• Prem Sundaram

Creating an app? Do this first!

A lot my work is in the form of helping people develop their software ideas. I often find my clients have already sketched out a design for an app and are keen to get going to build it. I usually have to tell them to hold-on and take a step back!


Once someone has an idea for an app, they might think they are following best practices by engaging a User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) graphic designer to sketch out a 'clickable prototype' of an app - thinking that this is the same as their 'MVP" (Minimal Viable Product). Unfortunately, in my experience, this is not and skips a vital stage of the app design process that actually helps to formulate the MVP. In this post I'll explain what's missing and what you can do to make a better app prototype.


The Problem: An App Mock-Up is Not the Same as an MVP Prototype

First of all, if you have, or are building, a mockup/clickable prototype good for you! You are already ahead of most people and companies when developing software. But you might find that after engaging the designer and getting your app you realize that it is not complete, or not fully communicating your vision. Why is this happening? It's because you have not fully understood and communicated to the UI/UX designer what are the goals for your app and what you believe is most critical for the app.


If you have a good UI/UX designer then they will take you through what I am about to share with you. But unfortunately that's not always the case. I was recently at a presentation in Silicon Beach where a graphics design company was pitching their 'app prototype service'. It seemed very cool but I could see that they were focused on rapidly creating/improving the fidelity of a wire frame mock-up that the client may have already created. The client was being charged between $5-10k for these designs in the pitch that it will help to secure investment when they can better demonstrate the app. All this is true, but after the presentation I felt that the money could have been better utilized if the client had done some more thinking about the app before engaging the firm to develop the mock-up.


A Solution: Use the Software Product Canvas before Engaging the Designer

To address this issue, that I see again and again, I decided to use the 'canvas' concept and design a canvas focused on this stage of app idea concept definition. I think its important if you have a new business or idea to also develop your lean canvas/business/opportunity or product vision canvases, and so I've included some of the elements of those canvases into the Software Product Canvas. My goal is to make this a software oriented canvas that helps you to communicate in one-page the critical elements of your app vision and help you to define your MVP.


As a reminder, the idea of an MVP goes beyond just a software, it is the whole business model. Ash Maurya talks extensively on this topic. My Software Product canvas will help you to start formulating your MVP, and put you in a better position before engaging the UI/UX prototype design firm. It's a bit like an Ad agency. We all know that before you engage an Ad agency, you should have your brand/marketing message defined first - otherwise the Ad agency won't be able to design something that speaks to the message you are trying to convey.


Example of a Software Product Canvas

Next Step: Create your Software Product Canvas and Engage the Designer!

Click here to learn more about how to use and create your first Software Product canvas for your app idea. This process will help you to identify the key goals and use-case for your app. I like to call it 'story mapping lite' - it's a first go around of defining your software product including the high level customer story for using the app.


By completing this canvas you will advance your thinking and then be in a much better position to engage a designer and developer team, saving you truly time and money.


If you have any questions or suggestions do contact me.

Thanks for reading,

Prem




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