There are many methodologies to choose from in software development. Learn the principles of Waterfall, Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup.Read more
Today’s software development utilizes many methodologies to facilitate building applications and software solutions. We have Waterfall, Agile, Design Thinking, or Lean Startup as well as their combinations and variations. What are the principles of these methodologies? How do they support software development? Let’s explore the differences between the Waterfall methodology and a combined approach that includes Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile.
The Waterfall approach to software development describes a sequential process for building software—i.e., one step has to be completed before the next can begin.
In the Waterfall methodology, the project scope, outcome, and requirements are documented fully before any development begins. The documents, among many other aspects, include functional specifics, user interfaces, architecture, data structure.
The traditional Waterfall project structure is split into six phases:
Taking into consideration the principles of Waterfall and its resulting pros and cons, this methodology is best for building projects with clear specifications and client requirements. We can think of using Waterfall with projects that are simple, predictable, and well-defined.
For example, the Waterfall approach can be used when adjusting an application to meet specific regulations (e.g., when developing medical systems), or when integrating software with existing infrastructure—e.g., banking systems. In both cases, clear and detailed documentation and specifications are critical to successful project completion.
Here are specific project features that determine if the Waterfall approach is a good fit:
The Waterfall methodology has been around for decades, initially serving as an essential and structured approach to software development. In the 1990s, however, the Internet technology began evolving rapidly — the Waterfall approach proved inefficient in the increasingly dynamic and complex environment.
There was a pressing need for software development methods that could address the inefficiencies of Waterfall’s linear approach to building software. As a result of that need and through years of refinement, a combined approach for the entire product development life cycle was created.
The combined approach includes methods and processes that come from different backgrounds to together form a mindset for the adaptive building of products, as opposed to following a rigid project plan.
Below is a brief description of each and a summary of how they complement one another in the software development paradigm.
Read why flexibility in time and materials contracts can improve your product's lifetime value.Read more
Your product’s lifetime value (LTV) depends on the choices made during development and after application release. Continuously improving your product’s LTV means sustainably delivering quality and discovering new customer needs that help grow the user base.
T&M contracts work well for your product’s lifetime value because they give you the flexibility to change project requirements as per your ongoing discovery activities. In other words, when the development starts, the scope isn’t fixed — you can swiftly adapt to trends and emerging customer preferences.
Trends come and go. What was once a lucrative idea for an application, can become irrelevant in a matter of months. The most recent example is how Covid-19 has influenced many areas of living and consumer behavior, e.g., the increase in the use of digital tools.
In T&M contracts, you approach the scope for your product’s features agilely. For example, if halfway into the development you want to include a feature that engages your target audience, it’s easier to implement it.
In T&M, the vendor’s team is almost like your internal staff. You communicate daily, and the team shares status updates.
Daily communication helps talk over any issues or ideas that might crop up. When there’s an opportunity to look for alternative solutions that can cut the development time or otherwise add value to the product, swift communication is key to fast implementation.
This one ties in with communication. As the team works on the product, they know it inside out. They can suggest simpler ways to achieve a given goal. Also, when a better solution or a library appears on the market during development, the team gains additional means to decrease development time.
In agile products with a flexible scope, you’re a part of the project. That said, you can check the progress of your app via project management platforms or move a step forward and ask for a CI/CD approach to see how your app evolves daily.
Whenever you spot an issue, just communicate it to your team so that they can deal with it comprehensively. When the software agency deals with issues poorly or delivers low-quality solutions, you can end the contract before losing any more money.
T&M contracts ensure cash flow and keep the software agency healthy. It’s the foundation for business continuity that promotes long-lasting partnerships.
When you work in a T&M contract, there's no economically driven reason to exchange the team for less experienced and therefore cut the provider's service cost. You can verify the quality of the code during two-week demo releases, where you check how the product works. Whenever you feel the product underperforms, you can react and, for example, strengthen the team.
