How effective development methodologies can save you when things go south
Things are bound to happen during development. There will be an unexpected problem that comes up, and unfortunately—because application development has so many moving parts—a problem in one area can have a cascading domino effect throughout an entire project. If your design team misses a crucial deadline, that can slow down development on the front end, which can delay back-end testing and push back milestones and launch dates. The only way to deal with unforeseen challenges is by implementing effective development methodologies.
These are processes, standards, and practices that give an application development company the framework and discipline to manage smaller problems before they become big ones. At Applied Visions we follow a straightforward system that has, time and time again, provided the best results. Many of the principles of Agile software development form the bedrock of our processes, because it focuses on adaptability, assembling the right teams, and maintaining communication with customers through each phase.
The first step in any development process must be clearly defining what the client intends to accomplish with the application upon its completion. Before we can come up with an effective development methodology, we need to know who the client believes will use the app, what their intended business strategy with it is (ad revenue, pay-per-download, subscriptions, or something else), which platform they want to use, and what they want their users to do with the app.
This is how we make sure that your expectations are met. Surprisingly, this is a step that many app development companies skip. We are often called in to take over development from some of these firms once things have gone wrong.
If a developer doesn’t discuss your ultimate objectives before starting development, then you need to find a different developer.
Research and gather requirements
Once we know what it is you want to do, we need to figure out how to do it. This means that we need to plan for what users—real, live, actual people—will expect from the application. User experience—the “UX” part of “UI/UX”—is directly tied to user expectations. If those expectations are met, then their experiences are better, just as with most products.
If somebody orders a bike and UPS delivers a tricycle, they’re not going to be happy—no matter how many times you explain that an extra wheel adds value.
So, to prevent that, we survey users, examine application trends, employ standard conventions, and generally do everything we can to develop the required aspects of the application. If we understand the expectations, we can make sure that they’re met and exceeded—but we need to find out what they are first.
Rapidly develop mockups
Once we know what the user will expect, we begin the design phase. This is when we bring in our UI/UX experts to guide the design process based on the data we gathered in the previous step. They make sure that the design matches those user expectations.
At this stage, we begin developing mockups of the app. As I’ve written previously, there are a lot of benefits to producing mockups (especially if you can do it quickly), but all of those benefits really boil down to one thing: problem prevention.
Pushing out a mockup is an excellent way to get everyone onto the same page. Our programmers benefit from getting an early visual idea of the way the app will look when it’s finished, which actually helps them write cleaner code, for example—they get to do it just once, rather than constantly revise it in response to user feedback. Even better, the customer gets to see the same thing, and their feedback can be incorporated into the design at this early stage. Our UI/UX experts can examine the application from a user’s perspective and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, and it is far better to do that sooner rather than later.
All too often, problems with the design of an application aren’t discovered (or just aren’t mentioned) until the app is nearly finished (or worse, after it’s released). This may be the biggest potential issue for an application development company aside from catastrophic programming failure, depending upon when it’s identified. If it’s three days before release, expect the launch date to be pushed back.
That’s why it’s our standard practice to rapidly produce mockups for an application. By doing that early in the development process, we can make changes without having to go back and rewrite whole sections of code. This lets us adapt our designs quickly, and develop one that satisfies our customer and their users, and doesn’t cause problems down the line.
Quality assurance and continuous integration
Nothing is bug-free, but it’s possible to get close. Testing is an important step in development—arguably the most important outside of actual programming—but when you do it is critical. Waiting to test until some substantial portion of the app is complete—or even the whole thing—is foolhardy. Chances are very good that there are going to be a lot of things to fix, and waiting to test is a great way to slow everything down and push back the launch date.
Continuous integration and testing is the way to do it. Part of our development methodology is to rebuild and test our applications—both automatically and by hand—every step along the way. This does take some time during the development phase, but it allows us—once again—to deal with smaller problems before they become bigger ones. It’s far simpler to isolate where an error is when the application is rebuilt every time code is checked in. Fixing it is significantly easier as a result.
Effective development methodologies solve problems while they’re small
There is no methodology that can prevent every problem. Things are going to come up in every development cycle. The difference, however, is that an effective development methodology maximizes your opportunities to find the problems, and solve them before they snowball. It’s best to catch the first domino before it knocks down the second.
If you’d like to learn more about our philosophy and our methodology, contact us, and we’ll discuss how we can help. For more information on selecting and working with developers for your upcoming app project, please download a guide for CEOs about creating great software from Applied Visions today.