Category

Startup

Bytelion is an Official Partner for Baltimore Innovation Week 2019

By Agile, Innovators, Leadership, Product Design, StartupNo Comments

Bytelion and Baltimore Innovation Week

Bytelion has always been proud to call the Greater Baltimore area our home.  Baltimore is brimming with leading institutions, anchored by The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). The city proudly represents some of the top creatives minds and a growing cultural scene. Byte.lion is proud to support startups and established corporations in Greater Baltimore, as we are greatly invested in seeing the city flourish as a technology hotbed. 

We are excited to announce that we are an official partner for Baltimore Innovation Week 2019 (BIW19). Presented by the Emerging Technology Centers (ETC), BIW19 is an opportunity for leading organizations to celebrate and support Greater Baltimore’s burgeoning tech ecosystem.

Who is Presenting?

Our Head of User Experience, Marc Hausle, will lead a free session on Lean Product Design for Startups during the creative & media track day of BIW19. With Marc’s experience overseeing user experience at Byte.lion and leading teams at Google & Apple, he noticed that startups are stuck. As a founder, one may have a great idea and want to launch as quickly as possible, but time and financial constraints hold them back. Our company is rooted in software entrepreneurship, and thrives on driving value and efficiency to iterate rapidly and reduce capital inefficiencies. 

On Tuesday, October 8 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM at Clark Burger Fells Point, Marc will provide his insights on how you can design a software product that drives user engagement in a shortened time period and without hefty financial commitments, while indulging in burgers and beer! You will have the opportunity to meet some of Greater Baltimore’s leading founders, entrepreneurs, designers, and c-suite executives.

Spots are limited, so please register now to ensure yummy drinks and burgers!

Bytelion decided to become an official partner for BIW19 because we believe that the Greater Baltimore area will continue to thrive in entrepreneurship and innovation. With the amount of tech talent coming out of JHU and UMBC, as well as the massive incubators, accelerators and coworking spaces, Baltimore is poised to be the best! We are in a prime position to continue to support startups and large corporations in an effort to spearhead growth in our area.

Bytelion is more than a quickly growing, custom software development firm. We are a focused team of creatives, techies and innovators that transforms ideas into beautifully designed mobile and web products. Using industry best practices, our team is dedicated to researching, designing and developing products that deliver world-class user experiences.

Our team looks forward to meeting you on October 8th during a night of great food, networking and experiential learning!

Pros And Cons Of Building Your Website With WordPress

By Development, Marketing, Mobile, MVP, Security, Startup, Tips & Tutorials, Tools, WordpressNo Comments

WordPress as a web building tool has built its reputation as providing amazing features specifically in the world of CMS, powering over 75 million sites and almost 23% of the World Wide Webs’ sites. However, despite its popularity, WordPress has drawbacks as a website development platform that you should be aware of before jumping on the bandwagon. Being informed is one of the most important factors in deciding where and how to build your site.

 

A few of your options for building and designing your website:

 

Website Editor

(Wix/Squarespace or similar solution)

Website editor, easily learned, drag and drop designs, less customization, small sites

WordPress

Website builder, edit and manage content through admin access, customization limited to WordPress support and technical capabilities, learning curve

App development

Full development team/developer, Fully customizable, Supports large, complex sites with high user traffic

Some Things To Consider

 

Typical WordPress use

WordPress is largely known for its CMS (content management system) capabilities, but it supports models for blogging, eCommerce, and forum websites as well. Sites that differ from this will most likely need customization.

Cost

Building a site can be expensive, you need to make sure you’re getting what you need, rather than trying to opt for the cheapest solution. Custom website development can cost anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on your needs.

Time

Building a site takes time. How much time do you have? Most web projects take an average from 12 to 16 weeks. However, the time is always dependent on several factors, such as the complexity of the project, scope of work, number of people involved, etc. Always be sure to set a realistic timeline when looking at website building solutions.

Resources

How big is your team? Do you have any technical skills? WordPress maintenance requires a learning curve and dedication to the site after the initial build. To keep your site up to date, make sure you are prepared to learn or are willing pay someone for maintenance.

Security

WordPress is a great resource because of its popularity, but that popularity leaves sites more vulnerable to hackers and information leaks. What type of content are you providing? Does it need to be secure? Developing your own website or mobile app can provide more security.

