Realistic Mobile App Design, Development and Estimating
Founders and CEOs contact me regularly to sort out problems left by teams that have massively underestimated the development time and cost of a mobile app.
Whether this is inexperience or blatant undercutting to get winning bids, this is a trend that is increasing quite dramatically.
One possible reason is that the development teams are often trying to satisfy the demands of an inexperienced founder that believes that they can have an app developed with both an unrealistic budget and a completely hands-off approach with a handover of the completed app in an agreed timeframe, which goes to the lowest bidder.
I’ll cut straight to a better process that developers with some experience in process and UX design can use. This is how I deal with my clients. For the sake of simplicity here I will assume that the founder already has product/market fit and knows roughly how they want the app to function.
Initial Chat (2-3 hours free of charge, On-site)
In this informal meeting, I will go view any UX that the client has, which is often pen and paper. I’ll also discuss the problem that they are trying to solve, this is the key to the strategy, that the developer has a true understanding of the problem and the proposed solution.
I often show previous apps that I have worked on and show UX patterns that can be used to save development time and money, and amend any UX sketches etc.
It is usually possible at this stage to assess the validity of the app, and to devise what back-end technologies will be used. I often give a finger in the air estimate such as “1-2 month”
UX and architecture (1 Day, On-site)
THis will be a busy day, and all parties need to be involved.
This is by far the most important stage of the whole app design and development, we need to get this nailed!, the aim is to produce a set of wireframes with EVERY screen, button, list action and use case of the app mapped out.
Its is VITAL that nothing is left to leave until later.
Once the Wireframe is complete, drawings for any architecture details (such as API connection)need to be designed and drawn up too. (I use Balsamiq for all my drawings)
Once we are 100% sure we have the complete app wired out, we can now strip the development down to usually three milestones, or sprints.
Taking the full wireframe we start by removing the least vital features. until we have a wireframe that is slightly less functional than the complete wireframe but STILL SATISFIES THE CORE VALUE PROPOSITION then save this as a separate wireframe
Next, we remove ALL non-vital features to produce our first version or MVP, again saving the wireframe.
Then we can estimate for each version of the app in terms of man-days.
The advantage of this method is that we will have a version of the app available possibly in less than half the time that we can get in customers hands, also we can use this to possibly raise funds to complete the development the app.
We can now use a task management solution to create stories and estimate the duration of each.
At the end of this day, we will have enough to produce three estimates on the length of the project and cost any third party services used. Again vital for costing/raising money
Development, Sprints 1,2 and 3, (On-site and Off-site where required)
Following the stories in the task management software we only add features that are in the current wireframe, of course, we need to follow the architecture design and consider the following sprints but we will focus on the current sprint and only add those features (the task management really helps me in developer mode focus!)
I also produce the following at the end of every day where applicable
1.Minor alterations to wireframes, fully documented and reasoned (this is quite rare but it does happen) this will, of course, have been discussed with the client.
2.At the end of each day, a CI build will be produced and distributed.
3.A private youtube video showing progress and new features/problems faced with implementation.
4.I generally speak to the client at least and possibly more than once per day to go over any fine points.
One the app is finished as we have the CI system already setup that deploys the app to the app store with a single click.
I have been following this process since I started working with Startups in London 5 years ago and has been highly successful. If you need to hire me for any stage in this process, please see the details below.