Whilst I’ve been working in tech for over a decade now, I wouldn’t describe myself as a very technical person. I need to have things explained simply and the way we do this is by breaking down the development process into 3 key stages.
Stage 1 – Discover & Define
Arguably the most important stage, but it’s during this stage that we ideate, prototype, user test and then define what exactly we are building. We have 5 steps in this stage, and each step is heavily tailored to the charity depending on where they are at in the process. But really this first stage is planning.
I’ll use the analogy of building a house, if you wanted to build one you wouldn’t just rush out and get a builder, you’d speak to an architect and have blueprints drawn up so you know what exactly you are building and how it all works together. It’s exactly the same with software development. We need to ensure the team (designers, developers, testers, project manager and client strategist) are all aligned and confident with what we’re setting out to build, and more importantly, why. This reduces the risk of curve balls when you get into development, and that’s why we insist on this initial stage, to reduce the risk as much as possible when you get into development.
The more thorough your planning stage, the more you reduce your risk later down the line. Typically this first phase can take around 4 weeks, and tends to involve a team of 6 people on the agency side (Project Manager, Client Strategist, Creative Lead, UX Lead, Mobile Lead, Backend Lead).
Stage 2 – Design & Development
Once the first stage has been done, we have a very thorough understanding of what it is we are building. Which makes this stage relatively straight forward. Typically we would allow 4 – 5 months for a build. But there are always exceptions. Our quickest was delivered in 6 weeks, and one of the bigger projects has taken up to a year…so timings can vary depending on what the functionality is and perhaps how many stakeholders we have to manage.
Stage 3 – Continuous improvement
It’s not mandatory, but you should have a plan in place for stage 3 so you all know what you’re working towards and what life looks like after the app is live in the app stores. Too often I hear people not talking about stage 3 in the early conversations, so charities, please note that ongoing improvements are often needed, so some consideration should be given.