The past 11 months have been spent designing, developing and validating our financial application called Shika. Shika is a short term small credit android application. This is an incredible journey so far having come from an agency; I was co-founder and creative director of a successful digital agency. I led a team to design and develop brands, marketing campaigns, websites and apps for clients and made money in the process but when I’m the client or owner of the app, and the app is the business, my perspective is quite different.
In this incredible journey, I have come to learn valuable lessons as a UX expert that I’ll share with companies and start-ups who are thinking of going into the app business.
Lesson one: If the app will not be part of your core business strategic plan, then don’t even think about it.
It’s a cool thing for a company to have an app but if the app is not at the core of the strategic plan, then it should not be commissioned. This mistake has been committed by successful global companies like Facebook and Pepsi. Locally, a majority of banks are guilty of developing banking apps to be ‘digital compliant’ and to cater the youth and middle-class segment. I’ll single out Equity bank that is doing it right with their app, customers find it very efficient; that it has led to natural attrition of staff rather than laying off staff first because ‘we’ are going digital.
Lesson two: Seek a UX expert first before an app developer.
This may seem selfish, seek a UX expert with your app idea before engaging with an app developer. The natural flow when building a house is seeking an architect before a constructor, therefore, I don’t understand why people who want to go into tech business seek developers first. Great apps are defined by their great mobile user experience which encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with a company, its services, and its products through an app. If you want to create a mediocre app start with development — no offense to app developers.
Lesson three: Start with the core feature set (MVP), then scale — quickly
I’m sure you have ever used an app that has many features but you only use one or two of the features; most start-ups and also big companies suffer from the ‘me too syndrome’ that leads to bloating apps with features in order to slay the giant or competition. This, in turn, clouds out an app’s unique value proposition and hence confusing customers on the app’s offering. Aim to release the minimum viable product (MVP) — which is the core feature set of an app that presents the unique value proposition which I prefer to call minimum marketable product (MMP). All apps should be created with the plan to scale and not to make money from launch.
Lesson four: Validation and measurement are key to app success
If you want to venture into the app business you need to answer this question first ‘What human problem am I solving?’ then validate your assumptions by doing user research which ties to my lesson two, find a UX expert, who will help in the user research. Then design and validate again, if users validate your design start developing and validate again, if users approve your app, launch a beta test and measure before launching. It’s a long process but it the sure way of creating a great app. For Shika, we are at the second validation stage ready to launch our beta test.
Lesson five: No plan goes according to plan
Have a plan to act as a guideline but don’t be too hard on yourself when you miss the hard deadlines. We had planned to launch Shika in six months but at six months we were nowhere near alpha tests leave alone launching. We gave ourselves four more months but we are the final validation stage before launching beta test. This may seem like we are poor at planning but it has taught me a plan is a guide to keep you focused on the big picture, just to quote the Joker from The Dark Knight
“Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying!”
Some things are just out of your control especially if you have to comply with regulators and integration with a third party. For Shika, things are going according to plan, although at a different pace.