In this post we’ll explore a process for framing the high level goals an app and how I applied it to plan the Slide Deck app. This post is part of a series, specifically about building the Slide Deck app end-to-end. Stay tuned for future posts in the series.
Where do I start?
It can be daunting to know where to start when you start building an app. When I’ve talked to people who are building apps, they’ve told me how they were frustrated because they don’t know how to plan the UX well.
Common questions I’ve heard from people planning their apps are:
- What features should I include, when should I stop?
- How should it look?
- Which controls should I use?
- Where should this button go?
- What is the page navigation hierarchy?
- How do I make it look good?
These are all important questions that we’ll touch on in later blog posts, but before you build your app, or even start thinking about what it will look like, it’s important to have a sound foundation. It’s worth spending time framing the problem and figuring out exactly what you’re trying to solve, your point of view and your goals. If you spend the time on this pre-work, you have a basis from which to answer your future questions.
A process to follow
I’ve learned through experience that following the below process helps me validate that I am on the path I intended to be on. This process can’t supplant innovation or the creative process, but it can provide a useful structure.
What problems are you trying to solve?
Think about the world that exists without your app. Evaluate the other solutions out there, and how they succeed and how they fail? Write down a brief sentence or short list of bullet points that describe the problems that exist in the landscape. It could be a problem that everyone is having today or it could be a new problem that people don’t know they have yet.
What is your point of view?
Your point of view is essentially the thing that differentiates your app from the other apps in the marketplace. If you got into a discussion with the people who designed apps and websites that solve similar problems as you, how would you agree and disagree? Write that down. That’s your point of view. Not everyone will agree with your point of view, and you may be wrong and need to be revised, but you can’t have a coherent user experience without a coherent point of view.
What are your goals?
Your goals represent a tangible scorecard you can use to measure the success of your app against. Looking at the problems that you are trying to solve and your point of view, write down the success case for each of your problems. There are a lot of tutorials on writing good S.M.A.R.T. goals, but don’t over think it. Your goals are meant to be guideposts that you can look back to as you plan and build your app to make sure you’re building the right thing. If the goals aren’t tangible, are too full of jargon or are too specific they may not be useful.
Planning Slide Deck
When I was planning out Slide Deck, and the other apps that I’ve written for the Windows Store I followed the same process to make sure I was building the right thing. The first version of Slide Deck was just submitted to the Store so there’s a lot more to learn and improve, but this process got me started.
Problems that Slide Deck is trying to solve
When I first started thinking about Slide Deck, I knew that there wasn’t a quick and easy way to build and present good looking presentations on my Surface. For most of the presentations I was doing I didn’t need the control, or depth of features that more complicated apps offer. Also, I wanted to use something that was easy to create and present with touch. The keyboard and mouse are amazing productivity tools for getting a lot done, but if what I’m doing is lightweight then I prefer to not have to sit down or find a level surface to type on.
For Slide Deck, I boiled it down to these problems:
- It takes too many steps to make a quick presentation
- Most of the apps give you more control than you need for a quick presentation, and that slows you down.
- It’s hard to make something look good
Point of view for Slide Deck
Looking at the other presentation apps out there, the key opportunity to differentiate is to be fast, lightweight and great for touch. It may not be the best presentation app when it comes to features, control and customization but it’s great a being fast, lightweight and for touch.
Goals for Slide Deck
After I established the point of view for being fast and lightweight, the goals fall right out of the problem statements. It might seem to duplicate the problems, but making the leap from problem to goal is an important leap to make.
- Creating and presenting a sweet slide deck just takes a few steps with touch
- Presenting, creating, and opening slide decks feels lightweight
- It’s feels easy and fast to make a slide deck that looks good
We walked through a brief framework for framing the plan for an app and applied it to Slide Deck. We started with the problems, moved on to a point of view and finished with the goals. In the next post in the series we’ll look at how these goals manifested themselves in the Slide Deck app design and how I used them to make decisions about the features in the shipping app.