Transforming business through software innovation
11 months ago Oleksandr Kravets
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are not new disciplines, but it’s only in the last few years that they’ve become mainstream concepts. Both UI and UX place the user front and centre when it comes to dealing with a technology product. Considering the UX design of your software project is essential to ensuring its success. How user-friendly your solution is will make all the difference to customers – and you want lots of those! UI & UX and the role they play in software development Creating a software solution is a multi-layered project, but its the UX and UI designers on any software development team who’ll advocate the most for customers. A fair degree of analysis goes into designing robust UI and UX experiences, and it’s on the basis of these whether your customers will think you’ve created a good product or not. No one uses a software product just to use a software product. Users sign up to software solutions to solve a problem in their life. Companies need to understand this to offer the best solution possible.Going through a UX process helps companies arrive at the understanding of exactly what their customers would like. A large part of getting the UX and UI right is analysing user behaviour. A solution that works in a seamless way with how users interact enhances user satisfaction and makes for a very happy customer. Understanding the difference between UI & UX Although the terms UI and UX are often used interchangeably, there are some differences between the two concepts. UX take into account the whole user experience. While design is certainly part of the user experience, so too are the analytical and technical aspects of our product. These are often called “information architecture” and relates to how your users can find the solutions they’re looking for when using your product. It’s the UX of your software that will determine how highly your users rate its functionality. Needless to say, you want to offer your users as much ease within the functionality of your product as possible. If you don’t, they’ll simply switch to a different software solution. UX done right incorporates many different aspects. UX designers have an understanding and proficiency in psychology, content creation/copywriting, graphic design and programming. Getting the UI correct is part of the UX process. While a lot of coding might be running in the background, your users are oblivious to this. Or they should be. What your users definitely won’t be oblivious too is the interface of your product. The interface acts as the doorway through which your users use your solution. This goes further that just logging in; the whole product’s interface needs to be considered when designing for good UI. Design principles come heavily into play for UI, but that’s not all. There also needs to be a deep understanding of customer behaviour. And, more to the point, you need to know how your customers will behave on your product and what information they’re looking for from your solution. What makes for good UI & UX design? Each software development company will take into account the specific requirements of each individual project they are working on. At Netfully, we work with our clients as partners and fully immerse ourselves in their businesses to understand what their customers are looking for.However, there is a series of steps that can be used as a road map to follow in order to ensure the highest rate of usability possible. Following these steps ensures that the user/customer is constantly first in mind while the development and design process gets under way. Research – diving right into developing the software for your product is highly dangerous. The software development process needs to be built on an accurate understanding of who your customers are, how they interact with software, market requirements and what problems your customers are trying to solve. Conducting client surveys and competitor analysis is imperative to the research phase. Analyse – the research you embark on normally throws up a lot of data and you can easily find yourself drowning it it. Stage two of a thorough UX and UI roadmap involves structuring the data that you’ve researched. Within this data, you’ll have uncovered insights about your customers’ pain points and what solutions they need, as well as information about their behaviour. Analyse the research you have to create foundation documents of user personas and user flows. You might add to these over time, but at this stage a clear idea of who your customer is and their behaviour should start to emerge. UX – at this point, your software development agency will start building out the experience you want your users to have. Using best practice UX design principles, your agency will build out wireframes and prototypes to provide an illustration of how your intended users will interact with your solution when its built. UI – UI and UX will be considered at the same time. Although UI is one component of UX, it’s a very important one. As mentioned earlier, your product’s user interface will need to focus on more than just the logging in page. The visual design and functionality will need to take into account each element. Development – your software development outsource partner will be involved in earlier stages of your UX and UI process, but it’s no surprise that it’s at the development stage that they come heavily into play. Close communication between yourself and your software agency is key to building a great custom software product. Let your developers work with the research and analysis you’ve done to this point. Evaluate – scheduling in smaller goals along the path to building your software product helps keep the project on track. Ensuring that usability testing comes in at each phase of the product build also helps eliminate bugs before they get a chance to become bigger problems. Using information architecture to put your users first Creating an effective foundation for your information architecture relies on working with