With good and frequent communication where the development team acts as a partner who can suggest solutions and features based on their experience, the team becomes more invested in the project. Developers feel they’re doing the right things and doing things right.
Positive relationship dynamics encourage the team to suggest solutions that cut implementation time or improve the product. The team is focused on quality development instead of a fast release to get the buffer.
A product’s LTV increases the more it continuously delivers high-value functionalities. To ensure your team implements these high-value functionalities, they need to stay in touch with customers during every stage of development.
By employing a variety of methods designed to get to know the end customer better, teams can focus on continuous product improvement and value delivery. These research activities should be part of the development process and decision-making.
Customer interviews bring out valuable insights directly from customers. Rapid prototypes and experiments help introduce these insights and see how they affect a product’s value.
In fixed-price projects, once you do customer preference research before development, this activity rarely gets repeated in the later stages of development.
To be able to continuously deliver value and improve your product to increase its LTV, you need to involve the customer in the decision-making — in an ongoing capacity.
Digital projects are rarely finished with the first release. Take Instagram or Strava for example. Both applications have evolved tremendously over the years, with numerous new features and user interface modifications.
There’s always something that can be improved to deliver new value for the customers. These improvements can be ongoing, without the need for scope reevaluation — think of these improvements occurring every week or even every day.
With proper analytics set up, you see how those tweaks in the product perform.
Being close to the customer lets you discover how they perceive the product — in effect, you can make efficient decision-making where customer input drives the product.
Learn what makes estimating fixed-price projects practically impossible if you want to target shifting customer needs.Read more
In the software development world, fixed-price projects often mean fixed scope — just like in the Waterfall methodology. To prepare a fixed scope, you need to make lots of upfront planning.
But today’s software development is a highly volatile environment where technology trends and customer preferences change rapidly.
In the end, all the effort put into upfront scope planning can crumble, either at the product launch or during development itself. Learn what makes estimating fixed-price projects practically impossible if you want to target shifting customer needs.
But in the 2000s, Python 2.0, C#, and JQuery were released, allowing developers to build safer and more robust software and websites. With the release of these technologies, the complexity of software increased. More complex software took longer to develop, and the standard approach to development at the time — the Waterfall methodology — started showing cracks.
Complex projects often resulted in irrelevant software that fell short of customer expectations — by the time the solution was released, the market and customers already had different needs.
Because of these growing complexities in software development, fixed-price contracts became increasingly difficult to estimate accurately. The need for a change was recognized, which gave birth to the Agile Manifesto.
Following the Agile principles let developers release software in iterations and collect feedback that guided further development. Agility in that sense meant delivering relevant and highly user-focused digital products.
Of course, it doesn’t mean all projects have to be Agile and that the Waterfall methodology is inherently flawed. To learn which types of projects are a good fit for fixed-price contracts, read Waterfall methodology vs Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile.
Note: Even the projects that can be built in a Waterfall model, should be broken up into chunks for the stakeholders to review and give feedback. This helps avoid a situation where the product has already lost its relevance at the launch date (by that time so much development work has been done that any changes are simply not viable financially).
Let's see what may happen if we try to build successful projects in a strictly fixed-price model.
When a software agency can’t deliver a complete product within budget, they might restructure the initial team and let junior developers finish the work. This frees up their senior devs to pursue more profitable projects.
When a vendor nears the deadline but the product is far from being finished, the company might turn to quick workarounds or scope cuts. Quick workarounds make the product unstable and unreliable in the long term. On the other hand, scope cuts result in an unfinished product that doesn’t meet the initial requirements fully.
The fast and hectic decision-making process in software development projects makes it difficult to collect all the details upfront. Even with a detailed specification, there's always some level of assumptions on both sides.
For example, during development, it might turn out that certain parts of the app have to be written from scratch to secure a fully custom code that’s not limited by OS policies or third-party solutions. Another example can be the inability to use certain paid tools and libraries.
