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How to make a technical specification for a mobile development project

“I want a website/mobile app/e-commerce/etc. where one can… and it should be implemented in bright/corporate/etc. colors” – have you ever had difficulties with planning the scope of work and troubles explaining what you want to a designer or a developer? Has he or she ever misunderstood something which seemed to be a plain and obvious feature? In this article we gathered some tips how to make a brief of the project yourself.

If it was supposed to work like this it doesn’t mean it will

A screen capture from “Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra”

Often you think that everything you’ve just described is quite obvious and simple. And there are no grounds for misunderstanding. The problem is that people percept the information in their own way. For example, you wanted to have a blog section done and mentioned that there will be hashtags for articles. You supposed that the content could be filtered and searched by hashtags and was very surprised when it didn’t happen. A developer must haven’t asked you any additional questions about hashtags and probably didn’t think about searching articles by hashtags feature. But formally everything was done according to the specification, because there are hashtags, aren’t they?

To avoid misunderstanding you should clear and unambiguously describe the algorithm of each feature: what exactly a user does and what result they get.

So the description “In the left there should be a menu” is not clear enough. A clear description sounds like this “in the top left hand corner there should be a menu with buttons homepage, portfolio, blog. In the mobile version it is transferred into a burger with a dropdown list.”

Designer knows better (but only if they are a professional)

Customers often ask to change colors/buttons/position of elements. It should be pointed out that there is never one point of view on the design and a lot depends in taste preferences. However, an interface designer needs special qualifications in the digital field. This person doesn’t just choose right and balanced color palette, which doesn’t irritate a user, but also knows how to make a user experience as pleasant and convenient as possible. This knowledge is based on a human perception of the information and how a user of a mobile app, for example, deal with interactive elements. Where a menu and other elements should be.

Sometimes there are situation when you really doesn’t agree with the offered by a freelancer solution. In this case you should state your point of clearly and give reasons to support what exactly you want to change and why.

For example, “I don’t like this, let’s try again from scratch” isn’t a clear instruction, compared to “red color seems to be too aggressive and doesn’t fit the company style and the application concept. Our app is for practicing yoga, so the color palette should be relaxing and soothing. Can you change the design using blue and green colors?”

For sure, you can always cut and try to find a designer who has the same preferences in design. But it might also mean that you’re both mistaken. Try to focus on solutions that are convenient and user-friendly.

Accent on a user. Business requirement are important

Finally “consumer” of your project is a user of a website or a mobile application. Main features should be oriented on the tasks which should  be able to perform a user with the help of your digital project and benefits which it brings. So if you want an app for ordering food, than you should take into account that a person will first search for restaurants, and, for example, articles about healthy diet is an optional feature, and shouldn’t be in the first place. Unless you’re making a landing for selling healthy lunch.

Use tools to visualize the requirements (but not too many)

Visualization sometimes is the only way to avoid ambiguity and discrepancy, that’s why development often starts with making up design. But if you aren’t a professional designer and want to order design in a web studio – make up a sketch or a mockup of the future app. Often this sketch can be dramatically transformed later on, but initially it will help you to put the prjoect requirements on paper.

Think about the necessary features, how they should work, how the elements on the screen should be situated. Make a list of the necessary pages and the impressions which should be inspired by the design.

There are a lot of ready tools which help to brainstorm the ideas and piece together aims and objectives of the project and user logic. Such as Balsamique, LucidChart, Business model canvas, Empathy map and different mind maps editors.

Add some flair. For commercial projects and startups

Everybody should have it and a mobile app is not an exception. If you want to make up another social network, Uber or another app from a highly competitive field, you should think first about a unique feature which make your project different from similar ones. For this you should first upload and try your rivals app. Make up a list of the things you like and don’t like about them and what you would like to add.

Trust the professionals

All the described above (gathering business requirements, rivals analysis, visualization, describing of a user logic in user stories) can be done in agencies of full stack development by account managers and project managers. In most agencies it is done for free providing that you order a project. Making up a specification sometimes take more than a week, but it is worth it as it prevent you from getting something that you’ve never wanted and that your app will be in the last pages of stores. Analytics, marketeers, designers, developers and quality assurance engineers can always give you advice in the fields where you lack knowledge. Let’s make high quality projects together.