Some years ago I read an article that stated that a successful app consisted of 50 percent planning and 50 percent execution. Based on my own experience I firmly believe that's true. Of course, just like in the military, plans never survive intact once the coding and testing phase begins, but having a clear road map in mind from the start helps you avoid a lot of grief.
So, what's involved in developing a plan for building your app? Here are a few ideas for creating a solid software design:
- Define your app in as much detail as possible.
- For example, "I want to create a game app" needs a lot of refinement. You might break that down into "I want a game app where you're being chased by a bunch of cut-throat thieves", or "I want a game app where you're being chased by cut-throat thieves in the jungle and there are supernatural creatures that may or may not help you".
- If it's a business app you might be creating an inventory app to handle inventory tracking, costing and stock alerts. But you might also want the app to handle barcoding and forecasting.
- Investigate any similar apps you can find to make sure you're not leaving out any important features that you might need and to see how others have designed their programs. It's not cheating to explore different ways to structure your app.
- Try to find potential users for your app and ask them what features they would expect or hope to find in that type of application. It's also a good idea to attempt to recruit a few people who would be willing to provide feedback while you're building your app and to act as beta testers for the completed application.
- List the main features for your app. In fact, sketch drawings of the basic pieces that make up the app and assemble them in a workflow showing user inputs, including possible user actions and resulting responses. input validation, error trapping, recovery procedures, data storage, integration and reporting.
- If your app involves communication between multiple users, make sure to add that in your planning including whether that communication will be done directly in the app or externally via email, text, or notification software.
- Be sure to take timing into account. How much time do you have to create your app? Is there a deadline you have to meet? Time constraints can force you to prioritize certain features in your app and leave out some "nice to have but not essential" features.
- Decide which platform to use to build your app. Different platforms may be better for standard business apps, social apps, games, process management, etc. Also, check on the templates available to you. It's possible that you may find one that you can modify to do what you want with a minimum of modification. However, research templates carefully, because a template that's only slightly similar to what you want can end up taking more time and effort to change than if you create your app from scratch.
- Beta test your app. Get family, friends or anyone you can recruit to test your app as you're building it in order to get feedback on what you may need to change or improve. One big advantage you have by working with no-code is that with standard app development you end up spending a lot of time uncovering and chasing down program bugs - with no-code you may uncover some logic errors but (if the platform is reliable) you won't be exterminating bugs.
- If you want your app to be available to others, plan for how you're going to distribute or market your app. Your choice of development platform may affect the distribution methods available to you, so take that into account up front when you're deciding which platform to use.