Mobile

WordPress does not support mobile app development but does allow for you to have a responsive mobile version of your site.

Users

Does your website require a large number of users to log in and out of your site? Depending on your business, WordPress may not be able to support the high volume and data storage that your site requires. Consider building a customized application with a development team.

 

Benefits of WordPress

 

Ease of Use – For non-technical folks

WordPress is great for non-technical users who want to be able to manage their content and make minor adjustments without getting knee deep in code. The content builder enables you to design within a set framework BUT does not allow for much customization. If you are looking for customization, you will have to get your hands dirty and add in some code.

Plugins

WordPress has over 45,000 plugins that you can upload that increases new functionality options. This is great for you, it means you can do more than just make a basic blog! However, they require a lot of updates and may need customization and code to get them working properly with your site.

SEO Friendly – Kind of

WordPress is wonderful because it bumps up your site on web browsers from the built-in SEO(Search Engine Optimization) system, however, if you are a novice with SEO, you may need some coaching. Too much tagging and repetition can kill your SEO rating and send your website to the bottom of the page. Luckily WordPress has a wide range of plugins to help with this, including our favorite, Yoast, which helps by rating your pages on readability, keywords, and more!

Open Source – Faster Development

Open source code is great for speeding up development time. All of the code is shared and used between developers all over the world. This means your developer doesn’t need to make everything from scratch, cutting down on development time. However, this is a catch 22, as open source also means less security. Be sure to you weigh the importance of development time over site security.

Professional Themes

There is an endless source of pre-built design templates from which you may choose to use for the foundation of your site. Themes include one or more demos which you can activate. This provides you with an appealing, pre-designed site that requires minimal effort to get up and running. Keep in mind that these can be pricey and limit your site’s capabilities and customization, as not all plugins work with every theme.

Overall Lower Cost

Typically WordPress is a cheaper option than hiring a software development team. Since it is open source and widely used, you have many options for designers and developers. You also have the option to maintain the site on your own – if you have the resources and time to do so.

Mobile-Friendly

WordPress makes it easy to transition your site from desktop to smaller screens such as tablet or mobile. This may require some customization to make it just right, but it can beat building a mobile app or an entirely new mobile site. Make sure a responsive mobile site is a right option for you as Hackernoon reports that in 2018 mobile users spend about an hour on the mobile web, while almost 3.5 hours on mobile apps.

 

 

WordPress Negatives

 

Open Source – Security

Open source is great for fast development, but it can leave your site vulnerable to attacks from hackers. This can lead to problems down the road, either legally or with development constraints. Are you going to be handling credit card information? What about users’ personal info? If you do, you will need extra security, make sure WordPress can secure your info or pick a developer/development team that is knowledgeable and can successfully secure your data. Have questions? Let us help you feel safe about your site’s security.

Customization Needs Coding

WordPress was built for blogging, CMS, forums, etc. This makes breaking that model to build a restaurant site, for example, with online ordering, slightly more difficult. Most WordPress themes aren’t built for any models besides the typical ones mentioned above, which means more customization and less flexibility for the overall design of the site. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it does mean less access to content without digging into the code base.

Frequent Updates

WordPress is constantly trying to improve and update their structure to better serve their large user base. Because of this, updates occur on a regular basis and could impact your site’s performance. At times, you may need to update plugins, which could result in your plugins no longer functioning correctly or not being supported by the new version of WordPress. It is very important to save a backup of your site before updating, just in case something goes wrong while converting to the new version. As you can imagine, this process requires some technical knowledge and the ability to fix bugs that may occur as you update your site.

 

Pro tip: WordPress doesn’t offer support!

 

Learning Curve

No matter whether you are a coder, a designer, or someone with no technical knowledge, WordPress requires time to learn the ins and outs of building and maintaining a site. If you think building a WordPress site is as easy as dragging and dropping elements on a page, you’ve got it wrong. WordPress is a very robust solution that is constantly updating and changing, it takes time and dedication to keep your site up-to-date.

Slow Speeds

WordPress has a reputation for having slow loading times and speeds for users. This is a big downfall as research from Hobo shows that users quickly get disheartened by slow loads times. Users will leave your site to find what they need elsewhere within 2-10 seconds of waiting on content to load. Even more concerning, eCommerce users will leave only after 2-3 seconds without content loading.

