Over the years, we have worked on literally hundreds of mobile app and website projects. During that time we have identified 6 key issues that regularly hold projects back from achieving their true potential.
A huge amount of time, effort and money go into a digital project, involving a large number of people on both the client and the agency side. With so many players having their own point of views and priorities it is easy for small issues to arise which could derail a project. Based on our experience, we have put together the following advice which could help you avoid common mistakes when commencing your digital project.
Looking back, the one thing that characterises all the successful projects we have worked on is that they have all had a single point of contact who has the authority to make strategic decisions quickly and knowledgeably. Following Agile Methodology, this member of the team is the product owner. The product owner understands the vision and priorities of the project and will make decisions in line with this vision. For the product owner to succeed, the entire organisation must respect his or her decisions. This is where things can go wrong, often a company will appoint someone to manage a project and give them a set of objectives and a budget, however, this person will then have to present the product to a board or a committee for approval at various stages, the board will then often override previous decisions and set the project back as work has to be redone. This can lead to projects dragging on while waiting for the board or committee to approve the latest changes.
Additionally, we have seen the opposite of this problem occur where the project owner has full authority to make decisions but doesn't think through the full implications of decisions and keeps changing direction based on their personal views. and opinions. Either extreme will cause problems and delay your digital project, so choosing the right project owner and giving them the authority they need is necessary for ensuring the overall success of the project and the final product.
Design is an area where projects can easily get bogged down. It is essential for the success of an app that it is both looks awesome and is easy to use. One common mistake is to judge these two things together, the problem with this approach is that personal opinions on colours and fonts can cloud decisions on the user journey. This is why we keep the wireframing process, the UX (User Experience) separate from the graphic design, the UI (User Interface). This way, decisions on the best user experience can be made first without being distracted by the design.
Design is a very personal thing, one person may love a particular design and another hate it, however, the important thing with an app project is to create a design that will appeal to your target audience. It’s very hard to do, but personal opinions must be put to one side when reviewing the design of an app. This can be particularly difficult if there are lots of stakeholders as invariably personal opinions will vary and it can be very difficult to come to an agreement. A good designer should be able to articulate why they have made a particular design choice and why it will work for your target audience, it’s important to be able to trust their professional advice, designing by committee never ends well!
At Red C, we spend a lot of focus during the design stage refining and streamlining the app to make it as simple as possible without compromising the apps core functionality. Adding more functionality to an app not only increases the cost and timelines of the project, but it makes it harder for the end-user to use and understand. Apple is not the largest company in the world because iPhones have more features than their competitors, quite the opposite, they have less. However, the features they do have are honed to perfection to work perfectly with as little input from the user as possible.
It’s easy to assume your users will need lots of features and functions and get carried away, adding more and more to your app, however, the most successful apps focus on solving one problem really well. If you can keep your app feature list to a bare minimum for your initial release or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) you can then add more features at a later stage if your users are requesting them.
We often get to the end of an app project and the client has not thought enough about marketing the app. It is a fallacy to believe that if you build a good enough app it will market itself virally, perhaps this was true in the early days of the App Store when there weren't many apps in the store, however, today's market is extremely competitive and consumers phones are saturated with apps, so it takes a great marketing campaign to convince users to download a new app. This doesn't mean that you have to spend a lot of money trying to advertise your app, there are other ways to get the word out, but it's important to have a plan and not wait until the end of the project to get the ball rolling.
Many startups have been founded by people solving a particular problem they have personally encountered, AirBnB for example, was founded by two roommates who wanted to rent out a sofa bed in their living room to help pay the rent. Solving a substantial problem is the best way to focus any digital project, however, many people make the mistake of assuming that the problems they encounter are the same for everyone else. We are all influenced by our unique background and experiences and assume other people are like us and face the same problems, the only objective way to validate our assumptions is by user research. We recommend to all of our clients to talk to their end-users and really try to understand their problems and pain points and make sure the solution will solve these problems in a way that works best for end-users. It’s not just consumer apps that benefit from this approach, even internal enterprise apps which employees have to use for their work will see better engagement and return on investment if the end-users are consulted and involved during the design phase.
There is a favourite saying of the head designer at Facebook that “done is better than perfect”, it’s helpful to keep this in mind if you're the type of person that loves to keep tweaking things until they are perfect. This doesn’t mean you have to settle for a product that is mediocre, you have to make a product that adheres to the highest standards of quality achievable within your budget, but at some point you have to finish it and launch it into the market, and at that stage, it won’t be perfect and that’s ok. No development project is ever complete or perfect, even Apple who has an internal team comprising of the best developers in the world and almost an unlimited budget still release software with bugs and issues. One of the advantages of modern development methodologies such as Agile and Continuous Development is that issues can be fixed and deployed with the next release in days rather than months. The most important thing is to ensure that the core user journey is smooth and robust and to not get too hung up about edge cases that are unlikely to be encountered by your users in the real world.
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