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How to Create a Brilliant Technical Specification for App Development?

Daniela Metz


March 22, 2024

According to AppMy Site statistics, 85% of shoppers prefer to order goods in mobile apps rather than on websites. And here is the result of another survey: 99.5% of mobile apps on the App Store and Google Play are little known and only half of 1% are popular.

So why is it that some apps are amazingly successful and others fail?

Errors can occur at various stages of development, testing and deployment. These can be minimised by having a well-written technical specification for the mobile app. Ptolemay, who has 7 years' experience in app development, carried out its research. It found that a well-written technical specification reduces development time by more than 13%.

How to Write a Winning Mobile App Specification

Creating a brilliant technical specification for a mobile app follows the same principle as building a strong house. Like a solid foundation, the technical specification should be based on a detailed idea. The more careful you are in outlining your requirements, the more your customers will benefit and the more you will earn from the finished mobile application. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen, this article will take you through all the stages of turning your idea into a successful technical specification for an application that will exceed expectations and attract new users.

It should be noted right away that the essence of any idea is its uniqueness, so even very similar templates can lead to distortion of your thoughts. The algorithm of writing a technical task is necessary not to bring the task to a standard document, but to reveal the essence of your problems, needs and goals. A clearly stated task will help eliminate ambiguity for developers and will be the key to creating a successful application.

The secret to a brilliant app specification

Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Mobile App's Technical Specification

First of all, tell us about your business and state your goals related to the app. Keep in mind that in the process of analysing your needs, new challenges may emerge, and that's fine. Creating a technical specification for a mobile app is necessary to ensure that everyone involved in the project, including developers, designers, investors, and even yourself understands the problems that the future mobile app must solve.

1. Identifying Key Problems Your Mobile App Will Solve

Problems always arise from specific situations - describe them. At what points in your business activities does the need for the future app's features arise?

A prime example of many initial problems is the Airbnb project. Their goal was to create a platform that would allow people to rent out their homes to travelers, seamlessly connecting hosts and guests. Their technical specification outlined user profiles, the need for a booking system, secure payment gateways, and more. Their app exceeded expectations and became popular worldwide because it took into account many critical situations.

You need to identify the weaknesses of your customer interactions and set goals to address them.

2. Defining Your Mobile App's Target Audience and User Actions

Give a brief portrait of your ideal customer and what they will do in your app. For example, in retail, a customer might fill a shopping cart with products, add the delivery, enter a promo code, sort and pay for an item, ask the chatbot, read product descriptions, add products to favorites, make a return request and more. First, describe the actions your customers usually perform, and then indicate the desired features that can be achieved with your new app.

If there is a need, categorise users according to their access level and the tasks they will perform in the app. For example, a guest, a subscriber, and a paid member may have different functions available to them. Spell out the tasks of the administrator, if his presence is required. Don't forget to specify the frequency of visits and the approximate number of users.

3. Essential Features to Make Your App Stand Out

To stand out in the highly competitive app market, you need to understand what your competitors are offering. Analyse their apps, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and see what sets them apart.

Do some research.

  • Analyse the features in your competitors' apps. Think about whether there are any unique features you can add?
  • Read user feedback. What do users like or dislike about your competitors' apps? How can you improve their user experience?
  • Survey your customers. What features would help them better solve problems and use your services more often?

For example, when Zoom was developing a technical specification for a video conferencing app, they analysed existing solutions such as Skype and WebEx. This helped them identify the need for a more user-friendly and scalable platform, leading Zoom to market success.

Description of the application interface in the technical specifications

4. Crafting a User-Friendly Interface: Guidelines for Engaging App Designs

According to Standish Group research, 45% of software application functions are rarely or never used. Overloading your app with marginally useful features will do nothing but waste your money, developers' time, and invaluable customer attention. To leave only the necessary features, conduct a mental experiment; write out a rough user navigation through your new app. It's even better if you have ready-made scenarios of your users' behaviour.

Establish clear acceptance criteria for each feature.

For example, in a ride-sharing app like Uber, one of the acceptance criteria is "User can book a ride within two minutes".

In the Terms of Reference for the app, you can specify acceptance criteria for popular features as well, such as:

  • pop-up notification;
  • GPS navigation;
  • calendar;
  • customer basket;
  • card payment;
  • messaging centers in various formats;
  • booking facilities;
  • catalog selection;
  • a promotional code system and so on.

By carefully detailing each feature, you minimise confusion and ensure that developers have a clear implementation plan.

5. Draw Mockups of Your App's Future Pages

In this section, you should also include design guidelines: color schemes, typography and branding elements. You can draw sample page layouts and diagrams, as well as describe animations and transitions.

