How are LLMs like ChatGPT going to revolutionize real estate?

How are LLMs like ChatGPT going to revolutionize real estate?

Here is how AIs like ChatGPT are going to revolutionise real estate: invisibly, by increasing efficiency in the market, and visibly, by making customer services a bit cheaper and higher quality.

AI is already in real estate, and has been for a while, but it’s not AI like ChatGPT. The AI in real estate is a collection of technology and techniques known generically as Machine Learning (ML) and it uses the same basic building blocks, called neural networks, that ChatGPT uses, but with different structures and different arrangements of the building blocks because they have a different purpose to ChatGPT. 

Trulia is an example of a proptech company leveraging the power of ML. They’ve used it to build their property recommendation engine, for predicting user engagement, and for identifying property features from photographs.

These are things ChatGPT can’t do. ChatGPT is a Large Language Model (LLM). It’s a multi-layer neural network that has been fed a tremendous amount of text and it is very good at stringing words together into sentences in response to some input text.

It has been fed so much text that it is very good at masquerading as an under-trained lawyer, a sub-par business analyst, a mediocre marketer, a hack journalist, etc, simply by stringing together pieces of the text it has been trained on. 

While being very good at generating text, LLMs like ChatGPT aren’t very good at math. You can’t use them to do things like predict user engagement or identify property features from photographs. 

So what are LLMs like ChatGPT good for?

What LLMs are good at is bridging the vast gulf between human written text and the kind of numerical inputs ML systems can deal with.

This can be as simple as basic sentiment analysis, turning a review like “This is so not the best hamburger joint in town” into a -1, and a review like “I hate how good their fries are” into a +1 – simple numbers that can be used in a prediction model.

Stepping beyond this, LLMs can be used to turn text into ranks. An LLM can consistently turn, say, countertop descriptions like “mustard yellow formica”, “granite”, “hand-poured, hand-polished concrete” into a range from 1 to 10. The real value in this is that when it sees a new description, like “clear resin featuring embedded seashells”, it can fit it into the same range.

Moving beyond simple ranking, we can combine it with data extraction. Here is an example where an LLM pulls specific data from a police report. It could just as easily be a property listing:


This kind of “encoding” has normally been a job for humans. This drove up the price for the production and updating of useful databases, making them expensive, rare and proprietary. Spending the money and the time to do the encoding and compile a database was a nice way to build a moat.  

But now it’s not a moat because anyone who can connect a web scraper (or web scraping service) to an API call to an LLM can fill a database with any information they want in days for next to nothing. 

So getting data isn’t going to be much of a problem any more. That’s going to bring efficiency increases. Maybe some parts of the market will eke out a few more percentage points in returns, but only if they can use the data.

Trulia, for example, isn’t running their services on LLMs. LLMs will only be part of the pipeline. The real work and real value will still be done with classic ML models fed with higher quality data encoded by LLMs. 

So, that’s the invisible part of AIs impact on real estate. Let’s now look at the likely visible impact. 

AI, LLMs and email and chat

This visible impact is going to be based on the highly visible features of LLMs – their ability to generate text and respond in a conversational manner. 

We’ve already seen too many real estate listing generators that use LLMs. That last link, agently, provides LLM generated property descriptions as one of their less important features.

This is one of the recurring gotchas of building products with LLMs. It is so easy to get text out of an LLM that whatever product idea you have, if it is just producing text then your business model is in danger of becoming another company’s bullet point.

Is AI Chat going to take over customer comms? 

Chat is the big, consumer-facing application of LLMs like ChatGPT, Bing and Bard. With the ability to train LLMs on your business’s documentation via fine-tuning (OpenAI’s page on it) or using embeddings to constrain the information an LLM can work from, it seems we can all turn over our customer enquiries to software, saving us huge sums of money. 

If only it were that simple.

The problem with using LLMs to “chat” to your customers is that you need to rely on raw text from the LLM. LLMs don’t have any judgement. They just generate text. The result is that they “hallucinate” – produce wrong or even wildly wrong responses – and there is no way to guard against this except having a human in the loop. 

If you are building your customer service chatbot on top of an LLM like GPT-4, even with fine-tuning, the data you supply (chat logs, FAQs, blog articles) will be such a tiny percentage of the LLMs “knowledge” that it will inevitably “hallucinate” when answering questions. It might even insert information from a competitor’s products (that were documented on the internet prior to September 2021).

The other problem is that prompt jailbreaks – strategically written text that tricks the LLM into leaking information or hijacks it for the user’s own purposes – are not a solved problem. 

The end result is that LLMs are not predictable enough to be trusted and so are not going to replace staff in customer service roles. Instead, they are going to act as an assistant to them. They’re going to help customer service staff find answers faster, they’re going to help customer service staff provide better answers, and they’re going to help customer service staff manage complex and ongoing interactions.

Crisp wrote up a fantastic deep dive into their efforts to add AI to their customer service. It’s not easy. It’s not cheap. It will get cheaper, but when you look at the steps they had to go through it is hard to imagine it getting easier.

Zendesk, the customer service SaaS, have also found that AI and LLMs are going to augment staff, helping to improve customer experience, instead of replacing them.   

So AI chat as it is popularly imagined – replacing customer service staff with a bit of code – is not going to happen any time soon. For anything other than the most basic and pro forma customer enquiries, where an LLM chatbot might be limited to being a high-powered FAQ regurgitation engine, humans will still be in the loop and on the payroll.

What’s Proptech going to do with AI?

That’s the big question. The AI services landscape is already fracturing into service providers who will run LLMs for you, fine-tune them for you, host your data for you, etc. AI tools are generic tools. At the coal face they work just as well for any industry, be it real estate or livestock management. So the shovel sellers are already busy selling shovels. 

