Media Efforts

Social media calendars make it easy to schedule and organize posts over extended periods. For example, Sprout makes it easy to manage posts across various social networks in a calendar. You can automatically schedule posts and see what posts are going out on a given day to ensure the right timing and cadence.

Network Posts per Day
Facebook 1-2
Twitter 3-10
Instagram 1-3
Instagram Stories 2-5
Pinterest 3-20
LinkedIn 1-2

The ideal number of social media posts per day depends on the network (see the table above). Many social media planning applications can also schedule posts at optimal times to maximize engagement. For example, Twitter engagement is typically highest around 9 a.m., whereas Facebook's is later in the day.

Using Automation Tools

The final step is setting up automation tools to simplify and streamline these processes.

Don't forget to download our Checklist of Daily Social Media Tasks to discover actions you can take to improve your social media presence.

BannerBear is a popular tool to automatically create social media graphics and videos—key elements to improve engagement. Rather than creating graphics from scratch, the platform automatically overlays text over an image and uses artificial intelligence to position the images correctly. And you can trigger media creation with an API or webhook.

Zapier and Make (Integromat) make it easy to stitch together different tools, such as Sprout, Buffer, BannerBear, or Google Sheets. For example, you can configure Zapier to automatically generate a BannerBear image when a new row is added to a Google Sheet. Then, you can schedule the social media post on Buffer with the associated image.

Social Media Efforts

These automation tools work with a wide range of different solutions. For instance, you might use your blog's RSS feed for article sharing posts, Atlassian as a trigger for product update posts, or even a thought leader's Twitter feed as a trigger for informational posts. That way, you can keep your social media feeds updated with minimal extra effort.

The Bottom Line

Social media has become an integral part of everyday life, making it an important communication channel for businesses. Rather than diving in with ad-hoc posts, you can achieve better results by taking the time to understand your target audience, building social media into your existing processes, and leveraging automation tools to streamline everything.

Sharkbyte can help you with custom software development and team augmentation services if you're a startup or an established business looking to expand. If you’re at the startup stage, we can even help you create a realistic product roadmap that you can use to guide development and keep projects on time and budget.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

3 Ways to Level Up Your Development Team

Daniel Pink's book, Drive, argues that employee motivation and performance boils down to three things: Mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Hopefully, your company already has a clear purpose, and many developers already enjoy a lot of autonomy. But how can you motivate your development team to improve their skills over time?

Let's take a look at three strategies that you can use to help your development team achieve greater mastery—and unlock better quality and velocity as a result.

There are many ways to motivate developers to improve their skills over time—here are our three favorite strategies. Click To Tweet

Why Mastery Matters So Much

Writing code is like solving a puzzle but without any rules. There are usually many possible solutions to a single problem, and each solution has its own pros and cons. Like any other puzzle, most developers are drawn to solving these puzzles and discovering better solutions. Continuous learning is both necessary and enjoyable for most developers.

Unfortunately, many software businesses don't incorporate mastery into developers' job descriptions. Instead, they view software development more like a manufacturing process than a puzzle, where developers take in a specific set of requirements and output code. Rather than educating developers, they seek out ways to speed up the manufacturing line.

Of course, learning new technologies and techniques is the best way to solve any puzzle. Software businesses that provide developers with space to learn and improve their mastery benefit from faster development, higher code quality, better code performance, and better retention rates than their peers focused on lines of code written per hour.

According to CodeAcademy research, nearly half of engineers say that lack of training is causing a skills gap within their team. A focus on continuously educating developers can help improve retention by nearly 90% and empower everyone to be faster, more agile, and more self-sufficient—a win-win for both the business and the employees.

#1. Create Time & Budget for Continuing Education

The software industry changes very quickly, making it essential to keep your team up-to-date. While you shouldn't be living on the cutting-edge of technology, outdated technologies or paradigms increase development cost, slow down development velocity, and make it harder to hire new software engineers that appreciate working with the latest and greatest.

There are many ways to help developers keep up-to-date:

The easiest way to incentivize learning is by providing a financial and time budget for continuing education. Depending on the employee, continuing education might mean working on side projects, taking online courses, attending workshops, or working on open source projects. The goal is to encourage them to learn new technologies and approaches.

