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Want to build an awesome app? Put these 10 things in your development brief


Nothing beats a dream mobile app, software or online tool to make our lives better. Just think of the satisfaction whenever you order an Uber, send an invoice from your phone, or complete online banking in just a few finger taps.

Inventing a pioneering application is exciting, but where do you start? 

The first step is to nut out the details in a comprehensive brief - describe what the app is all about. The briefing document will help the software development company understand what type of application you’re intending to build, and how the app will evolve over time. Your technology partner of choice can then propose the appropriate technologies, methods, and tools to ensure that the final product matches your expectations.

We propose including these 10 things in your app development brief. 


1. What core products/ services do you offer?

Summarising your business and services on the document will let the development company quickly dive into your business objectives, and what the app essentially needs. This will help the developer kick-off the thinking process of making your app.

2. Tell us about the app.

Explain the core purpose of your app or software. What kind of problem(s) does it solve for the end users? You should include the core feature of the app. For example, is it a mobile app that lets you easily book appointments with your doctor, and never have to wait at the clinic ever again? 

3. What’s the navigation sequence?

Describe the sequence users would experience when exploring the app. Start with the home screen, including user registration and onboarding. Then show what the user will be doing next. If you have visuals or wireframes, these can help the developer quickly understand the user’s journey. 

4. Who are the end users?

It’s vital that the development team fully understands your target audience. This group of people is the driving force behind your app. Is it an online meal kit website whose orders are going to be completed mainly by mothers? Or is it a specific app targeted at singles looking for suitable dates living close by? Understanding end users is key to creating an optimal user experience and fine tuning the features for the app.

5. Choose the platform.

Which platforms will the app need: web, Android, iOS, or all of the above? If your app needs high performance, native development where the app is developed for a particular device, is a good choice. However, if you’re keen to quickly launch a basic application or minimal viable product (MVP), then a web-hybrid may be a better choice.

6. Check existing apps.

It’s helpful to note down the software or mobile apps currently available on the market that are in direct competition with your idea. Check the Apple App Store and Google Play, and list key apps that the software developer should investigate. If there are applications or particular features you would like included in your app, make sure to mention these in the brief. These could be the look and feel, specific buttons, colours or animations.

7. Features. 

Think about all the features your app needs. If you’re developing an app that needs the following, be sure to note them all down:

  • location-based services
  • notifications
  • search
  • payment processing
  • reporting.

The developer will be collating a list of technologies and backend services to realise the app. Perhaps these features will need to integrate with your existing database or third party services.

8. Prioritise features.

Now that you have a robust features list, you may decide you want to launch a basic app first. If you think about the accounting app, Xero, the software has essentially been getting richer with functionality over time, adding features to build customer loyalty and new subscribers.

But in order to get started, you’ll have to launch version 1. Hence many startups begin with a good basic app, then add to it. At this point, we recommend you prioritise the features list in the brief. This way the software developer knows which features to focus on first.

We recommend marking the features using the MosCow method i.e. note each feature as a

  • Must
  • Should
  • Could, or
  • Won’t.

You can even decide which features go into Phase 1 of launch, and earmark the other features for future releases.

9. Budget and timeframe.

Implementing all the features and technologies for your app may cost NZD$100,000 or more.

This is why it’s important to define the budget from the beginning, so that the software developer can provide an estimate with a cost breakdown. Having a budget will help tighten up the project scope for go-live. The budget is also why we recommend that you start with a solid basic app, then add features over time.

10. Maintenance and Agile.

Every software and application needs to be maintained. Even the best of them, such as Netflix, Facebook, Office 365, can become buggy or problematic at some point. Fixes will be needed. After your app goes live, you may want to think about a maintenance contract for peace of mind. Let the developer take care of ensuring the app runs at the highest of quality, and that if and when issues occur, they are quickly resolved. Following from point 8 above, a product can be improved using the Agile development method, whereby the developer is your tech partner who can help enrich the app with new features and functionality over various planned phases. 

Summary

There is a lot to define when it comes to developing a new software application or mobile app. The process is often a complex one. By approaching a development company with a thorough brief, you’re going to make things simpler for all stakeholders, and achieve the product you want.

Contact us 

If you have a cool app in mind for web or mobile, talk to us. Let’s make it happen!

Or check out the software applications and mobile apps we've made.

By Jo Lo
Jo Lo

About the author

Jo Lo

Jo is a digital producer at Pattern. Jo has a background in communication, and has worked as a producer and editor for organisations such as Les Mills International, Tailor, Auckland Libraries and XtraMSN/Telecom. From 2007-2009, Jo was the web editor for Taste and Metro magazines.