How to Start (and Actually Finish) Any Web App Project
How to Start (and Actually Finish) Any Web App Project
The history of web app development is littered with great ideas and exciting projects that started strong only to fizzle and fail. You might even have experienced this firsthand.
So why do so many people who start building web apps never complete the process? The answer is simple, and it’s not bad ideas or a lack of technical expertise. Instead, poor planning dooms up to 68% of web app projects.
Keep reading to find out why planning is so important and the steps you should follow to efficiently plan out and start building your web app.
Why Planning is the Secret to App Development Success
You may be surprised to read that planning is the differentiating factor between web app projects that succeed and those that never get completed. If asked why many app development projects fail, most people would name bad code or poor technical performance as the top reasons.
In reality, most web app projects fail because the founders either don’t know how or don’t take the time to make a solid web application development project plan.
“Winging it” may get your project started, but without things like a clear target market, project goal, scope definition, budget, timeline, and execution plan, it will ultimately go nowhere.
Planning takes a lot of work, and it’s not as exciting as writing code and building screens. Resist the temptation to rush through the process. By taking the time to develop a well-defined plan for your project, you set yourself up for straightforward execution and a higher chance of completing your project.
Follow These 8 Steps to Start (and Actually Finish) Your Web App Project
There are lots of step-by-step guides for how to make a web app. Many of them, like this Ultimate Beginners Guide, do a good job of explaining the technical phases of web app development. In this guide, we’ll focus on the planning aspects of the process to make sure you end up with a solid and actionable game plan for completing your web app.
- Do Your Research and Validate Your Market
The last thing you want to do is build an app that no one wants or needs. This step helps you confirm that your idea for a web app has a viable market and is a match for the needs of your target audience.
There are three main phases:
- Market research
Do some research to determine if there’s a market for your app. You can use tools like Google Trends, Product Hunt, BetaList, and Ubersuggest to see what people are searching for and which new products they’re excited about.
- Competitor research
If there are existing apps that serve your target market, do some research on your competitors. Your goal should be to figure out how to differentiate your app from the competition and position it as a better option for users.
- Market validation
Write a simple description of your app that describes the key features. Post the description on social media and show it to people at events relevant to your market. Ask for feedback and use the responses to validate that your app fits your target market.
- Clearly Define the Goals of Your Project
By asking and answering this series of key questions, you’ll be able to clearly define your goals and set yourself up for success.
- Who is my target market?
- What problem does my app solve?
- What can I realistically accomplish by building this app?
- What resources are required for this project?
- Do I have or can I acquire the resources needed to complete this app?
- What’s my budget?
- What’s my timeline?
- What’s required for this project to be considered a success?
- Does this app need to make money?
- How will this app make money?
- What’s my timeline for profitability?
- How will I market this app?
- Create a List of Core Features
Researching and validating your market, clearly defining your goals, and creating a list of core features are the three most important steps on this list. Of the three, this one is the most difficult and the most critical.
Scope creep is fatal to web app development projects. To avoid it, you must define your core features and focus all your efforts on them. This is known as building the minimum viable product (MVP) or if you prefer, the minimum excellent product (MEP).
The key is to remember that you can’t build everything at once. Define the core features that help you accomplish the goals you defined in step 2, and ruthlessly put all other features (no matter how cool) on a list for later.
If you build an MVP that delights your target market, you’ll have plenty of time to build new features into future versions.
- Map Out the Features, Workflows, and Screens
Once you’ve defined your core features, it’s time to break them down into smaller features and workflows. You don’t need to write any code - just map everything out on a whiteboard or a big piece of paper.
Here’s how the process looks:
- Think about essential workflows
Map out all the workflows needed for people to use your app. Consider practical workflows like account creation and payment in addition to technical workflows.
- Break down core features into smaller features or steps
Your core feature is the main thing your app does, but to build the app, you have to break it down into the sub-features and steps that will eventually be coded.
- Make a list of screens you’ll need
Using your list of workflows, sketch out the screens you’ll need to build to allow users to interact with your app.
- Create a Thorough Data Model
Data powers web apps, so it’s important to map out the data required for your project. Building a database is still in the future; you just need to make sure you understand all your data needs so you’re ready when the time comes.
The answers to these questions will help you build a thorough data model:
- What data and data types does my web app require?
- Where does the data come from?
- How will the data be used?
- What are the relationships between the different data and data sources?
- Where will the data be stored?
- How will the data be stored?
- Choose a Web Development Framework
Now that you’ve mapped out your features and taken the time to understand your data model, it’s time to choose a web development framework. There are many good options, and we don’t have time to discuss them all here.
The key is to make sure the web development framework you choose matches your project needs and your skill level. Some frameworks work great for apps with lots of animations while others offer better options for database-oriented apps. Many frameworks require extensive coding knowledge, but some are tailored for quick development and require very little coding.
You should research all your options and pick a framework that fits your project.
- Develop and Test Your Web App Project
It’s finally time to start writing the code to build your core features and execute your data strategy, but there are still decisions and plans to be made. Here’s what you’ll need to get ready for:
- App Development - Will you build the app in-house or partner with an expert development team? Will you adopt an Agile, DevOps, Rapid, or Waterfall approach?
- Detailed Planning & Implementation - Be ready to make choices about features such as database structure, security strategy, UI/UX, servers, hosting, screen design, and bug fixes.
- Project Management - Be prepared to actively communicate and engage with the development team to prevent budget overruns and project milestone delays
- Testing - Plan to do multiple rounds of extensive testing including user experience testing, security testing, and performance testing.
- Launch Your Web App Project
At this point, you’ve almost made it to the finish line. The only thing left to do is to launch your web app. Before you can complete the project and celebrate your success, there are a few plans still to be made.
Here’s how to plan for a successful app launch:
- Choose an integration tool such as GitLab, Bitbucket, or Jenkins to help take your app public
- Consider a soft launch to work out any kinks before the official hard launch
- Develop a thorough help section and have support teams in place to help users get up to speed on your new app
- Implement a strong marketing strategy to get the word out about your app and increase user uptake
- Collect user feedback and use it to improve the app’s performance and develop new features
Ready? Let’s Make a Plan!
Here’s the bottom line: the web application development process requires a lot of planning. In this guide, we’ve outlined the basic process for you, so the next step is to get started. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry: you don’t have to do it alone.