Proptech startups need to be looking at what untapped data is out there, preferably in text format if you want to jump on the LLM bandwagon. That text could be in paper format. Have you noticed how good OCR has gotten in the last year or two? 

The data might already be sitting on your server. A database of transactions is a prediction model waiting to be trained. Prediction gives you the opportunity to optimise and de-risk, two things every industry wants to pay for. 

Whether you want to reduce the cost of comms with tenants or streamline nine figure real estate transactions or improve compliance in building maintenance schedules, you need to be asking yourself where you can scrape, collect, licence or buy the data you need.

That, we expect, will be easier to do than hire the data scientists you’re going to need to make it work. Maybe the shovel sellers will fix that for us.   

The best no code / low code tools and strategies for building your MVP

This is a quick rundown to help you choose the best no code/low code tool to start building your MVP and the best strategy to follow.

To keep it simple we’re just going to call them no code tools. No code tools can be divided into 3 main categories – workflow automation for business/enterprise, website builders, and app builders. We’re going to focus on app builders.

The best no code tools for building apps

After running through hundreds of pages of documentation and community forum posts as well as days worth of tutorials, these are the app builders we would recommend:

None are perfect. They all have their own unique pain points. But they all follow a similar model for structuring an app. If the functionality that your MVP requires can fit within that structure you will have little trouble producing a working prototype in weeks instead of months.

The glaring limitation of no code tools

Here is the main reason why no code tools are best used for building prototypes and MVPs and why you will eventually turn to or integrate custom code as your app matures:

No code tools focus on the lowest common functionality, abbreviated as CRUD.

CRUD stands for “Create, Read, Update, Delete”, which are the four operations you can perform on a database, which is where your app is going to store any data.

How this looks in an app like a marketplace:

UX limitations of no code tools

No code tools are further limited in that the interfaces you can build with them tend to be restricted to displaying: 1) static pages, 2) a list of items pulled from a database (like a list of homes for sale in the suburb of Erinsborough), and 3) a detailed view of a single item pulled from a database (like that home on 24 Ramsay Street).

They’re basic standard views. Exactly what you would use in a prototype to make sure you’re pulling the data you expect. While they can be designed and tailored for your app and brand, your UX is still being decided for you.

If you find this too limiting you will need to look towards more advanced no code tools that allow you to also do low coding (or even full coding) like FlutterFlow or Draftbit. But should you code portions of your app from scratch? Do you have the inhouse skills? Can you hire someone who is familiar with your tool of choice?

Obviously, for an MVP, the decision to expand from no code to low code will delay launch and should be considered carefully. Once you start coding your options become unlimited, but so does the time it will take to finish your app unless you have access to the talent to write the code and the discipline to manage your feature list.

The two no code strategies – Build to throw away / Build to keep

If you want to validate your product market fit as quickly as possible, then you can build your MVP using a no code tool with the intention to throw it away and rebuild later from scratch when you have found product market fit.

This gives you the speed of a no code tool. That speed makes it easier to avoid the sunk cost fallacy so you feel okay throwing it away and starting again from scratch using proper tools and a proper framework.

“Throwing it away” isn’t literal. You’ll keep it running while you build the next version.

If you already have users and a market and want to provide an app, then you want to use a tool that allows you to continue to grow your app’s functionality beyond what the drag and drop interface provides. You want to build to keep.

If you want to build to keep make sure you choose a tool that gives you the features you need to implement the complete product you envision. No code tools are simple because they are often limited.

To avoid these limitations you will want to use a no code tool that lets you export the code for your app. See the end of the article to see which tools allow this.

Which no code tool gives you the best chance for success?

Success depends on finishing your app and getting it into the marketplace. Your best chance for success depends on matching the no code tool to your technical expertise. Here is what we would recommend for different levels of programming ability. Choose the one that best describes you:

Of course there’s nothing stopping you from using a less complicated no code tool. It might give you a speed advantage.

Comparing the no code tools mentioned in this article

Like all options in a crowded marketplace, every choice has its trade offs. This table summarises what we think are the main factors that should guide your decision on choosing a no code tool.

No code may be all the code you need

No code tools continue to add features (like integrating third party APIs) as they compete with each other. What can be built with no code tools today couldn’t be built a year ago.

But don’t let possibility fool you into making your MVP more complex than it needs to be to launch. If you can work within the standard set of CRUD actions combined with list and detail views (which 9X% of apps can) then you will be able to get your MVP to launch with any one of the tools we discuss.

As your experience with no code tools and your understanding of your app grows, you might find it worthwhile to move up to the more powerful no code tools on the next iteration. Combined with a no code backend, you may be able to delay the transition to bespoke code until revenues are high enough to make cutting platform costs worth the investment.

Whatever path you take to build your MVP with no code tools, it’s sure to be shorter than the alternatives.

Freelancers vs team extension – why freelancers always lose

IF you’re an SMB that needs to step up technically, either by building an app, creating a website or even just updating your online presence, this article might save you from freelancer frustration.

As an SMB you’re always at a disadvantage when it comes to tech. You can’t afford to have the expertise you need in house, and hiring freelancers is an exercise in frustration. How are you to stand out in your market, or even compete in it, when tech is now a major factor in success?

We’re going to fill you in on the advantages of a team extension versus hiring freelancers. And you’re going to be glad you’ve learned about it.

What is a team extension?

A team extension is basically remote workers as a service. A team extension can be a single software developer working a few hours a week to a full stack dev team numbering in the dozens.

What differentiates a team extension from outsourcing is that the members of your team extension report directly to you and they are integrated with your in house team, tools and systems. They attend meetings (virtually), they work directly on your projects, and, if they are full time, they work only on your project.

One of the biggest benefits of the team extension is that you have the full support of your team extension service provider. They want you to succeed with their team members as much as you do.

How is hiring for a team extension different from hiring freelancers?

