Designing and developing bespoke software products often requires big teams, timelines, and budgets. Professional app development projects can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get to the initial launch. And delivering new features, fixes, and updates in the months that follow can cost hundreds of thousands more.

With those kinds of numbers in play, clients and their agencies will often (make that always) look for ways to save time and money on any given project. That’s good … you should always be looking at the bottom line to make sure you’re getting value for your spend.

But certain items turn up on the chopping block time and again. And that can be bad … in reality, the items that get cut are often high value. By keeping these 5 things in your project plan (and in your budget), your may actually cut your total costs over time, significantly, and your product will be a whole lot better.

1) Discovery is a Must

You might have an idea of the features and initial designs you want. At Small Planet we use that as a starting point, then dedicate at least two weeks to a Discovery phase to validate and refine your product vision.

Why do we do that? You already know what you want, right? Discovery helps us figure out if that’s worth wanting. And if it is, how we’re going to get there. We cover the basics, like identifying team members, establishing a working process, and conducting UX research. But if done right, Discovery actually lives up to its name and we unearth invaluable insights while conducting  essential tasks, like:

  • Defining business and user experience objectives
  • Committing to your product’s main concept and value proposition
  • Prioritizing app functionality
  • Assessing technical considerations
  • Auditing available content and any new content creation needs
  • Defining all of your branding/design requirements
  • Building an informed project budget and schedule
  • Creating initial UX documentation

A clear working process…that part is especially critical. We’ve launched hundreds of apps and app updates for clients with complex organizational structures—lots of stakeholders, lots of valid opinions, lots of approvals—and keeping it all together needs the clear, open communication you establish up front in Discovery.

2) User Testing is Worth It

This one is usually the first to go when you’re looking to save time and money, but we’ve learned something valuable every single time we conduct proper user testing during design and development.

You don’t want good money chasing bad, and discovering UX issues early saves a lot of time and energy expended on fixes later. Also, testing helps your team think more clearly about the product they are making and prioritize future work flows better.

3) Dedicated QA

It’s not uncommon to hear that “Quality Assurance is not a Phase.” QA is not something you want to wait to do until the end of a project, it’s better to have someone on your project team working QA from the onset. At minimum, we build in two to four weeks after feature lock to put the application through its paces before release. Trust me, this is not a good place to save time and money.

“The problem of producing software is, first and foremost, a problem of organizing people.”

4) Better Living Through Analytics

Installing a third-party analytics package is usually straightforward. You know what takes real time and effort? Figuring out what to measure, then taking the time to extract meaningful insights out of the data once your app is live. 

Fact-based knowledge of how users are using your software — what’s working, what isn’t — is super-helpful when establishing future phases of work. You have to budget for analytics resources, as well as the time it takes to actually look at the data and recommend improvements.

5) Call the White Hats

We see more and more projects that involve integrating with a customer’s existing back-end systems, so security becomes a legitimate concern. There’s real value in budgeting for a third party firm to do a security pass. Seeing how a “white hat” security firm might try to hack you will cost an extra few weeks and some additional dollars now, but is well worth it in the long-term.

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