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The Mobile App Development Differentiator

User Experience – Part 2

The first part of this post explained why a good user experience is critical to the success of an app. Now, here are a couple of ways in which developers can keep the people who download their apps, both internal and external audiences, coming back for more.

Create a Customer Feedback Loop - Even When Customers Aren't Available Yet
The mobile app development process can be a long one, and it can be made longer by waiting until late in the game - when the app has already been built - to bring customer feedback into the process. This is why it's essential for developers to incorporate user feedback as early in the development process as possible, even if the app isn't available to the marketplace yet.

The customer feedback loop can happen even before coding begins, at the ideation stage of the process. The development team should brainstorm not just amongst themselves, but should bring in as many outside perspectives as possible, including friends, relatives, colleagues, etc. In the absence of actual customers (which is likely the case, since you don't have a working app yet), this can function as the next best thing in determining what features are going to resonate with your core audience.

If it's possible, you can even create a "focus group" of app testers out of the same friends/relatives/colleagues and observe how they use your app. It can be challenging, but getting all the users in the same room can be an invaluable way to secure the critical input you need before investing time and resources on developing features that could ultimately be ignored by your users.

Make Creative and Development a Unified Process
In many app development projects, companies will engage an outside user experience (UX) designer to define the usability and design components of their apps. It's always beneficial to bring in a proven resource that genuinely understands user interaction, and can effectively use this knowledge to bring the development team a well-developed concept of what should and should not ultimately be included in the app.

Typically in these scenarios, however, too much time is spent on the up-front design and creative work before any actual coding takes place. A UX designer can spend months building wireframes for the app, then creating visuals, mock-ups, taxonomies, flow diagrams and other components before the development team actually does any developing. It's done in a standard waterfall approach that separates the creative designers and developers into silos, ultimately creating waste in the value chain.

What companies should consider is a system that makes UX design a unified, continuous process. Developers and the design team start working together from the beginning as a solution finding team, with developers coding as early as possible so features can be tested as they're built. By combining this approach with an agile development methodology, companies can ensure they're delivering working software faster, and can then iterate based on feedback from actual users, so any new features that are brought to the app can be proven to have value to the intended audience.

If you try to figure out the entire creative design end of app development before you test any actual software, make no mistake, you're going about it all wrong. By allowing creative and development teams to interact in the same process by working toward the same goals and solving the same problems - you can get a head-start on making sure that the app you produce will have real value for the user.

Concluding Thoughts
When you think of great mobile apps on your own phone, you think of the ones that provided you with a great, intuitive user experience, right? It sounds simple enough, but as developers, design disciplines are thought to be alien to our way of thinking, which is more focused on firmly established processes and rituals. By creating a system that incorporates user feedback early in the development process and breaking down the walls between designers and developers, companies can help to reduce waste in the overall app delivery process while helping to achieve the holy grail of development - a great user experience.

More Stories By Marcio Cyrillo

Marcio Cyrillo is head of mobile services and senior business manager at Ci&T, a technology outsourcing and software product engineering company. With Ci&T since 1999, he focuses on interactive services and mobile development in his current position. He also is a member of the Ci&T Entrepreneurship Program, from which he launched the program’s first mobile app, runens, earlier this year. As a result of his success developing runens, Cyrillo now serves as a mentor to Brazil-based Ipanema Games, a mobile gaming start-up. He holds a PhD in applied physics from Universidade Estadual de Campinas and two MBAs in sales management and entrepreneurship from Fundacao Getulio Vargas and Babson College.

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