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App Development
8 minutes read

5 App Design and Development Nightmares to Avoid

By Robert Kazmi
By Robert Kazmi
App Development
8 minutes read

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an app design or development nightmare?

We’ve seen many horror stories and cautionary tales. Apps that didn’t work properly, apps that were badly designed and apps that never got finished as the owner went backward and forwards with a developer.

We all want to avoid these potential nightmares and end up with an excellent app that users love. Here are 5 design and development nightmares you really need to avoid:

#1. Looking for the “cheapest”

It’s understandable that cost will be a factor in development, especially if you’re a young company needing to manage a tight budget. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” should be upheld as a warning.

We’ve fixed up many development nightmares that were a result of outsourcing to the cheapest possible “developer”, who often turns out to have overstated their own abilities. One thing to know is that when looking for an app developer, not just any set of development skills will do. You need someone who specifically specializes in developing apps for the OS (operating system) that you need an app for. For example, iOS developers need to be skilled with Objective C and SQLite database tools, while Android developers need strong Java tools and Eclipse IDE skills.

It’s possible to find developers with both sets of skills, but the best thing to do is to look for quality over price. After all, a cheap app badly developed will still be a waste of your money, right? You’re not going to get users if the app isn’t high quality.

Understandably, if you’re outsourcing app development one of your goals is probably to look for cost savings as compared to what you’d face if you developed the app internally, but you can still achieve cost savings and a quality result without resorting to the cheapest possible outsourcing option. Do your homework before hiring and avoid a frustrating and drawn-out experience.

#2. Going off-map

This particular nightmare is a headache for both the client and the developer. Going off-map occurs usually when developers get diverted into adding new features at the behest of the client, rather than sticking to a clear product roadmap.

To understand more clearly why this can turn into a nightmare, let’s take a closer look at product roadmaps. The purpose of these is to provide the strategy and plan for product development. The roadmap takes your company goals into account and helps to decipher how the product will achieve those goals.

A good product map helps to keep development focused and to reduce any uncertainty about what items are high priority. When it comes to development, there can be thousands of possible ideas that someone could be working on, but what really matters is getting the key elements right that help to achieve your product goals.

This is not to say that product road maps must remain rigid, in fact, in agile environments (such as our development style at Koombea), product road maps are living documents that are regularly updated, usually based on feedback that leads to new iterations.

The key thing is to keep your core goals as your “north star.” Going off-map turns into a nightmare when all of a sudden high importance is assigned to features that might be nice to have, but completely miss the point of the app. You can end up with an app that simply doesn’t live up to the reason you were having it developed in the first place. Developers get frustrated and clients are left dissatisfied.

#3. Design nightmares

You’ve probably had experience with a poorly designed app – unfortunately, there are many examples out there! Sometimes this happens when a skilled app designer is not used to design the app, or where the project as a whole is not managed well. It’s important to have a project manager who oversees the whole app project and ensures that it comes together consistently, even where it has been built in sections.

Common design nightmares we see include:

  • Inconsistency across the app. This might include things like the layout changing between screens or required/expected actions changing between sections. There might even be a different look or feel between screens.
  • Poor choice of colors or fonts. An app that is a joy to use includes fonts and colors that are easy on the eye. A tip here is to have style guides for the app so that these can be referred to throughout the design process.
  • Cramming too much onto the screen. This can be a trap that is fallen into, particularly when designing for the bigger phone screens that are now available. More information can fit, but this doesn’t make it a good idea. In general, less is more, particularly if you want the app to remain clear to users. You want to attract their attention carefully rather than unnecessarily distract them.
  • Maintaining a poor information hierarchy. Design should be planned according to the significance of the information for the user. Distinguish priorities so that it is clear to the user.

#4. Not having a formal change request process

This is another nightmare that can be a headache for both developers and clients. It can cause problems on projects large or small, with many or just one or two people involved with the project.

A change request is the formal process through which a client can request changes be made to the scope of the project. It ensures that communication about changes is made clear and that both parties understand the implications. For example, a developer might need to go back to the drawing board for a section of the project, but in return, a client may expect that the change could increase costs or the timeline for the project.

Nightmares occur when a formal change request process isn’t used. From the developer perspective, they can find that the project scope gets pushed out in all sorts of ways they didn’t expect, taking a lot more of their time. From the client perspective, they may have no clue that the change they’re asking for isn’t in fact simple. They might be surprised to find they are invoiced more than they expected or that they have to wait longer for a finished product. These sorts of issues can lead to unpleasant conversations from both sides.

For the sake of both the developer and the client, it’s important to lay out a clear scope and a process for making any changes from the very beginning. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the requirements of the project.

#5. Not having a “bug” plan

The app has been beautifully designed and you’ve had user acceptance testing done prior to launch, but somehow just after launch, a bug has slipped through. Ugh, you’re fielding messages from annoyed users and you just want the bug taken care of as soon as possible.

You go back to the developer who finds that the bug is not something that originated on their end (such as a problem with a web service). Or, if it is something that originated with the developer, you haven’t got any agreement in place that they’ll take care of post-launch bugs.

The potential here is for all sorts of back and forth establishing “fault” and determining who pays to have the fix done (does the developer do it for free, or do you need to pay to have them do the work?). In the end, you need it fixed yesterday, so the last thing you want is a drawn out negotiation.

This is why it’s important to have an agreement about dealing with bugs that is laid out going into the development contract. Have something that clearly spells out that the developer will take care of post-launch bugs that were their responsibility at no extra charge, while they can offer other post-launch support for a fee (many will have this as a line item charge in their invoicing, perhaps offering 2-4 weeks of support.)

Final thoughts

We’ve all heard about, or even experienced our own app design and development nightmares, but with a few key precautions, this doesn’t have to be the story of your app.

As a general rule, have clear communication between developer and client and ensure that everything, including core app goals are spelt out early. Use resources such as style guides to keep app design in-check and make sure that scope and contract information is clear from the beginning.

The flipside is that there are plenty of app success stories out there – let’s make yours one of them!

Koombea develops beautiful apps in a collaborative environment. Talk to us today about how we can help you.

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