Like most app developers, we’ve had our fair share of people through the doors with the next big idea for an app that’s going to change the world.
Sadly, most won’t, although that’s often down to the other aspects of the business or processes that haven’t been sufficiently thought through.
On a positive note, a well-considered app really can make a big difference – and change at least the part of the world you’d like to impact or improve.
Success typically goes hand-in-hand with focus and a clear understanding of the role the app will play, and most importantly avoiding the temptation to disappear into the dark and dangerous world of scope creep.
There’s no doubt that almost anything now seems possible and the apps we’re familiar with in our daily lives have set the bar very high. However, it’s important to remember that most of the really popular apps have evolved massively from where they started and it’s only with years of development and very deep pockets that they’ve got to where they are.
That’s not to suggest you shouldn’t be ambitious; definitely think big but start with an initial project that’s manageable and achievable, build solid foundations and move forward based on clear feedback from users.
The most successful projects have a clear and achievable aim to make life better for a specific target group of people.
That could be the team you work with or existing customers.
In fact, if you’re already in contact with the people whose experience you’re going to improve, it probably makes sense to get them involved in some way in the development.
Think about what you could improve; it could be providing information either through regular updates or a knowledge base; or making it simple and easy to capture data which could even include images or videos; or it could walk the user through a specific process, making it practicality impossible to go wrong.
Do you need to make improvements all at once or is it worth thinking about taking incremental steps?
Integration with other systems is also worth considering although it isn’t always as straightforward as many hope.
It might be better to push that level of complexity back in to future development phases and focus initially on doing the simple stuff really well – or what we’d call an MVP (minimum viable product).
That way you’ll get buy-in from your users and take them on the journey with you, rather than risk a poor first experience which might jeopardise the project.
If integration is going to be part of your roadmap then make sure you understand what might be entailed even if it isn’t part of your first development phase.
If you aren’t already connected with your audience then it might be worth spending at least as much, if not more, time on determining how you’ll engage them as you spend on developing the app.
If your app is about generating efficiency savings or revenues and it’s going to cost more to develop than the potential returns then you probably need to question whether it’s worth building in the first place?
It’s an honest conversation that we’ll always have with anyone who approaches us to build their app. Although some might not.
When you’re thinking about the costs, you’ll need to take into account both development and ongoing support or maintenance.
It’s about balancing the lifetime costs with the lifetime savings or revenues over a determined period of time. Bearing in mind the upfront cost of development might the key factor in setting the timescale.
Many of the apps we’re familiar with, and have become part of daily life, will have made huge losses in their early years, confident that their investment would provide a huge payback in the long term. That’s certainly the case for the brands that have become household names but how many others have fallen by the wayside?
For those that are looking at developing an app to make the way they operate their business more efficient, fully understanding return can be a challenge and difficult to quantify.
Using an app to capture and distribute information such as task completion, mileage and timesheets, or managing rotas, creating jobsheets and allocating tasks will save incremental amounts of time that quickly add up to hours, days, months or more.
Speeding up processes could mean you can get invoices out more quickly, get paid sooner and make a huge difference to cash flow.
It’s often the hidden benefits that are the real payback such as better informed customers, fewer mistakes and more engaged employees.
As we’ve already mentioned, we’d certainly encourage you to think big and be ambitious.
But be realistic.
The great thing is that as technology evolves, what used to require massive budgets to achieve can now be done – almost – at the touch of a button.
Although we should point out that’s with significant technical expertise and know how. (There are plenty of DIY app builder solutions out there but at some point most non-technical people will probably come up against an issue that’s likely to derail the whole thing!)
We’d also caution that these new possibilities, exciting as they may seem, should come with a health warning.
There’s a significant risk that your app becomes ‘bloated’ and what should have made life for users easy and straightforward actually ties them up in knots.
Which leads us on to another important point. Whilst we’d certainly accept that some business process apps will inevitably require a level of user training, there is always going to be an expectation that any app should be easy to use straight from the outset.
If user experience isn’t great, and doesn’t meet the expectation you create, then we’re pretty sure you’ll hear about it; often very publicly.
It definitely depends on what you’re looking to achieve and it’s certainly not a case of the more the better.
If you’re clear on your processes that’s great but bear in mind that if you’re going from manual to digital it might be that you need to re-engineer those processes accordingly rather than just settle for like-for-like.
If you get some of your users involved then you might be surprised with the suggestions they bring to the table. However, it’s important to manage expectations and make it clear from the outset that ideas might be added to a wish list (or backlog as the techie would describe) but won’t necessarily be prioritised.
Again, it’s probably a case of start small, think big and be cautious of ‘bloating’ your app.
We’ve already touched on expectations around usability and that’s definitely an area where you need to get some real people involved in testing. It’s far better to take the criticisms on the chin in a controlled setting, rather than in a public forum!
If you are planning any sort of integration, the digital landscape is now full of APIs that allow you to connect with all sorts of different services. That’s fine, but there might be times when you need to dig a little deeper and go direct to understand more about the data structure that you’re looking to tap in to.
We’re hoping that you won’t run away and hide in a dark room!
Although a few moments of quiet contemplation about what you’re trying to achieve certainly won’t be wasted.
The first steps might be to get a workshop together with the key ‘stakeholders’ and at least one person with some technical capability so that you understand both the art of the possible and what’s likely to blow your budget very quickly.
User groups are also worthwhile, not only because they help you to understand the areas and issues that you can improve for them but it’s also an opportunity to get them bought in from the outset. They might even become fans or advocates.
You’ll hear people talk about prototyping and MVPs; it’s now remarkably easy to build a simple app that looks the part and that’s a very worthwhile exercise.
However, don’t fall into the trap of all surface and no substance. Eighty…ninety percent or more of what will make your app successful lies beneath the surface.
We’re more than happy to help you dive deep.
Do Anything You Want To Do.
I don’t suppose most digital natives or Gen Zs will think ‘Thin Lizzy’ when they hear the words ‘do anything you want to do’. What was once the domain of the genuine tech wizard is now commonplace. On the one hand that’s amazing. On the other it brings with it the temptation to stuff your app full of all sorts of functionality that won’t necessarily add value.
Top Five Things To Think About Before You Build An App
Like most app developers, we’ve had our fair share of people through the doors with the next big idea for an app that’s going to change the world. Sadly, most won’t, although that’s often down to the other aspects of the business or processes that haven’t been sufficiently thought through.
What Happens Next.
You have a vision. You’re going to build an app that will change the world. (Or at least, make a difference for the people who are fortunate enough to use it.). A wise man once said, ‘vision without action is hallucination. You could google app developers, get in touch with a few and ask