Congrats! You’re commissioning your first web application.
Whether you’re launching a SaaS (software as a service), an internal workflow, or a client tool – apps tell the world you’re on a higher playing field than your competitors.
There are several reasons why you may create an app, but in general apps are created when your vision for “how things should be” deserves a custom solution vs. an off-the-shelf products.
In this article we’re going to walk through some considerations, the process, and the rewards of commissioning an app.
START WITH A STRONG WHY
Your vision for WHY your app should exist needs to be a strong one.
When we consult clients in moving forward with app projects, honing these ideas, hopes and dreams becomes the lens through which we make many of our future decisions.
Depending on the scale of the app, this can also be a good time to consider running a sprint (appx 1 week test) to determine that problem you wish to solve is actually the problem worth solving.
We also work with clients to complete a questionnaire that answers a lot of the nuts & bolts questions about the app.
VETTING AN MVP
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product
The problem with carte blanche in app building, is that you can spend enormous amounts of time and money heading in the wrong direction i.e. overbuilding.
By knowing your target audience, you begin shaving down your ideas and put on the horse blinders – focus 100% on the minimum viable product. This will reveal the absolutely key features your users want, and you may find it sends your app in a completely different direction than where you thought it was heading.
Focusing on the MVP will help you get real feedback, faster – and it saves you time and money.
One of the key differences between a website and an application is the powerful and often complex databases that are the backbones of apps.
Databases dictate how app items relate to one another, what information is stored, what charts are visualized and overall provide the foundation of why apps matter.
Because you’re starting out, you will have a robust, but not complete idea of how you want this database structured. The caveat with how you design and build a database, is that it’s quite possible to paint yourself into a corner (not permanently) if you don’t begin with an end in mind.
The tradeoff in “making a database work” vs. designing it to work often comes down to reliability and performance. Having to pivot a database is not an immediate deal breaker when adding features to your app, but it can complicate the time and investment of future modules.
Ideally your app consultants (we suggest us) hold a future-casting session with you to discuss where you see the app ultimately heading, and we can build a database around that.
DESIGN AS LONG AS POSSIBLE
I say this having survived many app experiences where design is half-baked and rushed, and ultimately has to be patched together by the slower, more expensive development stage – flush out your app’s design absolutely as much as possible.
We use prototyping softwares that let users test things out before committing them to code. It will affirm your MVP decision and is a great opportunity to dial in the WHY that you worked so hard to achieve.
Apps are filled with details that improve the user experience. Tool tips (those little bubbles that show you how to use the app), tutorials, triggered emails, timers and data visualizations all enrich the experience – but you need to design them!
It’s tempting to “figure things out later” but in our experience, an app should be 100% approved in design before the developers get to work – we always have our developers sign off on design to make sure we’re not overpromising features.
THE BUILDING PHASE
Building an application take 100’s or even 1000’s of man hours which include not only the creation, but the testing and implementation of the code.
Along the way, it’s a good idea to connect with users to preview individual app components – it’s a great validation that your team IS working AND making actual progress.
We partner with 3rd party Quality Assurance testers to ensure proper app function across all major browsers and devices. Having those professional, fresh eyes is a terrific way to take production quality to the highest level.
WHAT’S FOR LAUNCH? (v2.0)
You’re app is live! Much to the delight of your team and customers, you can now experience your app in all its online glory (dramatic I know).
We know how creative you are, so be prepared, you will soon see opportunities to improve your application. The good news is – that’s what custom application are all about, giving you the freedom to request new features as you see fit.
When reaching MVP, we suggested putting on the horse blinders to help you focus. Post-launch, the best idea is to BE PATIENT because you can burn out quickly trying to cram too much into your app at once.
The same principles should stay in place – start small, make prototypes if possible, and test ideas to see if they’re actually worth funding.
We love helping clients launch their first apps.
It’s exciting for us to teach our craft, and to help people endeavor one of the most exciting frontiers today.
If you have a suspicion that an app could benefit your business, or you’re looking for the right vendor – let’s talk.
You’ll speak directly to our Director Kevin Sterling and he’ll spend as much time with you as you need to make this important decision.