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How To Create a Mobile App Specification

App specification is a detailed and consistent document about the app requirements that will align your development team and the owner’s vision – it helps to clearly understand what needs to be done. 

If you do it properly, you’ll prevent any unpleasant surprises at the end.

Bear in mind that you can always modify the requirements as per your specific needs.

HOW TO CREATE A MOBILE APP SPECIFICATION?

When writing a mobile app specification, you must make sure it’s clear, detailed and not ambiguous – it MUST be understandable and straight to the point. 

Let’s go step by step on how to create a mobile app specification and what it should contain:

Introduction

This section should include a short description about your company – your vision, nature of business, how long you’ve been operating and if you possess (or released) any prior software solution or an app. 

Although you’d think these details aren’t important, actually they are. 

Such information provides a picture about your company, the principles you want your solution to be based on (in case you have any previous solutions) and the nature of your business process.

A development partner can then gain more insight into your way of doing business and the vision you pursue and would match the desired solution to your actual business strategy.

App idea

You’ve come up with an idea for your app so you need to write it down – basic purpose and what type of problem it should solve. 

Prior to any work, you should conduct a market research. It should evaluate your current customers, review your competitors, define target audience and so on.

Ask yourself: what is your app intended to achieve? What central pain point does it need to resolve?

A table below can help you organize your research:

Table 1: Primary Research and Secondary Research


Source: https://medium.com/@ChromeInfotech

Secondary research proposes using SWOT analysis, here’s an example for a health app:

Another way to analyze your product development can be setting SMART objectives:

Specific – Set real numbers e.g. ‘I want to generate more than 1000 downloads within a week after the app is released on App Store.’

Measurable – Make sure your goal is trackable. e.g. ‘I want new users to log in to my app at least once daily.’

Attainable – Give yourself a challenging goal but not impossible. E.g. ‘I want to reach a million downloads in a year

Realistic – Be honest with yourself and don’t forget about the hurdles you need to overcome e.g. ‘I want my MVP to be finalized in 2 months

Timely – Give yourself a deadline, don’t set unspecific goal like e.g. ‘I’ll finalize my app some day next year’. 

Since the document will be used by your development partner to create more technical records, try to be as specific as possible. Try to include market research results, any calculations and analytics you may have, user feedback etc. as it will only help for your product to be developed exactly as you wish. 

Target audience

Another important segment is your target audience – you should determine who needs your app and who are the people most likely to buy it – end users or businesses. Think about the following factors: age, location, gender, education, income, occupation etc

Understanding your target audience will help you and your developers to get a better idea of the functional requirements of the app that need to be delivered.

Target audience defines the user experience and feature set to a great extent. For example, a social app would have sharing option as a core feature for an application aimed at teenagers, while an app for children would be simpler with large screen elements. 

The best would be to outline a general description or a ‘user persona’ describing it in as many details as possible – age, occupation, app experience, hobbies etc. Once you do that, it will be much easier to outline the app features. For example, if you want to develop an app for tourists, you will definitely need a geolocation feature.

With this in mind, you can now develop an app based on how people will use it. 

Technology Stack and Platforms

This is a part of technical documentation – you should decide whether you want to target Android, iOS users or both platforms as it greatly influences both, a budget scope and delivery time.

If you decide to move forward with native apps, it instantly means developing two applications. This approach requires more time and the cost but bear in mind that in the long run, native apps can save you money.

However, if you’d like lower cost and a shorter time of delivery, you can pick building a cross-platform app with some of the popular tools (e.g. React Native, PhoneGap etc.). 

In case you need to specify which device the app will be supported with – whether it will be responsive or cross-platform etc., we provide you with a list of reference devices:

  • desktop browsers
  • mobile website (browser)
  • native mobile apps: Android, iOS, Windows
  • tablet
  • Smart TV: Android TV, Tizen OS (Samsung), Firefox OS (Panasonic), WebOS (LG)
  • Facebook applications
  • Virtual Reality: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Playstation VR
  • Kiosks

Always pay attention to screen orientation – for mobile and tablets, designs can appear different in portrait and landscape modes. If you have any doubts about it, conduct a usability test

When considering technologies to use for developing a mobile app, keep in mind it can be a complicated task. If you have any certain preferences for the tools to be used, you should share it with your development company so they can arrange for the necessary software capacities.  

