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Discovery Phase Essentials for App Developers

Olga Gubanova


February 22, 2024

Since the beginning of 2024, the app development scene is thriving, with gaming and entertainment apps leading the market. iOS apps are notable for their revenue generation, while Android dominates in user downloads.

2024 App Development Trends: Market Growth, Platform Revenue, and Project Success Rates Infographic. Sources: Grandview Research and ZipDo.

Despite the sector's potential, many projects are predicted to fail, reflecting the high stakes of app development. Costs vary significantly, hinting at strategic location choices for developers. This snapshot introduces the complex yet promising world of app development for the upcoming year.

The high rate of anticipated project failure and low success rate in software project completion can primarily be attributed to:

  • Shifting Business Priorities: Projects often falter as organizational goals evolve.
  • Poor Requirements Gathering: Inaccurate or incomplete project specifications lead to misaligned expectations.
  • Inadequate Planning: Unrealistic timelines and budgets set projects up for failure.
  • Lack of Stakeholder Engagement: Insufficient involvement from key stakeholders results in a lack of support and resources.
  • Communication Breakdowns: Poor communication among team members and stakeholders disrupts project alignment.
  • Technical Complexity: Challenges with the technology being used can cause delays and escalate costs.
  • Resource Constraints: Limited or poorly allocated resources, including personnel and budget, hinder project progress.
  • Poor Risk Management: Failure to properly identify and mitigate risks can derail projects.

The challenges of shifting business priorities, poor requirements gathering, inadequate planning, lack of stakeholder engagement, communication breakdowns, technical complexity, resource constraints, and poor risk management are often symptomatic of a poorly executed Discovery Phase in project development. It's this critical phase that sets the foundation for a project's success, ensuring that the idea transitions seamlessly into a viable product with planned profitability.

A well-structured and effectively executed Project Discovery Phase drastically reduces the risk of project failure to a mere fraction of a percent. By thoroughly understanding and documenting the project's scope, goals, and requirements, we can confidently navigate the application towards success, from its initial concept to achieving the projected revenue.

Effective App Development: Key Steps for a Successful Discovery Phase

When embarking on the journey of developing a new app, it's crucial to have a clear roadmap from the get-go. This involves a series of strategic steps to ensure that the final product meets both the market needs and user expectations. Here's a breakdown of a comprehensive plan for app development, distilled from years of experience in project management.

Business Phase

Competitor Analysis: Begin by exploring existing solutions in the market. This involves studying your competitors' platforms, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and pinpointing features that could give your app a competitive edge. It's about understanding the app discovery phase and finding your unique selling proposition.

Product Specifications: Once you have a grasp of the market landscape, the next step is to outline your product's specifications. This includes defining the overall profile of your app, such as its core functionalities, user experience goals, and technical requirements. It's a blueprint that guides the development process.

Creating a BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) diagram is a crucial step in the Project Discovery phase.

BPMN Workflow Diagram for App User Journey in the Discovery Phase.

This diagram helps visualize the flow of different processes within your app project. Think of it as drawing a map that shows how various tasks connect and proceed from one to the next, representing key activities of the app discovery phase.

Here's how it works:

  • Start Simple: Begin by identifying the main processes your app will perform. For example, if you're building a shopping app, key processes might include searching for products, adding items to a cart, and checking out.
  • Break It Down: Once you have the main processes, break them down into smaller steps. Using the shopping app example, the checkout process might include steps like selecting a payment method, entering shipping information, and confirming the order.
  • Use Symbols: BPMN diagrams use specific symbols to represent different types of activities, decisions, and flows. For instance, a rectangle might represent a task or activity, while a diamond shape indicates a decision point where the process could go in different directions based on certain conditions.
  • Connect the Dots: Draw arrows to connect the steps and show the sequence of activities. This helps everyone understand how the user will navigate through your app and how different parts of the app interact with each other, which is an essential step in the app discovery phase.
  • Review and Refine: After mapping out the processes, review the diagram with your team. This is a great opportunity to spot potential issues or inefficiencies and make improvements before the development process begins.

In simple terms, a BPMN diagram is like a blueprint for your app. It ensures that everyone involved in the project understands the workflow and can work more efficiently towards a successful outcome. Including BPMN diagram creation in your Project Discovery phase lays a solid foundation for your app development, helping to avoid misunderstandings and streamline the development process.

The app discovery process explained in this manner allows for a more organized and targeted development strategy. Interested in enhancing your project management skills? Visit our article 'Project Management Secrets: Inside Look with Ptolemay's Expert' for valuable insights and tips.

Product Phase

User Story: Crafting user stories is a way to humanize the app's functionalities. By describing how different users will interact with your app, you emphasize the purpose of discovery phase in mobile app development—to align the design and development teams with the end-user's needs and expectations.

