Building an app is all about enhancing an experience or solving a problem, and our current project with Joanna Hoddinott at Balanced Bodies is designed to not only improve the booking experience for her clients, but to also reduce the admin time for her.
We thought we’d take the time to talk you through how we achieve this, in our 7 steps to app success...
Step 1: Understand the problem
Joanna came to us with a problem, she was using two apps to manage her booking system. This required duplication in input but also management, there had to be an easier way.
At this first step, it’s imperative that we understood what her goals were. Knowing the problem is only half of the story, we needed to understand why it was a problem, what was it holding her back from achieving?
These goals and problems can often be difficult to articulate, so our team are tasked with nurturing conversation to encourage scenarios to be explained.
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What’s your vision?
- What’s your goal?
The answers to these questions set the scene for us to understand what the future holds for a clients’ website, app, and business.
Joanna’s vision is to build her business, to do this, she needs to remove unnecessary admin to free up more of her time. The duplication of input was a big time drain and restrictive of her growth.
Step 2: Learn how the business operates today
When working with Joanna, we created an experience map which helped us to understand her challenges and the business structure today. It’s important, at this step, to fully comprehend the current system and onboarding stages. What is the process? What are the tasks and activities?
For Joanna, the goal of saving time and removing the pain of duplication meant we needed to look closely at the booking and onboarding process. As well as the customer actions, we find the emotional steps of the customer journey, how they’re feeling when they come to book, in order to consider language and design to optimise the customer experience.
Along with knowing what the steps are, we need to know who is involved, to ensure that the relevant parties can perform the right task at the right time.
At this step of the process, it’s also important to ask questions.
What are the restrictions?
Why does the current set up not work?
Only by asking these questions do we get the real context of the job at hand.
In the example with Joanna, we needed to ask if we could reduce the process to one app.
Step 3: Map out the current solution
Once we’d understood the current process, we needed to look at both apps that Joanna was using. How do they work for her, where do the problems lie and what are the major problem areas?
We then take time to workshop the problems to fully understand the real restrictions in place.
Step 4: Consider the opportunities
Now that we fully understand the problem, the goal, and the restrictions, we can create a list of opportunities. Each problem becomes an opportunity, if we resolve a problem, what is the outcome?
We create a tree of opportunities to help us understand the priorities and sub-categories for app development. For instance, one branch is the opportunity, “how might we improve scheduling”, with possible ideas to solve the problem, such as “what if we use one app to book”, the branch then becomes a chain of ideas to problem solve.
We tackle the biggest priority, then work through the solutions and ideas that we think could contribute towards making this opportunity the best it can be. This is usually a highly collaborative process, if it’s a one-person business, we have a 1:1 call or brainstorming session, if there are a management team on board, we take time to speak to different people, preferably together and collaboratively in a workshop, so we can be transparent with our design process gaining as much insight as possible.
Once we have a full tree of ideas and options, we then test the ideas, through building our hypothesis that helps us prove or falsify our assumptions. For example, with Joanna, the hypothesis was that, if we were to remove the second app from the process, this will reduce manual duplication entirely.
We test, validate and repeat, through simple prototypes on each idea which can take one day to a couple of weeks, but ultimately this testing and experimental phase limits the investment to ensure it is spent on the most actionable and valuable opportunity.
This logical process keeps the client involved, it ensures we fully understand the problem, goal, constraints, risks and opportunity, before moving onto step 5.
Step 5: Prototype
In step 4, we’ve generated some good ideas that have been initially validated, step 5 is to then validate further by starting to build a prototype.
We begin to map out the user journey and tasks, visualising what the user will see and do, along with what the business needs to access and manage.
The crucial discovery steps have allowed us to reach this phase of the build, as we consider the layers of systems and, in Joanna’s case, what the process of booking will be?
For Joanna, we created a very basic version of the product using wireframes, allowing us to bring the app to life to test the process, before spending time and investment on development. At this Step, our low-fi approach won’t look polished, but will be an indication of the journey and flow of scheduling.
Once this basic frame has been built, we get the all-important client feedback as the step progresses, and, in some cases, begin to get other people to test, such as customers and employees.
In many instances, we will develop multiple prototypes with a view to exploring the best avenue for the business and end users. Throughout, we get the all-important client feedback, and begin to test with customers and employees, before moving onto step 6.
Step 6: Build
Now that we have a prototype and full feedback, we can start the official build.
At Cariboo, we have partnered with solutions we trust, such as the low-code platform, Dittofi. Dittofi are our ‘go-to' choice when it comes to building web-based apps. The process is more cost-effective, meaning our clients get better value, but the app is still built on full stack technology making it scalable and robust, should you ever need to grow.
Another benefit to this approach means our clients can own the code and asset, allowing for future flexibility.
This initial step can take as little as a week to build. We then get client feedback, real user feedback and start to see how it compares to the existing/previous version. Further iterations to the full development can take anything from one to eight weeks, depending on speed of feedback and the number of iterations required to achieve a minimal product ready for market.
We focus on delivering a minimal viable product first, so we get our product in the hands of users without making too many assumptions that could prove costly if our users don’t use them, like them or value them. We then iterate to build better and more valuable products for our consumers.
Step 7: Review, edit, iterate
Once we’ve built the new app, we work with client and user feedback to ensure it’s the best it can be, through continuous evolution as budget allows.
After a few weeks, our clients will have a working product built on a scalable framework which is realistically solving problems.
Overall, from start to finish, the product could take a matter of weeks. The discovery process could take one afternoon or two weeks depending on client availability and in-depth requirements. The app will then be fit for purposes in a matter of weeks and further development could be carried out then, or in the future, as requirements and budgets allow.
The client has access to a back end/admin panel for easy management of content, allowing for longevity in use.
We’re looking forward to seeing Balanced Bodies’ new booking system up and running! If you have any problems in your business which could be resolved with an app, do get in touch, we’d be happy to have an introductory call to simply discuss the options which might be available.