Sometimes you will know what you want, but can't put it into words. Sometimes you want to explore an idea that involves cutting edge technology or attempts to solve a business problem in a way you've never tried before, thinking outside-the-box, out in left-field kinda stuff. Businesses that want to keep three steps ahead of the competition do this sort of thing regularly. In these cases its impossible for anyone to produce a quote, since we don't even know what the goal posts are. But we don't let that stop us.
The solution is something called Prototype based development. In simple terms, you give us a rough idea of what you are thinking, and we build something. You then critique it - along the lines of “that not what I want, but seeing this makes me realise I want something like this over here...”, and we start the process again. The iterations continue until you have something that seems to describe what you are after.
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At that point several options are available to us - but basically we work with you to turn that rough-as-guts app into a polished professional application, as though we’d written it to a fixed specification originally. This last phase can usually be quoted on accurately.
Obviously providing estimates for such a project is difficult, so what we do it break the work down into chunks of time (usually a single iteration of the build/critique cycle), and you authorise each one in turn. If you feel that you are spending too much without getting anywhere then we stop to allow you to spend more time thinking about your needs, and continue at a later date (or not) at your discretion.
Sometimes the end-goal of prototyping is to prove that a particular approach will not work, or to establish the parameters of when it might be possible (eg: what new technology or price point is required for the idea to become useful or practical?).
The Prototyping approach is also useful for small parts of a larger solution, where you know what you want for most of it, but a small part or parts are still hard to pin down or need some technology issues solved. So we setup a small project to answer these questions for you and incorporate the results into the larger project plan. We describe prototyping in this context as a Feasibility Study.
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