There is no doubt in everyone’s mind that social media has changed the face of the Internet. It has changed the face of applications.. period. For an application to be successful the programmers need to write code that not only functions quickly and without bugs but also with a super-intuitive-like flow. To do so you need a plan.
I’m going to walk you through the basics of what a plan should include when you are creating a new website or application. This foundation can be applied to almost anything you do in life however.
Step 1: Map out where you are and where you are heading
To begin, you need a road map. The president of my current company is nuts for flowcharts and quite honestly is the “flowchart king”. Truth be told, flowcharts are effective. By using a flowchart you are basically creating the a skeleton for what you are trying to accomplish. Map it out and update the map as you go.
Step 2: Create the business rules
Business rules are crucial in developing a new application. If you nail down the road map (flowchart) and the business rules you will quite honestly be able to get almost any programmer to develop your website or application for you. Programming is programming. Yes, there are different means for accomplishing the same thing but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you have directions and the rules of the road.
A business rule is basically what happens at each element in your flowchart. For example, the Login screen, if the user gets his password wrong 5 times do you lock him out and automatically reset his password? or do you allow him to continue to try and successfully login? Do you ask for a security pass phrase after they have logged in successfully?
The business rules don’t have to be extreme and down to the nitty-gritty but you should have a good solid “main” high-level set of rules in place.
Step 3: Create mock-up screen shots based on your map and business rules
For each step in your road map that the end-user (the people that will ultimately use your application or website) will interact with create a mock-up screen shot. Don’t worry about it looking perfect. Matter of fact, it doesn’t even have to be on the computer. You can scratch your ideas on a piece of paper. The idea is to get the elements on the page so that the developers know what object they have to work with.
Again, the road map and business rules will dictate most of this BUT what you scribble out for the developer will be extremely helpful in getting an idea for what you really want.
Step 4: Develop your Beta version
You don’t really need a beta version but you do need to put your plans into place and build it. At this stage it is time to develop. Work with your programmers and have them build your brain-child. It will be exciting and possibly, no, probably very frustrating unless you are really skilled at communicating with programmers. Keep in mind that programmers are very literal. Make sure they understand exactly what you are looking for.. literally.
Step 5: Test, Test, Test
Test the application. Have a variety of users with different computer skill levels test your app. You can even have a usability group test it if you want. If you do use usability and user experience testers make sure you get a full detailed report along with screen shots.
Step 6: Update the application with the changes
This step basically takes your testing results and applies them to your flowchart, business rules and application. Make sure you do a full test on the application after the changes have been applied as well.
These are some basic steps you can take to simplifying a successful application development process. Feel free to add steps and tweak it to fit your specific needs.