Navigating Website & Product Development with Vincent Sanchez-Gomez
We live in the digital era, built on foundations of web development. Nowadays, Google searching is a mandatory preface to purchasing any product or starting any activity. A company’s website holds immense power for their reputation and client retention; without a website, a company is essentially non-existent and stagnant. For small businesses and startups, web development can be difficult to allocate budgeting for, but those technological advancements are necessary for success.
Web Development is the Key to Achieving Full Value Potential
I attended the University of Pennsylvania with a major in Economics, but by sophomore year, classwork was far from my main focus on campus. I became very excited about the low barriers for entering software-specific entrepreneurship, and by junior year, I was running a digital agency with my roommates with customers on/near campus. Senior year, via our agency work, my cofounders and I identified a very prevalent problem with small business websites: many small businesses did not have the budgets to hire dedicated website staff, but the typical DIY solutions at the time (Wordpress, Weebly...etc.) still required significant technical/design knowledge to navigate that (particularly older) business owners did not possess.
“Many small businesses did not have the budgets to hire dedicated website staff.”
We also identified another coinciding trend: many small business owners were already very comfortable using Facebook. That inspired the idea, what if we could automate website creation using a small business’s Facebook Page content, and also make the website update on its own using their Facebook updates (like a Facebook CMS of sorts)? This was the foundation for what eventually became Pagevamp.com. We managed to build a prototype and attract our first angel investment before graduating, so we moved to NYC to pursue Pagevamp full-time, which we have now been operating for more than 5 years.
“What if we could automate website creation using a small business’s Facebook Page content.”
Website Fundamentals Depend on Specific Needs of the Business
In discussing business broadly, the only fundamental that a website or mobile app needs to have is a good return on investment. Other than that, how the website or mobile app should manifest is totally dependent on the specific needs of the business. A template-based solution like Pagevamp can exist for certain niches. Looking at the entire business ecosystem, it’s too broad to have general fundamentals outside of basic business ROI expectations.
“The only fundamental that a website or mobile app needs to have is a good return on investment.”
The 3 Fundamentals of Initial Development (Detailed Planning is Essential)
Start with the problem, not the solution. Instead of jumping into solutions for a digital project, dissect the current pain points that need addressing and truly understand your goal for achievement. After this analysis, solutions can be worked from the ground up, and catered directly to specific challenges. Using this backwards method creates precise and better solutions than what would have been originally assumed.
Track digital marketing assets. A system to track performance for target launch goals will provide information to create a procedure to modify and improve the solution overtime as more users/customers engage.
Prioritize sustainability. Most clients are more concerned with surface level perfection rather than the underlying architectural aspects of the site. However, after launch, the client will receive performance data that reveals the website’s need for significant optimization. For this reason, it is important to initially construct with long-term sustainability and affordable optimization in mind.
The Process of Developing New Features for Digital Products
The first step is to analyze product performance data to identify opportunities for improvement. Data could include customer support requests, target customer interviews, product analytics, video captures of users engaging with products...etc. Once an analysis has been conducted, identify a “problem” or crucial area for improvement in the product, and create a solution to address it. After, use feedback rounds to assess whether the solution effectively addresses the problem and presents a feasible and practical solution.
“The first step is to analyze product performance data to identify opportunities for improvement.”
Moving on to the actual product design, the UX designer produces the visual structure and flow of the feature via a mockup/wireframe. Next, the UI designer produces the final design for the feature, which is essentially images of exactly how every aspect of the feature will look. After approval of both designs by the Product Lead, developers will build the feature and publish it to a staging environment, which is essentially an exact replica of the production product that is not available to the public.
After complete construction, Quality Assurance members test the feature for all design/functionality bugs. They also test all other aspects of the product that may have been affected by the new feature, not just the feature itself.
“Quality Assurance members test the feature for all design/functionality bugs. They also test all other aspects of the product that may have been affected by the new feature, not just the feature itself.”
Once the Product lead gives final approval, the feature goes live on the production product. The biggest takeaway from this process is the constant rounds of feedback and approval each step requires in order to smooth out any hindrances or bugs from the get-go.
“The biggest takeaway from this process is the constant rounds of feedback and approval each step requires in order to smooth out any hinderances or bugs from the get-go.”
The Challenges of Remote Teams: Communication, Timing, and Accountability
Working with remote teams elicits challenges due to the lack of an in-person environment. Digital communication methods make the tone and intention behind messages ambiguous. For example, team members might misinterpret a project’s instructions or hold resentment for direct/short messages that unintentionally present an irritating voice. Timing produces issues when tasks and projects are completed out of order. When working remotely, team members may frequently fall behind on work and depend on others to pick up the slack of their poor performance.
“Digital communication methods make the tone and intention behind messages ambiguous.”
Addressing these issues is an ongoing process, however measures can be taken to ameliorate problems within a company such as providing opportunities for in person meetings/getting to know calls, using project management tools, or creating filter interview questions for fit.
Build Your Startup from the “Outside”
At Outside we build quality digital products and services for a global audience. It is our mission to think and build beyond borders, take pride in our products, invest in our teams, and empower our community. We build startups in-house, help ambitious companies with their tech challenges, and empower the next generation of builders in Nepal through events and skill-building. To learn more about how Outside Tech can help you build your MVP and scale your product, visit: outside.tech.
Developing Your Business with The Port
Now that you’ve learned how to develop your mobile sites, ready to further develop your venture? Whether you are just launching your business or looking to scale and optimize, The Port can help with all of your needs. Get in touch with our team to learn how the Port can assist with your development projects.
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