Not Easily Scalable

Unless planned well in advance, WordPress is not the best at scaling businesses. Most models are built with the intention that the site will stay relatively at the same size, volume, and structure. Modifying your WordPress site structure later down the road can lead to some sticky situations with plugins, content, and speed.

No Support Service

Building a WordPress site on your own? You’re Brave! Although WordPress has a massive following and plenty of answers that are just a google away, WordPress does not have an official support service. This means no one can get into your account and help you solve those more difficult, niche questions. Website editors typically have lots of support, but if those solutions don’t serve your needs, consider hiring a developer or development team who will only be a call away to give you unlimited support to solve your issues ASAP.

 

 

Conclusion

WordPress is great for some websites, specifically for smaller sites that don’t require tons of functionality and serve as a source of information rather than supporting large amounts of user data. Making sure you understand the capabilities and constraints of using WordPress will allow you to make the best decision for your business. If WordPress doesn’t seem like the right solution you may be better off using something more accessible like Wix, Squarespace, or even hiring a development team to build a customized solution. Sometimes the answer isn’t clear, and you’ll need to sit down and map out all of the pros and cons of each solution available to you. Feel free to reach out to our team for some expert advice. Good luck!

 

Have questions? Ask an Expert!

Our team of experts is always available to talk through your concerns and guide you in the right direction for your business, even if that option doesn’t mean using our team. Talk now.

Why Do I Need A QA Engineer?

By Agile, Development, Innovators, Startup, TestingNo Comments

Introduction

Why is a Quality Assurance engineer necessary for development of software? Couldn’t I simply get my developers to QA/review their own work? Could I get get developers to review each other’s work? These are all questions that I have come across at some point or other from multiple people.

Before I answer, let’s briefly summarize what QA is:

What is QA?

QA is the analysis of functionality and overall appearance of your site / app. This can include (but is not limited to): Cross-browser testing, screen resolution compatibility testing, grammar, spelling, functionality.. the list goes on. QA is ideally approached from multiple angles.

When testing a simple ‘contact us’ form, the QA engineer would ensure that the email field ensures that a valid email address is entered, the name fields do not accept numbers, the name fields do not accept special characters, ensuring fields have limits so malicious users cannot overwhelm your system by entering large amounts of characters, etc.

QA Responsibilities

A QA engineer’s responsibility is to review each feature before it is released, suggest edits to issues and approve code before it reaches the product owner. Therefore, not only is the entire site under the QA engineer’s watchful eye, each part of the site is analysed during its creation.

Why is QA Necessary For Development?

As you can see above, the responsibilities for QA are laborious. A dedicated amount of time by someone who knows your system is needed. Not only is QA needed for each release, regular testing across your site is critical to catch issues that may affect it from external sources.
Example: Still running flash player on your site? Browsers are discontinuing support since it is considered deprecated technology. Your QA Engineer will (/would) know this.

 

Can Developers QA Their Own Work?

The QA engineer should be a consistent team member, part of daily scrums and involved in feature development. Developers however,are assigned a particular module of the whole system and aren’t truly aware of the system as a whole. Not only is development typically modular, a developer has a completely different mindset and thought process. He/she may not consider all the scenarios a tester would consider.
They can definitely code review their peers but QA is a different game entirely.

 

Want to find out more about software development practices? Check out our Blog!
Bytelion is a full service software development firm. Check out the rest of Bytelion.com or contact us to find out more.

Branding your Company: Part 1 What you need to know before jumping in

By Marketing, Startup, Tips & TutorialsOne Comment

Part 1 of 2

Your brand is your company’s identity; it’s completely original and unique to you and your business’s mission. The message it portrays will fill the minds of both current and potential clients; it separates you from the rest of the pack. If done correctly, branding your company will help define yourself as a leading force in your sector, but where do you even begin?

 

meditation-1287207_1920

Start Soul-Searching:

To brand yourself successfully, you need to spend some quality time figuring out who you and your team are. You need to be honest with yourself in order to figure out what makes you great. Get out a pen and paper and jot down any answers that come to mind. Consider what particular factors of your business shine and in what ways these factors separate your company from the competition. What are the core values and long term goals that you wish to share with the public? What elements of your team’s personality should be represented in the brand? In what ways will you ensure that the message of your brand is shared with your audience?

