Andrew

January 31, 2022

Development
Business

Apps Are Iterative and So Are Humans!

Did you know that on average some of the biggest players on the app store are releasing 10 new updates each week! Yep, a f#ck load. That’s 10 new fixes, features, changes or iterations each week. So when you’re building your app for the first time how the hell do you decide what’s included in your first version and what should be left for later? It’s a tough challenge which every one of our clients go through and sometimes it feels like you’re walking the proverbial tightrope between success and failure.

At Moonward we’ve built a simple system which enables our clients to quickly and easily determine what should and shouldn’t be included in their initial app version.

But before we jump into that, it’s really important to understand how apps actually evolve over time... You see, the way we look at software is as if it’s a living a breathing thing. Technical products are never set in stone, they have the ability to grow, change and improve over time. And that’s exactly how the largest apps on the app store approach development.

To put this into perspective, during November & December 2021 this is the number of updates the biggest apps released:

  • Uber: 6 New Versions
  • Facebook: 5 New Versions
  • Headspace: 8 New Versions
  • Netflix: 6 New Versions

The purpose of technology is to continually grow, learn and improve. This is the approach the not only the largest apps on the app store take but also the approach that our most successful clients take.

When it comes to planning the first version of your app, there is probably a good chance you have a good understanding of what you want it to do. But there is also a good chance that you have 2,3,4,5,6 different features that you want to develop as well. This is where things start getting interesting and where we take a step back and review the project from a birds eye view.

Introducing ‘Does it F.I.T’. This is the scoring system that our team at Moonward use to try and understand specifically what we need to build for our clients in version 1. Our system aims to take away bias, nice to haves and technical dead weights. ‘Does it F.I.T’ stands for:

  • Fundamental
  • Innovative
  • Timely

Fundamental: We ask “How fundamental is this idea to your project and helping you achieve your goals”. A great way of looking at this question is by asking it with regards to an existing product. Let’s take Facebook for example. When they originally launched was the Buy and Sell Marketplace fundamental for it’s success? Absolutely not (Note; we’re not saying the idea won’t add value, we’re just saying that it isn’t needed for this version). Defining your fundamental features is often one of the hardest steps because you’re probably going to have to let go of some of your babies but remember, you can always bring them back in a future version.

Innovation: We ask “How innovative is this idea, has it been done before”. This next question far less literal than our first question. We totally understand that not everything in your product can be innovative e.g. Login screens, payment pages etc. But the reason we ask this question is to offer the less fundamental features a second chance. We might find a feature which scores low on the fundamental scale but gets top marks on the innovation scale...this then enables us to start the discussion. We find that innovative features can often deliver the biggest punch in the market, hence the reason we place so much emphasis on them early on in the decision making process.

Timely: We ask “How much time will it take to build out this feature for V1”. It’s a common known fact in the startup world that the longer you take to launch a product, the more investment (finances) you’ll need to fund the process. With this information in hand we’re able to determine how long specific features take to develop and factor this in to our clients budgets, timeframes and road maps. It’s a simple case of understanding if a feature can be developed within the desired development timeframe. Generally the longer the feature takes to develop the lower it will score. This also helps with building out a product roadmap which you can read more about here.

So now we’ve scored our key features we have a clear picture of whats Fundamental, Innovative and Timely. Now from our experience you can’t see the whole picture just based off these 3 scores. The purpose of these scores is to begin a conversation and discussion on the direction of the product and how it’ll be delivered to the market.

Now don’t be afraid at this point. We see it all too often that people get fearful of streamlining their products. They don’t want to drop features and focus on a very large first version of their app. All of which makes total sense...it’s actually quite counterintuitive to be reducing the brilliance of your ideas.

We need to remember the development of your app isn’t a 100m sprint, it’s more so a 800m middle distance run. When developing we can’t sprint at our fastest pace from day 1, we need to build ourselves up and still have enough in the tank (Resources, planning, timeframes, finances, marketing etc) so that when it comes to the final lap we’re ready to explode. If we sprint from day one we risk overreaching on investment (going over budget), not truely considering what our users need or simply rushing the development of an already complex product.

To put this all in simple terms, we’ve launched over 100 apps onto the app stores. From our experience our most successful clients have one eye on the present and one eye on the future. In doing so, they strip back their initial product version and plan to continually add features over time. At the end of the day building an app is all about continually growing and improving. We have the ultimate flexibility to all other types of businesses dream of having. If we want to change or improve something, we can!! It’s a simple as that...

Software is a living a breathing thing, we can always change, improve, adapt and grow!