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Niche Developer vs. Generalist Developer: Which Should You Hire?

When it comes to hiring a software developer for a project, should you go for a niche expert or an all-around guy? Read on to find out what you need to consider to make the best choice.

You’ve taken on a new business project and are certain of one thing: you need to hire a software developer. The question now is, exactly what kind of software developer should you hire? 

For many entrepreneurs and especially those embarking on a software development project for the first time, this question is a daunting one. Because the answer isn’t straightforward and the options are numerous, starting with choosing between a niche developer or a generalist one.

What is a Niche Developer and a Generalist Developer?

As you might have already guessed, a niche developer is a developer that’s focused on a specific area of development, of which there are many. There are front-end developers and back-end developers, and going deeper into the niches there are specific programming language devs, cloud devs, game devs, crypto devs, and many others. These types of developers will often market themselves as such to distinguish themselves from other specialists and generalist developers. 

Speaking of generalist developers, these are developers that haven’t really focused on one specific area of development, and offer a broader scope of development services. They can be full-stack developers: developers that are able to do both frontend and backend development, and may even assist in other areas like application design, project coordination, and more.

So Which One is Better?

So which one is better: a skilled master or a jack of all trades? The answer isn’t actually as clear cut as you may think, and is really dependent upon a number of factors. 

Probably the weightiest of these factors is the type of project you actually have. Is it centered on using a specific type of software or platform? Is it focused on just one solution? Do you need in-depth knowledge and technical expertise in a particular area in order to achieve your end goal? If your answer is yes to most of these questions, then you’re likely better off with a specialist. 

So, for example, you’re planning on developing an online game that utilizes the Unity game engine. Of course you’ll want to hire game devs who specialize in creating games using this engine. Or let’s say you want to develop your own trading platform, then it would be best to hire trading platform devs.

The great thing about specialists is that they don’t become specialists without being a generalist first. They’ve had to have a background on several different development areas before choosing to specialize in their specific field. So if you opt for a specialist, you may still get a generalist’s skill set while also having the specific expertise required for your project.

Does this mean then that specialists are always the better choice over generalists? Not definitively. The advantage of generalists is that because they aren’t focused on just one solution or one way of doing things, they can give you a wider range of options and can be more open to trying and learning new technologies. This makes them ideal for projects that require a more open-ended approach. Generalists can also help you in more than one area of the entire development process, depending on the scope of their skills and experience.

Apart from being more flexible, generalists have the ideal base for specialization, which can be very beneficial for you. You can hire them for their broad skills, and then train them to focus on what your project needs in particular. It would be like developing your very own specialist, one that’s trained specifically for your project.

Beyond Specializations: Choose Your Developers Wisely

Looking beyond the type of project you have and even beyond the choice between specialist or generalist developer, there are plenty of other important factors to consider when choosing a developer for your project:

  • Skill sets – This is one of the main distinctions between niche and generalist developers. But there’s more to look into than simply whether or not a developer has niche-specific skills. While it may be essential for your project to have a developer with a very specific skill set, bear in mind that many other skills can also be beneficial for your project. These include non-essential but related technical skills as well as soft skills, which are often neglected but can have a major impact on how well your developer is able to work and collaborate with your team.
  • Compatibility – Does your developer’s work style and general attitude fit well with your company culture, vision, and environment? Would they be comfortable working in your current schedule and setting, be it in an office or a home-based arrangement?
  • Flexibility and adaptability – Sometimes development projects can go differently than previously planned. You’ll need a developer that can adapt to such changes: able to come up with both refined solutions as well as quick hacks; able to accept better or preferred approaches; and is not averse to testing, debugging or even letting go of their own code.
  • Strategy – A great developer will not simply follow a plan, but will understand what your business is trying to accomplish and will find ways to do so in the best way possible. This may mean simplifying code instead of making things more complex; opting for third-party pre-built solutions instead of reinventing the wheel; and even choosing not to code when it doesn’t serve the company’s best interests.

When you think about it, choosing between a niche developer and a generalist developer is not really the biggest consideration when it comes to hiring a software developer. In many cases you won’t even have to choose. Depending upon their size, scope and timeframe, projects will often require more than one developer. In these situations it can be beneficial to have both specialists and generalists in your team working together to come up with more well-rounded solutions.

Hiring a developer can be a long and difficult process, especially if you’re not well-versed in the technical aspects of software development. You have to know where to look, what to look for, sort through various candidates, and finally make a compelling offer– all while also trying to focus on and build your business. Why not make it easier on yourself and leave the laborious hiring and vetting process to us?

CoDev is an established offshore outsourcing company that specializes in outsourcing software developers. We’ve been providing highly skilled and experienced remote developers to dozens of businesses for over a decade now, making the hiring process so much easier, quicker, more affordable, and hassle-free for businesses. Learn more about CoDev and the incredible service we offer to businesses just like yours by getting in touch with us today.

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