Custom software app development can be a complex and lengthy process. So what should you know before you embark on your development journey?
Custom software requires more attention and thought than just licensing an app or web-based service. If you’re planning on creating your own unique app, you probably have some unique needs. We’ll focus on two important factors to help you get the most out of the entire development process: knowing your users and utilizing customization.
These factors streamline the development process and let you and your developers create the best product. Let’s break down how.
The Process as a Whole
Before we dive in, we should break down the three main stages of the custom software development process.
The planning stage is where you, the customer, have the most control and input. You’ll need to figure out what type of application you’re looking for, who will be using it, and what it will do.
Development is where the heavy lifting happens, aka coding and design. While you have decisions to make during this phase, your chosen developers will be doing most of the work.
The testing phase can either be simple and hands off or a lengthy, involved process. It all depends on the type of application you’re making. At its most basic, testing looks for bugs or glitches in an app through extensive testing. For larger apps, like social networking, testing needs more time with more testers in order to nail down the user experience.
It’s important to have the big picture in mind before starting any development. Designing a custom app is an important investment, so make sure you can give it time and care before diving in.
Know Your Users
You must understand who will use this application. This usually breaks down into two basic categories: internal and external users. If the app is only used by employees, you’ll have a different approach than developing for customers or other external users.
Either way, do everything you can to make sure the app meets the needs of its users. For customers, clients, and other external users, perform a targeted demographic/market analysis. This will help you pin down the specifics of your user base.
If your app is targeted at a narrow group of tech wizards, adding lots of diverse functions may be a good idea. If your audience is more broad, you shouldn’t overwhelm them with too many options.
No matter who’s using your app, try your best to put yourself in their shoes. Don’t make the mistake of assuming users understand how to use your application— “The Curse of Knowledge” makes it difficult to understand what users will and won’t know when using your application.
Get to know your user base. Whether they’re employees or customers, sample them to see what they find helpful in an app. When investing in custom software, you want the people using it to get as much from it as possible.
This may seem obvious, but the ability to customize your software is really the most powerful ingredient in custom app development. Utilize your chance to make software that fits your business perfectly.
Shopping for software is a lot like shopping for clothes. To license existing software is like buying clothes off of the rack—since it’s made for a general audience, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not it’ll be a perfect fit.
Likewise, businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes generic solutions don’t work, opening the door for tailor-made solutions for a perfect fit. Keep similar things in mind when developing your custom application.
What you don’t want to do is just clone generic software and rebrand it with your company’s name. Instead, put the understanding of your users to use.
Keep two things in mind when customizing your software:
- Familiarity helps users catch onto your app faster: If employees are used to performing a task on paper, make sure the same touchstones exist in the new digital process. Your development team has control over every aspect of the application—the language used, the visual layout, the way tools are integrated into different parts of the software—so keep your app familiar to whoever’s using it.
- Don’t be afraid to innovate: If your software is replacing an outdated digital or analog solution, you don’t just want a shiny carbon copy of the same process. Work with your development team to understand customer needs and develop a unique solution to create optimal software.
At the end of the day, you want to get the most out of your customization. Make sure you understand how this application can work to everyone’s advantage.
One Last Note
Knowing what you want from your custom app is crucial. One final factor that can be crucial to the development process is committing to decisions.
During the planning phase, you’ll have time to play around with different ideas for your app. Think about your possibilities early, but once you get started on development, making changes become much more difficult. It’s crucial to commit to a path when developing your software.
If something just isn’t working, it will have to be changed—you don’t want to be stuck with a suboptimal product after months of development—but you will incur more expenses and a much longer development phase if you struggle to stick with a strategy.
There are two ways to make committing easier. One is knowing how to fit your application to its users. But the other is to work with a development team you trust. Before embarking on app development, make sure your team has promising results. If you can trust your developers, it’s much easier to trust their design and development decisions when creating your product.
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