Mobile App Requirements Document: All You Should Know
The use of mobile apps has become an integral part of modern life. Billions of people around the globe use mobile devices to work, study, communicate, and play. And the number of smartphone users keeps growing — so do their expenses. Statista reports that in the third quarter of 2021, the total value of customer spend on mobile apps was $34 billion, compared to $22 billion in early 2019.
Your company can take advantage of mobile app development, making it more accessible and convenient for a wider user audience.
Yet, there are quite a lot of challenges on the way to a successful mobile app launch. Things may change on the go, and pivot is not a new trend in modern business. But what if the final result doesn’t match your original idea at all? Whose fault would it be, and how to prevent it?
One of the most common causes of the gap between expectations and reality is a poorly-written (or simply non-existent) application requirements document. With no clear idea of your vision and goals, developers may find it difficult to meet your expectations.
Having rich experience in mobile apps development, we at Whimsy Games decided to provide you with some valuable tips on setting your tech partners in the right frame of mind for your upcoming project. In this post, you will learn how to write a comprehensive and result-driven mobile app requirements document. As a bonus, you will also find a requirements document template.
Ready to find out more? Let’s get started!
Why Mobile App Requirements are so important?
A product requirements document (PRD) for a mobile app is a concise yet comprehensive description of your business goals and tech specifications regarding the project. It’s written to keep all stakeholders, including clients, development team, designers, etc., on the same page.
Simply put, PRD is a way to briefly document everything you expect from your product development. The document will make your tech partners aware of your key goals and expectations. Later, written requirements will considerably facilitate and streamline the workflow.
We at Whimsy Games often deal with game design documents that provide an initial vision of the product and the steps we will need to take to make it all work. It directly impacts the quality of the game and its compliance with the clients’ wishes.
So what happens if you have no PRD or it doesn’t contain the essential information? Without a well-prepared requirements document, your mobile app development resembles a lottery. And the chances of winning are much lower.
With no product requirements document or a poorly written one, you risk running into misunderstandings with the development team and wasting time on unnecessary additional meetings. You can minimize the risks by defining your project objectives and tech specifics with a PRD.
Reasons to Write PRD
Writing a mobile app product requirements document will make your project more likely to succeed. Here are several key reasons why you should build one.
It makes an initial project overlook. PRD is the first document containing all integral components of your future app. It can be shown to stakeholders or investors as a project introduction.
It’s critically important for developers. With a PRD, you will determine your business goals, target audience, tech specifications, etc. Your tech partners will use this information to come up with relevant solutions.
It keeps deadlines and budgets within reasonable limits. A full-fledged understanding of the project’s essence from the very beginning reduces the risk of wasting time and money on rework.
Types of Requirements
There is no one-size-fits-all method to create an efficient mobile app requirements document. Its components may vary due to your project’s goals, scope, and complexity. However, there are a few essentials that almost any PRD should contain to fulfill its main purpose: reveal your project’s essence.
Here is a list of the document’s vital components.
The core idea. This part of a PRD is a brief description of your vision. It should outline the product’s goals and expected deliverables.
Technical aspects. This section represents all technical nuances you want the developers to consider. It’s worth mentioning your specifications regarding design, backend infrastructure, app architecture, etc. if any.
Challenges. This part is dedicated to any technical issues that might take place during the app’s development or maintenance. Developers must understand the nature of the potential bugs to prevent or address them.
Business and market analytics. If you have any business or market analytics conducted in advance, provide it in the corresponding section. It may contain additional information about your target audience based on research and interviews.
Functional requirements. Here, you specify the app’s functionality. The section should consist of the desired features to be included. You may briefly describe each feature, point out the prioritized ones, and explain how they should work.
Non-functional requirements. In this requirements document section, there should be an overlook of key performance goals and metrics to achieve. It defines how the system should operate to be usable, stable, and secure.