This part is extremely important if you want to upgrade an existing product – in that case it’s a must to inform your developers as they need to use the same technology to ensure smooth integration. 

In case you don’t have any idea on technologies you want to use, consult your development partner and they will surely advise you on the best possible solution for your app to function flawlessly along with the features you want to build. 

Features

This section describes the features you’d like to have in your app. The best way to do it is to imagine how the users will use your app and break it into individual screens or steps. 

For example, some basic features may be:

  • Login – the most used feature in most applications – it can be login via user’s email or you can choose a social login through social networks which is very popular as it helps users to login without too much hassle. 
  • Payment system – if you’re building an app with any kind of paid services, you will need a secure payment gateways like Stripe, Braintree or other popular ones.  
  • Geolocation – the feature uses your location and it’s essential with apps for taxi or car sharing apps, rental platforms, social apps etc. In case your app requires geolocation to function properly, you’d need to implement it. 
  • Push Notifications – you’d need to let know your developers if you want this feature in you app – push notifications must fit with the app goals so be careful with this feature. 
  • Chat – this feature is very useful but only in the apps where chat is a necessary option like social apps, dating apps etc. You can have live chat or a comment based chat depending on the app requirements. 
  • Monetization – if you plan to include some type of paid content or in-app ads, you would need this feature. 

You can also prioritize the features and make clear which ones are more important than others with MoSCoW method marking them with Must, Should, Could and Won’t levels of priority.

Source: vectorstock.com

Above is just a short list of features that you may wish to implement in your app – it’s crucial that you provide as much information as possible as it will help your development team to stay on the right track.

With a feature list, they can determine which integrations, APIs and other third party elements will be needed. 

Admin Features

Most apps usually have an administrator to manage the application – you should outline how would like to control it: which options and permissions should be available. 

Source: pininterest.com/prebootstrap

Based on this outline, development team will create an admin panel featuring the specified options like:

  • Managing all users
  • Multi-level access system
  • Remote support and maintenance
  • Access to various app analytics

Wireframes

Image is worth a thousand words’

No matter how well you describe your idea of the app screen, an image will always be much better. A simple outline will give a better idea of the style, layout, user flow and position of elements on the screen. 

A good development team will create wireframes but make sure you give them enough details. When you create a wireframe, you can better see the relationship between the features and outline the functionalities necessary for implementation.  

Source: fingent.com

If you want your developers not to misunderstand the main points on UI, you must be clear on your definitions of fidelity as it can represent different things to different people.  

Below is a table listing the most common wireframe fidelity:

Timeline and budget

Timeline necessary for building a mobile app, as well as the cost, is a bit harder to estimate. However, there are some reference points to it – e.g. you may have a scheduled meeting with a product owner where you need to present an MVP or a prototype.  

With money, it is mainly the same – if you have a limited budget, it means that you will have to build an MVP first and later use it for the basis for upgrades or building a full product. There are some rough calculations as per the complexity of the app, see below the table:

Acceptance Criteria

Acceptance criteria are the conditions that a mobile app must meet in order to be accepted by a user or the owner. You should outline the mandatory requirements for an app performance that you want to see in the final release.

Acceptance criteria will ensure that your development team defines the limits of a user story. 

Source: facebook.com/musthave

For example, you can put ‘mobile app page should load under 3 seconds’ etc.

You should create some test cases where the acceptance criteria can be measured as you will be able to see the conditions in which your app will be used and the performance level that should be achieved. 

Contact persons and details

Although contact details seem trivial, effective communication between the client and development team is the key element for a successful cooperation.

Having all contact details at the start of the project ensures a healthy beginning of a relationship.

Source: techwell.com

It would be helpful if you can identify the key people in charge of the project besides CEO or CTO role, such as:

  • Team leader – in case you’re outsourcing only a part of the project 
  • Product Owner – a coordinator of the development process so that the product delivers the intended business value
  • Marketing manager – responsible for promotion of a product or an MVP

FINAL

There are many ways to write a mobile app specification and ALL of them are correct. You can use one of the dozens of templates online or download our mobile app documentation template or you can create your own specification template for your own projects. 

