December 23, 2019. Adebomi Obinaike
Why Technical Debt should be your number One concern when building your App
The accumulation of bugs, errors, and problematic code that begins as soon as you start a new development project is called technical debt. To illustrate this definition, we offer a story about technical debt on a product.
A company once developed a very good product for its customers in a particular catchment area.
Based on the success, the company decided to spread the market to the rest of the country and immediately faced a fresh challenge: adding a new interface for disabled people which make up 11% of their potential customer base.
The developers labored for about two weeks to get it done. The beta version went smooth and they were able to garner a decent fraction of the new market Then a couple of months later, their marketing team discovered a new set of potential customers but this time they weren’t disabled, they spoke a different language- French. So they assumed that adding the french language into the app was only going to take about 2 weeks or even less.
Now the decision not to go through the standard procedure was badly affecting the development process of the developers. They had to take the fast route by selecting and implementing a scalable and maintainable strategy for the product. it was a necessary quick-and-dirty solution from a business perspective to get quick sales.
Going through the due process at that stage would have cost them their new customers, so they had to pull off a quick fix to get it done which led them to accumulate so much technical debt.
Eventually, they had to shut down the app and build afresh because clearing the mess was overly cumbersome. The requirements and constraints at the beginning of development for this company were different, focused on the main features, and didn't foresee the need for disability and multilingual features.
Sometimes the consequences of technical debts can be quite dire if not properly managed. In the case of this company, they had to pull off the quick-fixes because they didn’t want to lose their new customers which eventually made them lose their entire customer base. When developing a product, there are usually three options-
Faster and cheaper isn't always the best option in the long run. They are one of the major causes of early product death. However, most entrepreneurs are ignorant of the trade-offs developers make on their behalf when they agree to tight deadlines and low costs. Good development work can be quite expensive, so, many businesses that need apps are always trying to keep costs down when they are working with developers. while trying to meet up with the deadline and stay on budget, something has to take a hit, and that usually ends up being the quality of the code.Bad codes contribute a highly significant quota to the level of technical debt. Causes of technical debt are in two arms:
Intentional Causes of Technical Debt:Developers know there’s the right way to do something, and the fast way to do something, but sometimes the team will intentionally have to do something the fast way which is usually the wrong way because they need to quickly deliver a product to the market. This usually happens because:
- Inadequate time placed on the development
- Source code complexity
- Business decisions which lack technical knowledge
- Difficulty in communication
Unintentional Causes of Technical Debt:This debt is the result of doing a terribly poor job. For example, a design approach turns out to be error-prone or a developer produces poor code. In most cases, this debt is incurred by unknowingly. This happens because:
- Lack of coding standards and guides: coding standard makes sure that all the developers working on a project are following certain specified guidelines. The code can be easily understood and proper consistency is maintained. When there are no coding standards and guides it disrupts the workflow of the developers, there will be little or no consistency.
- Junior coders with little experience and poor skills: when you always want to opt for the cheapest option in app development, then you might most likely end up with an inexperienced developer. Obviously, there will be a lot of avoidable blunders time and resources wasted as well.
- Lack of planning for future development: Neglecting the responsibility of planning future development can stifle the growth of a product. It makes it difficult to modify a product when necessary.
All these lead to longer work hours, error and bug-prone code, customer dissatisfaction, and increasing source code complexity. However, there are situations where you might need to incur some technical debt because delivery is more important than the internal cleanliness of the codes or smoothness of functionality at a particular point in time. In a case where the product works well for the user, despite not being the best or cleanest product. But if it is avoidable, then it is best you go through the right process
How to avoid technical debt
Technical debts can be avoided if you follow through with the following:
1. Budget for a good app development company (Except you do not think your app is worth that much):
Before you develop an app you need to be clear on what kind of mobile app development company you want to recruit. You need to do a lot of research and knowledge acquisition on capabilities and areas of strength of different app development companies before you select the one that fits your desired workflow. This might take a lot of your time and be rigorous, however, it pays in the end, because after you must have gathered all the relevant information you need. Your next line of action will automatically be to pick the best.
Be clear about what you are asking. All your requirements must be clearly stated.
3. Always start simple.
4. Don't be in a hurry:
We do not mean slow or laid back. We mean don't be in a hurry to launch in 4 weeks when your app development should take 8 weeks.
5. Be big on the post-app launch Support:
launching an app is a difficult thing to do, however, sustaining it and improving it, so as to help it grow is a more challenging task. If you are looking to maintain your app’s success, then you need strategic planning which is essential for a post-launch mobile app.
Apps with high technical debt are really expensive to maintain, dangerous for business and can lead to a series of events that are unpalatable for business owners and developers. You obviously will spend way more time fixing bugs than developing new features for the app. The best way to avoid unnecessary technical debt by following through with the best practices and patterns at the beginning of your mobile development projects. When you lay a solid foundation, you would be able to properly utilize your development resources and drastically reduce your technical debt.