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5 Essential Skills to Look for In a Software Developer

POSTED BY The Prim Pack | May 24, 2021

When looking for a developer, the initial list of questions can be fairly short. Especially if this is your first go at a new project. 

However, like many things, a shortlist is rarely a thorough list, and when your application is on the line, you’ll want to make sure you have the best team in your corner.

Here are five essential skills you’ll want in your software developer.

Awareness of the Industry

What’s commonplace now most likely won’t be in a year or two. 

And if something has managed to ride the tides of technological evolution, chances are high it’s evolved as well.

Take, for example,, a Chinese social media service that launched in 2014 used to create, record, and share short lip-sync videos. 

Fast forward to 2021 and almost no one remembers or has heard of the platform. 

Until you realize what was once is now the platform nearly 690 million people worldwide use and love — TikTok. 

This is all to say, technology is a double-edged sword. For many industries, it’s something that vastly improves our lives and productivity, yet it is in a constant state of evolution and innovation. Whether it’s granular software knowledge (The operating system you’re using now is upgrading soon, etc.) or high-level trends, a solid software developer is in a perpetual state of learning in order to stay ahead of the curve and keep your app there, too.

Awareness of the User

Sure, employing a developer who provides what you ask is, essentially, what you’re paying for, right?

Well, technically, yes. 

But, let’s face it, receiving custom web and software design isn’t action from an afterthought, and your business deserves a high return on investment.

In other words,  the developers you choose to partner with shouldn’t follow the “ask and receive” type of model. 

A great software developer has awareness of the industry (as stated above) which means they are highly tuned in to potential underlying issues that you might not even know about. 

Example: The users within your industry have an X% higher chance of finding you on mobile than on desktop. Have you considered responsive design? 

In the majority of cases, when seeking out a developer, you want them to scrub your vision and pick through your objectives to ensure the end product doesn’t just do what you initially asked for. You want your developer to consider your brand AND your audience because your application and software deserve more. 

Knowledge of Backdoors and Open Windows

Solid frameworks make it easier for the developer to ensure safety and security within a web app. 

But your app doesn’t need “easier,” it needs “practically guaranteed.”

Now, while security is complex and complicated, and can’t be 100% guaranteed, it can be heavily mitigated by a team that knows how malicious hackers view your product and might try to infiltrate it. 

Does your company really need to store a credit card there?

Is your server database vulnerable to injection-based attacks?

Are you at risk for a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack that overwhelms your server with fake traffic?

Unfortunately, yet truthfully, the list of risks and security threats to apps are, just like technology, ever-evolving. So finding a developer or team of developers who understand security risks and are constantly incorporating new knowledge into their testing is a fundamental skill you’ll want. 

Technical Skills

Clunky. Archaic. Slow. coding

None of these terms are ones you, or your customers, want to have associated with your application. 

However, if your software developer isn’t well-versed in the technologies at play in your software project, your app might be the next victim. 

Depending on the project at hand, these skills could cover a host of things.

  • Data structure and algorithms
  • Programming languages
    • JavaScript
    • HTML
    • PHP
    • Python
  • Testing on multiple browsers

Now, it should be noted the above list of technical skills is extremely abbreviated. And the skills a well-versed developer should have in their arsenal can be fairly extensive. 

To that point, it’s a good idea to identify a team of developers who possess skills that both overlap, intersect, and supplement each other. This will ensure your project covers all bases and nothing slips through the cracks. 

As an added bonus, you might find it helpful to work with developers who find themselves in positions of leadership in their craft by teaching, not just doing. 

For example, one of Primitive’s Senior Product Architects, Matt Trask, often conducts webinars, virtual talks, and also hosts his own podcast, “APIs You Won’t Hate.”  

Soft Skills

While, yes, soft skills are more of an umbrella term to encapsulate a myriad of sub-skills, it’s important to consider these amidst the hard skills notated above. 


Because when seeking out a developer, you’re not simply looking for a product – you’re looking for a partnership. And in order to create a product that not only you can be proud of, but that you’re confident is worth your software budget, that requires a partnership consisting of:

  • Empathy for your company’s pain points
  • Healthy communication practices (responsiveness, politeness, listening) 
  • Professionalism (organized, meeting deadlines, honoring commitments) 

Finding a freelance developer that possesses these skills is possible, yet we’d be doing you a disservice if we also said it was simple.

One of the best ways to find a highly skilled developer who also happens to possess both the hard and soft skills to make your project soar to new heights is by identifying an agency that values these skills as well. 

Primitive does, and we’d be happy to chat with you on your next software project.

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About the writer, The Prim Pack

I'm Buffy the Bison! When I'm not strolling through the plains of West Texas, I am proud to represent Primitive and the digital craftsman it is home to.