We have discussed how scalability and simplicity are leading factors to an app’s success, but in addition to having a strong coding skill set, developers need street smarts, or knowledge of the state of the market and of themselves. Why? Because an app is unlikely to reach its full potential and achieve success without the developer knowing their strengths and what markets to build for. That is the third “S” to successful app.
Know Your Strengths
A key characteristic developers need to know is their strengths. People are always coming up with new ways of doing things, and it is easy to get caught up in the latest programming language or new database technology. While new tools can be helpful and support your development initiatives, it can also be time consuming to learn how to use them. When you have a great idea, stick with your strengths and build a product you know will work, without losing time.
Identifying strengths also applies to choosing which platform to develop for. The language or platform you are strongest at or have a specific preference for should be used for at least the first version because it will allow you to make iterations more quickly.
With strengths come weaknesses, and it is important to be able to identify those as well. For example, sometimes a developer is unable to go out into the field to gather user feedback. When this is the case, it may be wise to look into bringing in a market expert. This is an individual who is an industry expert in a certain marketplace; ideally for a market that you have an app idea for. By bringing in a market expert, you’re able to marry your coding skills to their market knowledge to gain deep industry knowledge of the marketplace while allowing the developer to focus on building something great.
Whether a specific market expert is brought in or not, a good app developer should realize the importance of user feedback immediately. More often than not, a developer will have an idea for an app and go into a code trance, where they start hacking and building code but does not take the time to develop a long-term plan for their vision. Building an app without market validation can be very risky, as developers want to get into the code but fail to take a step back to identify what they can use to validate the need for their app.
AppSumo, an app that offers bundles of software for discounts, started out with a very lean model where the developers would manually input website traffic data into a spreadsheet and then analyze the purchasing behavior of their target audience. AppSumo had no code written at all, but this manual data input allowed them to validate the need and demand for their product. Because of this initial research, when they started writing their code, the team knew the app would be valuable.
Ship Imperfect Products
Once you have market validation, you’re ready to build and eventually ship your product. It’s important to know where to cut corners in the beginning so you can ship product as soon as possible, and also knowing where you can’t to ensure you’re shipping a quality product. This is ultimately the hardest facet of management: knowing how much tech debt to accrue and when to pay it off.
In the case of a brand new app, it may be best to accrue tech debt and solve it at another time because shipping a perfect product that no one uses means you’ve essentially wasted precious time. Willingness to failure is critical to success. It is rare to release an app that has perfect product fit, that perfection comes from rounds of testing and versions. Therefore, a key component of developer street smarts is a willingness to ship imperfect product.
Gaining effective developer street smarts means interacting with other developers to learn their perspectives and gain their knowledge. Sharing stories, asking questions and challenging yourself are all a part of becoming a better developer. This means taking some time off-screen and going to meetups, listening to talks and elevating your skills by learning new things. You’re also growing your professional network which increases opportunities for your business and your personal brand. These opportunities begin through the online channels with research, but getting out in the world and making face-to-face connections is invaluable for becoming a better developer and creating the best apps.