If you're currently consider a re-design to your website, you've likely been reading up about the differences between a static website design and custom web app development. For those that have determined that they need a more interactive website that can be controlled by the visitor, you've probably arrived at the conclusion that a custom web app solution is for you.
While you can find a number of examples of great websites that utilize web app development such as Mint, Dropbox, and Evernote, you can also probably think of an example or two that didn't get it right the first time.
One website that got a lot of heat for its poor design and user experience was the launch of HealthCare.gov. As you can imagine, HealthCare.gov uses a massive web application to integrate with hundreds of other web applications used by insurance companies. With so many moving parts to this website, users encountered a number of glitches that made the website extremely difficult to navigate through. While major tweaks have since been made to the website, the initial launch of this website will probably go down in history as being one of the biggest custom web app fails to date.
So what can we learn from a web app development fail?
1. Good communication between your business and the web developer is crucial.
There can be a lot of moving parts to a custom web app, and if you're not extremely clear with your web developer about your needs and what you want to accomplish, you may not be happy with the results. While it's becoming a popular practice today to outsource web app development overseas, one of the biggest risks of doing so is the communication barrier. There is typically a lot of back-and-forth conversation between your company and the web developer throughout the web app development process, and differences in time zones, language, and culture can negatively impact communication and leave you with an outcome that you're less than satisfied with.
2. Clearly document requirements for your custom web app.
By sharing all of your requirements for the web app in writing and being very specific with what your needs and goals are, you can help to prevent misunderstandings from happening. Also, it's important to keep in mind that your goals and requirements will likely change as your business grows, and you'll want your web app development team to be thinking proactively about enhancements that will need to be made down the road. For example, if you think you would want to eventually integrate your app with other systems, make this requirement very clear from the beginning.
3. Set realistic expectations.
The reality is that your custom web app will likely only serve the needs of your users (customers and staff) for a limited period of time. Establish a realistic shelf-life for your custom web app and collaborate with your team and web developer to be able to efficiently plan for enhancements to your web app as your organization's needs change.
Many businesses have had to learn these important lessons in web app development the hard way. If you determine that a custom web app solution is best your company's website, be sure to do your homework when selecting a web development team, be extremely specific with your needs (and keep them well documented), and proactively plan your needs will change over time.