It’s close to impossible to learn which parts of the product need a custom approach before the contract begins.
It’s difficult for developers to validate all open-source libraries and plugins before they actually start implementing them. Conversely, when there’s nothing reliable in the currently available resources, the necessary plugins have to be written from scratch. If the available libraries are outdated, developers have to update them.
This goes on to show just how difficult it is to accurately estimate what will and won’t be available in projects that run for, say, half a year.
If a software agency doesn’t have any inflow of cash and is waiting for product release, it can run out of money to operate and as a result, abandon your project altogether.
With a partially finished product, it might be difficult for another vendor to take over the development work and meet the release deadline. The second team needs to familiarize itself with your business and the product.
Once a fixed-price and fixed-scope contract is signed, you can make very few changes. If a better solution enters the market during development, you’ll still have to go with what’s agreed on in the scope.
A vendor might also use the opportunity and valuate something simple as complex to make up for the loss.
That said, you might end up releasing a product that’s already irrelevant technologically.
Some complex software solutions take upward of six months to develop. Half a year is enough for consumer preferences to shift. As a result, once you release your product, market fit might already be lost.
Read about T&M contracts to learn how they work and how they give you control over product development.Read more
When choosing a vendor for development work, you have to decide on the type of contract: fixed-price or time and materials (T&M). Whereas the mechanics of fixed-price contracts are rather obvious — you pay for the whole project upfront — the T&M model begs a more detailed explanation.
Time and materials contracts are usually woven tightly with the agile approach to software development.
As such, the project follows agile rules of development. After each two-week sprint, a part of the application can be tested and analyzed for feedback. This feedback shapes further development, which means the product’s shape can be adapted based on the learning you get after every demo release.
The core of the T&M model is therefore agility and flexibility.
You’re not locked in the scope of a fixed-price project, where it’s difficult to introduce any changes after kickoff.
In T&M, you can swiftly adjust the scope based on your growing knowledge of the product. The decision-making process is also not sealed at the start of the development, as is the case with fixed-price contracts.
Possible scenarios where scope flexibility is handy in product development:
Now let’s deconstruct how T&M give you control over budget and quality.
When you know the team’s composition and hourly allocation for a month, planning for the development spending in the budget is easier.
Besides, in the T&M approach, you’re being charged only for hours devoted solely to your project. Internal duties like company workshops and meetings shouldn’t be included. That said, you should have access to timesheets and be able to regularly verify the invoice status.
Once the development begins but the design isn’t yet finished, changes in the design can influence the cost. This can go both ways, either increase or decrease the final cost.
For example, the greater the number and complexity of screens in a mobile app, the longer it takes to code them. So, whenever possible, the team you’re working with should suggest ready-made libraries that take less time to implement.
Good designers consult the design with developers during development. This lets them find solutions that cut development time but retain user experience.
In fixed-price contracts, software agencies usually add a buffer to set off any losses caused by a variety of internal and external factors.
In T&M contracts, a software agency doesn’t have to add a buffer to the final cost to ensure all unexpected expenses are covered. By principle, you only pay for the actual effort the team does on your project.
Learn how to mitigate the risks of outsourcing development.Read more
When you outsource mobile app development, you want to get the work done professionally at a reduced cost and with little overhead. And while this sounds enticing — in 2019, the global market size of outsourced services was $92.5 billion — outsourcing development doesn’t come without risks. But there are ways you can keep these at a minimum level. Learn how to mitigate outsourcing development risks.
If you're like many business owners, outsourcing mobile app development might seem like a good idea, especially from a financial perspective. The average business is strapped for cash, and even if you’re more financially stable at a bigger company, launching a mobile app can still be costly if you don’t have in-house resources experienced in mobile development.
But outsourcing mobile app development is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Handing over a list of specs and expecting a service provider to come back with a great digital product isn’t necessarily how outsourcing looks like. The communication is critical, and it's the core of good cooperation with your business partner.