#2. Encourage Developers to Learn the Business Goals

The best developers have both technical proficiency and business domain knowledge. After all, in-depth domain knowledge means they better understand customer requirements, resulting in less hand-holding and fewer mistakes. The problem is that most businesses don't take the time to involve developers in business-facing tasks.

Many developers feel like "code monkeys" that take arbitrary specifications and convert them into working code. If you don't involve developers earlier in the software planning process, they will never understand the "why" behind the code they write. And, you will never realize the benefits they could offer to the business team.

Download our Checklist of Online Learning Platforms for Developers that you may want to consider as a free benefit for employees.

Development Team Mastery

Example Mapping workshops help clarify the business problem and confirm acceptance criteria before writing any code. Source: Cucumber

Behavior-driven development, or BDD, is an excellent way to broaden the role of developers. In short, BDD encourages collaboration across roles to build a shared understanding of a problem. Stakeholders, developers, and test engineers discuss user stories, helping developers better understand customers and enabling them to provide technical feedback early on.

#3. Hire More Experienced Developers

The fastest way to level up developers is to pair them with more experienced peers. After all, instant feedback from a pair programming session or same-day feedback from a code review creates a very short feedback loop. In addition, developers can get real-time help and feedback if they don't understand a problem.

Pair programming is the best and fastest way to level up a developer's skillset. In addition to error correction, pair programming sessions provide an opportunity to discuss potential solutions that incorporate multiple viewpoints. In other words, it helps (even senior-level) developers better rationalize problems and arrive at the best solution.

Our team augmentation services make it easy to add temporary senior-level talent to your development team. That way, you can help improve your codebase and educate your junior or mid-level developers without having to spend six figures hiring full-time senior-level talent. You can also use the boost to complete short-term projects on time.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.

The Bottom Line

Optimal developer motivation and performance require a combination of mastery, autonomy, and purpose. When it comes to mastery, there are many strategies that you can use to encourage developers to continuously learn and improve, including carving out learning time, promoting a more active role, and pairing them with senior devs.

Don't forget to download our Checklist of Online Learning Platforms for Developers that you may want to consider as a free benefit for employees.

If you're interested in adding senior-level talent to your team, contact us to learn more about our team augmentation services. In addition, our custom roadmap development service can help you remove friction from the development process by identifying a specific pathway to achieve your goals, keeping everyone on the same page.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your business.

How to Launch a Startup Without a Technical Co-Founder

Many software startups have at least one technical co-founder. That way, they can quickly pivot to find product-market fit without racking up substantial development costs along the way. Unfortunately, many non-technical founders have trouble finding the right partners, leaving them to choose between learning to code or paying for development.

The good news is that new strategies and tools make it easier for non-technical founders to launch their startups. For example, Lean Startup introduced new ways to validate customer problems before investing in software development while no-code platforms have made it easier for non-developers to build complex software products.

In this article, we'll look at some of these strategies and how non-technical founders can put them to use and maximize their odds of success.

Non-technical founders that spend time validating their ideas can use no-code tools and other techniques to launch without a technical co-founder. Click To Tweet

Spend Time Validating the Problem

Most startups fail due to a lack of product-market fit. In other words, they never found a problem that customers will pay to solve. The problem that the startup is trying to solve does not exist. While every startup should spend serious time talking to customers to validate their ideas, startups without technical co-founders have fewer opportunities to pivot, making it absolutely critical to nail down the problem.

Rob Fitzpatrick's The Mom Test provides a quick, practical guide to interviewing customers and validating problems. The book suggests talking to customers about their lives and asking specific questions rather than pitching your idea. At the same time, you should also be wary of compliments and dig into any negative feedback.

Startup Technical Co-Founder

Lean Canvas makes it easy to create a 1-page business plan. Source: Lean Stack

When you are confident you've hit on a customer pain point, the Lean Canvas can help you think through the entire business model and identify assumptions that you can test with a minimum viable product (MVP). Knowing the weakest parts of your plan makes it easier to fail quickly and avoid wasting time and money going down the wrong path.

Build an MVP with a No-Code Platform

No-code and low-code platforms enable non-developers to build software using a drag-and-drop user interface. For example, Bubble provides a drag-and-drop website builder along with tools to manage application logic and data. In addition, you can use plugins to handle everything from payments to transactional emails.

