You have identified a gap for a consuming audience – a pain point that needs a solution. And you believe that you have the idea to provide that perfect solution. You know that if you can get a mobile app developed, you have the chance to make megabucks. Of course, you are not a developer – you are the idea person. You know what you want that app to do, and it’s just a matter of finding the right developer and making sure that he (and perhaps his team) understands all the details of what you are trying to achieve.
Before you “sing on that dotted line” with any developer, take the time to craft a brief that will provide the detail for potential developers.
What Is an App Development Brief?
In short, a brief is a listing of specifications for a future product. It describes the type of app, who the potential users are, and how it should be developed. If it is used to solicit developer interest and discussion, it is called a request for proposal (RFP).
A brief should include six essential sections if you want a developer to understand the details of what you want. Here’s a summary of what each section should explain.
1. Basic Information About You and/or Your Company
You may want to briefly describe your business, but very briefly. It is not critical that developers know all the “ins and outs” of products or services you offer. The most obvious and important information here is your business name and contact information – email address and phone number.
2. Describe Your App Project
Begin by describing your idea in as much detail as possible. What exactly do you want your app to do? Is the app for your internal business use, or will it be sold to an “outside” customer base?
Who are the end-users of your app? If this is for internal use, then fully describe the positions of the people who will be using it, the educational and experiential backgrounds required for those positions, and the specific expertise they bring to your organization.
If your end-user is an outside customer base, then your work is a little more involved. You will need to develop a customer persona with lots of demographic information – age range, gender (if specific), socioeconomic status, educational level, values, beliefs, and more. This will be important for the developers to use language and visuals that are appropriate and engaging for that customer base.
For example, if you were to have an app like a restaurant locator, your audience range would be huge and cover many demographics and be sorted by types – fast food, casual, fine in-house, and again by types of food and perhaps price range. If, however, the app is a tool for college students to find the best writing services to get a ThesisOnTime or for other types of assignments or projects, then the customer base is significantly narrower.
Do you anticipate updates, and, if so, how often? If so, do you want the developer to train you in how to perform those or will you be returning to the developer for that task?
This section should also include the results of your research on direct competitors and related niches. What designs and other features did you really like? Give some examples, so your developers get visuals of what you believe will engage your audience.
3. Choice of Platform(s)
Do you want your app developed for iOS, Android, or both and/or for cross-platform access? This choice will impact the development because each one has its own specific requirements and nuances. In general, if you want the app developed for both iOS and Android, it will be best to develop two native apps for those platforms.
If, however, you want to get your app out there quickly with at least basic functionality, to be refined and further developed later, then you want a cross-platform app, accessible on multiple devices.
The best advice here is for you to ask your selected developer for advice. They have the experience and the expertise and can make the best recommendations.
If you plan to develop native apps for iOS and Android, you will need accounts in Google Play or the App Store. You can get this registration done yourself, or have your developer do it for you.
Be certain that you have selected an engaging name for your app. Your developer can also help you decide how it will be presented in the app stores. You want a compelling description that intrigues and entices potential customers.
4. Understanding Front-End and Back-End Development
You need to have at least a cursory understanding of what each of these terms means so that you can explain what you want and have intelligent conversations with your developer.
Front-end development speaks to user experience, interface, interactions, and exactly how those are presented. It is what the user actually sees and can do when the app is opened.
Back-end development refers to the server part of the app and deals with such things as logic, security, and data storage.
Here are the questions to ask yourself and your developer regarding back-end development:
- How will the app transmit data from the server to the front-end side? (e.g., JSON, SOAP, XML, REST, etc.)? Rely on your developer to choose the best protocol, but at least be aware of these.
- Will your app need to interact with a live database or website?
- Do you want your app to work offline?
5. The Features
You know what you want your app to do. Now, it’s time to think about the features to be included. Here are some potentials that may spur your thinking a bit:
- Do you want push notifications?
- How about geolocation acceptance?
- What payment system integrations do you want? Credit cards? PayPal?
- Do you want to integrate the app with any social networks?
- Do you want levels of subscriptions?
- Will you monetize in other ways, such as advertising support or in-app purchases?
Also, think about what you might want to add in the future, so that your developer can plan for those – perhaps video, RSS, or animation.
You will also want to think about how you will get feedback from your users – API, email, a help desk?
Run these by your developer if you are not certain – he’s done this before and can provide good advice.
6. Ideas for Your App Design
You have looked at competitors and apps from related niches. And you may have sent some screenshots of those you find most engaging. You can also send sketches and drawings.
If you lack ideas for design, don’t worry. If you have prepared your brief well, your developer will have ideas and can create mockups and prototypes and discuss them with you. Remember again, he has done this before.
What May or May Not Be in Your Brief
You have to determine whether you should include a timeframe for completion. This will be critical if your timeframe is urgent.
The same is true with a budget. If you are on a tight budget, provide a range for the developers who will be analyzing your brief for a response.
It’s a Wrap!
By now, you should understand the importance of preparing a good brief for a mobile app and preparing it with some pretty comprehensive information. If you do it right, you will have given potential developers all the information they need to evaluate the project and determine if it is one they can tackle successfully. Hopefully, these proposed six sections will guide your construction.