Determining the Best Digital Solution
When a potential client first approaches us, we ask a multitude of questions to understand what problem the client is trying to solve. Questions like ‘when was this problem first identified?’ ‘what are the top priorities/goals for the project?’ and ‘who will be using this digital tool?’ give us an idea of what outcome the client is looking for and the target audience that will be using this new digital tool. These answers are crucial to have early on in the process, which is why we’ve put such an emphasis on the Discover phase of our Technology Impact Assessment.
The Discover phase allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the goals and current processes by discussing pain points, brainstorming areas of improvement and reviewing analytics reports for current platforms the client has in place. After having reviewed all available information and thinking through all logical possibilities for the project, we are able to make a recommendation of the best way to move forward and build a successful platform; whether it’s a responsive or mobile-first website, native app, progressive web application, or custom web application. In certain cases, the findings in the Discover phase have uncovered an entirely different direction for the project.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIGITAL SOLUTIONS
Each type of digital solution we create serves a specific purpose and it’s important to understand how they differ.
WEBSITES: RESPONSIVE VS. MOBILE-FIRST
A responsive website is created so the templates are optimized for usability on any device. The designs start with the maximum resolution needed for desktop viewing and are scaled down so the functionality and usability aren’t lost when a user visits the website on a tablet or smartphone. A responsive website uses moveable grids, layouts and images that are flexible to allow optimal viewing on all devices.
A mobile-first website is focused on the usability of a website on a mobile device, rather than a range of devices. The design starts with templates that only include essential elements and minimal copy due to the small size of the viewing screen.
The best way to determine which type of website is best is by reviewing audience data. Does the target audience for this client view their current website mostly on a desktop or on mobile? If the majority are searching on desktop then a responsive website is the route to go. But if more users are searching on mobile, then mobile-first would be best.
APPS: NATIVE VS. PROGRESSIVE WEB APPLICATIONS
A native app is what most people think of when hearing the term “app.” A native app is downloaded from an application store like Apple’s App Store or Google Play for Android phones. In most cases, the app does not need an internet connection to function and is designed specifically for one platform.
A progressive web application (PWA) looks like an app, but it’s actually a website that is designed to look and feel like a native app. They provide a fast loading time, offline support, home screen access and privacy and data integrity. PWAs can be added to a mobile device’s home screen like native apps, and provide many of the same features of traditional apps without some of the complexities of the app stores.
CLIENT CASE STUDY
As you can see, each digital solution solves a different problem, so it’s important to have all of the facts and relevant information before starting a project. This is why we put such an emphasis on the Discover and Scope phases of our process. We recently had a situation where the Discover and Scope phases uncovered some new information about the true goals of a client’s desired outcomes for a new mobile app and it changed the whole scope of the project.
Client X needed a new customer facing app. They determined a pre-built 3rd party system would work for the app’s core functionality and hired Terrostar for the design and development implementation of the 3rd party system.
Their previous out-of-the-box solution was no longer serving its purpose. Customers complained that it was difficult to use and the 3rd party vendor regularly made unscheduled changes to the platform which created internal issues.
- We started the Discover phase by asking questions to understand issues with the current system and goals for the project, including:
- What are the pain points of the current system from a client and business perspective?
- What wish list items and features should the new app have?
- Who is the target and potential audience for this app?
- What are the business goals, marketing goals and conversion goals for this new system?
- What is a typical transaction like for a user and employee?
After answering these questions, we did a complete audit of their app, booking payment system and reviewed the features and drawbacks of their desired third-party service. We documented our findings and then compared them to their project goals, user personas, user journeys outlined in our Discover and Scope deliverable document and the project budget. This information made it clear the third-party driven mobile app would not meet their project goals. There was a disconnect between what salespeople of the third-party service providers said was possible, and the actual service offerings. So we put together a recommendation of custom built platforms that would meet the project goals.
We recommended a custom employee dashboard that interfaces with the new app, as well as a customer loyalty program. To achieve this, we determined they needed custom built platforms, including:
- Mobile app
- Progressive web application (PWA) for booking and accounts
- Employee kiosk interface
- Scheduling system
- Loyalty system
- Back-end system to tie all of the pieces together, including several third-party payment systems
A project isn’t always as it appears to be. The information gathered during the Discover and Scope phases of this project made the client think strategically about the best way to reach their desired goals. Our research on the third-party vendor, detailed user personas and journeys and knowledge of all possible digital solutions allowed us to identify issues with their intended third-party vendor early on in the project, saving everyone valuable time, resources and money. This is why we start each project with the Discover and Scope phases. Our intention is to create the most successful digital tool in the most efficient way possible.