Creating Your First Customer-Facing App: 5 Essential Tips
With each passing year, mobile application development becomes more accessible, which is notably useful because it is rising in importance at a commensurate rate. Catering to mobile internet users has rocketed past a handy addition to an outright requirement for any brand that does not want to get left behind by its forward-thinking competitors.
Because of this, you might have decided to make 2020 the year in which you finally take the plunge and invest in a customer-facing app. It is a tricky step, though, as there is a lot riding on it. Present something low-quality and it will not just fail to achieve its purpose: it will also damage your reputation, leading people to associate your brand with sloppy work.
As you enter the development process, then, you need to have a strong idea of the best way to build a great customer-facing app. To that end, here are five essential tips to keep in mind.
Consult your customers first
Since your app ultimately needs to impress your customers, it is fairly important that you know what they are looking for. This should encompass everything from what functions they require to what they expect from a strong interface. If you do not do this, then you run the risk of putting a lot of time and thought into the creation of an app that is undeniably strong but ultimately goes ignored because it does not serve the right purpose.
As for how you should do this, I suggest using a mix of social media outreach and emailed customer surveys. Let people know that you are thinking about creating an app and want some suggestions on what to deliver (ideally, give some options they can choose from). View it as what it really is: a digital product that you are trying to sell to them. Once you have a decent number of responses, collate them and pick out the most notable points.
Design detailed prototypes
UI prototyping is a discipline that has come a long way in recent years. Companies used to settle for disconnected sketches, which was fine for graphics but not so useful for determining how well elements functioned together. These days, though, there are convenient prototyping tools that make it possible to create limited user experiences that closely resemble real apps.
If you are working with a developer (as is likely — more on this later) then, you may prefer to skip this step and leave it to them, but there is value in spending some time on prototyping at this point. This is because you are ultimately going to be responsible for deciding when the app is ready to go, so you need to have a solid understanding of how you want it to work.
Identify your MVP
In this context, MVP stands for minimum viable product, and it is an important consideration in software development. Here is why: the scope for something like an app can change dramatically by increments without you noticing. For instance, you can start out planning a modest app with a few features, only to see it slowly morph into a giant and complex project.
If you know your MVP, then you can deal with this kind of scope creep: if it has become clear that your project is too ambitious, you can simply review all the features you have listed and cut out anything you do not have the time or budget to deliver. It is also true that your customers will care a lot more about getting a useful app delivered on time than a bloated app delivered late.
Choose a great developer
If you happen to know (or be) an excellent developer, then perhaps you can handle the meat of the project, but that is unlikely to be the case. Regardless, working with a third-party developer is generally advisable: you can communicate the requirements and then assess the results without needing to deal with issues of bias.
As for which developer you should pick (there is one obvious choice, admittedly), it should ultimately come down to what you are looking for. Rapid turnaround? Low cost? Creative direction? Before you commit to a particular developer, have some decent conversations with the development team. Having a friendly relationship is not quite vital, but it is hugely significant.
Commit to iteration
Let’s say you have made it through the steps we have looked at so far, and you are now the proud owner of a fully-functional app that meets your MVP at the very least. What do you do now? Just sit back and let it boost your business? Well, not exactly, and here is why: app standards change. What impresses your customers today might not impress them tomorrow.
This is not a reason to despair, because the march of progress affects everyone. Instead, it is a call to iterate. View your app as an ongoing project and commit to tweaking and updating it (using customer feedback for guidance) as time goes by. This will help you stay ahead of your rivals, and show your customers that you are invested in helping them.
Creating a fantastic customer-facing app is a great way to set your brand apart and deliver some impressive mobile experiences, but it is much easier said than done. As you take your first steps along the road to mobile application development, keep these five tips in mind. They should help you get the results you are looking for.
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Thank you to Rodney Laws for contributing this article. Rodney Laws is an Editor at Ecommerce Platforms.