The trek to the C-suite seems a mile long for marketers who’ve just spent nine months and millions of dollars developing an app, only to see it to die on the vine. They’ve lost a lot of money and time, and now, they’re about to lose credibility — all because they developed an app people didn’t care about.

Rather than develop a minimum viable product and its testing and iterations, marketers often keep their product under wraps, waiting until it’s deemed perfect before letting it see the light of day — and therein lies their mistake. Approaching app development this way is referred to as the waterfall development methodology, and it’s why less than a quarter of projects succeed. It is also why 17 percent of failed IT projects jeopardize their company’s reputation and why IT exceeds budget by 45 percent, on average.

Take Facebook, for example. They pulled out all the stops when launching Facebook Home in 2013. But despite the numerous commercials, a global press conference, and even the complementary hardware, the Android app was a huge flop. That’s because Facebook made a fatal mistake: The app left out widgets, docks, and app folders — staples of any Android user’s home screen. If Facebook had done proper testing and iteration, they might have caught this mistake before wasting valuable time and money.

Over the years, the Hathway team has developed a set of rules for mobile app development. We strive to guide our clients so they get what they want — and to accomplish it in a way that makes sense from an implementation standpoint, for both the mobile ecosystem and their end users.

Clients of ours, such as Jamba Juice, have followed our recipe for app development and seen outstanding results. Other companies have chosen a more traditional route, to the detriment of their business. Here are the four rules for effective app development that we live by at Hathway:

 

1. Define and Release Your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Your MVP is the minimum feature set needed to justify the app’s existence. A great app, at its core, does at least one thing extremely well. At Hathway, we believe it’s vital to define the problem an app will solve,  create a plan for how it will solve that problem, then execute that plan and get the app to market as quickly as possible.

But determining the MVP isn’t always as straightforward as you’d think. There are a substantial number of details involved in this process. The Jamba Juice app, for example, displays the menu, provides a store locator, and handles credit card information. But those features are all in service of a single goal: enabling customers to order ahead and skip long in-store lines.

With this unifying goal in mind, we were able to focus on solving that problem and getting it to market as quickly as possible with the confidence that the app had a solid foundation to build off of.

 

2. React to Feedback

After launching their MVP, Jamba Juice immediately began getting feedback data from user reviews and analytics that painted a picture of what people enjoyed about the app and what they didn’t. Using that data, we continue to work with Jamba Juice to update the release plan and roadmap in order to ensure the most critical feedback is addressed quickly— feedback we wouldn’t have if the MVP had never launched in the first place.

Some clients try to include too many features in their app, and are continually refining the user experience before the app’s first release. Without real user feedback data to drive product feature decisions, it’s difficult to know that the time and money being spent won’t go to waste like it did for Facebook’s Home app.

 

3. Focus on Usability Testing

Usability testing is at the crux of our process. To deliver a great app, we need to ensure that it’s…well, usable. You should never assume that your interface is providing an optimal experience for your users or being used optimally  just because no one’s complained about it. Through usability testing, you can get in front of usability problems, gather valuable data, and gauge how satisfied users are with your product — all before actual implementation occurs, which is enormously more cost-effective.

At Hathway, we rely on Google Analytics to track several key success indicators. One of those key indicators charts new users against returning users, which ultimately reveals whether or not returning users are staying engaged. Are new people signing up? Are they coming back? At what point are users leaving the app?

User feedback is vital, with one of the most important purposes being to show us how users are navigating through apps.For example, if the data shows that after five screens, 60 percent of users exit the app, consider whether they found what they were looking for or gave up trying. If users dropped off at the signup screen, is it because they were intimidated by creating an account, or was it some other reason?

While app analytics provide a plethora of data points, our strategy and engineering teams are experts at drawing conclusions from those data points and creating an actionable strategy for improving the user experience of the app in its future releases.

 

4. Unify User Experience Across Platforms

Imagine you’re building a house.

An established Human Interface Guide that outlines how apps should be structured and what the user experience should be would provide the foundation, which would then allow you to build walls, lay floors, and paint & finish.

There will always be some differences between the iOS and Android app experiences, but we generally aim for a unified one. Unity allows users to switch between platforms easily. Your Samsung-loving friend should be able to grab your iPhone and order a smoothie just as easily as you could. Even better, a unifiid experience allows users to teach their cross-platform friends how to use the app, increasing user engagement in the most organic way possible.

 

Companies invest in developing apps as a way to make their customers’ lives easier and, ultimately, to increase engagement and retention. But using a traditional method won’t set you up for the kind of success you’re looking to achieve. Releasing an MVP, adjusting it according to feedback and usability testing, and keeping the experience unified across platforms represents the Hathway method for app development, and as a result, you’ll spend far less time & money getting the app right the first time out of the gate.

 

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