Download our Checklist of Strategies to Find a Technical Co-Founder to discover where and how to find the right co-founder for your startup.

Startup Technical Co-Founder

Bubble provides an easy-to-use drag-and-drop builder. Source: Bubble

If you're a non-technical founder, no-code platforms are an excellent way to build an MVP. For instance, Bubble costs just $29 per month for a personal plan, including the builder, version control, hosting, and other capabilities under a single roof (and bill). That's a lot more economical than hiring a developer and paying for various infrastructure costs.

The downside is that no-code platforms have their own learning curve—and what you learn doesn't apply to other platforms. No-code platforms also have some technical limitations. And finally, if you decide to launch with a no-code platform, you may also face vendor lock-in issues since it's difficult or impossible to migrate to another platform.

Scaling into the Market with Small Products

Rob Walling introduced a stair-step approach to bootstrapping back in 2015. Rather than starting with a standalone software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, he recommended starting with add-ons to an existing ecosystem, such as a WordPress plugin or Shopify app, which may target the same customers and/or customer problems.

Startup Technical Co-Founder

Rob Walling's Stair-Step Approach - Source: Rob Walling

The development costs for these add-ons are significantly lower than a standalone application, and you have built-in discovery through plugin repositories or app stores. As a result, you can start building an audience for your future business, generate immediate revenue from add-on sales, and begin validating customer problems at a much lower cost.

In addition, it may be easier to bring on a technical co-founder if you have an existing product in the market and a customer list. Many technical co-founders are inundated with requests to help build out startup ideas, and anything that de-risks the execution of the concept makes it more likely that they will commit their time and money to your business.

Outsource to an Experienced Partner

Many software startups without a technical co-founder run out of money. Since there's a high cost to development, they have fewer opportunities to pivot and find product-market fit. The best way to avoid these scenarios is to work with development partners that can help you achieve product-market fit rather than just writing code.

Don’t forget to download our Checklist of Strategies to Find a Technical Co-Founder to discover where and how to find the right co-founder for your startup.

At Sharkbyte, we take a business-minded approach to software development and use this mentality to trim your costs and de-risk projects from every angle. At the same time, we have a team of senior-level developers capable of building applications without technical debt, maximizing quality and functionality across platforms.

If you have a no-code application or are just in the planning stages, our custom roadmap development service can help you develop a clear-cut plan that outlines every step, programming language, deadline, and stakeholder involved in your startup to maximize success. That way, you have clear visibility into project costs and timelines.

The Bottom Line

Many software startups have technical co-founders to reduce risk, but they're no longer necessary for success. Non-technical founders that spend time validating their ideas can leverage no-code platforms or build smaller products in existing ecosystems to build their customer base and achieve product-market fit at a reasonable cost.

Sharkbyte can help non-technical founders navigate the software development process through custom roadmaps and as-needed development services. If you're ready to take your idea to the next stage, contact us for a free consultation and learn how we can help you.

TailwindCSS, LiveView & Other Tech Trends in 2022

The tech world is constantly changing with new paradigms for building and maintaining applications. In recent years, web application development has become significantly more complex with the rise of JavaScript frontend frameworks, serverless functions, microservices, and a host of other new approaches.

The good news is that many new technologies are starting to cut back on that complexity by rethinking best practices.

Let's take a look at some tech trends that are reshaping how developers build and launch products on the web.

Many new tech trends seek to replace JavaScript with easier-to-use and more performant solutions. Click To Tweet

Utility-First CSS Becomes the Standard

Conventional web applications have CSS stylesheets governing their appearance. While they might use a baseline set of styles (e.g., Bootstrap), development teams must handcraft additional styles to create a unique design. And keeping these CSS files organized can be a challenge for even the most disciplined teams.

TailwindCSS and other utility-first frameworks take a different approach. Rather than extending baseline styles, these frameworks break down styles into the smallest possible components, such as rounded corners or drop shadows. As a result, developers can layer together these "utility classes" to build full-fledged designs without additional stylesheets.

2022 Tech Trends

TailwindCSS adoption rates soar for smaller websites and even medium-sized websites. Source: BuiltWith

According to BuiltWith, TailwindCSS has gone from zero in 2018 to power more than 1,100 of the top one million websites. A growing ecosystem of TailwindCSS libraries stitches together these utility classes into fuller components and designs. For example, TailwindUI provides prebuilt templates that make it easier to get started.

