Unique web applications streamline complicated process, aid communication internally and externally, enable remote working and support, and adds a tangible asset to your business. Developing a unique web application can come with risk, it's unproven, it's going to have bugs and you need to follow a proper process. Let's step through a typical project life cycle.
What challenges is the system trying to solve? Without being technical, describe in plain english what the issues are, for example “we are not following up on customer service issues in a timely manner”, therefore a requirement of the new system might be to have alerts and reminders for the customer service team to follow-up on issues that are older than 1 day. Put all these requirements together in document or spreadsheet.
Now we have a list of requirements for the new system you need to prioritise them. We use straightforward rating system: Essential (the system will not work without this), Conditional (the system would be enhanced with this feature), Optional (it’s a nice to have). You need to be clinical with this task and reduce the list of requirements down to the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Now you know what needs to be built, you can start to put prototypes together. These are rapid and roughly designed models of how something may work. There are plenty of different tools ranging from pen and paper to many on-line design tools such as uxpin.com. The tools isn't important, so choose one and use it. Your focus should be on testing the model with end-users early on to ensure it simply makes sense.
After the prototypes are approved you can now write the scope documentation for the project, as you know exactly what's being built and what functionality it will have - this is the driver for technology decisions, such as what coding languages should we use, what server hardware will be required, how will it be tested and so on.
You can package up the prototypes and scope documentation into a blueprint for your designers and developers to code up. Break the project down into manageable task and assign them to a team member with a due date - reference the task to a specific part of the scope document and a relevant prototype model to save developers having to hunt and guess.
A new system is going to have bugs. Facebook spends millions on development and still constantly releases bug fixes daily. Now the system is primed you can really put it to the test, get end-users involved and ask them to perform their daily tasks using the new system and provide feedback in a structured approach, with error and bug reporting in as much detail as possible, especially how to recreate the bug. Have your developers ready to start hacking at the bug list to get your system “go live” ready.
The new system will require an initial round of training, which may have to be split into different user groups, i.e. super user training, content editors, support desk, etc - you should also plan to have a user manual written and even how-to videos created, remember these take time to write, which will require additional budget, but save money long term. To keep any system running, from aircraft to mobile phones - you’ll need to update them, patches, security updates, bug fixes - it’s an ongoing process that needs resource and budget to be assigned.
A workshop approach to consultancy, where we map out the requirements and scope of your project. You benefit from our 20+ years of experience building successful online businesses, as well as our dedication to staying on top industry best practice. We have many years of experience in building custom web applications meaning that we can offer a full service to spec, design and build or alternative work with you to build the specification based on the process previously described.