Mind Map: Developing a mind map is instrumental during the discovery phase in app development. It helps in visualizing the app's structure and outlines the logical flow between different functional blocks, clarifying what to expect during the app discovery phase.

UX Design and Prototyping: With the user stories and mind map as your foundation, you delve into the role of discovery phase in software development by designing the user experience (UX). Creating detailed layouts of each app screen and the interactions between them facilitates early testing and refinement, which is crucial in this phase.

UI Design: The user interface (UI) design builds on the UX prototypes by adding visual elements like colors, typography, and graphics. This underscores the importance of discovery phase in app projects, as it's about bringing the app's personality to life, ensuring it's not only functional but also visually appealing.

Tech Phase

Architecture/Technical Stack: Selecting the right technology stack is critical for your app's scalability and performance. This decision is based on the app's functional requirements and future growth prospects.

Database Structure: Planning the database structure involves organizing the app's data elements and defining their relationships. It's about ensuring that the app can store, retrieve, and manage data efficiently.

Third-Party Services: Many apps rely on third-party services for functionalities like analytics, payment processing, or social media integration. Identifying and integrating these services early on can save development time and costs.

Modules: Consider using pre-built modules or libraries to accelerate development. This approach can reduce the time and effort required to develop common functionalities from scratch.

Tech Specification: With all the technical details in place, compile a comprehensive technical specification document. This document serves as a guideline for the development team, outlining the app's architecture, technologies, and functional requirements.

Looking for guidance on crafting a top-notch technical specification for your app? Check out our article 'How to Create a Brilliant Technical Specification for App Development?' for expert advice and practical steps.

Roadmap and Team Composition: Develop a project roadmap outlining key milestones and deliverables. Additionally, assembling the right team is crucial. This means selecting professionals with the necessary skills and experience in the chosen technologies and project scope.

By meticulously planning each phase of the app development process, you significantly reduce the risk of project failure. A well-executed Discovery Phase ensures that your app is built on a solid foundation, aligning technical capabilities with user needs and business goals. Remember, the key to a successful app lies not just in great coding but in strategic planning and execution.

Hanson App Example: Mastering the Discovery Phase for Project Success

The Discovery Phase for the Hanson app serves as an exemplary model for effectively launching a mobile application, showcasing the meticulous planning and strategic foresight required to bridge the gap between an idea and its successful market entry. Let's break down this process, highlighting the critical steps and decisions that paved the way for the app's success.

Hanson App Example: Mastering the Discovery Phase for Project Success

Market Analysis and Competitor Insight

The team started with an exhaustive market analysis focusing on meditation and self-development apps. They identified key players like Headspace and Calm, noting their strengths such as user engagement strategies and content variety. This initial step was crucial in planning in the app discovery phase, setting the stage for the app discovery phase outcomes.

Creating BPMN for Hanson App

Let's create a BPMN diagram for the Hanson App, focusing on a key process like "User Finishes a Meditation Session." This process involves several steps, from user login to completing a meditation session and sharing feedback.

  1. Start Event: The diagram begins with a circle symbolizing the start event, labeled "User Logs In."
  2. Tasks: Rectangles represent tasks or activities. For the Hanson App, we might have the following tasks in sequence:
  • "Select Meditation Category" (e.g., stress relief, sleep aid)
  • "Choose a Meditation Session"
  • "Complete Meditation Session"
  1. Decision Points: Diamonds indicate decision points where the user makes a choice. After completing a session, there might be a decision point labeled "Share Feedback?"
  • If yes, lead to a task labeled "Submit Feedback."
  • If no, proceed to the next step.
  1. End Event: The process concludes with a circle symbolizing the end event, which could be labeled "Meditation Session Completed."
  2. Flows: Arrows (or flows) connect these elements to indicate the order of the process.
  3. Swimlanes: Optionally, the diagram could be divided into swimlanes representing different actors or systems involved in the process, such as "User" and "App Backend," to show interactions more clearly.

This visual tool is essential for developers, as it encapsulates app discovery phase for developers by clarifying the workflow and ensuring a mutual understanding of the app’s processes.

Defining Product Specifications

Based on the analysis, the Hanson app was envisioned to combine meditation guidance with a strong community feature, allowing users to share experiences and support each other. They planned for a subscription model offering basic free content and premium features, which showcases the benefits of a detailed app discovery phase by aligning product offerings with market needs.

Crafting User Stories

The team created user stories for diverse personas, which is a testament to navigating the discovery phase in app creation. These narratives were fundamental in ensuring the app's design would cater to the actual needs of its users.

Mind Mapping and UX/UI Design

A mind map outlined the app's structure: a home page leading to meditation sessions, community forums, and subscription details. This guided the UX design, where they prioritized a minimalist interface with soothing visuals to encourage relaxation. For UI, they chose a calming color palette and intuitive icons, tested through prototypes in Figma for user feedback.