JavaScript Sees Competition from WebSockets

JavaScript frameworks are commonly used to build responsive user interfaces that don't require a full-screen refresh. But, of course, developers must then deal with a host of other problems, such as managing state. There's also a lot of added complexity in managing both a frontend and a backend application.

Phoenix LiveView pioneered the idea of using WebSockets to push changes to parts of a web application without JavaScript. The declarative model means that, instead of watching for an event, messages trigger changes to state. And LiveView re-rerenders relevant parts of the HTML template and pushes it to the browser each time.

While Phoenix LiveView is relatively niche, several other frameworks are pursuing similar goals. For example, Ruby on Rails recently launched Turbo to decompose web pages into independent contexts while delivering changes over WebSocket, SSE, or in response to form submissions using regular HTML and CRUD actions.

Monoliths Become a Bit More Modern

Building and maintaining APIs to communicate with front-end single-page applications is a headache for many development teams. You have to figure out authentication, manage state of the client, and implement version control and other safeguards. In some ways, it's like building and maintaining a third application in the stack.

Interia provides another way to avoid the pitfalls of JavaScript frontend development. Rather than maintaining two separate applications, the framework makes it easy to build modern single-page applications using classic server-side routing and controllers. As a result, developers don't need to build APIs in Rails, Laravel, or other monolithic frameworks.

Interia lets backend developers build conventional controllers, but the views are JavaScript page components. So you get all the power of a client-side app along with the SPA experience, but you don't need to build an API. And the tight coupling that creates between the backend and frontend keeps everything in line.

Compiled JavaScript Delivers Better Performance

Every JavaScript developer can relate to opening up the console only to find a laundry list of error messages and warnings. These problems arise because JavaScript is a runtime language, meaning errors manifest in real-time as browsers execute the code. In contrast, compiled languages identify errors at the compile step to avoid runtime errors.

2022 Tech Trends

JavaScript framework performance varies widely with Svelte coming out at the top. Source: Develop Paper

There have been many attempts to turn JavaScript into a compiled language free of runtime errors. For instance, Elm is a functional language that compiles into JavaScript, eliminating runtime exceptions and providing a friendly compiler to safely guide developers through code changes without any risk at deployment.

But lately, Svelte has become a favorite among web developers. Like Elm, Svelte adds a compile step to catch any errors. And rather than virtual DOM diffing, like React or Vue, Svelte writes code that surgically updates the DOM when state changes occur. Unlike Elm, you can use the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript languages you already know.

Blockchains Become More Accessible

Blockchain technologies are quickly bringing Web3 to reality, opening the door for everything from token economies to decentralized finance. However, the complexities of blockchains and Dapp development have kept many would-be developers on the sidelines, particularly given the high costs of making a mistake.

The rise of Web3.js, Ether.js, and other JavaScript libraries has significantly lowered entry barriers in recent months. Using these libraries, developers can easily interact with smart contracts written in languages like Solidity to build Web3 applications that harness the power of the blockchain for authentication, storage, and other use cases.

In addition, a growing number of blockchain companies are releasing easy-to-use APIs that further simplify development. For instance, Chainstack makes it easy for businesses of any size to build and deploy their own blockchain solutions using APIs. These capabilities could further open the door to new blockchain use cases.

The Bottom Line

The tech world is constantly evolving with new paradigms and approaches to building web applications (as well as mobile, IoT, and other applications). While many trends come and go, there are some that stick and ultimately pave the way for the next generation of applications.

If you need help building software, or just a roadmap to help your team navigate these trends, Sharkbyte can help with everything from road mapping to team augmentation to full custom development. Contact us for a free consultation today!

How to Validate Your Startup Idea with a Landing Page

The barrier to entry for launching startups has never been lower. For example, Lean Startup provides a framework for minimizing startup risk while no-code solutions make it easy for non-technical co-founders to build MVPs. But, in the beginning, landing pages are typically the best starting point to validate that a problem exists.

Let's look at how to validate your startup idea with a landing page and we’ll discuss some best practices to keep in mind along the way.