Most importantly ask yourself, why. What is the reason you get out of bed every day? What is the purpose of your company, why is your business unique and why do consumers need your product? This Ted Talk, featuring Simon Sinek, sums up this concept of asking why nicely and how asking the right questions can lead to successful business.

Focus on who matters:

Of course, branding also needs to appeal to your customers and to please them in the best way possible; you must do your research. It is important to gather information about your industry and your business, who are your consumers? What do they enjoy? What do they do in their free time? How do they communicate with their peers? What makes them happy? And most importantly, how can you help them solve their problems? It is crucial to discover what information can aid customers so they can actualize their vision.

season-1985856_1920Connect with your Customers:

An article on HubSpot recommends that companies should find a way to connect with your customers on a deeper, more emotional level. The article asks: “Do you give them [your clients] peace of mind?” By discovering both the physical and emotional needs and desires of your customers, you can adjust your efforts to help them be successful.

Answering these questions can provide an accurate representation of your customer base. To create a simple overview of your clientele, you must group your current customers and record the characteristics of optimal clients that your business interacts with frequently, this is creating the coveted list of Customer Personas. Before publishing a blog, picking up the phone or promoting an advertisement, checking the list of customer personas can ensure efficient communication and a pleasant interaction for both parties.

In the quest to please your customers, do not forget who is essential to the entire process: you and your team. In order to create the best experience for your client, it is essential to assure that the brand is represented accurately across all fields of your company. The branding should include a consistent, congruent message which is recognizable across all sectors: from customer service, to social media to your website. If you are looking for inspiration, check out this great article by Muzli.

inboundvsoutbound

Share Your Knowledge: 

If you appear open, friendly and genuinely concerned about the needs of your clients,  you are creating an inviting environment for your customer while simultaneously establishing trust. By offering advice, you have created an excellent opportunity to promote your brand and showcase your company’s values and personality. It is important to remember not to force your product or services upon potential customers, it could create a barrier between yourself and them. Offering advice and consultation makes you genuine, positioning you as an advocate for your customers.

Study your Competition:

After some deep contemplation, turn outwards and start analyzing your competition, ask: What works well for them? What makes them successful? How do their strengths and weaknesses rank against yours? After compiling all of this information, take note of the recurring ideas, feelings, and emotions which are conducive to your business.

Furthermore, the advantage of taking these steps before developing a branding program is that it provides a benchmark. As you implement your new strategy, over time you will be able to measure improved conversions and customer loyalty. All in all, research allows you to measure results using objective metrics.

Concluding Thoughts:

At Bytelion, we wish you success as you start developing your brand.  We sincerely hope we can help you. What kind of blogs would help your business? We would love to hear from you, and if you have any questions please comment below and subscribe to our blog here.

Stay tuned for part 2 on how to begin building your brand.

 

Additional Links:

Want to find out more about customer personas? Click here

Agile development

Corporations Moving To Agile

By Development, Innovators, Startup

Introduction

It’s 2016, and the software industry is booming. Every other day there is a new start-up rearing its head and surprising us with applications we never knew we couldn’t live without. However, many more are failing, and this is not only applicable to start-ups. More and more, corporations are adopting software management techniques to gain the advantages of rapid delivery that their start-up counterparts have been using against them. Let’s take a quick at why Agile is so much better than Waterfall for most SAAS products.

Waterfall

Older project management methods will typically use the Waterfall method or something similar. In the Waterfall method, the project is broken down into several aspects: Requirements, Design, Implementation, Verification, and Maintenance. Relatively straightforward, you tackle each problem individually, in steps, as seen in the diagram. (Its shape is what has dubbed this process as ‘Waterfall’)

Waterfall model

Detailed View of the Waterfall Delivery Model

Any mistakes made earlier in the line are extremely costly. Let’s pretend that Facebook was built using this technique. Mark Zuckerberg would have gathered all of his requirements for college students. Then, he would have carefully designed all of the data models to support the requirements. With the data models in hand, he would have designed the User Interface to determine exactly how users would use it.  After two months in the design phase, he would have then jumped into three months of the implementation carefully building what he thought was right. After the product was complete, he walked through a complicated verification process to ensure that the application worked and was valid.  Then, once the users were using it, the product went into maintenance mode, and the application blew up overnight to be a success.  This is not what happened in reality though.

