SPEED & ADAPTABILITY
September 3, 2020
“Speed, I am speed” said Lightning McQueen in Pixar’s Cars. Never has a quote been more relevant to businesses of today. Adapting your product, offering or services to a world changed for the foreseeable future by the coronavirus pandemic is a necessity. Businesses can use this as an opportunity to quickly pivot their strategy and technology to better serve customers with a digital first approach. ‘Be the Business’ found that startups and small businesses in the UK have achieved 3 years of innovation in just 3 months, rapidly adapting how they operate to cater for the here and now, but also for the long term impact of a strong digital strategy. Consumers now expect more from businesses; more digital options & more seamless interactions at a faster rate than ever. Delivering these big changes to business plans and existing services can be a challenge, but with the right attitude, it’s a really rewarding investment. Luckily, we have just such advice, straight from our team, with input from Duncan, our CEO, Marco, one of our developers and Jake, our designer.
Let’s start with the business angle. Pivoting a business is a crucial part of adapting to change in a given climate. It opens up further revenue streams, protects against a loss in market share from competitors and gives consumers a reason to stay loyal. From our discussion with Duncan, we discussed how a business can adapt and pivot their strategy quickly.
Firstly, Duncan’s main advice was to lean on existing technologies. If you are looking to digitise your more traditional retail business, leaning on an existing platform, such as Shopify, to build an ecommerce platform makes the most sense as this is a pre-existing technology that doesn’t require a complex development and has existing resources that will save time and money in the development stage.
Creating something from scratch is always going to take much longer, pivot your existing business model to better serve consumers in both the short term and the long term, don’t just focus on building a solution that works for the here and now. Take gyms for example, during the height of lockdown, many pivoted their business models to new forms of training. This included many implementing training videos and live streams into their existing apps or utilising platforms such as Instagram live and Facebook live. It then allows them to build upon this in the future and expand and refine their remote gym services.
When working on building something, take a look at your team. What can be outsourced? What can be done in-house? Getting this balance right will save time and give a level of confidence when approaching new areas, not to mention the money it can save by not having to hire a whole development team!
Getting a project manager on board is a crucial part of being time efficient. A project manager is an investment that helps your team to communicate and saves time. Having someone who both understands the technology involved and how to communicate that with others is super important across a variety of roles and teams. Bringing together different aspects of the project to work as one allows you to manage the resources better and understand where they can be saved. Finding a project manager who has domain knowledge and understands the project is especially important as this allows a degree of confidence in delivering a solid solution on time and in budget.
One thing to always bear in mind though when working rapidly is to manage expectations. When looking at a feature set to implement, having an idea of the most key requirements is crucial, as a rapid progression model works best when it’s making gradual progress. For example, if a core requirement is to make products available online, then ensure that this is the number one thing accomplished. Polishing the design, refining load times and building in extra features are things that can be implemented further down the line. Getting caught up in small details can hinder the speed/cost of the project, so management of expectations is essential.
When it comes to building the product, it’s crucial to align app development with the overall business direction. Where can time and money be spent? What is crucial to digitalisation of the business model? Once this has been established, it’s time to look at what technologies are already out there. What has the team got experience in? How can this experience be leveraged? When a team has longer to work on a project, giving less experienced developers new challenges can be a rewarding part of a project, as it develops new skill sets and builds confidence. This, however, adds time, so either sticking to what the team knows or outsourcing where necessary can save time and limit expensive mistakes.
Positioning a team to develop based upon strengths is a real timesaver, for example, ensuring that a front-end developer is working on front-end jobs means that they can stay working where they are comfortable and can be efficient. There is of course always an argument for progression and learning new skills, but when speed is the priority, putting those who have the right knowledge in the right areas is key.
Project management is something that Marco mentioned as well. Aligning team members can also be a massive time saver, ensuring commonly used project management tools (Slack, Asana, Google Suite) are being utilised of course helps massively with this, but bringing together design and development to work alongside each other keeps the process streamlined and cuts time massively. There are of course downsides to this, such as being limited in the redesigning process as the development happens along with the design, but this is something that can be addressed in the long run, creating a solid base to build upon is the objective of developing rapidly.
Utilising the correct tools and development strategies are important for any development project, but especially when speed is concerned. For example, developing with React would be perfect due to its reusable assets, existing support and resources available. Building a noSQL database would also be preferable as it saves time on planning and development and allows for a less complex build.
Developing fast is a bit of a balancing act however. Marco was saying that there are a few things to look out for, such as; ensuring time is taken to work systematically and correct any mistakes as they occur, implementing the correct security features and fixing bugs both as you go and after launch, these things really can’t be rushed!
When it comes to app design, speed really impacts how much of an influence design can have on the overall project. When time is the main consideration, building a simple and purely functional UI (User Interface) is key, whilst making sure that the UX (User Experience) remains straightforward and easy to navigate. To start with, make things as simple as possible with reusable elements. Jake’s personal recommendation is to use Framer X due to its reusability, speed of prototyping and pre-existing resources (we do actually have a whole blog that Jake wrote on Framer X!).
We recently used the Framer online collaborative tool which allows for rapid prototyping and online teamwork (especially important at the moment) for a seamless browser based design tool. Other options for designers are tools such as Sketch for Teams and Figma, which we personally haven’t used but have good feedback from users! Collaboration tools such as these allow for quick and easy browser based prototyping across the design, development and business sides of the workflow. This means that instead of designers working independently and then progressing to sign off, they can instead collaborate directly with other team members. This does however limit the amount of more bespoke areas that can be designed.
With bespoke design in mind, this is generally an area that has to be compromised on when it comes to speed. Working with existing ideas and taking UX/UI hints from existing apps. When looking at design language, adopting existing design trends (think; material, flat and minimal design) and take influence from what works. When beginning the design of an app, logic always takes the first step (take the user’s approach, what does this flow look like and how does it work?). Then, flesh out the UX and the UI, then the user testing, then what the app actually looks like as a finished product.
One big thing to bear in mind is that the less time you spend on a project, the less time you have to work out simplification, the process of making UX easier to understand. This is of course a really important step, but with good logic and a straightforward approach, the UX should be something that has a ‘core feature’ focus to it.