The best applications are simple and easy to use, but developing those applications is exceptionally hard work. Even seemingly basic apps require a considerable amount of time and effort to create. Imagine the challenge of building an entire customer-friendly website or mobile app — and the potential financial and reputational pitfalls companies can fall into if those products do not succeed.
Yet most software projects fail due to a lack of alignment between key stakeholders, misunderstanding customers’ needs and a need to push products out too quickly. While speed is important, so is taking the time to make sure everyone is on the same page, creating a list of priorities, conducting proper customer research and performing periodic assessments.
Here are three strategies to help you incorporate all of these things into your product development processes to ensure your applications have a better chance of success.
Slow Down Before You Accelerate
One doesn’t normally think about slowing down when it comes to software development. Sometimes, however, it’s best to step back, assess strategic goals and map out a plan. It’s best to do this right at the start before you begin investing time and money into your project.
This initial phase is important to risk mitigation and ensuring you’re developing with a purpose. Without prior planning, it can become all too easy to fail to account for a potential vulnerability or waste precious resources on developing features that aren’t applicable to your mission. Either of those scenarios could lead to your company taking significant reputational and financial hits.
Slowing down — just for a bit — before accelerating allows you to reset the playing field, lower the potential for risk and, ultimately, deliver a high-quality product.
Get Everyone On The Same Page
This is a good time to convene key stakeholders to brainstorm ideas and make sure everyone agrees on the direction the project is heading. That’s not always easy. Different stakeholders tend to have different ideas about which features to prioritize. Developers might favor a particular widget. HR, finance or sales managers may have their own wish lists. Meanwhile, the CEO might continually ask for new features throughout development.
While it’s important to give everyone a voice in the process, it’s equally important to have clearly defined goals that drive that process. Goals can include expected ROI and measurable KPIs such as customer engagement levels. All of these should funnel up to a larger corporate objective: creating a product that generates sales.
Hitting those marks is impossible when everyone is acting territorial or throwing out feature ideas just because they’re cool. Get around this problem by holding goal alignment workshops with all key stakeholders before writing a single line of code. Invite the CEO, product managers, developers, sales managers and anyone else with a vested interest in the product. We used to do this via whiteboards; now, we use virtual tools like Miro and Trello to get the job done.
Whichever method you choose, use these workshops to agree upon goals and objectives and create a development plan that maps to those goals. This should help you prioritize product features and components, streamline your development process and create a solution that aligns with your company’s core needs.
Get To Know Your Users
People don’t buy products because they love using them; they buy products because they expect a specific result. For instance, I recently purchased a new drill that allows me to complete building projects much faster than any other drill I’ve ever used. I love that drill… and yet, I really don’t love that drill. What I love is the fact that it allows me to get stuff done quickly. The drill itself is just a tool; it’s the end result that matters.
Customers who purchase software have the same mindset. Sure, they might appreciate an app’s bells and whistles, but at the end of the day, they want to get stuff done. The question is: What do they want to get done? The answer will be different for everyone, but you can find out through customer research.
Start by creating customer personas that answer the following questions:
• Who is our target customer? (This includes their title and demographics.)
• What are their needs?
• What type of solutions do they typically use?
• How do they use them?
Then, start looking at the competitive landscape. What other types of solutions are out there? What do they do? What kinds of feedback are they getting from their users?
After you’ve explored these issues, use what you’ve discovered as you enter your design phase. Build high-fidelity mock-ups and rapid prototypes (i.e., proofs of concept) and test them with your target audiences. See what does and does not work, and experiment with the design until you’ve got a solution that is unique from the rest of the field and meets your customers’ needs.
Finally, test the prototype with users. Find out what they like and dislike, incorporate that feedback into your design and keep iterating.
As you’re iterating, use agile development processes to make changes as you go. Many times, Apple has introduced a new version of iOS as we’ve been about to launch an app for one of our clients, forcing us to rethink our creation to take advantage of new features. That’s OK because since we use agile, we’re prepared to make adjustments, deprioritizing certain features while up-leveling others — all without losing focus and sticking to our objectives.