Landing pages are an easy way to validate a problem before investing time and money in an MVP. Click To Tweet

Landing Page vs. MVP

The Lean Startup movement popularized the idea of building landing pages to test startup ideas. For example, both Airbnb and Groupon famously began with a simple landing page. The idea is that you can quickly and inexpensively gauge interest in an idea before investing time and money in building a full-scale application.

While landing pages provide an initial gauge of interest, it's not the same as a minimum viable product (MVP). Landing pages promise to solve a user's problem, whereas an MVP actually solves the problem. As a result, landing pages can prove that a problem exists, but MVPs are necessary to prove that you can really solve the problem.

What You Need to Test an Idea

Landing pages are an excellent way to test a startup idea, bu they also require effort. Successful landing pages share several attributes and need constant fine-tuning to determine what messages resonate with visitors and generate the most conversions. The good news is that there's a well-established formula for success.

Download our Checklist of Landing Page Best Practices to maximize your conversion rates.

Essential landing page components include:

  1. Headline - Write a headline that conveys your startup's product, what it does, or what benefits it provides in a single, concise statement. For example, Basecamp's headline is "The All-In-One Toolkit for Working Remotely," and HelpScout's is "An easier, more powerful way to support your customers."
  2. Value Proposition - The most compelling value propositions consist of a 2-3 sentence sub-headline, a few bullet points, and a visual representation of the product or service. If you don't have a product, consider making a high-fidelity mockup that clarifies what it will look like when complete.
  3. Call to Action - The call to action will ultimately gauge customer demand since it signals interest or buying intent. In most cases, the call to action for a landing page is an email sign-up form with some kind of offer. Anyone who fills out the form becomes a lead to reach out to when you launch an MVP.
  4. Offer - Offers are essential to encourage users to take action. You might offer a free info product, early access to a beta version, or a discount when the product launches. The key is ensuring that the offer is strong enough to entice users to act on the call to action.

Of course, the best landing pages aren't static documents. When using them to test ideas, try A/B testing different headlines, value propositions, calls to action, and offers to see what resonates with visitors. These changes can help you better understand the problem space and improve conversion rates when you launch an MVP.

Best Tools to Build a Landing Page

Many startup founders lack experience with the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript needed to build landing pages from scratch. But fortunately, there are a growing number of drag-and-drop tools to create landing pages. Many of these tools also have built-in lead generation and analytics tools, making them all-in-one solutions.

Leadpages

Leadpages offers over 160 templates, built-in analytics, and A/B testing capabilities, making it one of the most popular landing page builders. With a 14-day free trial and plans starting at $37 per month, it's also a good option for budget-conscious entrepreneurs. However, the biggest drawback is its lack of customization compared to other options.

Startup Idea Validation

Leadpages provides an easy-to-use builder. Source: Leadpages

Unbounce

Unbounce is another popular landing page builder with over 100 templates, analytics tools, and A/B testing capabilities. Unlike Leadpages, the platform supports JavaScript and CSS for greater customization and includes dynamic keyword insertion for search marketing. However, its analytics aren't as powerful, and there are fewer template options.

Instapage

Instapage is one of the easiest landing page builders to use with ready-to-use templates, a stock image library, and easy lead generation tools. You can also collaborate with other team members with real-time editing and secure sharing capabilities. However, Instapage is the most expensive option and doesn't support a lot of customization.

Taking the Next Steps

Landing pages are an excellent way to validate that a problem exists, but MVPs are necessary to reach product-market fit. But, of course, MVPs are much harder to create than a landing page. For example, most startups require web or mobile applications with a database backend, as well as integrations with other tools and services.

Don't forget to download our Checklist of Landing Page Best Practices to maximize your conversion rates.

The best way to plan an MVP is using a framework like Lean Canvas, which forces you to think through customer segments, their problems, revenue streams, key metrics, cost structure, and other factors. Then, by prioritizing problems and thinking through solutions, you can effectively build MVPs that actually solve user problems.

With a robust plan in hand, you'll be in an excellent position to work with a technical co-founder, no-code solutions, or third-party developers to build an MVP. If you need help developing an MVP, Sharkbyte can help build out your concept or sketch out a well-thought-out roadmap for your in-house team with optional team augmentation.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

The Bottom Line

Landing pages are an easy way to validate a problem before investing time and money into building an MVP. Using the components and tools we've covered, you can create effective landing pages in record time and fine-tune them to gauge interest and build an audience. Then, you'll be in a much better position when you begin developing your MVP.