Hiring freelancers requires you to become an expert in IT recruitment. Choosing the wrong freelance software developer can sabotage your plans.

When hiring for a team extension you are hiring out of a proven talent pool with a track record of helping businesses like yours build apps and websites and keep their tech infrastructure running.

With hundreds of completed projects under their belts, your service provider knows the skill set you need and can help you estimate the hours or headcount as well. They are also able to put forward proven candidates for you to interview and pick from.

And unlike with a freelancer, if someone doesn’t work out you don’t lose time or code. You can work with your service provider to rapidly replace them and keep moving forward.

A team extension builds your product, a freelancer sells you code

This is a subtle but important difference. A team extension really is an extension of your team. They’re like employees working out of a different office. They’re output is your output. At all times you have complete visibility into their progress and the work they’ve completed.

Freelance software developers, for good reasons, tend to deny access to any code they’ve written for you until they have been paid in full. There might be online demos they’ve built for you to comment on, but the code remains untouchable.

This gives your project a “bus factor” of 1. Which is how many people need to be hit by a bus to derail your project. Or how many people need to get sick or get sick of the project, to derail it.

With a team extension you have an entire organisation supporting you and your team members. All the code being written is yours and is always accessible. You don’t need to worry about “bus factor”.

Your team extension, and you, get cost and management support

Another major benefit of a team extension is that you get the increase in headcount and productivity without the increase in office space, resources and HR burden.

Your team extension members work out of the service provider’s offices. They supply the workspace and the equipment. They also provide all of the HR and employee support services required. This includes all kinds of work management, training and personal support.

The situation for you is not unlike becoming a team leader where upper management is devoted to helping you get the results you need. You have a second level of oversight to help you successfully negotiate all the challenges of the increased headcount.

What could you build with your dream team?

If you’ve been unable to move forward on the app or website that your business needs because of the challenges in hiring developers, we hope this article has opened some doors for you.

You can build the app or website you need. You can do it while minimising the risks by adopting the team extension model.

If you want to discuss extending your team with some of our talented developers don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

How to recruit software developers in days instead of months

Despite all the tech layoffs it’s never been harder to find, filter, and hire experienced developers. Demand is through the roof for these roles, making recruitment long and arduous while all you want to do is get your app to market and keep revenue coming in. There is a shortcut that will get you the dev talent you need, but you will have to think outside the box you’re in.

There really is a developer shortage

And it’s getting worse. In the US, software engineering positions are expected to increase 22% by 2030. That means about 190,000 new jobs opening per year. But there are only  ~53,000 computer science graduates per year. Even with the tech layoffs in January 23 of roughly 40,000 that still leaves a shortfall this year in the US of 100,000 jobs.

The same thing is happening in Australia. There will be 100,000 unfilled software related positions by 2024. But Australia is graduating only about 8,500 (domestic) computer science students per year.

No wonder it can take months to recruit a software developer.

Use a team extension to hire developers fast and affordably

Team extension, also called a dedicated team, extended team or extended development team, is basically remote workers taken to the next level – featuring dedicated management, lower risk, and reduced costs.

In a team extension you work with a team extension vendor like SoftwareSeni to access their pool of software engineering talent. 

In SoftwareSeni’s case, we use a mixed onshore/near-shore model. You work directly with a project consultant based in Sydney, Australia. The SoftwareSeni talent pool is based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia’s tech hub. This provides a large time zone overlap for Australian businesses that makes developer integration relatively painless. 

To increase your team headcount you discuss with us your project and the skills and experience you’re looking for. SoftwareSeni then provides a shortlist of candidates for you to interview and select from. What can take 2 or 3 months (including negotiating salaries and paying $$$ to recruiters) is completed in as little as seven to fourteen days, with you knowing at the outset what your costs will be.

How is a team extension different from outsourcing?

In this era of remote work a team extension is no different to normal team members. The developers show up. You manage them and assign them work. They do the work. They attend meetings virtually. Just like the rest of your team. 

However, unlike other remote team members, they work out of the vendor’s premises. SoftwareSeni provides a second level of supervision that your other remote team members won’t have. This helps to ensure delivery of the high quality of service we provide all our partners. We also provide your team extension developers with technical and human resource support functions you don’t need to fund or deal with. 

Unlike a typical outsourcing arrangement, you are in complete control and have complete overview into the work your team extension developers are doing for you. And you can always talk to your SoftwareSeni project consultant if you’re not sure or have any questions or need insights.

How to start the rapid hiring process for your next developer

Start the process to hire your next developer in days by speaking to us. At SoftwareSeni we can help you to quickly finalise experience and skill set requirements based on your product goals so you can keep moving forward. At every step of the hiring process you’ll be in complete control of decisions and costs and be able to scale your team extension options up and down to match your budget.

Contact us to hire your newest developer, start building your team and keep your business moving forward.

How to build the dev team you need with the budget you have

Get ready to master the one simple trick™ that will help you build the roster of tech talent your business needs – the extended development team.

There aren’t enough developers to go around. The situation is going to get worse as software engineering positions are expected to increase 22% by 2030. Here’s what the math looks like around that:

Current number of dev jobs in the US: 1,847,900

New jobs per year: ~189,000

Computer science graduates per year: ~53,000

Shortfall: 136,000 per year

Those are US numbers. In Australia, the situation isn’t much better. Research from 2021 places the number of developers and related roles at 630,000 with estimates that there will be 100,000 unfilled positions by 2024. At the same time, Australia is producing only about 8,500 (domestic) computer science graduates per year.

The shortfall in available talent is driving up salaries. Salary levels are being further distorted by the willingness of large companies like Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon (MAMAA) to pay high salaries along with stock options to fill their open roles and retain talent. The post-COVID embrace of remote work means these salaries are affecting markets even outside of the US. 

