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25 Sep

The Key to Developing User-Friendly Software

Created by: 
Carey Hodges

Embracing uncertainty is tough -- especially when it comes to digital development. Whether you’re delivering a robust Drupal website, crafting a custom piece of software, or assembling a web application, accepting that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is the first step to building exactly what you need. 

BigWheel Project Manager, Bill Harper, believes that having a negative relationship with uncertainty can hinder the success of your final product.

“It’s not uncommon for clients to feel 100% certain they know what their users want before any research or testing has been completed,” he says. “But really, it’s an assumption. You’re making decisions for your users based on YOUR gut. What inevitably happens is, maybe 80% of your users only use 20% of the features you’ve paid to develop. So you end up with a bulky product filled with things you don’t need.”

According to Harper, this waste is completely avoidable by treating failure as an opportunity. Sound a little counterintuitive? It’s a tough pill to swallow, but Harper points out that the Agile Methodology cornerstone of “failing fast” is one of the best approaches to achieving a strong Return on Investment (ROI).

“One of the first things to do when developing your software, application, or website is to determine your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) -- something bare bones that answers your highest level of priority in terms of ROI, user need, and risk,” he says. “Take care of the risky features first so that if something breaks, you can fail early without a lot of collateral damage. Then deliver it to your end users and start getting feedback. Find ways to measure how they’re using it, how successful it is, and how it can be improved. You’ll start seeing immediate ROI, while iteratively improving your product.”

Focusing on delivering an MVP -- fast -- vs. taking months to deliver a polished but bulky final product is a sure way to gain an edge over your competitors. By getting to market faster, you’ll be able to start being reactive (and start improving) to make something great that your users truly need. 

But how does all of this failure and uncertainty impact your bottom line? Harper explains that it’ll likely save you money in the long-run.

“It’s a much smarter use of your money,” he says. “When you approach a project by saying, ‘here are all of the features that I want -- tell me how much it’ll cost,’ you’re assuming you know exactly what you need. We’re going to spend valuable time and budget building features that users may end up using … when we could gradually measure and build exactly what your users need, when they need it. If we box ourselves into a defined, locked scope from the beginning, those out-of-scope features we discover down the road will require additional budget.”

At BigWheel, embracing uncertainty is a given. From the moment we meet with a client, we lay our egos at the door and let the users and research lead the way. “We’re not going to pretend we know what we don’t. We go through your data and learn what your audience wants and needs,” says Harper. “At the end of the day, your product -- whatever it may be -- is for your users. It’s important to remember that.” 

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