A close-up on mobile app software development best practices and procedures following by world-class technology services providers.

Set A

 

A cup of cappuccino at Starbucks

$5

Transaction duration: 10-20 minutes

 

 

A warm, toasty plate of pancakes at IHOP

$10

Transaction duration: 30-60 minutes

 

 

A ticket for Pixar Pier Premiere event

$300

Transaction duration: 3-5 hours

 

 

A transatlantic journey in an airplane

$1,000

Transaction duration: 10-14 hours

 

As consumers, we expect awesome experiences from each of these settings. The dollar price for these food items, events, journeys, and products allows us to consume the deliverables (tangible and intangible) and expect top-of-the-line customer service.

 

Set B

 

A typical single-app (iOS or Android) ecosystem

about $10K

Transaction duration: 6-8 weeks

 

 

A fully customized twin-apps (iOS and Android) digital platform

about 30K

Transaction duration: 10-14 weeks

 

Dollar prices aside, the glaring differences between Set A and Set B are the intangibles:

  1. The missing feeling of money well spent
  2. Customer satisfaction
  3. Accountability on the part of the services provider

 

Let’s ask the obvious questions.

 

If a $5 cup of coffee comes bundled with customer-centric service – why cannot a $30K mobile app development initiative offer the same high level of professionalism and customer satisfaction? Why change the rules of engagement for IT services or technology partners? Is a B2B service model not responsible toward its customers the same way as a B2C model?

 

Let’s demystify the mobile app development process.

 

$5 cup of coffee vs. Thousands of dollars in software development costs

 

A cup of coffee will kick you into high gear. The satisfaction is right there, in the first few sips. It is a perfect example of instant gratification. The runners and brewers need to do their tasks right (brew at the right temperature and granularity and use high-quality ingredients), smile, offer you the credit card receipt, ask for improvements in a post-sale survey, and the job is done. Of course, there’s a lot of background stuff happening – supply chain, store management, housekeeping, and marketing.

 

In case of software development, unless you get hold of a genie waving a magic wand, the results can take a few weeks to a few months to manifest in a tangible form. Plus, you still need to market and sell the shiny, new mobile app to *your* customers and offer them the same high level of service that is synonymous with B2C service models.

 

Let’s take a moment and analyze the journey of a properly structured mobile app software development initiative.

a) ideation

b) requirements gathering

c) formal specifications formation – break the initiative into phased, agile development – roadmapping

d) user experience design

e) mobile app programming and coding

f) submission to the app store

g) launch and marketing

h) capturing feedback from customers

i) iterative revisions and improvements

j) phases 2 through N planning and repeat from step a) onward

 

Here’s the catch. Most technology services providers do not follow these steps because i) they lack the knowledge of what it takes to launch a mobile app product, or ii) they lack the intent because they low-balled a fixed-cost quotation to win the project and led their customer down the garden path.

 

 

Step a) Ideation is as essential as any other step of the journey. If the mobile app does not have a purpose, or as a customer if you are not committed or sold to your idea, then it’s a slippery slope from the first day. To sell your app to your customers, sell it yourself and to folks in your circle – gather their feedback – and refine and solidify your idea. Alternatively, find a strategic Product Engineering services provider who can co-ideate and roadmap with you. If you do the research right, you can disqualify many code monkeys masquerading as Product Engineering services providers on this step. They can’t think or ideate or provide any value to your vision. They can, however, jump from one branch to another chasing the greenback dollar banana.

 

Step b) entails creating a backlog of everything you want in your app – the list could be as simple as bullet points of features such as login and registration and all the way to data-driven charts, machine-learned personalization strategies, and monetization strategies.

Step c) your features list should be pretty comprehensive – more than you can chew. If not, you and your technology services partner have not done a detailed-enough job and should revisit the idea and think through feature list again. It is essential to roadmap the process while placing the end user in the middle of the ecosystem and plan the user journeys accordingly. Do not jump into coding the mobile app – spend as much time as you need on this step. These journeys and flow will make or break the success of the app. This step is the foundation of customer satisfaction factor of your app.