If your business needs an app to compete, or your business is an app, this is the market you are fighting in to land the talent you need to survive. The competition for developers means it can take 2 to 3 months to fill a role with the right person. If you can afford them.

What is an extended development team? 

An extended development team, the “one simple trick”, also goes by the name of a team extension, dedicated team or staff augmentation. It’s remote workers with better management, lower risk, and lower costs.

The biggest benefit of an extended team is how quickly they can be put in place and start being productive. This is made possible by the vendor you will work with.

How do you build an extended development team?

Building your extended team will require a vendor like SoftwareSeni. In SoftwareSeni’s case, we use a hybrid onshore/near-shore model: your project consultant is based in Australia, and our talent pool is based in Indonesia’s tech hub, Yogyakarta.

To build your team you simply supply us with details on the composition of the team that you need and SoftwareSeni provides candidates for you to interview and select from. What can take 2 or 3 months (including negotiating salaries and paying $$$ to recruiters) is completed within a week or two, with you knowing at the outset what your costs will be.

How is an extended development team different from a normal team or outsourcing?

In this era of Work From Home, an extended team is no different to a normal team. They show up. You manage them. They do the work. They attend meetings. Just like the rest of your employees. 

However, unlike normal remote employees, they work out of the vendor’s premises. This provides a second level of supervision. The vendor wants them to deliver the quality of service they agreed upon with you. They also provide your extended team members with technical and human resource support functions you don’t need to fund or deal with. 

Unlike a typical outsourcing arrangement, you are in complete control and have complete insight into the work they’re doing for you. 

Where to start when building an extended team?

The first step in building your extended team is to speak to your vendor. At SoftwareSeni we can help you to quickly finalise team composition and skill sets based on your product goals so you can start building. At every step you’ll be in complete control of costs and be able to scale your team up and down to match your budget.

Contact us to start building your extended team and moving your business forward.

Team extension, extended team & out-sourcing FAQ

Covered in this FAQ:


What is the difference between an extended team, a dedicated team, a team extension and staff augmentation?

These 4 terms all refer to using a service provider to source and contract remote workers on a temporary (though possibly long term) basis.

There is one stand-out – staff augmentation can be used in a more general sense. You can use staff augmentation to refer to placing people in multiple roles throughout a business. But extended team, dedicated team, and team extension refer specifically to adding people to a particular team or even a particular team project.

What is the difference between off-shoring, near-shoring, out-sourcing and an extended team/dedicated team/team extension?

Off-shoring is a general term that refers to using workers of a service provider in another country to fill roles or perform role-related tasks, within your business.

Near-shoring is similar to off-shoring but it implies that the workers are located in a nearby country or time zone to reduce the management and collaboration difficulties that working across widely different time zones can create.

Out-sourcing is when a project or service that would traditionally be executed in-house is handled completely by an external service provider. The service provider is normally located off-shore in an attempt to reduce costs.

Extended team, dedicated team or team extension is when a project team is expanded by the hiring of remote team members through a team extension provider. The extended team members working remotely report to the same management as the in-house team, they work side-by-side with the in-house team on any projects, and participate in all meetings, but all their necessary resources – computers, office space, HR, etc – are supplied by the team extension provider.

What is the team extension model?

Under the team extension model you are responsible for managing your own project even though the work is being done by external contractors. Under an out-sourcing model the project management would also be handled externally.

The benefits of the team extension model are that you have complete control over the project and complete visibility into how it is progressing. You can spot, diagnose and fix any problems as soon as they occur.

The drawback of the team extension model is that you need a competent project manager inhouse in order to see the project to successful completion.

What is the extended team model?

The extended team model, or the extended development team model, is just the team extension model by another name. You will see both used online. Which one an author favours depends mostly on which region they’re in.

What is the dedicated team model?

The dedicated team model is yet another term for the team extension model. It is used to make explicit that the team members you contract through your service provider are focused purely on your project. While this is the default whether you call it an extended team model or team extension model, it does serve to differentiate it from out-sourcing, where you have no control over team continuity.

What is a core team?

The core team is made up of inhouse employees who established the project and were solely responsible for moving the project forward before a team extension is added to the effort.

The core team holds the business and domain expertise that the project relies on. They work with the team extension members under a project or product manager to complete the project and serve as a source of guidance and deep knowledge for the extended team.

Why do businesses use team extensions?

A team extension creates three main advantages for a business. These are particularly beneficial when the business is following the extended development team model for software based products.

The three main advantages of a team extension are:

  1. Rapid hiring – team extension staff are pre-vetted by the service provider. Tell them what skills you need and you can be interviewing applicants for team fit on the same day.
  2. Access to expertise – depending on your local labour market, access to certain technical skills might be difficult or very expensive. A team extension provider enables you to hire outside of your local labour market, opening you up to a larger talent pool.
  3. Predictable and manageable costs – by extending your development team using the team extension model, your cost for the extended team members is fixed once negotiated with the service provider. Furthermore, the service provider is responsible for supplying office space and equipment for the extended team members as well as HR and other employee support services, limiting your costs to the agreed hours the team members work.

Who manages the extended team?

Unlike in out-sourcing, the management of the remote members of an extended team is handled by the business contracting them. This requires you to have an inhouse project manager experienced in dealing with remote team members.

Post-Covid this is now the status quo. But if a business has pursued a back-to-the-office strategy for their developers, care needs to be taken that the remote members of the extended team are fully integrated into the day-to-day operations and culture of the business and especially for the project they are working on.

What happens if an extended team member doesn’t perform?

In the unlikely event that a business believes an extended team member isn’t performing well, this challenge is resolved in a similar manner to how it would be resolved for an inhouse employee.

The situation is better than that with a standard remote employee, because the extended team member is also under local management and monitoring by the service provider.

If the problems turn out to be unresolvable, it is quick and easy to select, vet, and contract a new extended team member from the service provider’s talent pool, with extra assistance from the service provider for the handover.

