Experience Design

It’s Going To Take How Long?

A mobile colleague pointed out a blog post that really hit home based on some recent estimating work I had done.  If a client comes to you and asks for a web-based application that satisfies some business need, you discuss the high-level requirements, get an idea on sizing and tell the client 5 months and X amount of dollars.  More likely than not, they tell you “Great, when can you start?”.  However, same client, similar type of business need but it is a mobile app and you tell them 5 months and X amount of dollars, quite often the response is quite different.  The response is generally not as positive and is most likely along the lines of “That long and that amount of money for ‘just’ a mobile app?” as they are internally associating this project with of some of the simple and free apps they have download from an App Store.

The reason is that clients have a long history with web-based applications, the effort involved and the cost of that effort.  What we need to do as mobile consultants is undertake an education of our clients that the apps they have on their smartphone is not similar to the enterprise mobile app they just asked us to build.  Some differences I try to point out include:

  • User Experience (UX) Architect – As consumers, we have become very savvy on what we expect of our mobile applications and those applications that don’t meet our expectations in terms of ease-of-use, performance, etc. rapidly get deleted.  If the firm asking for the mobile app is truly interested in adoption of the app by their business users, a UX Architect is critical to define the ideal user experience in version 1.0. You don’t your mobile developers creating the user interface based on what they believe is the best approach, more often than not, it does not end well.
  • Visual Designer – This person is not just sitting down and cranking out a number of images using Photoshop for the app.  Quite often, the mobile app needs to follow the brand image of the client and to do so, the visual designer is spending some amount of time with the marketing department to work out what the brand image is and how best to visually express that brand on the mobile app.
  • Service Developer – How useful would an enterprise mobile app be without access to the enterprise data.  The answer is: ‘Not very’.  While an experienced service developer can probably build the necessary services in a week or so (need mobile-optimized services here, not the existing internal enterprise services that already exist which is a blog post in itself), you can normally double that amount of time because more often than not, the firm has not addressed mobile, API’s and security.  That means involving network security and enterprise architects in how these mobile services are going to be accessible to the mobile app.  These discussions can become quite involved and decisions are not arrived quickly.

For a given enterprise mobile application, you most likely have a team of four or five highly-skilled people working on this project (PM, UX Architect, Visual Designer, Mobile Developer and Service Developer).  Yes, certain people will not be the project full-time but others will come onto the project such as Quality Assurance somewhere after the start so the average works out to four or five.  So, just as a well-designed and crafted web application cost both time and money, that same amount is necessary to build an enterprise mobile application that is useful to the organization.  We just need to spend the time to educate our clients on that fact.


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Perry Hoekstra

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