Wit or Grit in Application Development
Application developers are the people who take complex problems and fix them using web-based tools. That’s a fancy way of saying that they make cool stuff online. They can create applications to predict your risk of a heart attack they can create ways for you too look up skylines across the world and they can help you create easy infographics.
We’ve seen this idea discussed before. It’s sort of like the chicken or the egg thing. What’s more important in app development? Wit? Or grit? We’re going to break it down, but we’re talking about web-based apps, which means applications built for the web. There are also native apps, which are built specifically for whatever program they’re on (iPhone/Android, etc.)
Examples of Wit & Grit in Applications
Application development isn’t really like other fields. It’s the type of work where you have to use both intuition and whimsy— where wit and grit come together to create something well…a little bit magical and a little bit freaking awesome and a whole lotta bit functional. When you use a web app and don’t notice you’re using one, that’s a good example of killer application development. When you use a web app and it makes things a bit easier for you, that’s also an awesome example of app development.
We were checking out some apps recently, and we came across Whichbook. Whichbook was started by Opening the Book in order to serve a specific goal. They did something simple, yet endlessly powerful: they saw a need (people weren’t reading enough because they didn’t know what to read) and they created a simple solution (make it possible for people to find books to read based on categories).
And that got us thinking about our own designs. We make a lot of web applications for businesses, and while they aren’t always whimsical or silly, they do mix intuition (wit) with hard work (grit) so that we can create a useable and helpful experience…and cut down on time spent working. Obviously!
We believe that a good application isn’t only about providing a helpful resource to users, it’s about creating delight, and that’s exactly what these web apps do.
Case Study: Wit and Grit in Entermotion’s App Development
When we connected with Ready Roofer, a Kansas-based roofing company, they told us a few key elements of their goals: they needed a web application that would manage their call center; they needed a way to share information securely across departments; and they needed the application to be intuitive enough so they could train warranty specialists on how to use it.
Let’s look at the nerdy details of what they needed:
- Ready Roofer needed a way for call center employees to click on a PO Request, a Request Estimate, and Warranty Service.
- Ready Roofer needed a way to push new requests to the next people in line so the process could remain open and clear.
- Ready Roofer needed a way to keep track of requests on a server and to hide those requests behind a login
Along the way, we discovered some new bits of information that they’d need to incorporate:
- They’d need a way for the manager to easily access all inquiries by job number
- They’d need all updated warranty information to appear in a main dashboard so it could be accessed with ease
- They’d need a way to mitigate pauses or hold ups within the call center process
Our first steps in developing this app were entirely grit based. We looked at the information and we created a wireframe to walk us through the process. Once we created the wireframe, we had a whole new set of questions: would people notified be able to create new job entries? Would the employees involved vary from job to job or would they be the same throughout the process? How would the flow be best organized? Does Ready Roofer have a specific way they envision this all moving? Which processes require multi-step verification?
Like most applications, some info was uncovered over time: we needed a way to make time entries editable from the admin; we needed to implement auth/admin access based on login information; we needed to assign color-specific labels to emails that got sent out; we wanted to make it easy for the founder to skim through calls, requests, and updates easily, so we created a call log that could manage all information easily.
Smashing Magazine talks about “knowing your users,” and, in this case, our users were the clients of our client. We always focus on the end-goal in application development, and we always ask ourselves what we need to do to ensure the application has a smooth user interface.
Sometimes, that doesn’t always go along with what our clients initially envisioned. Sometimes it means going to our clients and saying “hey, I know you didn’t ask for this, but we were thinking of….” Usually it works. That’s wit.
Grit: What We Applied
Whenever we make apps, we use our experience to develop solutions that make sense. We don’t list too many controls on the screen at once, we don’t provide blank inputs when a dropdown box is needed; and we incorporate controls that make the most sense for that specific issue. Application development is fluid and applications work best when they’re developed fluidly.
Martin Fowler, an author an software development speaker once said, “Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.” And we think that’s a good place to leave off for now. Because when you combine wit and grit, and develop apps for humans, you can make everyone’s day a little easier.