What kind of work can an extended team do?

An extended team can be contracted to work directly on a project. This can be in order to access expertise to develop certain features, or to shorten timelines for project completion.

Outside of software development on a business’s product, an extended team can be contracted to provide support services, such as devops for an existing team or project, and to keep important and complex applications online and available to customers.

Moving beyond software, an extended team can provide design and UX expertise early in a project, as well as ongoing customer service support and technical support once a project is online.

What are the biggest challenges in using a team extension?

The big challenges in a team extension are simply variants of the same challenges businesses face with any employee. Onboarding is critical.

Having a manager or mentor available to chat or video call in order to quickly resolve the kinds of problems that show up in the early stages of employment will make onboarding easier and get members of the team extension working productively as quickly as possible.

The other major challenge is integrating the team extension staff with the inhouse team. But this can be handled by simply holding meetings, stand-ups, code reviews, etc, via video so that everyone can participate on an equal footing.

If you want more tips on managing an extended development team read our article The simple secrets to making your extended team work.

Where do you hire an extended development team?

Right here. SoftwareSeni is Sydney-based and our main focus is offering extended team services to Australian startups and businesses that think like startups.

This focus is why our talent pool is based in Indonesia. It provides an extensive time zone overlap with Australia that we find makes working with an extended development team so much more effective, both in terms of quality of communication and responsiveness.

Our team of developers (as well as design, UX, devops, and customer service) is based in Yogyakarta. The city is a major learning centre with a large, well-established tech culture. This has allowed us to pick and choose our team members to build the deep expertise that will benefit any project.

We can provide expertise at scales from a part-time single developer up to a team of dozens and for any stage of product development, from ideation to maintenance mode.

If you’re outside of Australia and have strong remote team management capabilities, you might still find the quality and range of our tech talent worth the larger time zone difference.

So if you’re looking to increase your headcount and are searching out tech talent to deliver the outcomes your business needs, get in touch.

Web app development and your business strategy


Smartphones have changed the way people expect to interact with websites on the internet.

55% of internet traffic is from phones and it continues to grow. And 46% of consumers complete the entire purchase process on their phone. This is why we have an article on stats that show why your ecommerce site needs to be mobile-first.

In this article we’re explaining why your mobile-first ecommerce site needs to be a web app.

The App cost dilemma

Apps are eating websites. They’re nicer to use. They’re designed for mobile. They look better on mobile. They have user interaction features that are familiar and designed to make navigation and content consumption intuitive.
This leads to the obvious decision as part of your business strategy to invest in building an app to stay competitive.

But there are a couple of important drawbacks with this strategy.

Your traditional native app is costly to build and maintain. You need to build two of them, one for iOS and one for Android, if you don’t want to lose half your market. And you need to keep your website running for desktop browsers.

Because you need an app you’re suddenly supporting three different platforms and bearing a sudden spike in costs.

Will having an app increase your revenue enough to pay for multiple platforms and still turn a profit?

How long will it take to see a positive ROI if you go down this path?

This spike in costs is why native apps are often out of reach to SMBs and they find themselve losing market share to better funded or simply larger competitors.

Investing in a web app, instead of a native app, is how SMBs can avoid the cost spike and still compete on mobile.


Avoiding the high cost of apps

A web app can be thought of as a fancy website, like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket can be thought of as a fancy plane. Technically, they use the same foundation, and even some of the same materials and technology, but the final product, and how it performs, is quite different.

A web app uses advanced frameworks that run in the browser (like React, Svelte, Vue, Angular), to create the same kind of rich interfaces that you find in a native app. There are limitations, because a web app runs inside of the browser on the phone, which impacts performance and access to device features, but unless you want to build a game or access the phone hardware, most businesses don’t need to worry about them.

Because web apps are built with web technologies – meaning they are designed to run within a browser – their single code base can be built to work across all phones, tablets and desktops. Wherever there is a browser they can run. Even on some smart TVs. In practice, a lower threshold is set on the performance requirements, based on your intended market, in order to ensure quality of the user experience.

Using a single web app code base to run across phones, tablets and desktops means web apps don’t create the expensive spike in costs that comes with supporting multiple platforms.

In fact, a web app makes it possible to generate revenue across all platforms, allowing you to observe where you should invest more money and possibly take your web app to the next level.


Taking your web app to the next level

One of the most powerful features of web apps is that anyone can purchase from your business on the internet. You don’t have to go through an app store review process or pay 30% to tan app store provider.

Once your web app is live on the internet you will learn a lot. You will learn which platform is your most profitable. You may discover that it will be worth the investment and the fees to turn your web app into a native app.

If you build your web app with the right framework, such as React, you may have already paid for a substantial part of a native app’s development.

You already have the backend paid for and working. All that is left is the interface. With multiple platforms generating revenue, and insights gathered over the months or years your web app has been running, creating a native app might now be feasible.

Tools like React Native can make it cost effective to finally add dedicated support to iOS or Android platforms (depending on your numbers). Using React Native avoids the full re-code to create a native app if, and only if, you built your web app frontend using React.

Web apps for the win online

The internet is the most competitive market in the world. Because it is the entire world online. Pursuing a web app based strategy gives you access to the largest cross section of customers across platforms. Risks are further mitigated by the lower cost in development compared to native apps, the speed with which you can launch new versions without app store approval delays, and greater revenue since you are not paying a 30% share to an app store.

At the same time, launching with a web app gives you a foundation of revenue and feedback that will help you make the move into native apps for your customers if the numbers show it makes sense.

If you want to talk more about how building a custom web app can be part of your business strategy, get in contact with us.

Extended Team Model – all you need to know to build the dev team your business needs

The extended team model could be the best tactic to get your startup into the market or drive your business ahead of the competition. Using the extended team model can help you grow your capabilities without eating your margin. And it is the best way to respond quickly to market changes and moves by the competition. Let’s dive into the details behind the Extended Team Model.

