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From Concept to App Store - Working With a Design and Development Partner

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by Startacus Admin

app concept to app store
Written in partnership with the digital delivery team at Studio Graphene, we take a no-nonsense look at what to expect and how to work effectively with a third party digital design and build team.

Studio GrapheneIt is most often the case that those who come up with the idea for an app are not themselves developers; whether you’re an entrepreneur with a great idea for a fitness app or a company that wants a companion app to release with your new house-cleaning, baby-watching robot. This is where the need for a third party digital design and development partner comes in and is the natural answer.

In order to help alleviate the stress and confusion that can occur from trying to work with others, especially those in an unfamiliar field, we have Ritam Gandhipartnered with Studio Graphene to bring you this guide to working with a design and development partner. Ritam Gandhi, the founder, has provided plenty of invaluable information to help ensure that you are ready to work with such a partner and to give you some foresight of what to expect. The quotes dotted throughout this article are his.

We should point out that this article isn’t designed to guide you through deciding the validity and profitability of your app in the first place! However, on this point, Ritam has this to say:

The best way to identify if your app idea has real potential is by going and speaking to your target users - describe your idea to them and ask if they will use it. Listen to them with an open mind, they will not only help you validate whether or not your app idea has real potential, they will also help refine the concept.”

Finding the right design and development partner

right design and development partnerEach design and development partner will differ in terms of cost, quality, office location, skill set and relevant credentials amongst a multitude of other variables. I would recommend listing these variables in (your) priority order first and being transparent about these factors with firms you are speaking to. This ensures a fair process when selecting the appropriate partner and also allows you to identify the most suitable partner for you.”

The obvious first step is to work out who to partner with to bring your idea to fruition. As Ritam suggests, weighing up the benefits of multiple partners is a good first step. Which of your options has experience with your kind of business? Ideally, you want a partner who understands your industry and can provide input of their own. Do their previous apps display an expertise with user-centric design and overall usability? You want your app to both look good and work well.

Make sure they can take care of every stage of development, from the design, through to testing, on to continued support and providing updates to the app based on user feedback. This ties in to price. It might be tempting to go straight to the most inexpensive partner you can find, but we all know that we tend to get what we pay for.

The cheaper the price, the less likely they are to be able to fulfil all of your needs. A cheaper partner who tips their hat and toddles off as soon as the app goes live might cost you more in the long run if it turns out there are undiscovered bugs or users suggest actionable improvements.

Ensure you are both on the same page

I think a great specification makes or breaks a relationship between the two parties as much as it makes or breaks the project. It is very important toworking with a design and development partner be aligned at the outset and throughout the project. My recommendation is to have a single point of truth in terms of requirements as well as priorities.”

The relationship between you and the design and development partner should not be just one of client and supplier. You may be paying them, but this is a collaboration - they are a partner, after all. Be crystal clear about what you want the app to do, what you want to get out of it, listen to their feedback and suggestions, and work with them to develop a specification that will attain this and guide both you and them through the project.

One writes user stories (requirements from a user’s perspective in a conversational format) and then maps these to what the requirement achieves for the user (the impact). Then one clearly prioritises the list of ‘impacts’. This is a straightforward way of outlining your requirements as well as ensuring that everyone is on the same page regarding what is most important.”

working with a design and development partner

Nail down project management details

Naturally, the agency you choose will have their own internal system for communication, sharing and collaboration; however, you will need a way to keep up with development. Even if your partner is across the street, some kind of dedicated platform is vastly preferable to occasionally dropping by, or endless email chains. Things like Slack and Trello will allow you to easily share inspiration as it hits, answer quick questions, have daily meetings, and app design and developmenthave a centralised place for project comms. In all likelihood, they will already have a plan for how you’ll all do this, but it’s an easily overlooked detail that is important to clarify from the get go.

Design and user experience

This is half of what a design and development partner does! Although you will have an idea as to how you want your product to look in your mind, and this might even stretch to details such as colour scheme and font, the partner does this for a living and will have questions and ideas that you haven’t thought of. Your app should look good, yes, but almost more importantly it should be easy to use, and intuitive. User experience will be one of the main considerations a good design and development partner will go over with you. This step is closely related to what you want the app to do and what you want from it, because the best apps let the user get straight to the point.

