As a no-code platform, Neota Logic allows those who have never developed an app before to engage in the software development process. For many people, this is an incredibly empowering and exciting introduction to a world traditionally walled-off by complex coding languages and years of school. On the other hand, as with any new skill, app development can be intimidating at first. This is something I see our customers go through every day, especially during our two-day Intensive App Design & Development workshops. Attendees are both excited to see their apps blossom from an idea to a real product, and slightly overwhelmed from not knowing how to take the first step on a new project. I thought it would be a good idea to share a few of the key principles that help navigate the world of legal app development and kick-off a new project, starting with app design.
Here’s the situation: you have a blank sheet in front of you, some thoughts about a problem you want to solve, but that’s about it. How do you properly scope out the problem? How do you make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew? How do you make sure that the project is aimed in the right direction and stays on target? These are all concerns that can be clarified by answering three questions:
- What is the goal of the app you’re developing?
- Who is the target audience for the app?
- What is the desired output for the app?
By coming up with answers for these three questions you’ll have a strong vision for the project and clear guidelines to point to as the project develops.
What is your goal?
Every project should start with a clear and concise goal. It may seem obvious, but trust me, having a clear goal is not always easy. When starting a project people are often eager to jump right into the details of an app before looking at the bigger picture. When defining the goal of your app, it’s a bit like Goldilocks’ porridge. Too broad and the project could collapse from lack of direction and confusion. Too narrow, and the app will struggle to offer the level of service that the user is looking for. It needs to be just right – somewhere in the middle of these two. So, take some time to consider the goal at the beginning. Consider why you are undertaking this project, what the underlying purpose of the app is, and what higher level efficiencies can be achieved. Ultimately, the goal should be expressed in a single sentence. Once you’ve got your goal, it will be a useful anchor to reference throughout the project. If you notice things are starting to sprawl away from the goal, reassess the direction of the project and either drive things back to the goal or decide whether the goal needs to be changed to fit the new direction. Either way it will be your guiding light as the project progresses.
Who is your audience?
At a very high level, apps should be viewed as an ongoing relationship between users and the product or service the app provides. For this reason, it’s very important to consider who your audience is. In order for the app to be successful people will need to use it, and want to use it. So the user is number one. Are they lawyers? Are they technologists? Are they in the pro bono space? Is it the general public? Are they internal or external to your organization? There a whole host of elements that need to be considered about your audience. Once you’ve narrowed your audience down it will help you make important decisions down the road. By identifying your audience, you can better understand what would motivate them to use your app, everything from the type of language you use, to what terms you define, to the color scheme you choose.
This is especially important when designing legal apps because in the past, law was a one-to-one business between the lawyer and the client. Today, we are moving to a one-to-many model where a legal service can be automated and accessed by multiple people through a single app. We should strive to recreate that ease of that personal relationship, the bedside manner, of the lawyer with their client but in a modern digital interpretation of what that entails. Like any relationship, a customer needs to trust the application that they are using, and by identifying your target audience you can build that into your design from the beginning.
What are the outputs of the application?
You need to have a clear sense of what the user will walk away with after using the app that you are designing. Will they be sent a report? Require an email with more information? Need to take further action away from the app environment that you have provided? Be explicitly clear on the end product or service that the user will receive. This may seem similar to the goal, however, the difference is that the goal is the overarching purpose you’re looking to achieve, whereas the output is more of a tangible outcome. For example, a project goal could be that you’re looking to streamline your client intake process or provide more consistency in the documents generated by your corporate legal staff. The outcome of these goals could be an app that assesses a user’s legal needs and trigger an email to the appropriate practice group, or an app that generates, sends out, and tracks NDAs.
The goal will drive the project, thinking about the audience will shape the tone and delivery of the app, and the output will give you something tangible to work towards. With these three elements clear in your mind, it becomes a lot easier to join the dots between them and create a meaningful app. Building a successful app is an iterative process and design does not stop when you get that part of the development phase out of the way. Applications are part of a continuous cycle of evolution. Users provide feedback and some things will work better or worse than expected. Trial and improvement are big parts of the journey. Once you’ve figured these three things out you’ll be a lot closer to building and deploying well designed legal apps. It’s at this point that Neota Logic comes in, after all your planning we streamline the building process so you can move faster from ideation to deployment.
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