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There's more to a program than code


Having well functioning unbuggy code is of course very important to a programmer. But if you are trying to make your living selling your programs, you may be surprised to lean that coding is only a part of the puzzle. Good software combines good programming with being easy to look at, easy to find, and easy to use for every level of user.

If you work for a lager company chances are as a programmer you just program. But many programmers choose to work for themselves, and end up having to be a jack of all trades. While doing all of these things may not come naturally to you, they are necessary to succeed. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are going solo on a project.

1.) Aesthetics. I can't stress this enough. So many times I see a project that is beautifully coded but on the surface it just looks like a rejected website from 1992. Programmers are taught programming, not design, I know. But in order to get your program out to people, you need to learn a little about design. You don't need to do anything overly fancy, but it does need to look modern and clean or people won't even give it a chance. Sites like Dreamstime sell stock photos and vector art for a very reasonable price. Or you could think about hiring someone to help with this part, or dabbling in some simple graphics of your own. Stick with a simple, neutral color pallet, just make it clean and polished.

2.) Usability. Sure, it's easy for you to hop into your database and set it up before you install your program... but is it easy for people in your target market? Making your program easy to install and maintain is very important. If the user can't even get your program installed, then it isn't very useful. Once they have it installed, make sure to have a clean and easy backend for them to use to manage the program. For example, if your program sends out e-mails.... then you want the person to be able to add and remove the e-mails from a simple interface. If they have to FTP in and open up a text pad where they are held every time they want to modify their list, it's just not very user friendly. Adding a simple web based interface will make things much easier for the user, even if the web interface just opens up the same document that they would otherwise manually have to find!

3.) Getting the word out. You're never going to have the marketing budget of the big boys... but there are a lot of ways you can get the word out for free. For starters you can list your program on sites like HotScripts (and the plethora of other similar sites) where people are always looking to find new software. Listing costs nothing, and the site is targeted to people looking for programs. Another thing you can do is to setup a twitter and Facebook for your program. Yeah, not everyone is into social media, but you can suck it up for your program's sake! This way if you have news or an update you can get the word out quickly. Be sure you also clearly state a contact e-mail on your website so people can get in touch with questions. Providing people with a good experience will bring them back for more programs in the future... or get you recommendations to their friends.

Being a solo programmer has it's advantages and disadvantages. If you pay attention to the points mentioned above, your software will have a great advantage. Happy programming!

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