 

 

Step d) user experience designs follows organically from step c). If you’re building a pizza delivery app – figure out how can the users order a pizza in two taps or less. If you’re creating a home services app – figure out how can the end user get a certified plumber at their doorstep in 45 minutes or less. The UX has to be stellar or might as well not do it. Another class of crack-and-hack technology services providers will drop off at this step because they are unable to meet the burden of proof of the demanding nature of the design and product expertise required to execute the tasks here.

 

 

Step e) the fun begins as now the ideas, concepts, UI/UX designs get converted into flesh in the form of real source code which powers the experience of the mobile app. Good technology providers write clean code, run a battery of tests on their work-product, and auto deploy code in sprints and releases.

 

 

Step f) there are many reasons your app could be rejected by the App stores run by Apple and Google, respectively. If your technology partner did their job right, they wouldn’t be asking for permissions to read the contacts list or SMS messages of the users when the app installs. The app should not be asking the app users to supply their phone numbers during registration unless, of course, you are creating a payment services app where a higher degree of customer authentication/validation is necessary. Android, for examples, has pivoted to requiring extra device permissions (contacts list, phone privileges, and location access) when the app needs those bits of information rather than getting them in bulk during install. A good app design follows the best practices and these design choices contribute to how the end users perceive the app and engage with it.

 

 

Step g) the best-marketed apps typically trump others – sounds like a cliche but it’s a fact. You could have the best-engineered app on the planet, but without a marketing blitz and a launch plan, it’s not going to go places and have much traction. You need tens of thousands of app installs in the first few months of the app launch, and it’s vital to have a section of crazy fans who adore your app. Your technology services provider needs to don a different hat and assist you here. Most have no clue in this territory.

 

 

Step h) You began with an idea and engineered it into a real mobile app. If you miss capturing feedback (internal users and end users) and using that feedback to polish your agile backlog, you risk losing sight of the big picture. The initial thought/idea that led you from Step a) to here was your vision and conviction. Now, it’s time to make course adjustments and factor-in the real world usage statistics. That is the beauty of agile and lean mindset – you’re able to pivot and course-correct as you move forward. Do not lock yourself to multi-month Sprints and Waterfall-like techniques. Listen carefully to the chatter in forums and directed feedback, crashes, bugs, suggestions, and tips and craft them into improvements.

 

 

Step i) Create a plan to launch the improvements and feedback gathered in the previous step and invest the next few weeks into polishing the mobile app. Do not rush into phase 2 – get a hold of where you are, dig in, get the app to a stable state and then move on.

Step j) The journey this far and the lessons and learnings are invaluable. Use these experiences to define the next evolution of your app and how you see your customers receive value from your product/service. Put them in the center of your ecosystem again and visualize how else you can create tangible value and leave a positive impact on their lives. Jot the ideas and circle back to step a).

 

As we can visualize – software development has a lot of moving parts and creating a real mobile app is more natural thought of than executed. Your technology partner plays a BIG role in the success of your initiative. You can get a $1 cup of coffee at a convenience store, or you can spend $5 for a satisfying gourmet cup with a brand of repute. The technology services providers also come in various flavors. Since there is no entry barrier to start an IT services shop (unlike, say being a doctor or a lawyer), tens of hundreds of fly-by-the-night operators worldwide have mushroomed up. They promise you a mobile app in a month at a price that seems super attractive. They probably do not speak your language, have zero product knowledge and carry no pedigree.

 

 

Do not get ripped-off by unqualified mobile app developers. Do not get ripped-off by promises of successful launches and million-dollar revenue.

 

Do your due diligence, ask probing questions to your technology partner and figure out for yourself if you’re in safe hands. You will spend weeks (likely months) with your technology partner converting your app idea into reality. If things go well, there will be a phase 2, phase 3 and more to come.

 

You have to choose a technology partner with care – that will define what you *really* buy – $30K worth of work-product with a professional services provider or $3K junk with a bidder.

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