Create a bespoke web application

Need to automated business logic? Build a transactional web app? Or something completely new?

Bespoke 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 bespoke web app comes with risk, its unproven, it's going to have bugs and you need to follow a proper process. Let step through a typical project lifecycle.

Requirements gathering

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.

Requirement prioritization

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).

Creations of prototypes

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 our favourite tool 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.  

Scope documentation

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 what 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.

Core development and project management

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. We love to use asana.com for project management. Have regular daily stand ups (10 mins max) to check the progress with your team and get end-user feedback throughout the process, releasing new functionality little and often, which is continually tested and reiterated.

Data and content loading

Once the system is ready you’ll need to spend time priming it by loading data (such as customer records) and content (i.e. user guides and terms of use). Do not underestimate the time involved doing this and the resource it will require. You will also need to test the data input is correct, which is a project in its own right.  

User acceptance testing and bug fixing

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.

Training, support and maintenance

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.  

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