Making the choice to build a custom application can seem like a daunting task. There are seemingly endless possibilities with what you can do, and figuring out where to start is often confusing. All you know is that you want to find a way to augment your existing business processes in a manner that will make things more efficient, whether for your vendors, staff or customers.
Before you jump into the process of building an application, we always recommend you take a look at your existing industry and ask yourself, “What need can I fill that doesn’t currently exist?”
Once you’ve got that initial spark or idea, there are 5 best practices you can follow to ensure that the time, energy and money you put into your custom application was well spent. Let’s take a look at them below:
The process of wireframing means collaboratively creating a mockup of what you’re wanting to build. In other words, your basic blueprint of what the application is going to do. This is done to quickly and efficiently flesh out the user interface for the application. We like Balsamiq, a wireframing tool that reproduces the experience of sketching on a whiteboard, but in the Cloud.By starting with wireframing, you can quickly lay out all the different screens, buttons, text and everything else in the application. This lets you design a great user interface that flows easily between screens.
2. Go for the minimum viable product (MVP)
Ask yourself: what are the core features needed to get your application up and running? One of the biggest problems people run into when they have an idea is scope creep. This is when you try to do include too many bells and whistles up front. Scope creep can cripple a project to the point where you never bring the product to market due to delays.Remember, you can always expand after you’ve finished the MVP. Save those extra features for future updates, like version 2.0.
3. Partner up
Find a good developer and partner who can take your ideas, time and money to produce the product you have in mind. You want something functional that also fits your budget and timeline. Depending on the size, you’ll need to consider whether to work with a single developer, or a team such as ours at Swip Systems.
4. Innovate with agility
The mantra for innovation is: “fail fast, fail often.” It’s not something you’d expect to hear, but when developing an application, you need to be able to work out bugs and features as quickly as possible. We recommend the Agile development methodology, as it is all about rapid product iteration. This involves producing a working version and turning it over to customers or users so they can give immediate feedback, thus allowing you to build upon that feedback to quickly improve your product.
5. Establish a prototype group
The final step of building an application is to identify a user group for testing the application. This provides a group that you can both collect input and bounce ideas off of. You need to get your app into the hands of people and get a feedback loop going to collect pros and cons. Who you select is very critical, as their opinions can ultimately determine the success of your product in the market place.
For more on building an application, be sure to check out my recent presentation at the Venture Cafe, where I go into greater detail on mobile apps.
The bottom line is this… You are going to spend a LOT of time and resources on your application. Follow the above best practices to make sure all of your hard work pays off.