In order to successfully define the features of a web software together with the experts who will create it, some simple mock-ups can be used, to be printed out so that the details of the screens can be sketched in. It is important to describe these elements carefully, while giving details of the connections between them.
These sketches must then be delivered to the software house, as they will form a starting point for an accurate calculation of the estimate. Putting down the screens on paper as originally envisaged also allows you to simulate the end use of the web software and create interfaces which will be as precise and clean as possible.
The mock-up sketches can be considered like an architect’s designs for the building of a house. By printing the pages in ‘Actual Size’, it is possible to ascertain whether the icons to be clicked on are the right size for the users’ fingers.
The material illustrated in the mock-up is included in the programming contract. Once this has been finalised, the type of work and the estimated time required for completion are defined. Needless to say, the less detailed the specifications, the greater the risk of misinterpretation increases, resulting in a lengthening of the estimated timing. Drawing up precise technical specifications, even with the help of graphic mockups, is therefore a must, which avoids unpleasant surprises both for the client and for those who have to do the work.
What not to do
During the phase when features of the web software are defined, clients often make reference to well-known apps or websites, while expressing their desire to copy the features of these. This route should be avoided however, considering that it would involve the software house team spending too much time viewing all the specific characteristics of the app or software that the client intends to use as their model. Furthermore, the client is unlikely to be familiar with all the functionalities, which, if included, could result in considerable increases in the estimated cost.
It is also important to remember that many apps or software programs are specifically designed for a certain sector. For this reason, the software house team must possess knowledge of those sectors, which cannot be taken for granted. Unilab has a deep thermodynamic and IT background, and has a team of thermo-technical engineers able to understand the customer’s specifications and transmit them to the developers, who also have a considerable background in heat transfer related software engineering. Imagine having to entrust a team of tourism management software developers with your own software. The results would be quite different.
The final point is always valid and emphasises the importance of the sketches on the mock-up. Their completion and delivery to the technical team can turn out to be fundamental in the case of apps involving specialised sectors. The professionals will therefore be able to understand the interaction flows that the final product will need to provide to users.
How many software houses should you request an estimate from?
Companies wishing to create web software are often diffident due to the fact that, very often, after having requested the calculation of various estimates, they end up with diametrically opposite results. Behind the wide variations in price, there often lies a different interpretation of the same idea.
Requesting just the creation of ‘an app’ or ‘software’ for your business or shop is a bit like going into a car dealership and saying that you want a vehicle. The manager may suggest an SUV or, on the other hand, a saloon.
In order to avoid such problems, it is advisable to adopt the strategy of providing a mock-up with sketches and give as many details as possible regarding the objectives and characteristics of the target who will use the software.
Other functionalities to be included should also be specified, such as the option to log in via a social network account, register for a newsletter, print invoices or other documents as PDFs and to carry out payments via Paypal. In this way, you can give the same information to various companies so that they will be competing on level terms during their calculation of the estimate for your web software.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith