When we embark on a new web app project, we’ve had only a few discussions on which to estimate the project’s scope. At this point we have a rough sketch of what the app is going to look like. To flesh things out further, we then move into a planning sprint in order to get a thorough understanding of the project and submit a full proposal. That isn’t to say we need things set in stone, but we do need a granular level of documentation. This is where mockups and user stories come in.
When we say mockups, we’re talking about an outline of a screen’s layout. Various containers and elements are drawn up with enough detail that all stakeholders can imagine the end result. This can be as simple as a wireframe drawing of the spatial relationship of elements, or it can include details like colors, fonts, and images. It also provides a reference so that we can tie these visual elements to aspects of functionality. For instance, the mockup might have a button that says “Log In.” We can point to these elements inside the descriptions of their intended functionality (aka user stories).
That brings us to the next main component of planning. User stories are simple descriptions of functionality at the most granular possible level. By breaking things down into bite-sized chunks, we can effectively focus on one feature at a time. An example of a user story would be, “User can click Log In to be taken to a login form.” This is a good level of granularity, and it accomplishes two things at once. It tells us what action is tied to that particular button, and it tells us how we get from one screen to another. It ties the app together.
These planning elements take a lot of the guesswork out of app development. Is it possible to build an app without them? Sure. But the end result might be drastically different from the original idea. And that either means many hours of changes, or failing to meet expectations. Either of those scenarios is unacceptable to us. That said, we’re always happy to make changes if that’s what the client wants. But we’d rather it not be because we went into production without a clear road map.
The planning phase of app development sets us and our clients up for success. And it gives us the opportunity to get on the same page and fully understand expectations. If you’d like to know more about our app development process, feel free to drop us a line!