5 Essential Qualities of an Outsourced Software Development Team

Many businesses outsource some or all of their software development to focus on their core expertise. For example, a startup may have a web app and need a companion mobile app, but they don't want to hire full-time software engineers. While there are many development teams that you can use to outsource, it can be a challenge to find the right fit.

Let's look at some essential qualities that you should look for when engaging an outsourced software development team.

The best outsourced software development teams share some common attributes that every business should seek out. Click To Tweet

Start with a Plan

The first step in outsourcing software development is determining your motivation for outsourcing and developing a strategy. For example, before looking for a development partner, you might start with a development roadmap that lays out the who, what, when, where, and why of a project, along with the technology stack and other implementation details.

Next, determine the level of support that you need:

The final step is setting an appropriate budget. With the development roadmap in hand, it's much easier to ballpark the time and cost of a software project. But ultimately, businesses must balance demands for velocity from stakeholders with the cost of velocity from a development perspective—and add in a buffer for unexpected time and cost.

#1. Flexible

Most startups begin with a problem rather than a well-defined solution. As a result, these startups may undergo a series of changes based on customer feedback before achieving product-market fit. Unfortunately, many development firms look for a complete scope before beginning work, which may be incompatible with modern startup methodologies.

Startups should look for development firms that embrace change from an operational and technical standpoint. For instance, they should welcome changing requirements—even late in the development process—and focus on building and frequently delivering extensible software that minimizes the time to market without sacrificing quality.

#2. Communicative

Communication is critical for the success of any project. When outsourcing software development, business-facing teams must clearly communicate requirements to technical teams. Anything lost in translation eats up the budget, slows down the project, and creates frustrating rework for developers—a lose-lose scenario for both parties.

Download our Checklist of Questions to Ask Potential Development Partners to power up your vetting process.

Outsourced Software Development

Atlassian’s Jira is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. Source: Atlassian

Many software businesses rely on the Agile and Scrum frameworks for project management. When hiring a development team, it helps to find those familiar with these methodologies (or the ones you use) to streamline communication. You should also onboard them to your tools (e.g., Slack, Trello, or other apps) to facilitate communication.

#3. Accountable

Many software projects come in over their allocated time and budget. When that happens, it's critical to understand why and address any barriers holding back progress. It's equally essential for development teams to be upfront when they encounter unexpected roadblocks or encounter issues that may lead to a project running over budget.

Clear and consistent communication is the best way to ensure accountability. For example, Scrum incorporates retrospectives into the development process, enabling developers to bring up any roadblocks that they encounter. It's also an opportunity for business-facing teams to voice any concerns over a project's velocity or goals.

#4. Experienced

Software development is becoming increasingly diverse. While JavaScript and HTML built yesterday's websites, modern websites might use hundreds of different languages and frameworks. And, with so many options, it's impossible to be an expert at everything. As a result, most development teams specialize in a handful of technologies.

Don't forget to download our Checklist of Questions to Ask Potential Development Partners to power up your vetting process.

Software businesses should seek out development teams with experience with their technology stack. For example, you might look for past projects or case studies that resemble your requirements. You might also look for development teams that actively participate in the open-source community using the languages or frameworks you need.

#5. User-Focused

Many development teams will do whatever you tell them with very little feedback. While that may seem like a great quality, businesses tend to have more long-term success hiring development teams that prioritize the customer experience and push back where necessary. That way, you can build something with a superior competitive edge.

Outsourced Software Development

Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are a great way to measure customer satisfaction. Source: CustomerThermometer

When hiring a development team, look for teams with a user experience built into their processes. For example, many teams incorporate user research into the onboarding process and then set up feedback channels to fine-tune the user experience. These might include everything from user interviews to user feedback surveys.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

The Bottom Line

Outsourcing software development is a challenging task for any organization. When evaluating different development teams, you should look for flexible, communicative, accountable, experienced, and user-focused teams. If you spend the time to hire the right partner, you can dramatically improve your odds of success.

