Why does my business need a mobile app

Whether you have seen a mobile app for another business or you have read about them I hope to help with reasons why a mobile app would be good for your business, club or school.

What can an app do for my business?

  •  An app helps build brand loyalty, all business owners desire brand loyalty. With a mobile app your business can stay in direct contact with your clients or members. You can stay engaged with customers and keep them informed about your business activities, events and special offers, or in the case of schools inform parents of events, school closures or information regarding their child.
  •  A mobile app allows you to present information, services and products to your customers through a medium that people use and have with them constantly, this provides your business with an excellent affordable tool to inform and market to your customer base at any time.
  • A mobile app provides you with a ready revenue stream allowing your business to reach an audience that you normally wouldn’t reach through other means of marketing (97% of messages are read), people are always searching for the easiest and fastest way to get the information, products and services they want.
  • Customers always have their phone with them, no matter what they are doing people are always fiddling with their phones or tapping away on a tablet, this means that people can search, buy, browse or share at any time of the day or night regardless of where they are or what they are doing, with an app your business will always be available to them.
  • An app will keep you ahead of the competition, whilst your competitors may not have an app at this time, you could, here at Activ we have made developing and launching an app more affordable allowing you to reap the benefits with a sensible ROI, allowing you to engage with customers, build brand loyalty and be on the cutting edge of technology.

Why wait, your customers are using mobile devices everyday browsing for products, services, booking appointments, purchasing goods and much much more, how many people these days book a hotel or visit a restaurant without first reading the reviews, looking at on-line maps to see where it is, what the parking is like or what’s on the menu?. For the price of a couple of adverts you could have the latest technology advertising only your business.

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At Activ Web Design (Yorkshire) we have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more information please visit http://www.activwebdesignhull.co.uk/activ-apps.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: dave.rowland@activwebdesign.com
Website: www.activwebdesignhull.co.uk/activ-apps.html
Twitter: @activmobileapps

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old Chinese proverb).

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How Good Is Your Software Team

Just how well does your software team rate? Answer the following questions it won’t take a minute honest.

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Do you do daily builds?
  3. Do you use bug tracking?
  4. Do you fix bugs before adding more code?
  5. Do you have an up to date project plan?
  6. Do you have a specification?
  7. Do your developers have a quiet environment?
  8. Do you have testers?
  9. Do you do UAT testing?
  10. Do new developers have to write code at their interview?

Didn’t take long did it now let’s look them in turn.

1. Source control is a must have, not only does it keep your precious source code safe but developers don’t usually know what the last developer did, how good he was, whether the code he checked in actually builds. A good source control versions your code, keeps a history and allows roll backs to an earlier version.

2. Unless you perform regular builds on your code you never know what state it is in till you come to work on it. The process can be automated not only to build the whole codebase on a regular basis but to create single step checkout and builds (overnight if required) the more steps you need to get to the point of building the code the more prone to errors. Daily builds on the whole code base will highlight errors such as a developer checking back in the code but forgetting to checking new classes or libraries, the code will obviously build on his machine but won’t for anyone else checking out the code (even worse if he locks his machine and goes on holiday).

3. Without an organised listing of bugs you are going to ship not only low quality code but probably re ship the code with reported bugs unfixed, you can’t keep all of the bugs in your head. As a minimum your bug tracker must keep:-

  • Steps to recreate the bug
  • Expected behaviour (without the bug)
  • Who spotted the bug
  • Who is to or has fixed the bug
  • Current status of the bug

4. If you are not fixing the bugs before adding more code you are simply compounding the problem, not only will it make bug fixing harder (you can’t even attempt to debug till the current code compiles) but you could well be introducing new bugs to the existing ones.

5. The code is important to the business, it is important for them to know when the code is going to be ready, developers are notorious for saying “however long it takes” unfortunately that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) cut any ice with the business,  they have to plan in advance for  when they expect to get ownership back of the code and the only way to do this is to plan ahead and keep the plan up to date, from the developers point this means that there is a good chance that you won’t suffer from “feature creep” and end up working on the code for the next ten years.

6. If there is one thing about spec’s it usually that everyone agrees you should have one but no one provides one.  As a result, when teams consisting solely of developers  approach the problem they go straight for a solution and dive straight in to coding resulting in much higher costs to fix any design or code issues. Software which wasn’t built using a specification quite often results in a badly designed product which doesn’t meet requirements and timelines spiral out of control.
7. We all know the developers work best when they can get into “the zone” where they can fully concentrate on their work, the trouble is that it is hard enough to get into “the zone” as it is without constant distractions, phone calls and the ever present “can you do this for me it won’t take you long” interruptions.

8. If your team doesn’t include at least 1 tester (ideally to every 3 developers) you are probably at best using a highly skilled developer to do a lower skilled job and at worst delivering buggy code to the business, saving money on not having testers is a false economy and can dramatically cut delivery times.

9. You simply have to have UAT testing, how many times are users given a new system and told to get on with it, more often than not they have had no input as to how the system works, scarily end users won’t even be asked what is wrong with the old system. UAT is an invaluable must have step in the process; no code should be delivered without first going through UAT.

10. Is there any other professional you would employ without first checking their work or at the very least have them highly recommended by someone you totally trust.You are placing a lot of trustthese people not to bring your business down, not to destroy the trust you earned for your business with your clients, every new developer should be asked to show competence to the level that the position requires.