Technical Planning

Choosing the tech stack, they opted for Flutter for cross-platform development, ensuring iOS and Android compatibility. They planned a microservices architecture for scalability, integrating Firebase for real-time community interactions and Stripe for subscription payments.


Finalizing Tech Specifications and Roadmap

The technical specification document detailed the app's functionalities, including AI-based recommendations for personalized meditation sessions. A detailed roadmap outlined phases from initial development to beta testing and launch, with key milestones for completing the app's core functionalities, user testing, and marketing campaign kickoff.

Team Assembly

The team composition included a project manager to oversee the roadmap, a UX/UI designer for the interface design, Flutter developers for cross-platform development, a backend developer for server-side functionalities, and a marketing specialist to plan the app launch strategy.

Hanson App Launch: User Reviews Reflect Success

The Hanson app has soared to impressive heights, securing a 5-star rating bolstered by 192 glowing reviews within just the first month of its launch. Users have lauded the app's intuitive interface and enriching content:

Tatyana: A very pleasant and clear application. Soulful and ad-free. Works quickly. I want to note that this is not just an app for entertainment. It truly helps a lot in life. And it helps to discover oneself within. And not only)))) the whole world. Pure magic. I RECOMMEND.

Darya: A really cool application, everything is clear and understandable, just a treasure trove of usefulness in every section and all of it in one place. The daily pop-up message is a particular delight and inspiration. Everything is made with great love and care, in Dasha's style and her team's.

These reviews testify to the app's success in providing a valuable resource for self-development and community engagement. With such a positive start, the Hanson app is poised for ongoing growth and user engagement.

Learn about the development process of the Hanson app by reading our case study article.

10 Proven Discovery Phase Strategies for Successful App Development

Unlock the full potential of your app development project with our expert strategies for a successful Discovery Phase.

  1. Embrace Thorough Initial Discussions: Begin your project with an in-depth discussion with the client to fully understand their vision. It’s the cornerstone of an effective Discovery Phase that paves the way for a successful app like Hanson.
  2. Adapt the Discovery Process: Tailor the Discovery Phase according to the scale of the project or client needs. Whether it’s a nascent concept or an advanced idea, flexibility in your approach ensures all client requirements are met.
  3. Employ Robust Tools: Utilize market analysis software, brainstorming sessions, and competitive analysis systems to aid the Discovery Phase. Documenting and planning with agile methodologies like JIRA and Confluence can streamline this phase.
  4. Ensure Clear Communication: Maintain regular communication with stakeholders. Weekly meetings and collaborative platforms are essential to reflect all needs and expectations accurately.
  5. Solve Emerging Problems Collaboratively: When facing challenges, such as aligning the client’s vision with technical feasibility, employ brainstorming and technical evaluations to find solutions that satisfy client needs while being technically viable.
  6. Deliver Tangible Outcomes: A well-executed Discovery Phase results in comprehensive documentation like Technical Specifications, which serves as a blueprint for the development team and provides a clear project outline to the client.
  7. Assess and Mitigate Technical Risks: Evaluate technical feasibility by analyzing proposed features, necessary technologies, and integration requirements. Develop risk reduction strategies to ensure project success.
  8. Involve Developers Early: Engage your development team from the start. Their insights into technical feasibility and innovative solutions are invaluable in defining the project’s scope and goals.
  9. Transition Smoothly to Planning and Implementation: Move from the Discovery Phase to detailed technical specification and engineering plan development. This ensures a seamless shift to UX design and project development.
  10. Stay Agile with New Ideas: Maintain flexibility to adapt to new ideas or changes post-Discovery. Agile methodologies enable quick adjustments, ensuring the project stays aligned with the client's evolving vision.

The product discovery phase is a critical juncture where strategic planning meets market research. It’s where a product's purpose and potential are honed, and where a comprehensive understanding of who the product is for and what it aims to achieve comes to the forefront. This phase sets the stage for all subsequent development, ensuring that every hour spent and every dollar invested moves the product closer to its ultimate goal: meeting the real-world needs of its users.

In conclusion: The Power of a Strategic Discovery Phase

The Discovery Phase is not just an early step in app development; it's a strategic tool that significantly increases your chances of success. Whether you're looking to create the next big gaming app, a platform for personal growth like Hanson, or any innovative application, remember that a detailed Discovery Phase is your roadmap to success.

The positive reception of the Hanson app, marked by 192 reviews and a 5-star rating, proves the effectiveness of a well-executed Discovery Phase. It reflects what can be achieved with careful planning, user-focused design, and a development process that involves the client at every step.

For those ready to embark on their app development journey, let the success of Hanson inspire you to invest in a robust Discovery Phase. And if you need a partner to guide you through this crucial process, our team is equipped with the expertise and experience to help turn your vision into reality.

Are you prepared to build an app destined for success? Start with a solid Discovery Phase and watch as your app goes from concept to market triumph. Let's talk about how we can make your app idea the next big hit.