If you're looking for a development team that meets all of these criteria, contact us to schedule a call and discuss your project! We also provide custom development roadmaps and team augmentation services to help maximize the success of your projects—large or small.

How to Measure the Quality of Your Software

Many businesses must balance code quality with delivery times. While you can measure delivery times, it's a little less clear how to measure code quality. Fortunately, there are several metrics that you can watch and strategies to implement. The key is taking the time to measure these metrics and leverage them to improve.

Let's look at essential quality metrics you should track and how they can help you deliver high-quality software.

Are you tracking software quality metrics? If not, here are three metrics that you can use to maximize quality. Click To Tweet

Code Churn: How Much is Changing?

Code churn is a metric that reflects how often a piece of code (e.g., a file or class) changes. While code inevitably changes over time, frequent changes are a symptom of miscommunication or inexperience. We consider it churn when code changes within three weeks. And, when code churn is 20% or more of your effort, it's time to worry.

code-churn

GitHub makes it easy to see code change frequency. Source: GitHub

Several problems might cause code churn:

You can measure code churn using git, a common code repository tool, or tools provided by cloud platforms, like Azure DevOps. When you see excessive code churn, talk with developers to find the root cause and address the problem before it spirals out of control. By doing so, you can dramatically improve code quality and avoid costly rework.

Defects: How Many Errors Occur?

Defects are application errors that affect users. While test-driven development minimizes errors, it's impossible to simulate real-world conditions perfectly and catch every defect before production. The most common production errors arise from real-world data (e.g., production databases) and users (e.g., unexpected behavior or scale issues).

Download our Checklist of Software Testing Frameworks to discover different ways to improve quality through better tests.

Application performance management (APM) tools make it easy to track the number of defects reaching production. Of course, a higher number of defects translates to lower-quality software, making these tools essential for measuring and optimizing quality. The worst defects can even lead to application downtime—another measure of quality.

airbrake

Airbrake makes it easy to monitor errors in production. Source: Airbrake

When errors arise in production, development teams should take the time to analyze the defect, determine the root cause, fix the immediate issue, and establish systems to prevent similar problems in the future. You may also want to consider more stringent regression testing and continuous integration to ensure quality with each deployment.

Dependencies: Are They Up-to-Date?

Most modern applications rely heavily on dependencies. After all, you cannot be an expert at everything. For example, it's almost certainly a bad idea to develop your own authentication and authorization system due to the sheer number of security considerations. But, of course, the trade-off is that you are trusting a third party with a critical part of your application.

The good news is that many dependencies are highly reliable. Maintainers quickly fix the problem and deploy a new version if there are any issues. But, the bad news is that many development teams are terrible at keeping their dependencies up to date. And, these outdated dependencies can cause a range of problems—from errors to security vulnerabilities.

dependabot

Dependabot solves a lot of problems. Source: GitHub

GitHub's Dependabot and similar tools make it easy to keep your dependencies up-to-date. For example, Dependabot creates a pull request to update the dependency when a security vulnerability is detected. Although, of course, there are some instances where you must make more significant changes to accommodate updated dependencies.

How to Improve Code Quality

The best way to improve code quality is by hiring experienced developers and effectively communicating with them. For example, you might use behavior-driven development (BDD) to communicate new features and test-driven development (TDD) with CI/CD to ensure that code passes objective tests before reaching production users.

Don't forget to download our Checklist of Software Testing Frameworks to discover different ways to improve quality through better tests.

Standards can also help improve code quality by making it easier to read and understand. For example, you might use HoundCI or static code analyzers to flag code quality, security, or style issues. Similarly, you might use pair programming to ensure that the team remains on the same page regarding style and approach.

If you're looking to level up your development team, we provide team augmentation services. Our senior-level engineers will join your team to improve code quality, mentor junior developers, and ensure that your application performs well at scale.

Contact us for a free consultation!

The Bottom Line

Software businesses should track quality metrics and constantly improve them to deliver the best product to consumers. High-quality software also cuts down long-term costs, minimizes technical debt, and improves performance, creating multiple benefits to the bottom line. The key is taking a systematic approach to the process.

If you need help building a roadmap, augmenting your team, or building a full application, our team of experienced software engineers can help you from start to finish. Learn more or contact us for a free consultation.