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Building an Application is a lot like Building a Bicycle

March 21, 2013

In my most recent experiment of building a new road bike I noticed that the process kept getting delayed due to lack of preparation.

I basically approached this project with the ego that I could just remember all the parts I would need. In reality I just kept forgetting one small part, would order it, and then would quickly realize that I forgot just one more part.

After weeks of slowly getting the right parts ordered through trail and error I decided to sit down with a professional and create a plan for myself. The goal was to map out the build from the frame to the bartape and everything in-between, something I should have done in the beginning. Even after all my orders I found out I still hadn’t ordered the correct bottom bracket for my frame, meaning yet again I had a missing piece.

It was at this phase in the process that I came to the realization that building a bike is similar to building an application. At Yeti, all projects start with wireframes. Wireframes are done, talked about, planned out, redone and repeated several times. They are the road map for all development and design projects. It is an important tool we sure to make sure that we map out all functionality and we don’t miss anything.

I skipped the wireframe process of building my bike and ultimately paid the price for it. Sure it was fun to just start clicking buy on all the parts I wanted for my new bike but it ultimately lead to me spending more money than I needed to. Lack of a plan caused me to spend more time on it than I should have and duplicating orders from the same place rather than just placing just one big order.

Even now, a month after placing my first order I’m left sitting here on my couch strapping on my running shoes instead of my sidi’s (cycling shoes).

Similarly, I have watched clients, developers, and myself make the same error with development that I made with my bicycle. It’s easy to forget some small detail due to lack of wireframes and documentation. This is our to-do list throughout the process and is a reference point for both sides during all phases of development. When this is not in place, people get lost, work is duplicated, and the goal is unclear and unfocused.

It seems the message I would like to get across is even though we all are really smart people that can remember everything; the reality is things will slip through the cracks if we don’t make a plan. Whether the project is building a website, mobile application, or a bicycle; the rule applies that creating wireframes and documenting it is a good idea. There are too many small moving pieces for us to really remember them all.

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