How to Create a Mobile App Dev Specification That any Provider will Understand

As a custom mobile app developer, we are regularly at the receiving end of poorly written specs. Sometimes we end up spending hours trying to figure out what the client’s goals are or what they’re trying to achieve with the app. More often than not, this results in frustration and delays in project estimation.

Although a lot of tech entrepreneurs are visionaries and innovators with great business acumen, they sometimes fall short when it comes to articulating their concept to those who are actually going to bring it to life.

This can easily be avoided by simply writing things down in a well-structured way! Writing down your app development specifications plays a critical role in ensuring that you get what you want at the end of the build cycle.

Why is a properly written app spec critical for project success?

Take this hypothetical example into consideration. You have a great idea for a mobile app, but you lack the necessary programming skills to bring it to life. So you hire a developer and describe your idea.

At the end of the development process, you get to check out the app for the very first time. But it’s not exactly what you wanted.

Why? Because when you described your idea, it didn’t have enough detail to go with it for the developer to truly understand your concept.

To avoid this all together, you will need to first formalize the idea into something that isn’t vague. While a lot of it might make complete sense in your mind, you also have to take into account that your developer will be coming from a completely different frame of reference. So they might not see what may seem completely obvious to you.

The best way to approach this is to write down all your requirements and describe how you envision the end result. Once shared with the developer, you can engage in a discussion to ensure that you’re both on the same page.

What’s the best way to write down your technical requirements?

The key here is to completely eliminate ambiguity to make sure that the work that goes into development is focused on what you want. If not, you will be wasting both money and time.

You may want to read: How to Create a Project Requirements Spec That Any Provider Would Love

Furthermore, try to provide a clear picture of the scope of work to help the developer make a better assessment of the time and effort that’s required for the project.

Based on our personal experience, this is what we would like to see when it comes to the requirements of a mobile app development project.

1. Describe your Idea Intelligibly

The idea for your mobile application must be properly described, preferably in a single sentence. This descriptor can include a core feature of the application so that it immediately communicates what the app is about (even at a glance).

For example, for an app that enhances the user’s focus and productivity, you can write a sentence like the following:

An app to enhance daily productivity levels by helping the user improve their concentration at home and at work.”

Then clearly describe the goal of your mobile app and its target audience. At this juncture, it’s also important that you prioritize the mobile platforms, devices, and OS variations that it’s intended for.

It’s also a good idea to conduct your own research and list all the technologies that should be used to build your app.

2. Basic Navigation Patterns

Think about the basic navigation patterns and describe your app in the same sequence that the end users would experience while delving into it. Once you have completed this part, start describing the first steps of the application like user registration and onboarding designs.

From there on, keep moving on to what comes next like the app’s home screen, “forget password” screen, and privacy policy. This process is intended to give the reader an idea of what the journey would be like when they first open the app on a mobile device.

To help get the point across, you can also use examples from existing apps on Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

3. Focus on the Features

While describing the features, you can skip minor details like the color or shape of the button. What’s important here is whether or not these features solve a real problem.

So pay more attention to what the user will be able to accomplish by using the app. At the same time, communicate which features take priority over others.

By listing out the features in order of priority, the developer will know what to focus on first.

4. Functional Specification

The functional specification will cover a standard list of items the app should do and how it should do it. These can include some or all of the following:

  • Description of the app’s interaction mechanism, collaboration with the server, protocols, and data
  • User interface (UI)
  • Usability (menus, screens, view modes, etc.)
  • Social media integration (a list of all social media channels that your app should interact with)
  • Data caching (for offline work if required)
  • In-app purchases whenever applicable (specify what type of content would be purchased via the app)
  • Geolocation services
  • Push notifications
  • Compatibility with internal CMS, sync with e-commerce engines, and other systems

5. Provide Wireframes to Compliment Text

By creating wireframes of the app screens, you can compliment your textual descriptions to make things totally clear. But if you have more than four wireframe screens, then you should draw a screen map to avoid confusion.

There are plenty of wireframe tools that you can use to intelligibly get your point across to the developer:

  • Axure
  • Balsamiq Mockups
  • Fluid UI
  • InDesign CC
  • Microsoft Visio
  • Photoshop CC
  • Pidoco
  • UXPin

You can also take advantage of user stories to communicate what the app will be about to the developer. You can mix and match different approaches to creating the app specification document as long as it’s not obscure and articulates your intentions.

The basic rules are to be clear and consistent while avoiding general requirements that can be considered a no-brainer. You can also use it as an opportunity to express your concerns and what you hope to accomplish with this endeavor.

To make sure that you have accomplished what you set out to do with this document, you can ask your friends or colleagues to read it and explain what the mobile app is all about and how it will work. Based on these comments, you can tweak the specs before forwarding it to the developer.

Don’t forget to list all the contact details and how communication between your organization and the developer should be handled.

You may want to read: Checklist of Deliverables You Should Expect From Your App Developer

All of the above should check all the boxes when it comes to providing app specs to a developer. But if you think that something was missed out or if you would like to add another step to this list, please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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Andrew is our IT storyteller and copywriter. His current undertaking is big data analytics and CSS as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with a focus on new technology and marketing.

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