 

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

What is cloud computing and what can it do for me

The term cloud is used as a metaphor for the internet. Cloud computing is a general term for anything which involves delivered hosted services over the internet.

In broad terms a cloud service has three characteristics which differentiate it from traditional hosting, these are;

  1. It is provided on demand (by the minute or hour in some cases)
  2. It is scalable (a user can have as little or as much as they want)
  3. the service is fully managed by the vendor (you typically only require a computer and internet access)

Cloud computing promises to speed application deployment and lower costs, whilst increasing business agility. It has transformed the way we design, build and deliver applications to the users. Have you used a search engine today?, have you accessed web mail if so you are already using cloud services.

There are public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds but don’t let the jargon put you off, everyone agrees that cloud computing is the key to the future of I.T but lots of these people are unsure of what it is. Many companies are jumping on the bandwagon to offer “cloud services” so it is worth understanding such terms as SaaS (software as a service) or PaaS (platform as a service) or IaaS (infrastructure as a service) to name a few if you need to evaluate a suppliers claims.

Cloud computing has some real benefits but also has risks such as loss of services if your provider has downtime or worse still goes out of business also regulatory concerns over data security so choose your vendor carefully.

I recently setup a really simple system for a plumber who lives down the street; he already had an iPhone, an Apple Mac and an iPad although in his words he wasn’t really sure what to do with them. During our conversation he mentioned that his wife mans the phone at home and jots down all of his incoming appointments then rings him at regular intervals to give him the new list, if the call is urgent she tries to call him straight away, within 10 minutes we had connected his Apple Mac, iPhone and iPad calendar applications up to iCloud (he was familiar with the calendar app anyway), now when his wife enters the call details into a time slot on the calendar app on the Mac the appointment appears on his iPhone and iPad almost instantly and any Urgent appointments are highlighted in red, he now knows exactly when and where he should be, what the problem is before he gets there, the address and customer name and contact details and it cost him nothing as he already had the technology simple, but had this come up a year or two ago it would have been a little more difficult and a lot more expensive to achieve, it’s certainly not the best solution to his problem but it works for him and cost him nothing.

The reason for the anecdote above is to show that the “Cloud” isn’t frightening or intimidating, it’s not the answer to everything but in certain cases it does exactly what it says on the tin.

To conclude, here are a few more terms you may want to research if you want to know more, it is a fascinating subject.

Utility Computing
SaaS
– Software as a service
PaaS – Platform as a service
IaaS – Infrastructure as a service
RIA – Rich internet application
Multi-tenancy
Public, Private, Hybrid Clouds
Virtualisation

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

 

How to Gather Better Requirements for Custom Software Development

Deciding the business requirements when going bespoke can be quite difficult this is because software and business systems can become very complex and as a result there are lots of places where miscommunication and assumptions can occur.

So why is “going bespoke” any different, there are many other industries where a contracted individual creates something for a customer, building construction for instance; for example when you buy a home from a builder.

Usually the builder has various show homes that you can visit and look around, usually they have examples of all of the different options that you could purchase for your new home, and in any case people are generally familiar with houses, they know what to expect and they know what not to expect, so in reality when you purchase a home from a builder there are relatively few choices that you make and the choices that you do make as a customer are things that you are very familiar with.

In software development this would be similar to purchasing a software product that is already built and then modifying it. It’s a fairly low risk undertaking and you usually get the chance to try out a version of the actual software you are going to purchase.

However, custom software development is a whole different “kettle of fish”, It is much more like designing your own house.

When designing your own house there isn’t an example you can go visit, whilst a builder could point out certain features of other similar buildings that you could see, often you are left only with a set of plans or drawings of what the final structure will look like.

It can be hard for the customer to visualize what the finished structure is going to look like, ok you can look at the plans and see that a bedroom is going to be 10′ x 15′ but it is a little more difficult to really get a sense for what that room is going to feel like when you walk in or how the furniture will fit, how quiet it will be etc.

The same is true for bespoke software development. It can be quite difficult for non-technical customers to really be able to visualize the finished system and how it is going to work, and because they can’t really see the completed system in their mind, it can be very difficult for them to explain to the developer how it is supposed to work.

So what should you do? Here are some best practices that can be followed when developing a requirements document for bespoke software applications.

Draw a “model” on paper whenever you can, create examples of how you want your software to work give examples of major functional features so that you and your staff can “walk through” different screens and functions, get a better feel for how things might look and work.

Map out prototypes that walk through complex functionality and “use cases”

Create mock ups of key screens that show as much functionality as possible use something like Visio tm (Microsoft) or Pencil (http://pencil.evolus.vn/en-US/Home.aspx) which is a free open source tool but there are many more

Create annotated visual functional requirements documents. I have written a few functional requirements documents over the years and have found that if your requirements document is entirely text that describes every piece of the system, people will generally just nod their head and say yes to everything.

The truth is that no matter how eloquently you write and how painstakingly you describe your requirements, people by their very nature prefer things to be visual, they need to see it to really understand how it is going to work, where possible you should always add a diagram or flowchart.

Remember you are striving to improve the transfer of knowledge between yourself and the developer. The more the developer knows about your business the better they will understand the problems, the better they will be at describing the solution.

Bespoke software development can be quite challenging, however, with a little work you can make the knowledge transfer between you and developer much more efficient.

Alternatively, leave it to the professionals, get them to do the hard work whilst leaving you to “sanity-check” and simply approve the final requirements.

At CodeSpinner we have over 25 years experience of producing specifications and requirements.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk