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From contractor to software developer

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It wasn’t an easy road when this landscaper jumped into the tech world.

Lindsey Getz | April 12, 2012

Tom Del Conte, president of Del Conte’s Landscaping in Freemont, Calif., found that there were certainly some challenges to face when becoming a software developer and producing his first-ever app. He created Sprinkler Times as a means to water management and he learned a lot about the software development business in the process.

“As we were creating the app, it was extremely difficult to include the required complexity and yet still make it user-friendly,” says Del Conte, who worked with his company’s water manager, Logan Oates, to develop the product. “We actually decided to start over with our user interface when we were almost completed. As we rolled out our first prototype we did sample testing with a group of people and found the user experience was far too complicated to navigate.”

Del Conte says it was extremely frustrating to watch a test user operate the device and not be able to tell them which button to click as he watched. But he wanted to ensure users could truly be self-sufficient once it was in their hands.  “We could not tell them what button to push as the app would need to stand on its own if thousands were to adopt it. As landscape contractors, the absence of face-to-face customer training is new to us and something we needed to become familiar with quickly.”

Once the app was released, Del Conte knew he couldn’t be at users’ side so he and Oates quickly revamped the original interface and made it as simple as possible to navigate. “The building process for a multi-page program was like building a house,” says Del Conte. “Every turn had decisions to make along the way. It was extremely challenging to keep it as robust as we demanded and yet make it simple enough to use. But our attention to detail paid off, resulting in a complex yet user-friendly product.”
 

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