robust data. Chances are that there will be more than one person involved in building your custom software, from the software development agency to your own internal stakeholders. It’s only natural that everyone will have an opinion. There’s definitely space for discussions around differing points of view, but it’s imperative to keep users in mind and stick to the data. Opinions are not going to build a product that your users loving engaging with, but UX informed by data, facts and figures will. As your agency accomplishes each part of the build, engage with potential users to see how they interact with your product. This real world data will add an additional rich layer of insight into the data you’re working with to build your overall product. User testing helps you see firsthand how people are using the interface of your product. It also helps you locate issues that have the potential to derail your project or prevent it from becoming a stellar piece of software. Having the opportunity to fix these problems before you launch your product helps you improve functionality and drive the best results for your software product. User design is essential to business growth Far from being a “nice to have”, UX and UI design are essential to business growth.Design is about so much more than just the way something looks. This point is particularly valid when it comes to creating a software product. Designing is as much about planning as it is about aesthetic considerations. Understanding the importance of user importance is akin to designing with your intended user in mind. This goes beyond colour palettes, though the visual look and feel plays a vital role in UX and UI, and looks deeply into the question of why your customers, both existing and future, will use your product.Your software product won’t exist independently of your brand. Users are not drawn just to your solution but to your entire brand – and to the promise they perceive your brand makes. The user interface design will play a powerful role in your conversion strategy of turning leads into customers, by translating business strategy into tangible results. Build software products people will like and use The mainstream media might be doing a good job into scaring all of us that robots are coming to take our job, but software development remains a resolutely human-centred field. This may be a surprising statement, but it’s true. Whether you’re working for a large company or a small one, you’ve come up with an idea for a solution that will solve a real world problem. The software development agency you choose to work with should be highly experienced in building solutions that turn customers into evangelists of your software. They do this by building solutions with a high degree of functionality and ease of use. And, most importantly of all, is the customer. Without customers, there is no point in building any solution at all. There’s no doubt that machine learning, artificial intelligence and robots all have a role to play in the future of software development and technology. But, it’s the relentless focus on people, and designing specifically for human interaction with software, that will dominate the technology landscape to come.
11 months ago Oleksandr Kravets
The only limit to what can be built by a team of software developers is imagination. You come up with an idea for a product or service, and chances are engineers can build it for you. But embarking on a software development project is not as simple as clicking your fingers. It’s a challenge. In order to ensure the build of your software project is successful, you need to consider different aspects: Budget available Human resources available Technology tools required Users who want the product or service you’re planning to build Timelines Of course, these are just the highlights. A sub-set of challenges will emerge under each of those over-arching considerations. Looking for ways to simplify the process, many companies ask themselves when to outsource software development? This post is a guide to when and how you might want to consider outsourcing the software developments of your company. When is the right time to outsource software development? Startups, as well as large and established enterprises, increasingly choose to outsource their software development to agencies. Perhaps you want to create your own app or build a new software tool and you need to reach Minimum Viable Product (MVP) status as quickly as possible. This is where an outsourced software developer, or a team of developers, can really help. However, it’s worthwhile to do your homework before you embark on building a relationship with a software development agency. Questions to ask yourself before you work with a software development agency Working with a software development firm can solve a lot of headaches. But it’s unwise to think that all you have to do is find an agency, brief in your project and sit back. The most successful partnerships between agencies and companies, no matter how small or large they might be, happen when both sides are clear on their expectations. The way to gain that clarity is by asking questions and drilling down on the answers. By the end of this due diligence exercise, you’ll know for sure if you’re ready to outsource your software development requirements. What is my budget? Money. Money. Money. It all starts with budget! Often, it’s more cost effective to work with an agency than to hire your own in-house software engineers. While the attraction of spending less to develop your product is understandable, don’t let price be the only factor you consider. Neither lower nor higher rates indicate the level of quality you can automatically expect. Also think about whether you’re planning to outsource one piece of work or whether this will be an ongoing part of your business. Get to know the agencies you’re considering working with and consider budget within that broader framework. Do I have a team who can work on my idea? Working with a software development agency can take two forms. Sometimes a business already has