What is the Extended Team Model?

The Extended Team Model is an organisational structure where the core team that provides deep institutional and product knowledge is based in-house and works closely with one or more developers who work remotely.

The size of an extended team, and here we are talking mainly about extended software development teams, depends on the needs of the business.

A startup might have a core team of a single Product Manager and the entire development team is an extended team. A corporate business unit might need expertise they can’t access in-house. A business with an established online presence might need some regular devops hours to keep their website and backend working smoothly.

The extended team model lets businesses scale their hiring to exactly match their needs. As extended software development teams are assembled out of a single provider’s talent pool, that hiring can happen quickly – sometimes in days, often not longer than two weeks, rather than the months it can take to attract, vet, and interview team members with the normal hiring process.

How is the Extended Team Model different from Outsourcing?

The big differences between the extended team model and outsourcing are control and integration.

Outsourcing works like a black box. You feed in specifications and you get code or product out. There are deliverables and meetings, but you have zero insight into who is doing the coding, how focused they are on your particular project or even their level of expertise.

With the extended team model you are involved in team selection. You know who will be part of your extended team and you will know, either through testing or interviews, their ability level.

Your extended team members, if they are full time, will be devoted only to your project. Unlike an outsourced developer that you will never contact directly, extended development team members are integrated into your team. They participate in scrums, they work directly on your codebase using the same tools as the rest of your team. Your goals are their goals.

How is the Extended Team Model different from a remote team?

The extended team model differs from a remote team by being more consistent, more flexible and more reliable.

Here the key feature of an extended team is that every extended team member is part of the same talent pool. They come from a single extended team member provider, such as SoftwareSeni. This means they share the same work culture, have the same training (though they may be at different levels of expertise), and have access to the same resources, including dedicated HR and support. And for your business, this means you have a single point of contact to deal with for upsizing and downsizing your extended team, swapping in new skillsets and so on.

The members of a remote team won’t have this additional layer of management. You will be managing each remote team member directly with no insight into their working conditions, work habits or day-to-day productivity.

A remote team will also have to be assembled by going through the same slow hiring process as an in-house team, instead of the rapid selection process used with an extended team provider.

Why use the extended team model?

The extended team model has a number of advantages, some already discussed above. Speed of hiring is a big one this article keeps mentioning. Another is availability of expertise. Depending upon your location, certain skill sets might be beyond your budget or simply unavailable. Your product vision or business model might not survive these limitations.

So, being able to assemble a team with the requisite skills out of the talent pool of an extended team member provider can be the difference between success or failure.

The extended team model allows you to grow headcount without growing your footprint. All resources your extended team members need are provided by the extended team provider – computers, desks, office space.

Another key feature that makes using the extended team model so powerful is the flexibility to grow and shrink your team based on your exact needs in the moment, or to swap out extended developers for different skill sets as you move through different stages of product development.

When to use the extended team model?

Businesses should use the extended team model when they have a clear and detailed vision of what they want to achieve but are facing constraints across time, funding, talent or space.

That kind of covers just about every business, doesn’t it?

Prior experience in managing developers or projects and exposure to strategies for working with remote team members (almost universal now in 2023) are the two biggest requirements for using the extended team model.

If you don’t have this in-house experience you might want to take a second look at out-sourcing or hiring a software development agency like SoftwareSeni directly.

How to use the extended team model

Working with an extended team is not much different from working with a mixed in-house/remote team. You face the same challenges of integrating staff into your processes and work culture, and the overhead that comes with suddenly having a higher headcount. It is not core team vs extended team, it’s core team + extended team.

As an extended team provider we have some experience in this matter. We have an article on the simple secrets to making your extended team work, and of course we are focused on helping our extended team clients succeed and are always available for guidance, support and coaching.

Where to hire an extended team?

Right here. SoftwareSeni is Sydney-based and our main focus is offering extended team services to Australian startups and businesses that think like startups.

This focus is why our talent pool is based in Indonesia. It provides an extensive time zone overlap with Australia that we find makes working with extended development teams so much more effective, both in terms of quality of communication and responsiveness.

Our team of developers (as well as design, UX, devops, and customer service) is based in Yogyakarta. The city is a major learning centre with a large, well-established tech culture. This has allowed us to pick and choose our team members to build the deep expertise that will benefit any project.

We can provide expertise at scales from a part-time single developer up to a team of dozens and for any stage of product development, from ideation to maintenance mode.

If you’re outside of Australia and have strong remote team management capabilities, you might still find the quality and range of our tech talent worth the larger time zone difference.

So if you’re looking to increase your headcount and are searching out tech talent to deliver the outcomes your business needs, get in touch.

10 SaaS startups that can cut months off your runway

As a LEAN+Agile dev house dedicated to building apps and websites for our clients, we are always advising our clients to buy functionality where they can instead of building it.

We are as aware of their runway as they are. And we’re dedicated to getting them to launch with the best MVP possible. And when speed counts and budgets are limited, and even when they’re not, we always go for buy over build.

Our clients are often surprised by not just the quality but the depth of functionality that is now available to be integrated via APIs from thousands of providers. 

Here’s a list of some of the more useful and powerful integrations you should be considering. Note – this isn’t a survey. We’re not providing options or reviews. Think of it more as a proof of existence and a starting point for doing your own dive into the SaaS options out there. 


Feed as a Service – stream

A news feed or activity feed with the rich interactions we’re all accustomed to – likes, tagging friends, etc – drives engagement. Feeds aren’t just for social sites. They’re for marketplaces, ecommerce, any app or website that involves events happening in realtime that someone somewhere wants to see. If you have a database its contents can probably be presented as an infinite scrolling feed to your users to like and share.