And while the overhead with outsourcing is significantly lower than if you were to build an in-house team, some questions also need to be answered — What is the cost? Will I lose access to my data? What about intellectual property rights and trade secrets? Who will be managing the project?
These are all valid concerns that should be taken into account before choosing an IT outsourcing partner.
The first major problem with having a remote app development team comes when you want to oversee how outside contractors handle their part of the job. The need to be in control is sometimes hard to let go, especially when you’re working with a partner with different processes.
If you’re in the trust-building stage, consider asking about the possibility of CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery). In the CI/CD approach, you get to see the development of your app daily through a working demo.
CI/CD will help you oversee the progress and evaluate the quality of the deliverables. So when your outsourcing partner is underperforming, you’ll know it very early in the project and will be able to halt the work without risking losing money.
Knowing how the app’s development is progressing also helps to estimate whether you’re going according to the time frame or not. A delay is the last thing any project owner needs in their schedule. But keep in mind that delays are one of the trade-offs of lower costs per hour when you hire offshore developers.
Another issue might stem from different time zones and cultural differences.
Every time you work with a remote team, it’s important to remember that they’re on a different schedule than the one your business operates on. Take extra measures to avoid any miscommunications or mistakes by keeping communication channels open and setting clear goals. Most of all, be considerate of their time by meeting when it’s suitable for both parties.
Assessing the expertise of a remote development team can be a difficult task. And if they’re unfamiliar with your business niche, there's a chance the team you're working with won't be able to navigate industry problems as well as they should. In that case, it will take longer for them to integrate your business vision or project idea into your mobile application.
The solution? Look for an experienced outsourcing company that knows the ropes of your industry. Ask about their processes, project successes, case studies, and anything that will help you assess if they're qualified enough to do what you need them to. We recommend starting with a project discovery phase where intensive research allows teams to gain more understanding before jumping head first into implementation.
Outsourcing app development means sharing portions of your data with another company. This can put your company at risk for security breaches, compliance violations, and financial scams. According to the Deloitte Global Outsourcing Survey, data security and loss of IP (intellectual property) are the leading concern among companies that outsource their operations.
To mitigate the risk of security breaches, outsourcing companies have to be vetted thoroughly (e.g., by checking their reviews on social media). Employees need to stay vigilant for possible misappropriations of trade secrets or loss of IP rights. There is also sensitive customer information that can leak through outsourcing — login credentials, medical records, credit card info — all can make their way to third-party hands depending on what type of solution you're developing.
To minimize those risks, ensure you sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with an offshore company involved in your project before you share any data with them. This way, if any data leaks, they will have to pay penalty clauses. Furthermore, try to collaborate with a company that is legally bound by intellectual property laws (e.g., European intellectual property law).
While it’s tempting to settle for the lowest bid, in the end, the development might cost more than you expected. Before falling for the cheapest, consider the possible consequences of choosing a partner that has never completed similar projects. Also, is the company you want to partner with big enough to meet the demands of your project timewise?
When new agencies enter the market, they often offer low bids that aren’t feasible. Ultimately, the development ends up costing organizations more because these newcomers can’t manage the scope of the project correctly.
When you're looking to outsource a project, ensure that your contract covers all of the services and deliverables needed. The contract should outline the timeline, estimated costs, and explicit details about what is expected from both parties.
Ask what is included in the per hour contract, so as not to fall into the trap of being charged extra.
The key to success for any project is clear communication. You can avoid many costly and time-consuming problems with your projects if you make sure that both parties are on the same page. Without a clear understanding of what is required, delays will pile up and turn good outsourcing relationships sour quickly.
When engaging a partner for outsourced work, make sure to consider and discuss all aspects, including deadlines for deliverables, milestones along the course of your project, software requirements, and expectations on quality.
One of the risks you possibly haven’t considered but most outsourcing companies are familiar with, is your own engagement. If vendors don’t get timely responses from you regarding questions or requests, chances are you won't be satisfied with what's delivered in return.
