As online software developers, we’ve been approached by many clients who have had failed software development experiences before coming to us. From our experience, the biggest issue with failed application development projects isn’t a lack of technical experience (although that is sometimes the case). Often, it simply comes down to doing the right things in the wrong order. Let me explain…
One of the biggest temptations of a developer is the desire to show something off before it’s ready. Often, and rightly so, clients want to see progress, see movement, see anything! so they can be assured that their project is going to be done on time and on budget.
In an effort to show some activity, many developers will start coding and programming a software project far too early in the project. They usually end up compromising the planning and design of the application so that they can show some of the functionality in action.
Ensuring the Success of Your Software Project
Here are the steps (in order!) that you’ll need to do in order for your software project to be a success:
It almost seems like a no-brainer, but every project should start with proper planning. Remember though, this is where most projects fail. Sure, some planning is done, but usually not enough to ensure success.
In this stage, create wireframes of every screen of your application. A wireframe is like a blueprint. It’s a sketch or drawing of all the elements that will eventually make their way to your computer screen.
Now, you might be asking, “Why every screen?” Well, at some point in your project, you’ll have to see and plan every screen anyway. And, it’s much cheaper and easier to change some scribbles on a piece of paper than it is to adjust complex code half way through the project. This is the most important step in the process. Get this wrong, and you get it all wrong.
It’s important to point out that a wireframe isn’t a design. You’re not really concerned about colour, or graphics, or button styles at this point. This step is to ensure that all the important elements in every screen are present. You want to get a look for how things are going to operate and function. Design comes next.
In the design phase, a designer takes the planning and wireframes and shows off how the application will actually look. It is important to focus on usability (ease of use), and it’s especially helpful if the design is presented back to the client in an interactive format, so they can click through the prototype and get a feel for how it looks and works before it moves on to coding. Again, it’s cheaper and easier to make changes at this point than it is in the development stage.
Using the wire-frames, mock-ups, designs, and notes, developers should have everything they need to do what they do best. And, since all the heavy lifting was done up front, this process should be much faster and easier now.
When the software team is done the final keystroke of code, it’s important to put things to the test. We recommend three rounds of testing:
The first round of testing should be completed by a developer–someone familiar with code who can take a peek at the guts of the application to ensure that the code is robust.
The second round of testing should be done by the project manager. The project manager should be looking to ensure that the coding of the software was done according to the planning and design, and that everything is working well from a user’s perspective.
The third round of testing should be a beta test performed by a small group of the people who will actually be using the project. It’s important for the software to be used in its intended environment–those individuals will have an eye for things that perhaps no one else will.
When everything is tested and ready, it’s time for launch!