The most important thing is to provide as many details as possible about the project – the more comprehensive specification, the smoother the start of the project.

Bear in mind that there are no two projects alike, so each specification will have some differences along the way but the core is the same – explaining the idea thoroughly.

Hopefully, our guide gave you some ideas on how to create your own mobile app specification document. 

TOP MOBILE TRENDS FOR 2020

The most impressive thing about technology is that it’s always evolving – one of the most recognizable trends today is increased usage of mobile.

Increase in using mobile is a reality – as per Uk Web Hosting Review, the average mobile Internet user spends more than 2.8 hours on a mobile device.

The irrefutable fact is that people use their mobile devices more than ever before. 

Since mobile defines the time in which we live, let’s see the top trends to watch in 2020 for mobile technology:

5G

The next evolution of wireless connection is on the horizon: 5G. 

As per Statista, an ‘adoption explosion’ is yet to come in the following years. Some smartphone makers like Samsung etc. have already released their first 5G headsets in 2019 and others like Apple have reported they will include 5G to their premium iPhones in 2020.

5G technology means faster and more reliable cell phone connections as well as a massive upgrade to IoT (Internet of Things) as it uses mobile. The cross-connection of devices has become a new norm(al). 

When compared to 4G, 5G will be not only 100 times faster, but will also improve data security, Augmented Reality (AR) and 3D gaming. Although 5G faces some challenges such as regulatory change, the main focus is on 5G and its connectivity possibilities.

Considering 5G application range, developers should design the apps accordingly so to enable users to experience enhanced performance. 

Source: statista.com

eSIM

SIM cards were introduced back in 1991 and was about the size of a credit card. 

Since then, SIM cards endured a lot of improvements making them smaller and smaller.

Source: kwikboost.com

Today, SIM card is on the way into the future by introducing the next version of the SIM that will be impossible to hold because it’ll be entirely virtual. 

The new trend will be eSIM: an electronic (or embedded) SIM. Instead of physical card, SIM technology will be built right into your phone – basically, it’s a small chip used to authenticate your identity with your telecommunication carrier.

The advantages of eSIM technology is that it makes much easier to switch carriers straight from your phone. If you’re a dual SIM user, eSIM technology will help as it supports multiple accounts. One of the first phones to support eSIM technology was Google Pixel 2 along with the app in the store to manage your eSIM card. 

Despite its conveniences, the eSIM faces a potential risk of security issues – it’s still being developed and those risks will be addressed along the way but for now, maybe it’s not that practical to store your credentials and data into the OS of the devices without a better cyber defense.  

Considering that more phone devices support eSIM, it will definitely be interesting to watch what the future brings.

AUGMENTED AND VIRTUAL REALITY (AR and VR)

Brends today use these technologies to achieve novelties in their approach to customers. 

A few years ago, we had a chance to see obsessive gaming trends like with Pokemon Go, Dino Trek and more. There are many apps (e.g. ‘Ikea’) that already use AR technology to uplift the user experience and some popular social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram have already been using such technology for some time now.

Earlier this year it was announced that Google brought Augmented Reality (AR) to their search – users can view and place certain 3D objects into the space around them. This type of technology has been already working with organizations like NASA, Volvo, Target etc. 

In 2020, AR will be one of the most important steps for mobile industry – some upcoming AR/VR trends can be:

  • AR in different industries like healthcare, marketing and advertising, manufacturing etc. 
  • Mobile AR disruption 

Although AR and VR are in usage for some time now, these technologies have gained a huge boost and their future seems promising. 

Source: statista.com

BEACON TECHNOLOGY

Beacon technology is critical for the future – it’s of great use in location technology and proximity marketing and since it’s easy to use, any regular user can quickly get familiar with it. 

Beacons are wireless transmitters that use Bluetooth technology to send signals. It greatly helps in the information exchange of sales. 

Beacon technology is one of the first mobile development trends that was quickly embraced by museums, hotels, healthcare etc. One of the industries that can greatly benefit from beacon technology, especially if merged with IoT, is retail industry. 

