How to Build a Web Application

Applications take many forms in today’s digital world. From web applications to native mobile apps, we are creating more and more tools to be added to our digital toolbox. For many people, creating something like a web application is a very new experience from previous work they have done. In a previous post, I spend some time discussing the differences between web apps and websites. But now that you have decided to build a web application (of any type) for your businesses, we ask a new question: How do I get started developing my web and/or mobile application?

Define the Application Goals

Web and mobile applications can become very complex and intricate. Unlike a typical brochure website, there are many sophisticated features, both on the front-end and the back-end to be considered. It is easy for a project to fall apart or out-of-scope because we keep adding features and new tools that are helpful, but unnecessary to the applications actual goal.

Without a clear goal set, many web applications have gotten out of control and ended in failure because there was no target. We have all opened up an application that was overly confusing or that we never used because no objectives had been established. Making sure your web application has at least one goal sets it up for user success.

Also, web application goals help keep development and designs on track. Your goals become a filter to decide what pieces are added and what can wait for a later enhancement, if ever. Teams can quickly become stuck on developing non-essential features for an application that takes focus from the core objective. It also pulls away from the purpose of the web application and what it needs to do when the user logs in.

Lion and Panda Building Web Tools

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

A well-designed web or mobile application does its job by making a task(s) easier for the user. However, you cannot be everything for everyone. Scope creep occurs when we start building an application for every single situation, and then the application ends up doing nothing well or is too complicated to work with it. Small interactions prevent this, by allowing the application to grow slowly. Think of web applications like a plant vs. a product. Products are built once and typically work until they break or are no longer useful, but a plant always improves, ever changing and always growing.

Your web or mobile application is bound to expand over time, so don’t get caught up in getting everything perfect or inclusive today. Get something out that people can use and try, and make improvements based on user feedback and you will always see better results on a faster timeline.

Change Your Applications Perspective

As mentioned above a good web or mobile application makes a task easier for the user. This understanding is often forgotten when we start building from our point of view. Things make more sense to us, the informed user, but a system should be intuitive for people that have don’t know the problem. Your interface is a map to success that users can take and not always a sprint to getting the job done fastest.

There is a delicate balance in achieving your web application goals and making the tool easy for the user that is not always simple to see. Taking care to consider your audience and how they will navigate the interface or manage on-going updates will make sure your application is a complete success.

Lion and Panda Building Applications

Don’t Forget the Flip Side

Administration, maintenance, updating and hosting all play a part in your web or mobile application’s development. Knowing how and where maintenance will occur is HALF of the battle. Not taking the time to figure out alterations to an application or how it will be maintained when it is live can cause significant disruption to your users and an awful time for your administrators.

The back-end of a web application deserves just as much planning and preparation as the interface and functionality. It will make sure that you are able can fix things when they might go wrong, but also make sure you can nurture and build your application as time progresses. Remember the administration and back-end support is more than just changing content on the page through a CMS or other tool. Real support is how and where your application is hosted, how your database is setup, the infrastructure of your code, etc. All of this plays into the long-term success of your application.

Web Apps Must Have a Good Team

Finally, you must have an in-sync and agile team. Choosing the right development and design team is critical to your overall success. This team might be an internal group or outside vendors that are going to support the development, design, maintenance, or even research of the application, and they need to understand each of these plans from goals to the back-end project. Without your team working to keep everything on track and in check, your project can be doomed from the start.

So, to wrap everything up for starting your development for the web and mobile applications:

  1. Define the application goal(s)
  2. Start small with a simple first release and grow
  3. Ensure your interface is designed with user requirements, not all technical
  4. Don’t forget to plan your hosting and maintenance plan
  5. Get your team in-sync and/or choose the proper vendor to ensure success

This list is not all-inclusive, but it can help anyone get started in developing their next web applications. And if you ever need support with your team, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Lion and Panda Finished Application