Part 4: The Development Milestone
(This is the 4th part in an ongoing series on the Mobile App Development Process)
We’ve finally reached it, where the rubber meets the road, when things actually get built: development! As the name might suggest, the development milestone is when your engineers take the screenshots, prototypes, and prioritized scenario document and begin bringing it to life. This by far the most critical time for your release, and you need to be prepared for any number of issues to crop up, because they will. Murphy loves to insert himself into software development.
You want to ensure that you keep your development milestones as short as possible. While keeping the development milestone short means cutting functionality and scaling back your ambitions, it will limit the financial drain on your resources and ultimately help you keep your endeavor afloat. You want your development milestones to be more like 3-4 week sprints, rather than 1-2 month slogs. By keeping too long of a development milestone you not only suffer the cost of paying for engineering time, but also, you are limiting the amount of work that might need to be discarded. The crux of the mobile app development process is iteration based on user feedback. If you rush headlong into a 2 month development milestone to build out an entire set of features for your app, you risk the chance that you will need to go back and either redesign, or potentially rip out the work that was done during that time. You cannot afford your developers to spend time building things that need to be re-done or pulled out, so ensure your release schedule only contains the bare amount of work needed to achieve your scenario goals.
When you are building from scratch, you can expect your first development milestone to be the longest. It will take time for your engineering team to lay down the necessary foundations for getting your app to work and much of the work they will be doing will be deep in the foundations of the app, things that you won’t be able to see. Furthermore, it is likely that for first few weeks of development, you wont have anything to see and test. Again, you shouldn’t be concerned about your progress in these cases, as the truth of software development is that things tend to come together very quickly once the foundations of an application have been built.
While your engineers code, what should you do? Test and validate! Your engineers are building what they think you want, but it is quite likely that they might look at things a bit different than you. Even in the most basic stages of development, you should be testing the latest app builds on your phone and ensuring that features are being implemented correctly, not to mention finding and logging bugs. Nobody likes being a tester, especially engineers, and that’s where you come in. Throughout the development milestone you need to be the voice of customer, and that means: test, test, test. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, and it should be you.
In the next post, I’ll share some tips and strategies to approach testing your mobile app while it’s under development.