Whether it is the work of a technology agency like ours or a project implemented by an entrepreneur with his development team, designing a web or mobile application requires certain key steps. Taking all these steps into account allows you to define a list of things to plan and do to successfully complete your development project. Let’s review them.
1- Delimiting the scope of the idea
What is the purpose of your application? Designing an application means providing an ergonomic solution to a specific problem, such as putting a person looking for an apartment rental in a geographical area in touch with the rentals offered in that area. If we think of rental search applications, there are many examples. It can also mean improving an existing solution to facilitate or democratize its use. Once the general category of the application has been identified, it is important to list all the ideas related to it and study them to find the idea best suited to your context, your target, the features or services required, the state of the competition, your budget, etc. This step may take some time and require several brainstorming sessions between the project initiators. Nevertheless, it is important to invest the necessary time and effort.
2- Definition of functionalities
The second and equally important step is to define the functionalities of your application. Here, you start from the initial objective or idea at the base of your project to find the different possible variations. You will define the functionalities to be implemented to meet the expectations of the various users. For a better categorization of the functionalities, it is advisable to start with the most important ones for the first version of your application.
In addition, we recommend using an agile approach, avoiding cumbersome documents that are difficult to consult and follow; you can use the right combination of user stories and user interface description tools (such as Balsamiq or Wireframe.cc).
3- Application design
This is a capital step since it allows you to make the fundamental technical choices for the development of the application, such as the type of application, the technologies to use, the development environment, and the technical architecture.
For each of these choices, there are different options to consider. It is advisable to take a step back and take time to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of each option concerning various criteria such as the implementation time and skills required today and later (for future maintenance) as well as the allocated budget.
If you use technologies such as WordPress or Django (two examples corresponding to our web projects at Content Gardening Studio), you will have the advantage of relying on existing documentation, as well as contributions and feedback provided by members of the developer community.
4- Application integration coding and testing
We come to the fourth step, where the developers focus on the specifications provided to code the application. Contrary to popular belief, this is not just an activity where the developer writes code all day to produce results. It must tie in with everything else: the specifications as already mentioned, the server infrastructure on which the software will run, the audience for the application, the users’ devices, and the constraints associated with these elements. And there is an important, but sadly underestimated, part of this engineering activity that we call “testing”.
Coding and testing go hand in hand in the development of your tool. In fact, there is a whole category of so-called “tests” that go along with the code (and, yes, it is also code!) to simulate the conditions of use of the application and verify that the application code produces the expected result. The developer runs these tests as he goes and can thus check the quality of his work daily. These are essentially (automated) integration tests. The other part is “human testing”, which is also essential.
The coding step revolves around the following actions for each of the application modules:
- Identify the functionalities to develop for the module.
- For each feature, write the code and set up the necessary tests.
After the development of each module, deployed on the application test environment, the “Project Manager” will verify that the result obtained corresponds to what is expected. There is thus at least partial verification as the project progresses.
5- Pre-launch user testing
Whatever the quality of your technical team, the success of the development of an application can only be guaranteed if what is produced is tested by someone without technical skills (also called “an end user”) and who is representative of the target audience.
The pre-launch testing stage is therefore unavoidable, even if it may seem optional. It allows you to get feedback on the use of your application early enough to make important corrections before moving on to the launch phase.
Before putting your application on the market, it is important to plan its deployment. It’s important to note that you should not rush at the risk of losing sight of certain details. It is advisable to make a checklist of the steps and procedures involved in deploying your application.
Another important point is to carefully study the budget for promotional actions around your application, as well as the duration of the promotion period, to maximize your results (numbers such as web app use, mobile app or software download, etc.).
Of course, the work doesn’t stop there! As expected, once your application starts to be used, you’ll get additional feedback and bug reports. You’ll enter another phase related to the cycle of any application development project and launch. Among other things, you’ll take the feedback and pass it on to the developers so they can make the necessary corrections, then plan the release of new versions and deploy them at the right time.
And for all of this to be managed smoothly, you may need the help of a dedicated organization and possibly more skills than were previously needed.