All that rich interactivity is complex and time-consuming to implement. Then there’s the technical difficulties involved in delivering the feed to all your users so they have a smooth, hiccup-free experience. You’re looking at 1000s of programmer hours whether you sit down and do it right and eat the delay, or launch with the basics working and iterate towards the complete solution.

stream provides APIs for client and server feed management as well SDKs for building apps and websites that integrate their feeds.


Authentication as a Service – Auth0

How many ways are there for potential customers to login and access your product? Email address + password? Social logins? Magic email link? SMS link? Let them use it anonymously and authenticate later? Multi-factor authentication using a code sent via SMS, voice, a one-time password app, a hardware key or biometrics? 

It depends, doesn’t it. But security is one of the hardest things to get right. A home-rolled solution will be enough for the early stages of development, but once you’re live on the internet your vulnerability is related to how much money, time and expertise you can spend on security.

Or you can use a provider such as Auth0 who is solely focused on secure authentication.  


Fraud Detection as a Service – Sift Science

As the pandemic created a surge in internet usage and online purchases, it also created a surge in digital fraud across both true fraud and friendly fraud categories. If you haven’t heard of friendly fraud, it mainly manifests as chargeback fraud – customers claiming they never received their order. 

Digital fraud requires cooperation and huge datasets to detect and defeat. It’s not something you can do on your own. Services like Stripe Payments and Sift Science integrate thousands of data feeds and signals – such as device fingerprints, transaction histories – to predict and mitigate fraud.

Should you be using their services? If you’re not sure, your accountant can probably tell you.  


Images as a service – imgix

Images have a huge impact on your users’ perception of your app or site. They can make it look more engaging, but due to their size loading them can also slow it down. If you rely on user-generated content, like a restaurant recommendation app would, or a marketplace, or you have your own deep catalogue of product images, then handling images and handling them well is an absolute necessity.

But manipulating images is technically challenging and delivering them quickly to your users takes planning and infrastructure.

Services like imgix save you from having to develop inhouse image editing and management expertise. It provides an API that can crop, resize and compress images, and a CDN for caching and delivering them to your users. 

You might say there are open source libraries for manipulating images and Amazon has a CDN, so why? You can ask the same question for every service in this article. The answer is time. Time now, as you move towards launch as quickly as you can, and time later, when you lose feature development hours to maintaining and debugging the code you wrote in house.  


Recommendations as a service – Algolia

You have an online store. It would be nice to increase Average Order Value by surfacing appropriate products for your customers. Where do you even start on that? Do your developers need to know statistics? Machine learning? Can you afford developers that already have the skills?

Even with a feature that will deliver a positive ROI it may end up being too expensive, again in time as well as money, to implement or just impossible. A lot of the modern user experience is pretty close to rocket science. But not everyone can hire rocket scientists.

But a service like Algolia lets you access that rocket science through an API that is easily integrated and with pricing that is easy to sign off on.


User Comms as a Service – twilio

There are dozens of services that will help you put a chatbox on your site or in your app. Making it easy for a customer to talk to a rep to help boost conversions is a strategy that is growing in popularity as it gets easier to implement.

A text chat today might lead later to a call to support after purchase or an email with warranty information or a newsletter with your latest offers.

We’re highlighting twilio for this category because their service offers APIs that allow you to integrate chat, voice and email comms with your customers. On top of the comms, it allows you to unify all your interactions with each customer to streamline engagement and allow you to personalise their interactions with your business.

This is the kind of feature you don’t even dream of being able to build for yourself. You use theirs and you’re grateful you can leverage it to your advantage.     


Payments as a Service

This is a no-brainer. There is no question you are going to use a third party payments API. You’re trying to launch here, not reinvent online banking. The question you have to answer is which one, or which ones, are you going to integrate?

And are you going to stick to straight payments through a service like Stripe or are you going to integrate a Buy Now Pay Later service like Afterpay or Klarna? 


Onboarding as a Service – Pendo

For an app or site of any complexity one of the biggest challenges is onboarding new users so they can use your powerful features, recognise the value of your product, and become long term customers.

This onboarding is handled by tours using on-screen pop-ups and overlays. The value is in the tour, not in the code that animates the tour.  

The advantage of integrating a service like Pendo is that their implementation of product tours has advanced to the point where it offers authoring tools. This frees your developers from having to dedicate time to what is intrinsically a marketing function. 

Pendo also collects data so you can see which features are being used, allowing you to continuously improve your onboarding experience and profit from it.


Shipping as a Service – ShipEngine

If your business deals in physical items then you’re going to be dealing with the headaches of shipping. It’s a time sink that cuts into the profits of every transaction.

Services like ShipEngine let you use a single integration to hook into a network of delivery and logistics companies, allowing you to optimise your costs and helping quickly and painlessly arrange local, national or international deliveries.

Security as a Service – Wazuh

Your business is online. You have a server. Perhaps multiple servers. They’re all connected to that hive of scum and villainy that is the modern internet. What are you doing to keep your business secure? How much time and how many developers and devops can you dedicate to security? 

Staying current with threats and mitigations is a full-time job for a team. Being able to lean on the smarts of a large, dedicated security team through services like Wazuh reduces the risk of you being knocked offline or worse. 

Are you going to buy or build?

Software is a different kind of business. And if you have a website or an app make no mistake, you are in the software business. Pick almost any portion of an app or service and a deep expertise is either necessary or provides a huge advantage. 

This is what makes SaaS such a pervasive model. It’s the expense of expertise distributed across hundreds of customers. This business model is creating the re-usable modularity of functionality that software businesses have been wishing for since the 80s.

Any app can now launch with top-tier features in a fraction of the time and the fraction of the budget that was possible just five years ago.

You might worry about lock-in, and seeing money going out the door to other services might cause you physical pain, but that’s a problem that can be solved down the road when you are big enough for it to matter. 

