We have heard “We want an app” from a number of companies but many people we speak to don’t know how to build an app and are having trouble convincing their colleagues that an app will help their business.
Of course you’d expect me to say that all business need an app as we sell an enterprise app platform but I don’t think that is necessarily the case. There are some parts of a business which I think would benefit from investing in an app; they include sales, marketing, training and events teams as this is where we have already seen substantial success due to apps. But many businesses probably won’t find apps nearly as beneficial as they’d like them to be.Failing apps are common and a key reason they fail is because they weren’t adequately aligned to their purpose. Like websites in the 90s, lots of money is spent on apps but few deliver the value people hoped because they just aren’t suitable for their purpose.During this article I’m going to discuss how to build an app in three steps to increase the likelihood your app will be approved by colleagues, stakeholders and clients. Hopefully these methods will also save you time and frustration.
1. Plan your app
It’s important to document what your app will achieve (objectives), for who (audience), what features will be required (features) and how it will be delivered (delivery). Document the following items however you feel is best.
What your app will achieve should be a set of objectives designed to clarify why you want an app and focus the app on what’s important.
The audience is important because they are going to be the users. It’s important to confirm how knowledgeable your audience is with regards to apps, how effective they are at using the devices the apps will run on, how many of them will have a compatible device and be able to use the apps, etc.
Confirm the features the app will need to achieve the objectives and suit the audience. Sometimes it’s a good idea to split the feature list into ‘mandatory’ and ‘optional’ lists.
Will you have someone build it for you, build it yourself or use a tool to help you build it. Your development method will limit what you can build and will need to be factored in when confirming a list of features. The method of delivery will also effect the time and cost of the app.
2. Wireframe your initial designs
Balsamiq iPad Wireframe
Wireframes will help to focus your app’s functionality and communicate how your app will work in much less time than it will take to build.Wireframes are usually boxes drawn on paper to show how a system will operate, each box is a part of the app eg header, button, image, label, etc. They aren’t colored, use no images and occasionally use shading. The purpose is for the viewer to focus on the layout and functionality, not the design.To get the most from wireframes show them to the intended audience. Ask the audience to explain what they see and how they would use the design. See if they understand the app immediately or if you need to add instructions. Update the wireframes to incorporate feedback.A word of warning, if you sketch ideas without understanding of how to deliver them you risk proposing functionally that you can’t fulfill. Make sure you learn what the system you’ll be using to deliver your app can do.
3. Build a prototype
So now that you’ve thought through what your app will need to do and you’ve created wireframes you’re ready to start prototyping.Prototyping refers to creating an app that demonstrates what it will do but isn’t finished. So if you were trying to create an app to support an upcoming event you could create the main sections of the app, or the part if your app that is most important to your users, and use this to check with the users to see if your app will work.Prototyping is fast, it also means you can collect feedback as you create your app. If you find a problem during while testing your prototype it is still easy to update the app and you haven’t spent too much time building an app that won’t work or be suitable.Fliplet
is a suitable prototyping tool but there are also others Balsamiq
, Prototype on Paper (POP)
.So there you have it, three steps that will dramatically increase the quality and the likelihood your new app will be well received, used and successful!If you use these steps to creating an app, let me know in the comments how it goes. Good luck!