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How to Write a Perfect App Specification? (+Free Template)

Heads up, the hardest parts of launching a product is initially explaining its concept to the people who will work on it.

You may not be the best writer (which is fine), but you need to structure your notes into a coherent, presentable document that your team will then use to:

  • Provide you with an initial price quote & development timeline.
  • Use the provided information to build an app you want (not the one they assumed you want).

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If you are up for a quick solution, download an app specification template here. Need some help with filling it out or creating a custom one from scratch? Check out the commentary below.

How to Write a Perfect App Specification: The Basics

You don’t need to write an explanatory essay about your project. Yet, just like in college you need to follow a certain structure while writing.

Each mobile app development specification document should include the following information:

Your Background

Let’s get acquainted a bit more. Is it your first app project or did you launch a few others before? Do you already have a web solution you wish to expand to a mobile platform. Or do you have a mobile-first business strategy?

Understanding where you stand and what was already done will help the developers to communicate better with you. I mean without restoring to patronizing or using tech-heavy jargon you don’t quite “get”. Additionally, the team will be able to assess your business concept better and propose relevant solutions – opposed to what you’ve seen happening with a wooden swing.

Brief Idea Description

Can you provide a short app definition in two lines? Is it a location-based app to discover new cool places in the neighborhood? Or a more comprehensive global event guide featuring the coolest happenings this year? We are dying to know

Your Target Audience

Having some general understanding is enough at this point. But if you already did some solid market research, that’s awesome! Bring it on.

We’ll need this information to anticipate your users’ preferences and create specific user personas during the design stage. User personas are semi-fictional profiles of your ideal customers/users, which outline their behavior patterns, goals, needs, aspirations and pain points. By using those during the design stage, you can make sure that the final product will immediately appeal to them.

Further Reading: How To Research Target Audience For Your Mobile App

Your Product Goals

What do you want to achieve by launching an app? Try to come up with some really solid goals. For instance:

  • Create an additional traffic/revenue channel to your heritage website.
  • Create a companion mobile app for your web service.
  • Become the next Snapchat and revolutionize the social media space.

Your app goal should describe the problem you are trying to solve and the results you’d like to achieve.

For startups, it’s also advisable to conduct a quick SWOT analysis before writing an app specification document. Again, it should help you consolidate your idea better.

Here’s an example SWOT chart for building a fitness application:

Strengths

Alternatively, you may want to set up some SMART objectives for your product. That is:

  • Specific – “I want to generate 1.000 app downloads within a week after publishing the app on App Store”.
  • Measurable – “I want to new users to log in to my app at least once daily”.
  • Attainable – Be reasonable. No matter how great your product is, it won’t revolutionize the entire industry in a month. But in a year…that’s quite possible
  • Realistic – “I want an MVP app to be ready in 2 months, not two weeks”
  • Time-Bound – “I’ll finish writing an app specification document by tomorrow 5 pm”

The Tech Details

Next we’ll need to know the supported device range. Do you want an app that will work on iPhone, iPads, Android phones, tablets and phablets, wearables etc?

Here’s some handy reading to help you make the right choice:

Also, mind the fact that the supporting more devices and mobile OS systems and versions will cost you well…more.

When it comes to specific technologies, you should also mention whether you want to build a native or a hybrid app. This post weights in details on the pros and cons of those approaches to app development.

If you have a specific development language in mind, for instance, Swift over Objective-C, do mention that in your document too. Though if coding isn’t your strong side, don’t fret over comparing different tech stacks. Instead ask the development team to suggest you the best options. At Alty we usually lay out all the options with explanations in plain ol’ English sans the jargon.

Additionally, it’s worth including the following information if you can provide it at this point:

  • App’s collaboration with the server including the interaction mechanisms and the protocols to be used.
  • Do you need data caching for offline mode?
  • Do you plan to support in-app purchases? What kind of content would be sold?
  • Should your app sync/be compatible with specific internal tools, e-commerce engines or other systems?

Requested Features

So, what should your app do? Include a short list of the essential product features. As this point, you can give a truncated overview. Here’s an example of mobile application specification feature list for a taxi booking app:

  • Login/Create an account using social media profile (Twitter + Facebook)
  • Fare calculator
  • Map overview of cars available nearby
  • User location tracking and positioning them on the map.
  • In-app messaging with the driver.
  • Rating/reviews for a ride.
  • Payment integration
  • Push notifications
  • Ride history

Initially, this should be enough. Further on, the developers should help you come up with a more prioritized list of app features similar to this one shared by Mitt Tarasowski:

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Project Timeline

Do you have a very specific deadline to meet e.g. present an MVP to the investors in three months? Mention that in your document and try providing a short timeline for important milestones that must be met.

Budgets

Talking about money is always tricky. Most times you don’t want to be the one naming a price. Yet, if you do have certain budget limitations, do mention those in your app specifications document.

For instance, if you are building an MVP to pitch to investors, your total budget may be close to $25.000 at the moment. Based on this number and additional product insights provided, app developers would be able to quote you what could be done for that money.

At Alty, we call that a “Fixed Budget” pricing model. You can learn more about it here, along with additional tips on minimizing the cost of app development.

Extra Information

Do you have any preferences on app design? Already have the wireframes ready? Is there anything else essential that your development team should know before kicking off the project? Leave those comments within the final section of your document.

Wrapping Up

An app specification document should deliver a clear outline of your project. The more precise data you’d manage to provide, the more accurate the development price quote would be.

The same document would be later expanded into a more comprehensive product requirement document, which would be used as an executive roadmap once the contract is signed.

Ready to get the ball rolling? Grab your mobile app functional specification template here and feel free to get in touch with Alty team if you have any questions!

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