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Hot mess - why app development needs to get down and dirty



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September 25, 2015 | 4 min read

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Here's a fact - in app design, you can't argue with your users

If they don’t like your app, they won’t use it. The only question that needs to be answered to create a successful app is “What do your users want and need?”.

Apps aren’t cheap, and they’re not a guaranteed success. Whether your brand wants to raise awareness or just interact with your customers, releasing a terrible app will definitely cause you more harm than good, so why take that risk if you can’t definitively answer that one question . . .

Ugly design & ugly code are the future of mobile apps

In the early days of developing mobile apps it was all about building the most beautiful products, engineered to the nth degree. This worked because the competition was low and the demand was high. Over time the mobile landscape has changed and the way top developers build apps has changed too, with something called rapid prototyping totally changing the game.

Rapid Prototyping :“Build the minimum you can, as quickly as you can, fail fast, adjust and repeat”

With your last digital project how quickly did you get your product in the hands of users? With rapid prototyping it can be one day. Books like the The Lean Start-up and ideas around MVP can sound like technical cliches but they are keys to success and have inspired cutting-edge app developers to focus on building the bare minimum in real, completely native code, and use that to discover what users want.

So why have leading agencies changed the way they work? Because rapid prototyping has three massive plus points:

  • Allows for honest user feedback
  • Brings in users at an earlier stage resulting in tailored products
  • Freedom to fail

User Feedback

You can’t user test on a fake interface - it just doesn't work. Rapid prototyping is all about using quick, native code to build real apps and allow early and meaningful user-driven testing.

Dan Gough, Designer at 3 SIDED CUBE, said “We’ve completely revamped our process to be led by users. They are the ones who will decide to download your app - so without their buy in, you’re dead in the water. Mind, the mental-health charity, wanted to make an app for university students. Positioning ourselves bang in the middle of Bournemouth uni, we got to work surveying them with our prototypes - we immediately learned some of our initial assumptions were wrong, and were able to change our prototypes to suit their feedback. It’s great for our clients because they only have to make a small initial investment, and great for us because we know we’ll only be making awesome apps!”

Bring in Users First

In a typical app process users are bought in right at the end, when the money's been spent and big changes are no longer possible. What if you build a whole feature and no-one wants to use it? Now features can be mocked up and crucial build changes made without huge financial outlay.

Freedom to Fail

Rapid prototyping allows you to take risks. We all know that markets aren’t stable, technology changes incredibly quickly and customers can be fickle - so you’ve got to pursue innovation and commit to experimenting to find that app that users will want to download and keep using.

At the end of the process you not only have a fully functional prototype of an app that you're guaranteed users love, but a specification can then be produced from that prototype resulting in far more accurate completion costing. It's a win-win.

Got a great app idea? visit or

Bethan Hopkins, Head Cheerleader, 3 Sided Cube

Tel: 01202 611 612


Twitter: @3SidedCube

Creative Cities Bournemouth Great Britain

Content by The Drum Network member:


Winner of the "Charity & Not for Profit" award at the Digitals - Econsultancy & New Media Age  Winner of the "Not-for-Profit Website or Campaign" award at the Dadi Awards - The Drum  Winner of the "Best use of Technology" Award by Umbraco CMS.  Winner of the "Best Mobile App" at the European Digital Communication Awards.  Winner of the "Best use of digital" beating the likes of Sainsbury's, Unilever & McDonalds. 

3 SIDED CUBE is an app agency focused on building a talented team and developing industry leading apps.

Clients include:  British Red Cross, Boots, RNLI, American Red Cross. 

We have also had huge success in the mobile sector, achieving: 

#1 App in the UK & France  #2 App in the USA & Ireland  #3 App in Australia  #1 Medical App in 90 Countries  #1 Health & Fitness App  #1 Weather App 

Our goal as a company is to become known as the leading mobile developer in the UK.

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