Beacon technology could find its usage for 2020:

  • Mobile payments beacons;
  • AI-enabled chips;
  • Automated Machine Learning (ML);

INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT)

Internet of Things (IoT) has been familiar in mobile app sector for quite a while now – its diverse applications list it as a future trend. 

With IoT, people can control the non-IT devices via remote controls or apps. As the convenience has become an essential part of the user’s life, the Internet of Things evolved with time to become an industry. 

Developers should bear in mind to keep their apps IoT friendly as statistics go in favour of IoT where the number of IoT connected devices is only increasing.

Source: minutefob.ca

If developers want to work with IoT in mobile app, they need to pick a viable platform – some of the popular platforms are: 

  • Android Ubidots: It can easily be connected to Ubidots and it will enable the developer to push apps on devices.
  • Xively: offers IoT like features for the app development project.
  • Thingworx: comes with an advanced set of tools to market the mobile app.

AI AND CHATBOTS

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has delivered a significant breakthrough in mobile technology. The integration between AI and mobile app technology results not only in the smarter apps but also saves a lot of time and money for the mobile app developers. 

Some of the examples where AI enhances mobile technology can be Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs), Intelligent Apps, Cyber Security and IoT – each technology sector will employ AI capabilities for its processes. 

The rise of chatbots has also been said to be one of the trends in 2020 and the example to support it is Google Duplex – an AI program that can make calls on behalf of humas to arrange appointments with local businesses. It clearly shows how AI is evolving fast. 

Source: youtube.com

In 2020, the adaptation of bots will escalate to a huge level and what is more, mobile apps with services like online shopping, food delivery and/or taxi services are already working on integrating chatbots to their apps – it will help users to resolve their most frequent queries without calling the customer support.

Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant will be smarter in 2020 to serve with new features that will simplify people’s lives by assisting them in their day to day tasks. Such apps leverage technology via chatbots and learning user behavior patterns for a personalized experience.

How companies and industries embrace AI innovations is displayed in the graph below:

Source: emarketer.com

As you can see, the IT industry is leading the way, followed by a marketing industry but more industries are about to accept AI into their apps like finance, accounting, customer service, healthcare and more. 

Some of the future AI trends for 2020:

  • AI automated DevOps through AIOps
  • AI-enabled chips
  • Automated Machine Learning (ML)
  • Interoperability among neural networks

M-PAYMENT

A huge boost in e-commerce and online banking adds to the tremendous growth in online payment options for the users. 

Earlier, cash was replaced by plastic and it’s high time now for plastic money to disappear. The rise in mobile wallet trend is due to the expansion of the Internet payment systems that require fast and more secure channels for money transactions. Even Blockchain is entering into the mobile payments and powering the apps with more secured transaction options.

The tech giant like Samsung is already working on an enhanced scan’n’pay technique to make money transactions more convenient for the users. Apple is also working to enable the peer-to-peer money payment system with its Apple Pay. 

Source: philretailers.com

There are many payment gateways to integrate into an app and your development team will help you to decide which one would be the best for you. 

In addition to these options, there will be more mobile payment options in 2020:

  • Over 2 billion mobile wallet users;
  • More secure mobile wallets;
  • Contactless payment.

ACCELERATED MOBILE PAGES (AMP)

In order to increase the loading speed of mobile pages, Google introduced AMP in collaboration with Twitter that was announced back in 2015

Later, Google officially integrated AMP listings into its mobile search results and it helped developers to decrease the loading time of web pages. They also announced a mobile search box that will enable users to detect the mobile-friendly websites. 

AMP is a stripped-down version of HTML to accelerate the speed of mobile pages – it enables developers to create complex web pages with faster loading speed, lower bounce rates and high performance across all mobile devices. 


Source: searchengineland.com

With a good AMP score, you can acquire a better conversion rate, maximum user retention and it can be an excellent boost to the user experience. 

With these options, AMP will evoke a significant change in the mobile app industry. 

INSTANT APPS

It is believed that Instant Apps are the next step in mobile app evolution. 

Instant apps are basically native apps that operate like websites but you don’t need to install them on your phone. Instant apps have definitely blurred the lines between the app and users by eliminating the need for any download or installation.  

