Create a Killer Mobile App Development Spec

Do you know what many visionary tech entrepreneurs have in common, besides business acumen, persistence, commitment and confidence in their own tech genius?

An inability to properly and clearly formulate their project idea or concept to those who’ll actually be working on bringing them to life!

Of course there are exceptions, just as in anything, but based on my seven plus years of experience working in IT, most of our future mobile product creators fail to create clear and well-structured mobile app development specifications. Otherwise we at Intersog wouldn’t receive so many chaotic app specs, sometimes resembling an essay by a college fresher (though some app owners are indeed college freshers) or notes from an insane asylum rather than a set of technical requirements.

You may object that all idea hamsters are creative by nature and creativity doesn’t always equate with an orderly approach. The problem is that a poorly written app development spec is likely to prevent you from getting your mobile product on time, on budget and matching your initial vision, and from correlating your actual expenditures with a development budget and creating an environment of a shared product vision with your development partner or team.

The technical specification generally defines requirements needed to fulfill the development contract, so when you’re unable to supply your future app development provider with a clear vision of the product and how it will interact with users and systems, be ready to face overheads and delivery issues at post-release stages.

Service providers literally hate getting specs that lack important details, such as the app’s target audience or the server collaboration or the proof of concept. Translating the messy, fragmented or cumbersome narratives into the technical documents requires additional efforts and time and both are very expensive these days, as you know. My former employer was so pissed off at receiving raw and unclear specs that it launched a series of workshops to teach companies how to create proper and well-structured mobile development specs. And believe me – those workshops were in a very high demand and came to be a great source of additional revenue!

But making a killer mobile app development spec is not so difficult at all, so why waste money on them? Just stick to the suggested sequence below while writing your next big hit app’s spec and you’ll be able to properly envelope your ideas and vision for your service provider’s sake.

Introduction

  1. First off, explain all definitions, acronyms and abbreviations to be used in the document (this can be done as a last step when writing a spec, but should always be placed on top of the document)
  2. Describe your app’s goal
  3. Describe your app’s target audience
  4. List and prioritize all mobile platforms your app is intended for
  5. List and prioritize all devices and OS versions your app is intended for
  6. List all technologies that should be used for building your app (I suggest you always make your own research before getting provider’s response and asking for suggestions)
  7. List major milestones (from analysis, prototyping, and pre-release to app store placement), their due dates and/or desired timeframe for proof of concept/delivery
  8. Specify your project’s budget

Functional requirements

  1. Usability (screens, view modes, menus, etc) and UI
  2. Social media integration (list all social media channels you want your mobile app to interact with)
  3. App’s collaboration with the server, including detailed description of the app-server interaction mechanism, protocols and likewise data
  4. Data caching for offline work if required
  5. In-app purchasing if applicable (specify what type of content will be sold to users inside the app)
  6. Geo-location services and push notifications
  7. Printing functionality
  8. Compatibility / sync with e-commerce engines, internal CMS and other systems

Design

  1. Here you should specify who will do the graphics design part – your in-house designers, freelancers, a subcontractor or a development provider. In any case, a design specification should be created separately and integrated into the app development requirements document.

Additional information

  1. Provide your market research details and links to / description of all rival / similar apps
  2. Express your concerns, limitations and special wishes for the service provider to have a complete picture of your future app and its role in the marketplace
  3. List all points of contact within your organization and briefly describe your vision of how communication between your company and your app developer should be handled throughout the project

Also remember that a killer mobile app development spec should be truthful, unambiguous, consistent, verifiable, modifiable and traceable. Try to stay away from generic requirements such as “the app should never crash” or “the app should respond quickly to a user query” and provide quantitative requirements instead such as “each button push should provide a response within 100 ms”.

Be sharp, crisp and up to the point and you’ll gain maximum value from providers’ responses to your RFP!

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  • vlad

    Building native iOS and Android apps is no longer a problem. DIY platfroms like SnAPPii can help you create your own app in hours without difficulties in submitting apps to stores. An ability to connect those apps to any web services makes them a good alternative to custom developers’ apps

    • http://intersog.com/ Viktor Bogdanov

      vlad, it all depends on your business goals. Of course, if you want to create another calendar or schedule planner app, a DIY platform may suffice. However, when you use 3d party tools, the resulting app will never be as efficient as the natively authored one. You’re very much restricted in functionality and templates and still need basic programming skills to properly port and launch your app! And don’t forget – your DIY tools may be buggy and thus your app may be buggy too. Judging from my own experience, I once used a DIY platform for creating a website. It was very easy to create pages by using drag-n-drop features, but my website looked differently in different browsers and had a lot of bugs which I couldn’t fix without the knowledge of html, CSS, etc. So, managing a website turned out to be a huge headache for me and eventually I had no other choice but to shut it down and hire a freelancer to do the job.

      Plus, there’re no truly disruptive apps that have been built on DIY platforms, please correct me if I’m wrong) If you really want to create a cool mobile product, you should let professionals do it, that’s my deep belief!

  • http://KeithJamesDesigns.com Keith James

    The term “app” becomes more convoluted everyday. Apps for businesses are very different than games, utility etc. When you combine the diversity of apps and then include those that are simple web views, the lines get real blurry, real quick.

    I don’t think you can count on your client having enough knowledge to create a technical and creative brief for you. We prefer to do our own discovery. We know what questions we need answered and can then let the client know what can be done based on their budget and expectations.