Early last week I had the pleasure of attending a debriefing after a user study for the app I worked on as a Senior Developer over the last few years, until recently becoming the Agile Development Lead (aka Engineering Manager for the same app development team.
It was so good to hear real user feedback about what they like about the app, what could be improved, how certain features help to improve their experience while travelling, etc.
It got me thinking about the mindset needed for a developer to produce an app that users would want to use again and again, and how ours became so successful.
I believe these mindset shifts are important as a developer when you are starting to develop public facing apps:
There’s no ‘I’ in Team: No matter how good you think you are, you can’t deliver a winning app that meets the needs of the public by yourself. You need a team around you, diversity of thought, and lived experiences of people from all backgrounds that reflect the diverse background of the population you are serving.
Care about ALL users: Accessibility must be at the forefront of every developer’s mind. You can’t develop an app that looks pretty, provides great info, with cool animation, all singing all dancing, but it doesn’t display properly when Dynamic Text is enabled, and it doesn’t work with a screen reader, and functions like crap in landscape mode, and doesn’t scroll when expected. You will alienate so many users who should be catered for like anyone else.
Perfectionism is a killer: No matter how good you think your app is or how easy to use you think it is, real user feedback will bring you back to reality. Get it out there as early as possible, be open to feedback, and open to iterating to meet the true needs of your users, not what you think they expect.
Design is just as important as development: Design can’t be seen as an afterthought or a nice to have when developing public-facing apps. It’s not just about how pretty the app looks, but also how intuitive the app is to use, the flow between different screens, the placement of assets to help the user experience using the app with ease, how the combination of colours are perceived and inform the users. Engage with a designer as early on in the process as possible. If it can be developed in partnership with the designer even better.
Launch is just the start, not the end: That feeling of satisfaction when you’ve written your last line of code before final testing, passed with flying colours through the various stages of testing, and final UAT was a breeze… launch day comes and you press the button to release your app to the world… You sit back and pat yourself on the back thinking Job accomplished!
Errrr, No, your job is not done. The job is certainly just beginning, assuming you care about the app and how it is received, what your users really think, and how it can be enhanced. You need to spend some time really analysing your app usage, not just how many downloads it got in X week, but which parts of the app your users are really engaging with, and most importantly which parts they are not, and why. Put your developer pride to one side and be willing to adapt and make changes to improve the app based on the experience of the users, and give them what will really add value to their lives.
Overall, app development is exciting and frustrating and satisfying and challenging and a whole lot more wrapped into one. You definitely need the perseverance of a marathon runner, not a sprinter. Listening and taking action on your users’ feedback will have a long term impact on your app’s performance, and will generally help to build trust, and build or preserve your reputation. Empathy, communication and adaptability are also important to the continued success of your app and your career as a Developer.
#appdevelopment #softwaredevelopment #womenintech #diversityintech #userfeedback #careerdevelopment #careerchangers