in-house resources but require extra hands on deck, and sometimes there are no software developers within the business and outsourcing to an agency is the most sensible option. You’ll gain a more realistic understanding of how many people you need to fulfil your project once you’ve completed an initial scoping exercise. Is this my area of expertise? Whether you have employed engineers already or not, it’s not always a given that the project you have at hand is their (or your) area of expertise. One software project is not the same as another. For example, developers who specialise in enterprise-software may have zero skillset for developing apps. Get really clear about the expertise you need on hand to build your project. Often it makes sense to bring on outsourced teams to fit with the specific technology and development requirement unique to your software idea. How aligned is my software development project with my core business? When you decide to embark on a software development project, it’s necessary to take a long and hard look at how the project will impact on your overall business. Can your business sustain the effort and resources needed to see the project to fruition? While outsourcing can be the answer to building a proof-of concept or MVP as quickly and cost effectively as possible, it’s a good idea to ask yourself whether you’ll need to bring the skills required in-house at some point. It’s not always necessary to do so, but it’s worth taking a longer-term view of the software project that only its build stage. I want to outsource. What do I do next? That’s great news! Getting to the point where you’ve decided to go the software development outsourcing route indicates a fair amount of critical decision-making in itself and is the first step to getting your project off the ground. Now is when expectations, both yours and an agency’s, need to be identified and very carefully managed. How to work effectively with a custom software development firm Your software development agency needs to understand your brief fully. At Netfully, we place huge emphasis on building a partnership with our clients. Thanks to this approach, we spend time getting to understand exactly what outcome a client wants and we ask a lot of questions to build that understanding. Effective communication is key and any company who wants to work with software projects outsourcing companies needs to accept that you need to prioritise communicating with the agency you work with. One of the early stage considerations to decide on before your app, product or service is build is the technology stack needed. There may be a variety of different ways to build your project, but an effective outsourced software development resource will have enough technical knowledge to propose a solution to ensure your needs are met. Naturally, we run into our old friend, the budget, again at this point. The development plan you and your agency partner commit to needs budget and timeline figures and projections very clearly marked. This essentially is the roadmap that will get your project from a briefing document to a MVP. While the course of true love and software development never runs smoothly, a detailed development plan, that takes into account how projects running overtime will be managed and paid for, will resolve a lot of headaches. You’re fully within your rights as a client to expect your agency partner to provide an estimate of how much each step of your project build will cost and how much time it will take.Even though an agency will be writing the software code to build your project, the intellectual property remains with you once the product is built. This means that you need to understand the code, or at least be able to ensure that a present or future team member can. Ask the lead who is working on your project to document the code and include details of unit tests and integration tests. Ah, testing. Code needs to be vigorously testing. Automating some of this testing is a way to reduce costs, but remember that some manual testing will need to be done too. You and your agency need to be clear about which one of you holds the ultimate responsibility for Quality Assurance (QA) testing. Most likely, your agency will offer QA services but get this clarified at the start. It’s also best practice that your agency will provide a grace period for you to use the software they’ve created once they hand it over to you. Use this grace period effectively to uncover any bugs that need to be fixed, and get the timeline of the grace period clearly stipulated in your contract. The success or failure of your outsourced software project is going to rest on how closely deadlines are adhered to. Your agency should deliver strictly within the deadlines, but it’s important to get those time estimates right when you first start scoping the project. Time will be of the essence, of course, but setting reasonable deadlines that can be achieved is necessary to achieve high quality work. If parts of the project are going to take longer than expected, and this can happen due to unforeseen circumstances, it’s expected that your agency will communicate immediately with you. A delay needn’t be too serious if both sides know it’s coming and can plan for it. You’ll want your agency to still be in touch with you after your product is completed. Ongoing work may be needed, and your partner at your outsourced agency will be the expert on your project’s technical architecture. Confidentiality is a non-negotiable. Outsourcing a project means sharing some of your company’s business decisions. Your software development agency needs to know how the product they are building fits in with your overall business strategy. Sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to safeguard the confidentiality you need and expect. It’s also worthwhile to consider whether you want to write a non-compete clause into your contract. Managing expectations between internal and external stakeholders You may be outsourcing for custom software development but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have internal stakeholders invested in the project. The role effective communication will play in keeping both internal and external parties involved with the project cannot be overestimated. Be clear on the skills and experience you want onboard in your agency, and then reassure your internal team members that your project is in safe hands. Your agency has to be allowed to get on with the work without being micromanaged. We’ve already mentioned a technology stack earlier in the post, but this topic is worth revisiting. Very seldom is software created from nothing. Nearly all software products rely to some degree on libraries or services that are already built. Share with your agency what your in-house team members have already built as an existing technology stack, if you have one. If you don’t, make sure your agency can built the right stack to get your project completed. 