In our recent blog, Web Design versus Web Development: Information Design, we touched on things you need to consider when developing a new application for your business. In this article, we expand on that. If you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m still not sure exactly what solution I need,” we’ll help you focus in on the answer by looking at types of users and the desired outcomes. We’ll look at internal versus external users, and we’ll dive into outcomes such as marketing, revenue, and operations.
Software Development: Business Outcomes
Let’s take a look at what you really need this software to do for your business, beginning with the end in mind: the business outcomes of our application. Look at things like lead generation, online sales, promoting existing products, creating efficiency, etc. Those outcomes can be segmented into three primary types:
- Marketing: The purpose of marketing is to get a product ‘off the shelf,’ which means finding prospects, communicating the purpose and benefits of your products, and providing a channel through which they can purchase your product. The key here is that there is an existing product which needs to be taken to market. A marketing application could be as simple as a dynamic website that allows potential buyers to get all the information they need to make a decision, including purchase options. It might be an automation system that helps your marketing team close the engagement gap between you and your market, such as automated emails, social media updates, text messages, etc.
- Revenue: Revenue may feel like the ultimate outcome of everything you do, and you might think of a Marketing site as being revenue focused. However, when it comes to a web application, ‘revenue’ literally means a sales transaction. There are two categories of revenue applications:
- eCommerce: eCommerce is selling your products directly to customers through an online store. These can be products you ship or digital products that users can download or stream. Again, the key here is that these products already exist, and your web application is the sales channel through which you take these products to market.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): Software as a Service means your application IS the product. Users sign up and pay to use the service. Often, businesses use this model to automate services that can be handled by a software application and charge customers a monthly subscription to access the software.
- Operations: Hidden within the shiny glow of revenue and marketing is operations. Operations isn’t the sexy application, and businesses often miss the great opportunity here to really improve their bottom line. An operations piece of software is designed to automate, simplify, and provide business intelligence on your existing processes. These applications can clear bottlenecks, improve communication, and save money on time and materials used to create your products. These programs can be financial, customer service, sales management, or any other functional area of your business. A great way to identify these is to see where you’re still using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are great at crunching numbers and providing insight, but they are very inefficient.
Application Development: Know Your Users
Now that you’ve identified the desired outcomes for your business’ new software, you need to identify who is going to use it. You have two basic types of users:
- Internal: These are people within your company’s walls. They have names and titles.
- External: These are people outside of your business. They can be prospects, leads, customers, vendors, suppliers, partners, etc.
For each type of software mentioned above, you may have a mix of internal and external users. Understanding who is going to be using this software, and why, will be vital to developing this custom software for your business.
Consider the following for each type of software:
- Marketing Users:
- Internal: Internal users will be maintaining data, implementing initiatives, and basically running the software. Typically, these users will be your marketing team.
- External: External users for marketing software will likely be passive users, meaning they will not actually be interacting with the application. The software will be making decisions based on their behaviors and analyzing their actions, but there will most likely not be an external user for marketing applications.
- Revenue Users:
- Internal: Your internal users will be those monitoring activity, reacting to inquiries, fulfilling orders, and implementing new user accounts.
- External: These are your customers. They are buying products or paying for the software as a service.
- Internal: Think about those on your team that spend time entering data, generating reports, updating spreadsheets, doing any kind of bureaucratic work that actually slows down your processes. Also think about those to whom you submit reports, such as leadership, investors, and board members, who might be given access to their reports and data.
- External: Think about how your suppliers, vendors and partners can interface with your software. In this case, a user might even be another application, using APIs to connect right to your application.
As you gather the information needed to develop your custom software, you can simplify the design of the application by understanding both the desired outcomes -- marketing, revenue, or operations -- and those who are going to use it -- both internal and external. Once you have a grip on these, the design will start to flow, and you will end up with a great piece of custom software to help your business get to that next level.