In Custom Software Development Projects, iPhone Development, Software Development, Technology

(This is Part 3 of our series on the development of the Slidecaster iPhone App and Desktop Slideshow System. To read earlier articles, check out Part 1 and Part 2).

Because it is so difficult to ink the entire scope of a project up front, a key tenet of our process is to iterate and review with our clients, especially for a project idea that is in its early stages. We hold project management meetings at a minimum of every other week, which keeps our feedback loop tight, allowing us to learn best what the client needs. This way we can focus more on listening and flexibility rather than moving forward by arrogantly coding to a specification.

For our first review meeting, we met with Mike in the Unstoppable offices. Mike is based locally in Cincinnati so he was eager to come in. Doug is a remote developer, so we used virtual meeting software and a webcam to conference him in. All our developers have a webcam at home that we try to use to put a friendly face to the guy behind the code. We rarely use a strict meeting protocol: after quick introductions we simply demo the software and ask for feedback, pausing as necessary for questions.

In Part 2, we discussed the importance of developing a simple User Interface (UI) early in the project. So, we brought the first iteration of the app with its limited UI to our first review meeting with Mike. We demonstrated how the buttons and controls interacted and allowed Mike the opportunity to give feedback. Now, we had already sent him a few screenshots to make sure we weren’t entirely off track. But, we found out when meeting in person that we had made some assumptions that were wrong. This was awesome and pretty much expected. Mike couldn’t have realized what we missed until he saw the behavior of the app in front of him. As a result, we collaborated on the UI and behavior of the app and also made some technical decisions.

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We continued to hold project management meetings with Mike on a biweekly basis. Once he started to see what we were doing, that the app had legitimate working features within a month, and only a few explainable remaining integration tasks to be developed, he started to identify ways he could expand the product and open up this market to more paying customers. We wrote up some extra features in a proposal and got to work. For example, Mike decided to port the same functionality of the Mac Desktop app over to a Windows Desktop app. We were fairly confident in our ability to estimate the Windows app, because it would have the exact same functionality as what we had just written, so we proposed it to Mike as a flat rate project. This removed some risk for Mike and made it an easier decision to approve. Additionally, we identified limitations with 32-bit devices (iPhone 5 and older) that we could fairly easily resolve to support more iOS devices.

The regular review meetings we had with Mike were a valuable piece to the process. They helped to uncover flaws in the UI and provided proof of the progress we were making. It is not necessary to be in person to gain such benefits, but I think Mike liked to come into the office and that we gained more trust by being able to meet that way.

Read Part 4 of this article

In future posts, you can read more about Slidecaster. Get it here.

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