This design is your first-phase MVP. Even if you are adding bells and/or whistles, it should be focused on the basic, streamlined function of the app. Your app will likely change and evolve, but take it one step at a time.

working with a design and development partnerThe ideal approach to user experience design incorporates a mix of best practices in conjunction with user research. There are certain points of view that are clear - for instance Apple and Google publish design guidelines that should be followed when building an App for their operating systems - but there are certain factors relating to UX for which there isn’t a clear consensus, which is where user research helps to optimise the user experience.”

Wireframe and storyboard

Once the details are nailed down and everyone knows what the app should do, the mockup/prototyping begins. Your design and development partner can create a mockup of your app with placeholder graphics and even working buttons. This will  help you to storyboard the app, determining the user’s navigation and the connection between the different screens and menus. Seeing your ideas and sketches in a more real format will be of great benefit, highlighting areas that don’t work so well in reality as they did in your mind.

Everyone makes mistakes when building a product; and often we don’t know what the mistake is until we make it and once we make it, it invariably design and development of an appcosts us to put it right. As almost all products go through agile iterations during design and build, we make sure that this is acknowledged as a possibility from the outset and is something overtly planned for.”

Test and refine

The next important step is to have people test this mocked up version of the app and give their feedback - and don’t just get your project team to review the screens, ask naive users too. Oftentimes project teams are so close to the work that they can’t give objective feedback! Any issues that arise in this iteration of the app will be undoubtedly important, and easier to fix. Continue to work with your partner to identify recurring issues and the best solution to them.

Most ideas are based on a hypothesis; one is not sure if this hypothesis is correct until it has been validated. More importantly, the hypothesis has a number of nuances associated with it and these need to be addressed on an iterative basis. When you launch your MVP, you start to validate your original hypothesis.”

The back-end and admin

The developer will set up the back-end for you - the storage, databases, servers, and any content management system you may or may not require. As app design to launchmentioned earlier, you will likely have chosen a developer who will keep the app maintained, but make sure to be involved in this process regardless, as the more you know and understand about the architecture around your product, the better.

You will also need an account in the marketplaces on which you are releasing your app. As this is your app, under your company name, you will probably do this and give the developer access rather than vice versa. Don’t make the mistake of completing this a last minute thing, because you may need to wait a few days or a week for the account to be approved.

Testing redux

This is it. You have refined and evolved after the last round of testing and this is your last chance to sniff out any niggles and smooth any bumps before the general public point them out to you en masse. This final UAT phase might include releasing a beta version to select customers or clients, if applicable. Giving them early access benefits you both as you get genuine feedback from your target market, and your customers get a kick out of being early adopters.

Don’t leave the responsibility for this phase wholly to the testers to know exactly what kind of feedback they should be giving you - create a simple testapp design to launch plan, or test questions, with the main points you are looking to hear back about. The more involved and constructive you are during this phase, the more valuable and nuanced the feedback your receive will be.

Launch! ...And revise and refine

Now...release the app! Android will allow it to go live straight away, and will check up on it eventually, but Apple may take more than a week to review and approve it. Make sure this approval period (for Apple) is factored in to your launch plans.

Don’t be shocked and appalled when feedback starts coming in, with people pointing out issues, bugs, or areas where your users think there is room for improvement. Everything leading up to this release has attempted to reduce these things as much as possible, but there will inevitably be something that people don’t like. Listen to the feedback and, as before, work with your partner to revise and refine any elements that genuinely need it. The occasional update is to be expected, and users love to see that their feedback and opinions are being listened to as the app evolves.

Feedback from users helps you refine your assumptions, which is why you need to iterate fast after you launch.”

But, Congratulations! You now have an app. The next stage? Making it even better.

About Studio Graphene

We are inventors, experimenters and creatives. We turn ideas into show-stopping designs, and designs into market-ready products. We invent new ways of using existing technology, and deliver apps, websites and IoT software to ambitious start-ups and cutting-edge enterprises.

Studio Graphene

Content written in collaboration with the digital delivery team at Studio Graphene

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Published on: 28th February 2018

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