Agile

If he made a mistake, it would take weeks to correct. If you are familiar with Facebook’s development process, it was hacked after hack… which meant, version after version of the product was put in place to help Mark learn about his customers and make adjustments on the fly.  Whether he realized it or not, he was using the Agile development methodology. What makes Agile different is that the steps involve all of the categories at once. The following analogy is taken from the Scrum Training Series by Michael James.

 

Imagine we take the diagram above and put it into a blender.

Dropping Waterfall steps into blender

The Waterfall Approach

SCRUM Blending Waterfall into Sprints

The Sprint Approach

We then serve out several ‘cups’. In Scrum, these are called ‘Sprints’. Regarding our Facebook example, this means that Mark would design each feature individually. If there is an issue, it can immediately be identified and corrected first time round. So if the idea was faulty that day, it would not be as catastrophic! He can stop the development process and fix the issue before the Facebook app upsets too many users, and most importantly, this method minimizes waste.

Why Corporations Struggle With Agile

Corporations struggle with Agile development because it requires a cultural shift. One of the biggest problems with this shift is that it exposes poor software developers in companies or as contractors. Building software requires you to be nimble and deliver on a routine basis. Developers who enter larger companies can become complacent and lose their edge. One of the biggest hurdles is taking a poor performing team and getting them up to speed so they can, on a routine basis, deliver gold. There is no magic bullet here. It takes leadership, focused effort and at times, the backbone to move people off projects to get them going. The best developers will love it; the worst developers will hate it.

How to Make the Agile Transition

Training your team is critical. No matter how talented, smart, or seasoned they are, getting your team on board with the same training information is the fastest way for the team to coalesce around an accountable system to track their achievements on a daily basis.  The training is often disregarded because Scrum seems like such an easy topic, but investing in a basic certification for your team members is invaluable. While we don’t like certifications, there are times when it makes complete sense. We looked at some of the certifications and were shocked at the pricing difference. Our comparisons and recommendations can be found here: Scrum.org vs. Scrum Alliance or How Can I Transition My Difficult Team to Agile? 

Conclusion

Agile is definitely worth investing the time and effort in for your company. It does not take too long to study, and it can be surprisingly easy for some to incorporate it into an existing company framework. You should expect to have a bumpy road with some developers, and it may signal a period of shake up for you and your company. It is definitely worth the investment.

Never, Ever Invest in Specs

By Design, Innovators, Leadership, Software Lifecycle, StartupNo Comments

So, here is a scenario… you want to develop a new software product, but you aren’t sure who to hire or how much it will cost. What should you do?

Don’t Do This


Before I tell you what you should do, lets talk about what you should not do… pay a development team to break your application down into user stories or worse yet, a requirements document.  The amount of waste that you will spend on this is enormous with little value for a potentially large investment.

Common myth:  Once you have the specification, you can hand it to other developers who can create estimates for your application, right?  Wrong.  Developers cannot possibly pick up a cold specification and accurately estimate the project.  They still need to walk through the application, visualize it and ask questions about the features.  Even if a developer understands the application after investing an enormous amount of time, they still might not be able to accurately estimate it.   Why?  Read this. https://blog.codinghorror.com/how-good-an-estimator-are-you/

Specs are Boring and Painful to Read

specs_vs_ui_mockup

If you aren’t going to spend money on specs, what should you do?

Steps To Preparing Yourself


Step 1.  Become a hermit 

Roll up your sleeves and invest in learning a simple mockup tool like, https://moqups.com. Lock yourself in during a weekend and mock out what you want your application to do.  In a weekend, a founder can reasonably figure out how to build the critical 5 or 6 pages of their application.  Then, they can provide this to a development team to get their concept across and produce a well engineered prototype.

Step 2 . Pick up the check… the lunch check that is.

Use the money you saved by not paying someone to do your specification and take a few people out to lunch that are friendly to you AND understand your market very well.  Use this time to shore up your thoughts and produce another version of your application based on what you have learned.

Step 3. Deliver a working Prototype

Select your team using this simple outsource process.   Not sure how do this? Check out our “10 Minute Guide To Hiring Outsourced Team

Summary


At the end of the day, you are accountable for every dime you spend.  You are the only one.  You can blame a team delivering poorly after a few sprints, but that it is.  As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for selecting people to work for you and firing them.  If you blame your development team, then you are weak sauce and not ready to run a startup.  Be prepared to fire.