Smartphone software development is both an art and a science. Developers are incredibly protective of the great work that they produce, graphic designers have a passion for aesthetics and user experience designers have insights into the natural way that the product should interact with the user. The project manager binds it all together; keeping the communication open and the information flow between stakeholders just right. We could call this the dream team.
Then we come onto the customer. They are solely interested in a product that works. They have high expectations too and rightly so; mobile introduces a whole new set of user behaviour.
Of course, the customer has an interest of which tasks the development team are undertaking and an outline of the development methodology used. This however means nothing if it fails the core objective or doesn’t solve the problem.
They will be interested in the developments within the mobile industry and could be dazzled by the rumours of the new technology that will change the way we use a smartphone. They will buy into this and that’s a good thing. But the customer has one key goal – to make the product work for them and their customers. Anything else that came before it becomes pointless.
Become the guide
Between Apple and Android there are nearly 15 million smartphone apps available with a scary download and delete mentality. The need for the mobile application to truly meet the needs of the customer and their customers is as important as it ever was. You want longevity and you want engagement.
We must share the customer objective. We must guide the customer down the correct path and deliver the Minimal Viable Product (MVP). We must try not to dilute this with a list of features to make the app more appealing. That can come later down the line and a new release.
As a customer, if this isn’t happening then you need to think about if what you are doing is right.
The job of the development team is to challenge and question the customer brief. To ignite conversation, promote debate and create an even tighter brief. From this, we can then begin to produce the user stories, create tasks and plan out the development sprints. Does this sound familiar? Well, agile development is perfect for keeping communication between the development team and the customer ‘close’ and ‘regular’ but that’s for another post!
But wait…what about testing?
The dream team isn’t complete without a tester right? If you haven’t got a tester or product developer whose job it is to think beyond the screen then who is going to do it? Have this conversation early as it’s going to require careful planning around resource and project milestones.
Yes, we will test the application, Mr. Customer, that’s part of what we do.
I’ve heard this so many times. The reality of the situation is that if you haven’t created a separate line item of costs on your quote to the customer to test the application, then you are only testing against what you know. Generally, this tends to be on a simulator controlled by a mouse, not in the real world with real people doing different things in different locations with different software versions, battery levels, signal strength, mobile phone settings and differing memory levels all at the same time as using the app. Phew!
Quick tips to remember
The below graphic details six points to consider when developing a mobile application. We could have carried on well beyond twenty but we wanted to keep it short and sweet for you!
Be flexible – software development is never 100% right
I started the post by saying that software development is an art and science, which is true. It’s also bespoke and no matter if you are Apple or Google, it will never be 100% perfect. So whilst you must test, test, test you must also keep testing and you must also keep iterating your product development.
There are some things that you just can’t predict. Testing wont give you the answer to these unknown situations. Humans are unpredictable but we can set expectations, minimise risk and plan out a healthy life for the mobile application.
Scott Hague is Managing Director of Integrated Change, a leading enterprise and consumer mobile app development agency. Scott has been involved in delivering over 55 mobile applications across all major platforms. You can find Integrated Change on Facebook or Google+, and Scott Hague is on LinkedIn.