Friday, May 27, 2016

3 Components of a Perfect Mobile App Spec


OnePlus One vs LG G3 vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4. - photo by Maurizio Pesce.

If you’ve been reading up on developing a mobile app, whether you’re planning to try to build it yourself or hire a developer to build it for you, the first step is always to write your idea down. Sure, easy enough, if you have an idea just write it down. Then you get the blank white sheet of paper in front of you and the process may seem a little daunting. So here’s a guide to help you outline your perfect mobile app spec. This spec can be used to help get an accurate cost estimate from a developer, to get funding from an investor, or to work as a framework for building the mobile app yourself.

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Mobile App Wireframes

The wireframe is a visual of the idea you have in your head. It will help you determine how many screens you might be thinking about. Start thinking about how it will function and what features you’ll need.

If you Google “mobile app wireframe tools” you’ll see there are many options to help you develop a wireframe. We like Just in Mind for wireframes; it’s $29 per user per month, no commitment. Many tools also have free 30-day trials. Or you could keep it simple and just hand draw in something like this:

Wireframe Image

We actually used a template like this for a children’s activity at our local library and they did a great job with the drawings! So if they can do it, you can do it. You can Google “mobile app wireframe examples” under images for inspiration.
The reason creating wireframes is part of a perfect spec is:
1. It helps you really develop your idea and how it will work on paper;
2. It gives a better picture to anyone you’re working with so you can do your best to ensure everyone is on the same page. When you’re not on the same page it can affect cost estimates both up and down.


Concept Overview

Write a couple paragraphs that describe the app concept. This can accompany the wireframe in a separate document. I recommend just a Word document. You can use these questions to help you develop the content:
• Who are you?
• How did you come up with this project concept?
• What problems will the app solve?
• What is the app?
• Who is the target audience for your app — who will download it?
• What do you hope to accomplish from developing the app?
• What is the business model for the app?
• Which mobile devices do you want to support? iPhone? iPad? Android? Windows?
• Do you have any preference if this app is built hybrid or natively? Hybrid apps can be finished faster at a lower cost but native apps typically perform more smoothly and quickly throughout the lifecycle of the app.
If you’re hiring a developer to help you with the app, consider:
• What are your turnaround time expectations?
• What are your cost expectations?


Your List of Must Haves

These are things that may not be easily visible from the wireframe and they can help reiterate what is in your concept overview. They can be shared in a third, separate document. Here are some examples:


Must Have

• Be available on Android
• A back-end control panel
• The ability to capture users’ e-mails
• Users can add personal profiles


Nice to Have

• In-app analytics
• Connection to social media accounts
• Push notification functionality
• A design like example app

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I hope this will give your blank white paper a little more direction when someone asks you to write down your idea. The most important thing this will do is give you an outline to start really thinking through the details of your project. You may want to get feedback from friends, family and industry experts before diving in with both feet – and this can be a written plan that will put your thoughts on paper and give them a visual to follow. Best of luck and happy apping!