For launching a new website or app, a strategic set of SaaS services can get you impressing customers and pulling in revenue faster than you can imagine, no matter how many developers you have.

If you want to talk to us about your own buy vs build challenges or you’re looking for extended team members to help you build, get in contact with us. We’d be happy to discuss the options open to you.

3 stats that prove mobile-first is a must for ecommerce sites


We’ve also thrown in a bonus 4th statistic at the end of the article on why you should care about mobile-first ecommerce. It’s a bit of a kicker. If you’re about to start on your own ecommerce website development project, this will convince you how important a consideration mobile is.  

Before we get to the mobile ecommerce stats, lets recap what happened over the last couple of year.

Due to lockdowns, brick and mortar stores had to face the reality of customers never setting a foot in their premises. There was a rush by businesses to establish an online presence.

Throw up a store. Anywhere. By anyone.  

This strategy saw mixed success. Having to compete online against giant retailers (ahem, Amazon), smaller businesses had to bring their best game. That game had to be focused on mobile. It often wasn’t. Newsflash – your ecommerce strategy still needs to have a mobile first approach.

What is mobile first?

Mobile first means your website it designed to look good and perform smoothly on phones from the beginning, and then adapted to also look good on the desktop. Phones aren’t as powerful as laptops and desktops. So if it performs well on phones you don’t need to worry about the rest. So you want your a mobile first website and you want to be a mobile first business.

Stat Number 4 demonstrates why this is important. But first, Stat Number 1.

Stat Number 1 – Page Views On Mobile

55% of page views come from mobile phones.

More than half the traffic to a business’s online store could be originating from mobile. Of course this changes from industry to industry, but the number is only going to get bigger for everyone.

With over half the traffic coming from mobile, businesses need to ask, did half of their design budget, their coding budget, go towards building their mobile experience? These are not second rate citizens you slap on a responsive design and hope it boosts sales a few percentage points.

On average, this 55% of pageviews will end up being almost 50% of revenues (as will be revealed below). 

If businesses don’t build their online stores mobile-first, they can miss out on those revenues. 

Mobile-first means more than a design that fits into the vertical format of a phone screen. Performance is a huge part of the experience. Due to bandwidth and CPU constraints, an ecommerce store that looks slick and performs well on the desktop can look good on mobile but be too slow to load and too sluggish to use.

Google Pagespeed Insights uses a simulated mid-tier mobile phone on a mobile network to measure site performance. It uses the results when deciding how high up to rank sites in their search results. 

A mobile-first approach takes performance on mobile as well as design into the overall UX process.

Stat Number 2 – The Purchase Process


46% of consumers complete their entire purchase process
(from research to payment) on mobile.

This statistic, more than any of the others, points to how important mobile is becoming. It is a snowball effect. More powerful phones with bigger displays have made shopping online via a phone more pleasant. The constant growth of mobile traffic has led to new websites always launching mobile capable (if not mobile-first) in order to capture that traffic. And with websites always growing more enjoyable to use on mobile, mobile traffic is capturing more and more of the purchase funnel.

One of the most important ease–of-use changes is the introduction of one-click payments. Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as payment service providers like Stripe and Adyen, are creating a new class of customers who are comfortable making online purchases on their mobile phone. One-click payment options remove most of the hurdles to completing payments.

Stat Number 3 – Closing the sale

58% of all multi-device purchases use mobile to close the sale.

There are different ways to interpret this big number. It could be that the digital wallet integration in mobile phones makes completing a purchase on that device the easiest option. It could be that people research purchases on a laptop or desktop, but make the final decision and complete the purchase somewhere more comfortable and conducive to decision making.

There’s probably dozens of scenarios that lead to this result. But they all point to the importance of streamlining the purchase process on your website. It probably means integrating more payment options. It definitely means making sure your website works smoothly across a range of handsets.

On a more technical level, making it easy to share a shopping cart between desktop and mobile experiences will help land more multi-device purchases. This can be by having a very simple sign-up process or being able to capture or send QR codes to access the transaction on another device.

The Kicker Stat – Customers are picky

40% of users will go to the competitor after a bad mobile experience.

That pretty much says it all. More than half your traffic will come via mobile. You can lose almost half of it, or about 25% of your total potential traffic and revenue, if the mobile experience of your website isn’t good enough.

The biggest problem, the one that sends most people away, is websites loading slowly on mobile. Those beautiful hero images that fill your desktop browser window don’t load as fast on a phone. Maybe they do on your iPhone 13 Pro Max. On wifi. But that’s not going to be your mobile audience. It’s also a symptom of building your website desktop-first instead of mobile-first.

How to build mobile-first to maximise mobile revenues

There are no big secrets. It’s a mix of careful design, strategic coding, and backend resources. The two most popular starting points for our clients’ ecommerce websites are WooCommerce and Shopify. They both provide strong options for delivering a mobile experience to your customers.

Shopify is easy to get up and running, and with a careful design and use of resources can be quite performant. But there are limits to what you can tweak. While the ease-of-use makes getting your business online in a reduced time frame possible, you might find the lack of control of the backend keeps you from maximising your customers’ experience. 

WooCommerce is infinitely tweakable. As it is built on the open source WordPress CMS you are in control of the entire stack including the backend. This gives you many more choices in optimising delivery of your website to mobile. It does require more of an initial investment, but many clients feel the control and the power on tap it provides is worth it.

Taking your online business mobile-first

If your current ecommerce website isn’t mobile-first, it is always possible to make the necessary frontend changes to fix that. Making changes to the backend will depend on how your site is being hosted.

If you are setting out on creating a new ecommerce website, then you are in the perfect position to ensure that mobile-first informs your tech choices, your design choices and your overall strategy.

If you have any questions about how your business can make the move to mobile-first or how you should build for mobile-first, drop us an email and we’ll get in touch for a chat.