When project managers and developers work closely with their clients, they're able to understand all of the nuances in your business and create a solution that fits exactly what you need. This means that there will be less miscommunication between team members on the project, and it will likely end up being completed faster.
The more your outsourcing partner knows about what you want, the better their work will be for you in the long term.
Marketing a mobile application involves a combination of tactics and strategies. Learn how to market your mobile app.Read more
With over five billion unique users on mobile devices, creating an app opens up a whole new channel through which you can interact with your current and potential customers. But a large audience means even greater competition.
Here's everything you need to know about marketing your mobile app and becoming visible in the crowded world of mobile apps.
Mobile app marketing is creating a strategy where your main goal is to attract targeted users to your app at every stage of the marketing funnel — from the moment they hear about your app to the time they become users and turn into loyal customers.
To do this well and effectively, your marketing content must be personalized and highly strategic.
Marketing a mobile application is a complex process that entails many steps and covers multiple angles from which you generate demand for your application.
We’ll delve into more details in later sections, so for now familiarize yourself with the basic setup for how to market an app:
Having an idea of who your app is for is the best place to start. If you can't describe your target audience aka the user persona, it’ll be tough marketing your app to them. When you know your target audience, you can be precise and effective in your marketing efforts.
A user persona should paint a picture of your ideal target customer. This will help you craft the app marketing strategy so that it resonates best with your prospects.
The key characteristic of every user persona is the pain point and challenge the customer is facing. These two should be top of mind when creating your user persona.
Besides these two, try to answer these questions:
Remember, a lot of answers to these questions will initially be assumptions. As you experiment with your marketing strategy, these hypotheses will be verified.
App marketing is not just about knowing your audience. It's also about knowing what your competitors have been doing. Market research and competitor research will help you discover successful strategies and avoid costly failures.
Watching your competitors closely will give you plenty of insight about which channels to use and the type of messaging to draw inspiration from. Watch your competitors, make notes, and use this data to make your mobile app marketing efforts even more successful.
The most successful apps in the stores are those that address the most common user needs. For example, Zoom or Google Meet — aka the most downloaded apps in 2020 during the pandemic — fulfilled the need for convenient remote communication for personal and professional purposes.
So you could orient your marketing message around a specific and current problem. Raise awareness through marketing content and then drive demand.
A landing page allows users to learn more about your app on mobile web and desktop. Use SEO and search intent keywords to attract your users and show them how the app solves their problem.
Landing pages are also a great way for initial app onboarding — you can create a video to let your prospects know what they can expect when they install your app. you can include screenshots on top of demo videos.
Use call-to-action buttons with links to your app in the App Store and Google Play Store.
This is another way to reach your target audience and use SEO to drive traffic to your app. Keep your blog updated and share valuable and unique content on your social media channels. Consider guest blogging to further increase reach.
A good practice is to start blogging and generating organic traffic long before app release. This will increase your app’s traction significantly once you launch.
You might wonder what content to publish. The best content is one that drives awareness about a problem — the problem your target audience is facing. These can be whitepapers, reports, videos, case studies, articles. Cover all verticals of the problem.
Optimizing your mobile app’s product page is a fundamental step in every app marketing strategy. Think about the title, design a catchy icon, and use screenshots that convey the app's selling points and benefits.
You never know what will trigger the customer to install your app, but doing the groundwork will give you extra points.
We’ll dive into a little bit more detail about product page optimization on app stores later.
Social media marketing can have a huge impact on the popularity of your app. When you're thoughtful about what content you share on social media and distribute it to qualified prospects via both organic and a bit of targeted advertising, you can increase your traffic significantly.
Don’t go for all social media channels available, though. Start with three major ones (Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin) and verify which generate the most users for your app over time.
Look for influencers that your target audience follows. Contact them for a possible partnership (e.g., by sponsoring their podcasts). An honest review from an influencer on their social media channels can give your app lots of traction.