3 tips to manage your software development agency As you get used to software projects outsourcing, you’ll find your own style with how to manage them. However, three tactics can go a long way to working well with your agency. Consistent monitoring is a good idea to help ensure the highest quality possible. This doesn’t mean micro-managing; it means staying on contact with your agency, keeping track of your development plan and understanding as far in advance as possible if any challenges threaten to derail the plan. Set short-term goals that can be achieved within a few weeks or a few days. Short-term goals help build momentum for the overall project; there’s something enormously satisfying about ticking off items on a checklist, as well as well as provide you with the opportunity to see how your agency works. Set up weekly status calls. It’s likely, and preferable, that you’ll be in contact more than once a week with your agency, but having a formal call scheduled is helpful. A status call keeps the focus firmly on delivering the project in time and in budget. Asking yourself when to outsource software development is not a question to be taken lightly, but it could be the start of streamlining your business and building an amazing product. Just remember that outsourcing a software project requires a degree of management to ensure its success.
11 months ago Oleksandr Kravets
Technology is critical to businesses of all sizes in all sectors. No matter how good your idea is for a new service or product, you’re going to need to build a technology solution, unique to your business, to deliver to your present and/or future customers. It’s rare that a one-size-fits-all solution will work. But developing bespoke software comes with a time and money cost, and small to medium sized businesses may feel that the cost prohibits them from developing the solutions they need. This needn’t be true, thanks to software development outsourcing. Just like it says on the tin, contracting your software development out to freelance engineers is a way to reduce your costs while building the software you need. Naturally, outsourcing comes with a cost too, but this needn’t be excessive. We go into details about the cost of software development in this post, so that you can build a better understanding of what working with a freelance development company will charge – and what you should receive for your money. Software development cost breakdown It’s impossible to quote a standard range of fees when it comes to outsourcing software development since each project will always be unique. That said, there are a few factors that will impact cost on nearly every project. They are: The complexity of the task at hand (this is also known as scope) How many developers are needed to build the software solution The location of your contract software development team Extras that might be needed, e.g. subscriptions for infrastructure cost, additional servers Ongoing maintenance requirements Factors that impact on software development fees Additional factors may also affect custom software development rates. At Netfully, we’re transparent about the costs that need to be factored in to your software development budget. Chief of these factors is size By size, we mean both the size of the project you want delivered and the amount of team members that we’ll need to devote to your project to achieve the desired outcome. As expected, the more human resources required, the more the cost will be. We share a few tactics on how to contain your software development costs further on in the post. How complex is your project? Then, we need to look at the complexity of your project.The complexity involved will mainly have to do with the coding and testing that is necessary to build your software solution or app. A lot goes into this. Do you need to integrate your solution with other apps or systems? How will your customers pay? Do you need a solution that has multiple payment systems plugged into it? What about data migration and analytics? How much data will your users be creating and how much do you want/need to track? These are some of the questions we need to ask to understand how complex your project will be. Think of your design Adding a specific design look and feel to your software solution and app is entirely possible. From a marketing point of view, design will feed heavily into the branding of your product.Naturally, design can add a significant fee to your software developments cost breakdown. Custom images, icons or fonts are more expensive than off the shelf resources. Depending on your own marketing strategy, it might be worthwhile to launch your product with all its functionality in place and prioritise custom design for a later stage in your product roadmap. But only you can make that call. Also, remember that the design process is a two-way collaboration. Feedback and multiple iterations are part and parcel of custom design work. Your budget There’s no doubt that you have a budget in mind for what you can spend on software or app development. We welcome this. At the same time, our role is to share what is and isn’t possible within your budget. We manage clients’ expectations when we begin working