software developing bristol

How do you get the best results when commissioning a software or web development project?

It’s important when commissioning a software house or digital agency to know your objectives and stay true to those objectives throughout the lifecycle of the project. For most the objectives are simple –  or at-least they should be – design and develop a product that your users/customers will enjoy using and will enable them to find what they are looking for or perform a certain task intuitively and efficiently.

For the purpose of this post, I’m going to stick with software applications (web-apps) to explain how a client brief and subsequent solution should be approached and fulfilled. However, a very similar process could be followed for a website or ecommerce store.

Creating the brief:

When creating a brief it’s important to start with the user in mind. It’s a good idea to start with a ten point list of the main features the software will provide, then break each feature, or module, into storyboards that outline how the process will work from a users point of view.  We usually find we need to assist customers at this stage of the process, as articulating these steps is very difficult so we tend to provide a visual approach. This typically starts with a client workshop where we can all brainstorm ideas and create wireframe stories on a whiteboard or paper. This fleshes out the user journey and flow and means everyones ideas becomes part of a working prototype that can be reviewed and refined until all stakeholders are happy with the product. Anyway, back to the topic at hand…

Points to consider:
  • Start with the need – why does the business need this application? What benefits will it bring to customers, workers and the company as a whole?
  • What is the return – how many administrative hours will the application save your team per day/week/month? And how will the system enhance not only your teams ability to perform their work, but also your end customers experience of working with you, or ordering products from you?
  • Are there any risks? Will the application have longevity? Is it scalable? How would any downtime affect business operations? What are the ongoing running costs in terms or training, hosting and support?
  • What are your top priorities/concerns when developing a new system; Usability? capacity? Initial project cost? ongoing project costs? security? reliability? design aesthetics?

In addition, it’s worth considering the technology your chosen development house will utilise when coding the web-application. If all your customers/users are on modern day web browsers, then the use of modern technologies such as HTML5 and Javascript will provide many advantages. However, legacy browser support is still a consideration, especially if the app is web based and customer facing, as there will be little to no control over the browser or device your customers use. Unfortunately many large organisations find it difficult to upgrade their IT infrastructure due to legacy systems and the cost of upgrade. This means operating systems and therefore browsers can be very out of date, leaving company employees to make the most of an inferior online experience. If your website or application doesn’t cater for your target audience it will provide a negative impact on your brand image and business. My advice is to understand your customers and check your web analytics to identify what IT systems they are using.

Iterate, TEST, perfect. REPEAT

It’s important to remember that Rome (and especially not Wembley stadium!) were not built in a day. It’s very tempting to create a detailed specification document then build the perfect system. But in reality nobody knows what that perfect system looks like, at-least not at first. We strongly recommend an iterative approach to software development. Our advise is to start small and get the core functionality in place then let your staff and/or customers use the product and help you drive the development. It’s very tempting for management to try and define how people and processes work throughout an organisation, but it’s an ambitious and somewhat risky approach, especially if the person writing the brief has never performed a certain role within a company on a day-to-day basis.

I’m going to expand on this topic in a future blog post, as we have found that our approach helps to develop better software products.

If you have any questions regarding web-application development, then please contact me (Mark Probert) on 0117 205 0425 email me

 

 

 

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