Whatever you do, never stop. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, so continue to invest in your solutions and refine your development processes. Keep your products fresh, relevant and successful.
Even if the finest programs are simple to use, creating them requires a lot of effort. Even the most straightforward apps take a lot of time to develop. Consider the difficulties involved in creating a fully functional mobile application or website, as well as the possible financial and reputational risks businesses may encounter if these products fail.
The point is that the majority of software product developers fail as a result of miscommunication between important stakeholders, an incorrect understanding of client demands, and a desire to provide products too soon. While efficiency is crucial, it’s also crucial to establish priorities, carry out thorough consumer research, and carry out frequent evaluations.
Here are three techniques to assist you in incorporating all of these elements into your product design and development to improve the chances that your applications will be successful.
Slow Down Before Accelerating
This first stage is crucial for risk management and ensuring that your development has a purpose. Without advance planning, it might be all too simple to overlook a possible weakness or to squander valuable resources on creating features that aren’t necessary for your objective. Either of those possibilities might result in serious reputational and financial losses for your business.
When it comes to software development, slowing down is typically not considered. But sometimes it’s best to take a step back, consider your strategic objectives, and create a strategy. The best time to do this is at the beginning before you start devoting time and resources to your project.
Before speeding, slowing down just a little bit enables you to level the playing field, reduce risk, and finally produce a high-quality product.
Get Everyone On The Same Page
Key stakeholders should be gathered at this point to generate ideas and ensure that everyone is on board with the project’s direction. That isn’t always simple. Differing stakeholders frequently have different opinions on the things that should be given priority. Some widgets may be more popular with developers. Managers in HR, finance, or sales may each have a wish list. While work is ongoing, the CEO could keep requesting more features.
When people are being snobby or suggesting features just because they’re cool, it’s hard to hit those targets. Before developing a single line of code, undertake goal alignment workshops with all important stakeholders to get around this issue. Invite everyone who has a stake in the product, including the CEO, product managers, key developer, designers, sales managers, etc.
You can accomplish this using online platforms like Trello and Miro. Use these tools to establish goals and objectives using whichever approach you decide, then construct a development strategy that corresponds to those goals. You should be able to prioritize application features and as a result, expedite your development procedure, and provide a solution that meets the essential requirements of your business.
Having clearly stated goals that guide the process is just as vital as ensuring that everyone has a say in it. Expected ROI and quantifiable KPIs like customer engagement levels are examples of goals. Each of these should lead to the creation of a product that drives sales, which is the bigger corporate goal.
Know Your Users Better
People buy items because they expect a certain outcome, not because they like using them. Customers that buy software have a similar mentality. They may like the bells and whistles of an app, but ultimately, they want to accomplish their goals. What is it that they seek to accomplish? Everyone will have a different response, but you can learn it by doing consumer research.
Start by creating customer personas that answer the following questions:
- Who is our target customer?
- What are their needs?
- What type of solutions do they typically use?
- How do they use them?
Next, start examining the market environment. What other kinds of remedies are available? How do they behave? What type of user feedback are they receiving?
Use the information you learn when you begin the design process once you’ve investigated these challenges. Create quick prototypes and high-fidelity mockups (also known as proofs of concept or PoC) and test them with your target audiences. Examine what works and what doesn’t, and experiment with different designs until you have a solution that stands out from the competition and satisfies the demands of your clients.
Learn what your consumers like and hate, take their comments into account when creating your design, and keep improving.
Utilize agile development methodologies to make changes as you go while iterating. Many times, just as we were about to release an app for one of our clients, Apple released a new version of iOS, requiring us to rethink our design in order to make use of the new capabilities. That’s okay, though, since we employ agile methodologies, which allow us to adapt and deprioritize some things while emphasizing others without losing sight of our goals.
Never stop doing anything. Continue to invest in your solutions and improve your development processes since what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Keep your items current, useful, and profitable.