together by explaining what features can be built with the budget at hand. If more features are required than the available budget will allow, there are two options: either more budget needs to be found and allocated, or a prioritisation exercise needs to take place whereby some features are pushed out to a later date. As we like to build partnerships with our clients, we also invest time upfront discussing how we’ll work together if the client requires more hours or more developers to complete the build. Both clients and ourselves are protected this way, without any nasty surprises coming down the line that threaten to blow up budgets. The benefits of software development outsourcing While outsourcing software development has been a game-changer for startups and SME business owners, large companies and corporates are also taking advantage of the benefits that arise when working with a contract agency. These benefits include: Smaller cost – your expenses are reduced as you don’t need to pay for equipment or the supplies that in-house engineers and software developers need Enhanced flexibility – outsourced software design agencies often provide additional services, e.g. design, that you don’t need to hire for Great time management – contract agencies can meet strict deadlines by allocating additional skills and developers onto projects Great partnerships – we are as invested in your success as you are and will work tirelessly to ensure your maximum efficiency Spending wisely on your software development It’s only right that you want to get as much bang for your software development budget buck as possible. And the good news is that there are various ways for you to allocate your resources wisely to ensure you get the best product possible. Prevent silo mentality from taking hold – as the client, it’s hugely beneficial for you to ensure that your software development agency understand the larger purpose of why they’re creating the products they are. This helps us understand your goals – and helps us help you achieve them. Speak to your existing and/or potential customers – have conversations with people who are already using your product or service, or may do so in the future, and listen to their feedback. You might need to filter some of the feedback but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of what your customers want – and you can then build a product ideally suited to them. Turn ideas into business cases – you can’t action every piece of feedback you receive, but how do you decide which ideas are a priority and which ones aren’t? The answer is to list them in a document and measure, as far as possible what it will cost to provide this feature against what its potential gain to the business might be. Then build your list of priorities. How to reduce your software development costs As mentioned already in the post, software development pricing is not a standard cost. However, there are ways you can reduce what you pay. Firstly, by deciding to outsource you’re already working smartly with your software development budget. Make sure you get the best out of your agency by choosing a firm that has a history of delivery for clients. Some development costs are fixed and some are variable There are many different factors that come into play when you’re outsourcing your software development requirements. But so too are there ways to limit what you spend. Not all costs are fixed, and the tips below share how you can limit what you pay. The need for documents Create requirement documents of what you’re looking for. Use plain language to document what you need and ensure that the freelance software developers working on your project understand what your expectations are. Follow the Agile Approach Following the Agile Approach minimises the possibility of misunderstandings that can result in work needing to be done over.The Agile Approach involves cooperating with all stakeholders at every part of the software development life cycle. At every point of completion, the developers will showcase the product to the client, invite feedback and then improve the product based on the client’s feedback. This way, any changes that are necessary are made through the process, and the risk of having to redo work at a later stage drops drastically. Request automated tests Manual testing takes time, and, as the old saying goes, time is money. They’ll be necessary at some points, but a large percentage of the software development build stage can be tested via automated tools. Not only will this save you money, but testing this way will also enhance the efficiency of your overall project. Think carefully about what features you have to have This suggestion rests on your own budget; if you have the money to spend on the “must haves” and the “nice to haves”, then go ahead. But, invariably, not every feature is going to be necessary, and eliminating the unnecessary ones reduces your costs and the time it takes to build your app or product. Don’t forget about maintenance costs Building your app or product is not the only place you’ll spend money on software development fees. There are maintenance fees to keep in mind to ensure that your customers stay happy with your business.As we build partnerships with our clients, and seek to work together on a long-term basis, Netfully likes to provide, as far as possible, fixed costs for maintenance. We’ll discuss this aspect when we initially embark on a project with a client, but it’s always a good idea for a client to keep maintenance costs on their list of priorities too. Working with an outsourced software development agency should be a positive experience for you. Not only will a reputable agency help you deliver your product at a reasonable budget, but they’ll become a big factor in your company’s success. Keeping up with technology today requires working hand-in-hand with an software development firm that delivers on cost, timelines and your goals. If you’re interested in discussing what software development costs might be for your business, feel free to contact us. We’d be delighted to hear from you!