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Great Ideas Start Here

blog: a regularly updated web page, typically run by an individual or organization, containing relevant thoughts and ideas.
 
by: Christine Swartzendruber, Chief Technology Officer

If you take a look in the Apple Store or the Android Market, you’ll quickly realize that there thousands of applications to choose from. On the internet, web-based applications are being developed all the time and there’s a lot to choose from. A fast growing alternative is for organizations to hire a web developer or a company who specializes in web development to create a custom application. Whichever you choose the person you work with to create your application should have a good idea where you should start, but it’s always beneficial for you, to know how to communicate your needs effectively .

Know What You Want

Probably the most important thing to consider when you begin, is who will be using the application, and why do you need it. Most apps are created to provide a solution to a problem. For example, consider you have a full time employee who is dedicated to manually create a comprehensive report for your investors each month. He or she puts together a spreadsheet with data they gather from associates, clients and other reports. Your problem here is that one full time employee is needed to perform manual tasks that could be easily automated. If less employees are needed, less money is spent each month, it’s that simple.

From this example you know you need a way to store all the data that needs to be included in the report, you need to create a front-end interface to enter the data, and a way to easily retrieve it in a pre-defined format that can be easily printed for your investors. Being able to explain your business objectives to your developer is important, understanding how your application can provide solutions is key, so having this knowledge going into your initial specifications meetings will be a good start.

Budget

Determine a fixed budget before you begin the project and make sure you’re clear with your developer right up front. Are you willing to increase funding based on changes or additions? Do you have money to invest in future phases? What do you expect to pay for maintenance? This information will allow your developer to help you tailor your specifications to your budget from the start. You may want an e-commerce site or a blog, but if the cost is not within your budget there is no reason to include it in your initial specifications.

What Does Your Staff Want

Who would know which processes within your organization could be improved and how to make that happen better than the people who use it every day.  It is a good idea to consult your staff and bring them into the planning process. Ask managers how to free up their team’s time, allowing them to focus on other more vital tasks. Streamlining back-office functions before consulting your developer is critical, because it will be harder to change procedures once your application is built around what you already have in place.

What’s Out There Already

Like I said earlier, there are so many web apps and web sites that have been built already. Even though you may need more of a custom solution, you can still get ideas from some of them. Take some time to do some structured online research of what websites might be useful to show to your developer. Look for things like functionality, design structure, usability, and content. Be as specific as you can as to what appeals to you about the sites you list, being mindful at all times as to how these things will be beneficial to your users, rather than letting your own preferences get the better of you. If your own marketing plan has a specific style guide detailing how your branding must be used then that will clearly need to be sent to your developer before they put together the initial design.

Timing

As with any project you need to know when your application is needed. Based on your initial specifications your developer should be able to provide you with a timeline for development and deployment. Remember your developer will depend on you, or whoever you designate, to provide source content. If it’s not provided in a timely manner your development time will increase. Make sure you have a solid approval process in place for what gets included in the application.

Measure Your Success

Even after your application is deployed and being used there are considerations like, is it working? Has it addressed the problems you had before you implemented it? Be clear about how you will measure the success of the application before you even start to develop it. Communicate these metrics with your developer so they fully understand all factors they need to consider to achieve your goal, and then provide clear evidence of that.

The Future

How do you see the site progressing in the years to come? This is another reason why it is so crucial to encourage members of your organization, your users and others to take part in the sourcing and publishing of new information. If you have a vision for the future of the site then communicate this to your developer. They should be able to make recommendations as to how this might be achieved, and they can also factor it into their initial design.

Never assume that your developer will simply understand what it is that your business or product does, and never assume that they don’t need to know. Take time to give a thorough description of your objectives, let them know what sets you apart from your competitors and what is special about your approach to work.  There is no such thing as over-communicating with your developer.