Getting Apps Done
Do your apps work? Yeah, but do they REALLY work?
September 19, 2018
Our first episode! Today Joshua talks about the difference between building an app that works and an app that works for your customer. Today’s episode covers the basics of learning about your customer so you can identify key components to your design and build processes to ensure you’re building an app they want to use and get real value from.
Hey there, welcome to getting apps done, a -mostly- non-technical podcast about delivering applications. Now as this is our first ever episode. I thought I would talk about something that is really important (or I believe is really important) to getting apps done and that's to build apps that work.
Now I'm not talking about apps that have absolutely no bugs because, well frankly we don't have bugs. We call them features, but what I am talking about is apps that provide value to your customers. My name is Joshua Graham. I'm what they call a technical consultant, which is suitably vague, but what it basically means is I help businesses build software and in this podcast I'm going to chat about and yes, I'm probably sometimes going to ramble on about how to get apps done. Now, let me get this out of the way upfront. I'm not going to teach you in this podcast how to develop software.
There are a lot of really great resources out there for you and if you'd like to talk to me about building software or how to develop software, please drop me a note and I'd be happy to have that conversation separately, but this podcast is actually for software developers, but it's also for designers, startup founders, project managers, product managers, pretty much anybody with the word manager in their title who's responsible for getting apps done.
So back to apps that work. Now. The really big thing here about building an APP that works is to provide value to your customer or your end user. Whoever is going to use this software, you are building software for somebody and you need to help them with something. Now to figure out how we're going to do that. I'd like to start with how you can build apps that don't work because I see this a lot and it's very easy to do, sadly.
There are a few key ways that I see apps go wrong a lot of the time and the biggest one is that I see a lot of apps that just don't solve the problem they were meant to solve. They might solve another problem, but they're not fixing what they set out to fix and while it sounds really silly, it's actually really easy to do. Because, you get so deep into the mindset of building something that you kind of forget what you set out to build in the first place. And it's easy to lose track of that core piece that was really important that you were trying to use to add value to somebody.
I've seen a lot of customers who come to me with a perfectly valid business case. There's a problem that they see that they have a lot of business domain knowledge about and they want to fix it and they've got some really great ideas and those individual ideas then become what they focus on it and they forget those... those individual ideas only existed to support a particular thing that they were trying to do to help these people. And then they focus so much on those individual pieces that they build those out and they don't work together or somehow the focus shifts from solving a problem to building these features. And features, in general, are actually quite often the cause of a lot of problems in the applications.
Developers are particularly bad about this because developers are engineers when it comes down to it and engineers like to fix things and they like to add things and they will over engineer things and they will over saturate a piece of software's features because they want to provide as much as they can. They want to help people in so many different ways that they forget to focus in on what is actually going to provide value and solve a problem.
And it gets to the point that when an end user actually opens this application, there are so many great things in there that they can't find the one or two that they want and they can't fix their problems. And that provides what I would call a really poor user experience. And there are a lot of different ways you can build a poor user experience. It's not just features getting in the way. It could be that the application isn't appropriate for the audience. It's not designed in a way that they are going to understand because they use a certain set of applications and everybody has their own way of looking at things. They have their own point of view and based on what they are using, they will expect certain things and if you aren't catering for those expectations, you might be building something that does solve their problem, but they can't maneuver around because they don't understand it. It doesn't fit in with their world.
And one thing that seems really subtle and shouldn't be that important is the terms that people use. I've seen a lot of cases where people build really great software, but they use technical terms on labels and things like that. Not realizing that actually that particular business group has their own terminology for things and that is extremely important to them because that's how they know how to get around things. That's their understanding of their world. And if you don't cater for that and build for that, they're not going to be able to navigate your application. They're not going to understand the value you're providing to them. Now, these aren't the only ways that apps can go wrong, but these are some really common ones that I see.
So if we don't want to do that and we want to build an app that works, the key to that is to find a way to add value for your client.
You want to solve a problem or improve part of the life. We're not talking life altering, miracle working. We're talking about just taking one small piece that's slightly painful for them and making it a little bit less painful. It doesn't have to be amazing. It doesn't have to make their day unicorns and rainbows, but it does need to improve it a little bit.
The other thing is you can help them achieve goals and this is a really big one and I think this is really great example of how you can build apps that really do work and it's one that has so many different examples of applications that do work and the results of those fitness apps in particular. I think a really great on this, whether your goals are to lose weight or to become more fit. Fitness apps in particular are helping you achieve goals and some of them do a really poor job of it, but I have personally worked with a couple that really do work and they help.
In particular. Several years ago I decided that I would take up running. I'd never run in my life and I found some applications that helped me with the couch to 5k program and they did a really good job of providing a clear message of what their value was to me. They pretty much flat out... In fact, they were almost insulting... said, "you're a couch potato. You don't know how to run and we're going to teach you," and that was a really great thing because I knew... I knew they were right. I was a couch potato. I needed to go out and run, but I didn't know where to start. and they were providing value by telling me, "we know all these things and we're going to help you." It was very clear to me. I knew what I was going to get out of this and it was hard work, but they guided me through that and they were designed for me.
They knew that I didn't understand the concepts that they were going to teach me about using intervals or how much I should be running. In fact, the first time I tried running without one of these went out and I just started running and I ran and I ran and I ran until I pretty much passed out on the floor. It wasn't a great experience and after that I thought, oh, this is horrible. I don't want to do this ever again. Why would anybody ever want to do this? And it took me several months to recover from that and decide actually, you know what, I've seen a lot of people mention this program. I think I'm going to try this out, and when I did it, it did change my life. Again, we're not talking about miraculously, but I am now probably in better shape in my thirties than I ever was in my twenties, due to applications that worked for me and helped me achieve my goals.
So building an app that works is all about understanding the person who's going to use that app and providing value to them and helping them out. It's about using knowledge you have and talking to them and learning from them and figuring out how you can help them with that knowledge. And in the case of the fitness applications, it was clear that they had gone out and they'd spoken to people just like me who didn't know how to run, didn't know where to start and maybe had even tried before. Then they had tapped into the feedback loop and started to learn from the people who are going to be using an application to figure out how they could teach us and guide us and make it clear to us what we were going to get out of this so we would want to use it and we would keep using it and we would achieve those goals.
Now, unfortunately, that's it for today.
I will toss up some transcripts at gettingappsdone.com.
You can also learn more about me and why anything I say at all is worth listening to at joshuagraham.info, and don't forget to subscribe and check out our website.
Drop me a note. I'd be happy to chat.
Until next time, thanks for listening.