Google first introduced Instant apps in 2016 to make things easier for both developers and users. 

Top benefits of instant apps are:

  • Smaller in size;
  • Possess functionalities of a website;
  • Excellent user experience;
  • Device memory is not used.

Google Instant apps are available for users in the Play Store for accessing apps instantly – for now, there is a limited number of Instant apps available. 

Some Android apps that are available in the Play Store with ‘Try it now’ button are –

Hollar and NYTimes advised that they were able to increase the conversion rate from 20% to 27% by introducing an instant mobile app. 

Moreover, Android Studio’s latest version allows the developers to modularize the app, so users can only use a portion of the app. 

CLOUD MOBILE APPS

Cloud based mobile apps, as opposed to regular mobile apps, ‘live’ on server and are accessed through a web browser. If you want your app to function seamlessly across multiple platforms, you should put an accent to cloud technologies for mobile app development

Benefits of clouding technology for mobile app development are:

  • Streamlined operations;
  • Lower costs and time spent
  • Reduction in hosting;
  • Enhancement in storage capacity of apps;
  • Increased collaboration and productivity.

When ‘living’ on a cloud, it helps mobile apps to store great deal of data efficiently, carry out complex tasks and increase reliability, speed, processing power and security of the apps.

Source: epcgroup.net

Cloud mobile app trends that we may see in 2020:

  • Quantum computing
  • Hybrid cloud solutions
  • Evolution of cloud services and solutions

Cloud storage platforms like Dropbox, AWS, and SlideRocket made it possible to run an app directly on the cloud.

M-HEALTH

As we live in a fast and dynamic environment, we like to keep track of our health and the state of our condition. That’s where M-health came into place.

There are currently over 300.000 health apps on the market and despite some decrease years ago, Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch etc. have continued to thrive. 

One of the most important parts of M-health are certainly wearables. 

Source: colocationamerica.com

Wearable devices are not new on the market – we already witnessed smartwatches, fitness bands, trackers etc. and these changed the way we interact with smart devices. 

As per Business Insider report, wearables are still to experience an increase in revenue in the following years:

Source: businessinsider.com

As the potential of wearables is huge, mobile apps should support wearable technology. Each wearable devices requires a platform to run on – Apple Watch needs watchOS, while Android smartwatches need to sync with WearOS. Such numbers go in favour of wearables and developers should keep an option to integrate their apps with wearable devices, depending on the nature of the app. 

Potential trends for wearables in 2020:

  • Rise in the use of fitness trackers.
  • Less dependence on the smartphone.

As wearable tech is here to stay, we should pay attention to the latest trends and the most common usage per industry. And with M-health market estimated to be valued at $31 billion by the end of 2020, this is a trend that will stick around for a while. 

BLOCKCHAIN

Blockchain is a shared, unalterable ledger for recording company’s information listed as blocks. It can be the history of transactions or bitcoins none of which can be altered without changing all subsequent blocks of the network. 

Blockchain increases transparency, enhances the app security and reduces fraudulent transactions. 

By using the blockchain, the chances are high that developers can design a decentralized mobile app. Such apps are termed as Decentralized Mobile apps or the DApp. It can’t be owned by a single entity and neither shutdown by any external force.

Blockchain can integrate multiple areas seamlessly – it manages digital transaction process and handles peer-to-peer transactions in user mobile apps.

Blockchain will definitely disrupt all industries which need security of digital transaction processes like real estate, healthcare organizations etc. 

Some of the expected trends of the blockchain technology that can help in mobile app development in the future:

  • Asset tokenization
  • BAAS (Blockchain-as-a-Service)
  • Trading on crypto-currency exchange
  • Crypto space and gaming

FINAL 

Mobile apps that can grow your business are getting revolutionized every year – all these mobile app development trends will evoke the app industry to continue expanding at a rapid pace.

The competition among developers will be intensified in 2020 so it’s crucial that you understand these trends before you start working on your app. 

We know that each new technology in mobile application development has its limitations as well, but with an excellent development partner at your reach, you can always identify the right mobile app trend for your next mobile app.

Now that we know the key tendencies for mobile, let’s watch these trends evolving in 2020!