A vivid example of a successful design is WhatsApp. Its TOR focused on a simple and intuitive user interface with a clear chat, end-to-end encryption and minimalistic design.

The simpler and clearer the interface is, the more users' hearts will be won by your application. Ptolemy uses UI/UX design that allows you to create a colourful, comfortable and memorable look for applications without the risk of complicating the software product. You can view our cases on BeHanes.

WhatsApp interface is an example of simple and attractive forms

6. Technical Specifications Demystified: Laying the Groundwork for Your App

Now that you've described the problems, challenges, target audience and desired features - deployed the idea, and provided a clear and solid foundation for your mobile app, head to experienced developers. Keep in mind, that choosing the best experts is just as important. Our guide to finding IT developers will help you get up to speed quickly. You can also familiarise yourself with the main types of technologies you need to specify in the technical specification for your mobile app.

  • Cross-platform or native development. If you need to make an application that will work simultaneously on all platforms: Android, Windows Phone, Symbian and iOS - choose cross-platform development. Native development requires separate code for each platform. Cross-platform development, as seen on Instagram, can save time and resources. However, in some cases, where the application has complex server requirements, a native variant will be necessary. Developers can help you with the best choice for your tasks.
  • Programming language and platforms. Specify the programming language (e.g. JavaScript, Python, or Swift) and platforms (e.g. React Native, Flutter) you want to use. For example, the Instagram white paper describes using Python for server-side development and JavaScript for the front end. According to a 2022 survey, Flutter is the most popular cross-platform mobile platform offering the latest development tools.
  • Database and storage. Detail your database requirements, including database type (e.g. MySQL, PostgreSQL), storage solutions (e.g. Amazon S3), and data security measures. Make spreadsheets of the data and a diagram of the relationships of those spreadsheets. Your IT department or the application developers themselves can help with this.
  • Innovative technologies. The next generation of mobile apps now comes with built-in AI. They adapt their performance individually and automatically to the needs of each user. For example, Ptolemay developers integrate the most advanced chatbot chatGPT, which can advise users, fill out product cards, make business reports and much more without human intervention.

7. Mapping Out Your App's Development: Schedule, Milestones, and Deliverables

An approved development schedule will help establish expected timelines and effectively track progress. Create a Gantt chart or project timeline with the following elements.

  • Project phases: break the project into phases such as planning, design, development, testing, and deployment.
  • Stages: identify important milestones, such as completing UI development or launching a beta version.
  • Timeline: set deadlines for each stage, keeping in mind the overall schedule of your project.

Having a clear timeline ensures that your app development is on the right track, just like Apple did when they released the first iPhone. Their technical specification included specific timelines for hardware and software development, culminating in the timely release of the device. Ptolemy's experienced development team divides the project into phases even at the technical specification stage, agrees on timelines and signs a T&M agreement with the customer.

Wrapping Up: Ensuring Your App Specification Leads to Success

A brilliant technical specification for a mobile app should include a detailed and precise description of your idea, goals and real customer scenarios. At the same time, it is worth keeping the structure for a clear statement and understanding of the task by all participants.

However, a full-fledged technical specification is not limited to describing the desired features. You need to detail technical requirements, user interface diagrams and layouts, deadline schedules, testing phases, encryption method, and a host of other technical nuances and issues. Fortunately, you can develop technical specifications together with Ptolemy's full-service IT development specialists, who will provide an optimal solution with the ability to implement the latest technologies into your mobile application.

All products are tested by our QA team before launch. Once the app is released, we maintain the mobile app for a month and are responsible for any software updates at the customer's request. We use agile development methods and sprints to demonstrate results and always stay in touch via Slack/WhatsApp.

FAQ: Developing Your Mobile App Successfully

Can I build an app with no tech skills?

Yes, but team up with skilled developers. Focus on your vision while experts handle the coding.

How long does app development take?

Varies greatly. A basic app might take 3-6 months, complex ones over a year. Clear planning and agile methods can speed this up.

What's the cost of making an app?

Depends on complexity and platforms. Simple apps start around $10,000; advanced projects can exceed $100,000. Prioritize features to manage costs.

How to secure my app?

Implement encryption, secure APIs, and regular security testing. Tools like OWASP Mobile Security Project provide guidelines and best practices.

Tips for app promotion?

Start early, use social media, SEO, and app store optimization. Consider paid ads and influencer partnerships for a bigger impact.

Remember, success lies in clear goals, understanding your audience, and constant iteration based on user feedback.

Got an idea? Request a call now and we will work with you to create a brilliant technical specification for a mobile application!