I bailed on a Session That Shall Remain Nameless, and was happy I landed at the session “So You Wanna Build an App for That: Experts Share Tips on Taking Apps from Need to Launch” run by communications consultant Lauren Girardin.

While there was some discussion about being sure that you really need to build an app (a topic I have written about previously)  the dialogue and discussions were very real-world focused and intended to get small groups thinking about challenges and considerations around planning, designing, building, testing and marketing an app.

Lauren reminded the group that there is a growing sentiment around thinking about app building as one that is done “with, not for an audience.” This set a great tone for the rest of the discussions and is great for teams to keep in mind throughout the process.

Some key considerations from the session are below:

Establishing limits and setting expectations

  • Understanding the idea that you can only get two out of the three between cheap, fast and good.
  • Limit the number of stakeholders who can steer the project.
  • Limit communication with coders after a certain point
  • Change orders are important and a means by which to communicate the impact of delays
  • Scoring features empowers compromise down the road. Not every feature is created equal.
  • Speak in seasons instead of specific dates
  • Be aware of development cycles when planning for updates

Feedback and testing

  • Build in feedback time early
  • Think about bringing in your community to design apps early … There might be a gap between what audiences needs are and what they say their needs are. Listening is crucial.
  • Think about how to reward those who provide input (Food, alcohol, Discounts for a paid app, Badges)
  • Testing should be thought about early in the process
  • Use third party security testing
  • The roadmap always changes after the first 10 percent of the development
  • Use people outside the project who don’t know about the planning
  • List as many variables to test as possible (WiFi on, Cell data on, Platforms, Devices etc.)

Working with vendors

  • When searching for a vendor, test them on low-risk projects
  • Make sure someone outside of your organization reads the RFP first. This can eliminate a lot of internally-focused terminology
  • Use services like Glassdoor to research the firm
  • Pick a vendor that understands that change is part of the process

Thinking about launch and post-launch

  • Include marketing in your budget
  • How are you going to include this app in your marketing
  • Build in app review invitations; You’re building in engagement; Thank people for positive ratings
  • Build analytics into the app
  • Use your website to talk about the features of your app that you can’t do in the same way in the store; Explain very clearly and show the value of your app
  • Think of launch as a starting line and not a finish line