The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.
Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.
One of our biggest assets as a company that you, yes you, can apply to your product development internally is product flows.
Product flows are hands-down, the number reason that we at Chop Dawg are a success for our clients.
They are our secret sauce.
Now, I realize for the most of you outside of our industry, or that lack technical expertise, you’re probably asking yourself, “What is a product flow? What exactly does it accomplish?”
Product flows for us were initially inspired by animated movies… well, the process of making an animated film.
Have you ever seen where during the movie planning process, the writers and animators sketch out scene-by-scene, how the movie will play out? They’ll tape it onto a wall, and run through the film, from start to finish. It is also often referred to as storyboarding.
It’s a very common practice and helps with quality assurance before the heavy lifting truly begins.
This is the same thing for product flows. This is where the secret to a successful development project can be found.
Most companies, either developing their app internally or hiring a company like us, go through the traditional design process. Wireframes, high fidelities, and then, straight into code.
There is a major flaw in this process, in this thinking.
It’s that you have left room for interpretation.
Interpretation is the place where the devil loves to play.
Here is a real scenario that happened to us in the past and bit us in the butt with a great client of ours.
One of our apps required a messaging component, and in particular, defined in the user interface design the ability to see some unread messages that you have.
Seems pretty simple, right? Should be straightforward…
However, here is the scenario. We are interpreting this functionality to reflect some individual message threads to determine the number value as unread. For our client, this was individual messages unread, not threads.
What happened? Wasted development and time on our end, frustration on our client’s end, our client spending more money than they should have, and us losing more labor time than we should have.
Here is where it gets scarier… imagine this with functionality that hundreds of other features on an application depends on, that require thousands of lines of programming.
Yes, this can happen to you.
So, how can you resolve this? What can product flows do?
Product flows display all of the completed high fidelities, laid out, in order of user interactions from start to finish. You run through every scenario a user can take on the application. Not only do you do this, but you then define in footnotes, every user interaction, every detail that design itself may not communicate (as, unread messaging). You highlight where data goes, moves too, what happens when something is pressed, how a popup may work, and every other individual action in-between.
Now you’re probably thinking, as did we too when we first ever implemented it… isn’t this overkill? Doesn’t this add time to the design process, and make the project even longer?
Yes, it does add more time to the design process, but our projects started averaging two to three months less from start to finish!
How is this possible? Simple. Less likely to spot bugs in quality assurance (as we had a defined road map to know exactly how everything should work from the very start) and most importantly, no room for interpretation; which meant, no taking steps backward during product development. There is no need to waste our precious resources on incorrect development.
Product flows have changed the game for us. Our clients are happier; we are happier. We are more efficient; our clients are saving more money. It’s the ultimate win-win.
You do not want interpretation. You want clarity. You want everyone always being on the same page.
This process works for development firms like us with our clients. It also works if you’re a large enterprise, with a technical team all ready to go.
Save yourself thousands of dollars, weeks if not months of extra work, and the frustration. Spend the extra effort in design, making specific product flows, and see the results for yourself. Your wallets, your teams, your clients, your customers and future self, will thank you.