How to Save Time and Money in Product Development with Interactive Prototyping

Is your business put off by how expensive you think a custom app development might be? We’ll be honest, it’s not something you can pay for with your petty cash envelope, but there are ways to save time and money on development costs. 

A custom digital app or platform for your business can bring in a considerable ROI, but we get that you don’t always have unlimited funds to spend on product development. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the process of creating a custom app and where you can save costs without sacrificing function or quality.

The app and software development process

Every software developer will have a slightly different process for developing your app or software, but you can generally expect these four steps:

Step 1: Design

Once you’ve gone through the discovery process (where you finalize specs and requirements for your project), your software development team will begin the design process. Ideally, this includes an interactive prototype so you can see the functionality and flow of the application.  

Step 2: Code

Coding begins when you’ve signed off on the design (step 1). The developers will bring the design to life using industry standards in coding, functionality, and accessibility. They’ll also overlay your branding on the code to create a seamless brand experience for your customers and staff who use the app.

Depending on your project, likely several different developers will work on the project and work together to bring them all together so they work as one application.  

Step 3: Test

Testing is never a step you should skip to save money on your digital product development. Your web developers will likely do the first rounds of user testing to ensure everything is working as per your Statement of Work (SOW). Then you’ll be asked to review and comment on anything that seems amiss.

Once you have an app that appears perfect, you’ll want to bring in fresh eyes (staff who haven’t been involved in the project to date or sample customers). They will likely uncover anything that was missed. 

Step 4: Deploy

Upon your final signoff, your software developers will publish or move the app to live servers and make it available to your team and customers. Once it’s moved to live servers, there will likely be one more round of testing once it’s moved to make sure everything is working correctly before you launch it to the end users. 

What are interactive prototypes?

An interactive prototype is a simplified version of your final product used to help you see the app’s functionality and workflows. It provides a simplistic wireframe-style layout of your app (without branding or graphics) so you can experience what the end user will experience. It’s a great way to manage costs when building your application.

For example, If you’re developing an online store, your interactive prototypes may uncover product page elements you forgot to include. For example, the need for a longer description field, the option for payment plans through a plugin, or multiple product images. With this discovery, you can amend the project requirements early in the process before too much development goes into it. 

How interactive prototypes save you money

Interactive prototypes may seem like an extra step, but they are essential to ensuring your needs are met…AND they can help you save money in the long run. 

With an interactive prototype

  • You can visualize workflows: Rather than guessing what the experience will be like by looking at a series of static images, you can see what happens when interacting with different parts of your site. 
  • Improves communication: When communicating your needs to your developers, they may not fully understand what you want (or misinterpret your needs. Interactive prototypes early in the app development process act like a guidepost to ensure both you and your developers are on the same page before you spend more money on the development.
  • Changes are easier during prototyping: Good software developers will ensure your project scope and specs are as detailed and thorough as possible, but you may identify a new need or requirement once you can see it in action. For example, if you view the prototype and discover you need a more streamlined online ordering system, you can request these changes early in development. Big changes after the software has been coded are more expensive to make.   
  • Speeds up app development process: Because you work out most of the big bugs and specifications early, once you approve the interactive prototype, full coding and development can begin. Otherwise, you may have multiple rounds of reviews and revisions during coding development, which add significant time to your project calendar (and extra costs to pay for your developer’s time or costs associated with launch delays)
  • Supports Agile SCRUM methodology: Interactive prototypes fit perfectly into an Agile SCRUM project management process. At Twelfth Dream, we use Agile SCRUM to break down development into two-to-four-week sprints. Each sprint builds up on what was completed in the previous interaction, with increasing specificity and detail. 

Another money/time-saving tip

Account for ongoing app maintenance when budgeting for your next custom app or software development project. This is another budget line item that can’t be dropped, but you can make it more affordable. 

For starters, always use the same app developer for the ongoing maintenance (at least, whenever possible). The developers will already be familiar with the inner workings of the code, so changes will be quick. And their deep knowledge of the code and how the different pieces are connected and function as a whole means any future updates or tweaks are much less likely to result in app bugs or breaks. A new developer may not be aware of an integration and, by changing one line of code, could break multiple other sections or plugins on your site. 

Where to start your custom software development project

If you have an idea for a custom app or software, book a discovery call with Twelfth Dream. We can discuss your needs, help you set a realistic budget and timeline, and help you determine the “needs” versus the “nice to have” features so you can save money where possible. Book your discovery call today.

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