The process of building a new application is complicated, if you’re going to do it right. And what’s the point, if you don’t do it right? There’s sure to be someone else out there who is willing to do it properly, and the result will be an application that is more popular and profitable than yours.
If you do it right, you’ll do it for the right reasons; you’ll make sure you include the app development processes that will make it worth it; and you’ll avoid the mistakes that so many others have made before you. Let’s look at each one of these in turn.
Are you doing this for the right reasons?
We confess: There have been times when we have talked someone out of developing an application. Yes, we could have done the work for them, and they’d even be happy with the result. We know how to build successful applications. But we also know a lot about which applications succeed in the marketplace and with internal users, and which applications fail.
There are all sorts of reasons not to develop an application, or, at least, not to develop it the wrong way.
1. Doing it for the wrong reasons. “I’ll show them!” If you’re only doing it to prove that you could, without worrying about whether it will succeed in the marketplace, don’t bother. It’s just not very satisfying to create something that no one will ever buy or use. And whoever you’re trying to impress won’t be that impressed anyway.
2. I can do this for a lot less! Sure, your brother’s son might be great at writing code, or you know you can get this done offshore for a lot less, but there is no question that you will be giving up something to do it. There are hidden costs in these approaches.
I can’t tell you how many times we have been asked to “clean up the mess” after a manager decided to go the short, cheap way. The most common complaint is how much time it took to manage the effort. Each new build required hours and hours of management time to get it right, while the deadline loomed closer. “What I had in mind and what the developer delivered were not even close,” is a common complaint. “They delivered their part, but it didn’t integrate with this other part,” is another one.
Every time this happens, the whole application development process needs to be adjusted again. This is time that the managers didn’t think they’d have to spend, and, even more importantly, time that those managers would be better off spending doing something more valuable. This is a very high price to pay.
3. You aren’t willing to invest what it will take. Yes, I suppose you could call this a self-serving opinion, but it’s just the truth. If you don’t have enough finances to build an application that will actually be successful—one that more than pays for itself and can be used to build a profitable business—then you shouldn’t even start. The minute that application gets out into the marketplace, it will be compared with all the other applications that promise the same functions, and it will be evaluated by buyers who have very high expectations. If it is substandard, potential buyers will be able to tell immediately, and won’t even sign up for a trial.
4. Nobody wants it. This is a tough pill to swallow, but better to take your medicine before you spend thousands or millions. One of the main reasons we always conduct customer and market research before developing is that we have to make sure people will even want what you’re hoping we’ll build. The urge to “do nothing,” or to “just stick with what I have,” is one of the strongest forces in any market. Change is tough, and busy workers avoid it if they can. Once they’ve learned how to use a tool, even though it’s not as sleek or efficient as the new tools available, they will resist upgrading. It’s better to know before you invest that an application simply won’t fly.
5. You’re underestimating the complexity required. There are very few applications that work alone these days. Integration has become the norm, not the exception. Pulling data from one application into another requires experience in integration, data synchronization and scheduling, field mapping, secure data transfer, and more. There are also various modes of access that matter; your application may need to be accessed via a desktop and mobile devices, which means it needs to be compatible with numerous operating systems and device models, including the older ones.
What processes make it worth it?
If you’re starting up a new profit center, and hoping this application will bring in the revenue, then your decision-making process should be the same as it would be if you were building any new product.
You will want the best team you can find at a realistic cost. You will want that team to have experience building other successful applications, for similar audiences. They should be able to conduct customer and market research, so that your application will be competitive right out of the gate.
And, yes, we mentioned a “team” because a single programmer is not going to build the customer and business knowledge, User Experience and User Interface expertise, quality control, and security into the application as it’s being developed. Instead, you will end up with an application that may perform its functions, but not one that will perform for you in the marketplace.
If you’re creating an application for internal use, the issues are different, but the app development steps are similar. Your customers, in this case, are your internal users. A successful application will be one that they enjoy using and that introduces more efficiency into their working (or relaxing) day. So pre-development research still has to be conducted. And the final application still has to work properly and be secure.
Again, a programmer can give you a portion of this—the functions and the screens—but not the User Experience research, quality control, and security. Even internal applications need to be secure; it is not uncommon for serious attacks to be carried out via internal applications.
The truth is, going to the trouble to work on an application without these critical components is like building a house without windows and internal walls. You can still live in it, but the experience won’t live up to today’s standards.
What’s it worth to you to have the application meet or exceed market standards? A product that you can market and sell with confidence and hold up against any other product in the marketplace. A product that pleases users and causes them to give you positive reviews. A product that passes that all-too-important “first few seconds” test, which is the make-it-or-break-it moment in the buying process.
What are the most common app development mistakes?
We’ve already covered many of them above. Not being realistic about what it takes to develop a popular and competitive application; hoping to do it on the cheap; using a single programmer when it takes a well-managed team of specialists; and doing it for the wrong reasons.
It’s quite common to see a problem that could be solved with a good application, but, again, it’s no simple matter to create an application that is sure to sell.
One thing you can depend on from us: We always tell the truth. So our initial conversations, when we ask a lot of questions and figure out what you’re trying to do, will result in an honest appraisal of your goals and the realities involved. It’s always a great way to help you find the best possible approach.