How can I launch a successful app?

Dear Safia,

While I have never launched an app, I have gone through more website development, platform changes, and full e-comm overhauls than I would have liked…and all of them were a disaster in one way or another.  What I can share with you are some key leanings, big mistakes, and “could have done” better moments to think about for your own project endeavor.

The world has changed since I developed e-commerce sites over 17 years ago when there were no plug-n-play solutions available now. I went from building our first basic functional e-comm site to merging content (blog) with transactional systems, which evolved to all the maximization of e-comm widgets and twidgets, and optimization systems now. However, taking on any major project, both fiscally and time consuming, requires all the same due diligence, planning and considerations. Here are some of my lessons/thoughts:

We were never clear enough nor documented our goals and expectations:  

  • Although its not necessary to have a formal SOW, it would have been helpful if we had formalized our goals and expectations much better for all our big projects.
  • Even if you don’t know or understand the process or roadmap to get what you are looking for, the more documentation and communication of the goals will always help getting there.

We never vetted at all, well, or enough:

  • While there is never enough time, take the time to interview as many companies as you can; you will always learn more in this process that will help you along the way

More vetting:

  • Interview past clients, especially users from a while ago who have a hindsight view of the project and user experience

Assuming they know best:

  • I always assumed any developer or expert knew the secrets, but don’t assume they know more than is presented at the first meeting.  Especially design wise.

Function vs. Design:

  • Be clear what you are getting and what your team is providing.  I have seen all design and no function, or all function and no design.
  • Make sure you have all the parts in place you need and expect.


  • I have never had a project stay in budget; and always have had the chalkboard scratching response “not in scope.”
  • Have someone review the project scope that has done this before (if possible) to find the sneaky things that would land in “out of scope.”


  • No one has ever finished on time, I always pad these projects at least 6 months…

App & Website:

  • Since I don’t know your business, I am not sure of your needed or desired functionality; however, we always wanted/considered an App for our business, but never got to it.
  • There are some businesses that have a consumer ease and optimal experience using an App and others that really don’t get additional value with an App.  Consider what differentiation, value and experience will come from an App vs a traditional website and how to maximize them.

Entrepreneurially yours,