Time frames. This section of a PDR includes all information about the project’s scope, the expected timeline, release date, and key milestones. The deadlines should be well-considered and reasonable. It’s recommended to consider preparation stages, prototyping, and product testing.
Communication details. Here, you can specify who will be responsible for communication and deliverables acceptance. It’s better to mention the preferred time, form, and frequency of online meetings with your development team.
Usually, clients produce requirements documents themselves. They present their project vision to the development team via PRD alongside other stakeholders, like product managers, analysts, and marketing specialists.
However, designers and developers are also directly involved in PRD creation. Normally, they send the client a mobile app specification template that includes all the essential questions to be answered.
The format of a PRD primarily depends on the project’s nature. But depending on the company team responsible for preparing the document, we can distinguish more types of requirements.
A business requirements (BR) document is preliminarily focused on project objectives and the expected deliverables. It’s normally created by a client seeking vendors to build an efficient software solution meeting their business needs.
The key BR document components are the project’s scope and restrictions. The other sections such documentation should contain are project objectives, financial estimations, technical assumptions, timeline, and budget.
Simply put, a business requirements document answers the question of WHAT the project aims to achieve but not HOW to achieve it.
Market requirements (MR) document determines the market needs and demand for a particular product. It aims to define the audience’s needs, pain points, and possible ways the app could address the issues.
Product and marketing managers work on MR documentation and conduct in-depth analytics, studying the potential customers, competitors, and revenues. Some of the vital components of an MR document are determining the target market, creating user personas, listing competitors, revealing main functions, and defining the key metrics.
User requirements documentation should specify the needs of certain user groups and how your product can provide them. In some way, user requirements specification resembles business requirements. However, it focuses on finding appropriate solutions for particular use cases.
For instance, an app serving the needs of a large enterprise should approach various users, from top managers to newly hired employees. Each of them should recognize the value of the mobile app and benefit from using it. A UR document specifies these roles and lists what each of them needs.
A well-prepared user requirements document is based on user interviews, personas, and user story frameworks.
A system or software requirements (SR) document defines, describes, and details the components necessary to build a robust system. It’s preliminarily focused on the technical aspects of the upcoming project. A well-prepared SR documentation will be useful for all team members, including UX designers, developers, QA specialists, etc.
In addition to the project’s goals and scope, an SR document should contain detailed information about the app’s interface and features. Such specifications will clarify the system development lifecycle, priority goals, approximate timeline, and complexity.
Non-functional requirements are an integral part of most PRDs. They point out how an app should operate to enhance its usability and fulfill its core functions. In particular, non-functional requirements are related to the system’s performance and loading speed, security, scalability, reliability, etc. In other words, they define the standards the app should meet.
Non-functional requirements often rely on qualitative or quantitative metrics that the product should achieve. It helps to measure the system’s desired success and set reasonable goals. Requirements don’t just state that your product should work well. They state how well it should work.
For example, suppose your mobile app should reach a certain loading speed or comply with a particular number of data privacy regulations. In that case, it should be specified in the non-functional requirements section.
Functional requirements are another crucial part of your mobile app documentation. They give an extended overlook of all essential and secondary features your product should contain. Functional requirements also define the system’s capabilities and the ways users interact with the app.
While non-functional requirements specify how the product can deliver the desired result, the functional ones determine what an app should have to make it possible. Simply put, they reveal the system’s behavior in various situations. For instance, if a product should have a few access levels for different user groups, the app’s possible reaction should be described in the functional requirements section.
Functional requirements are mostly based on user stories, use case research, wireframes, etc. These preparations enable eliminating bugs or flaws at the earliest production stages, saving your time and budget.
The Process of Building a Mobile App Requirements Document
A well-written mobile app requirements document is simple and precise. It doesn’t leave the development team puzzled and shouldn’t consist of general phrases. Avoid writing about overall intuitiveness and user-friendly UX. Instead, define which features should increase the product value and improve the desired metrics and KPIs.
You should focus on certain components, set priorities, and ask questions instead of leaving blind spots.
Although every PRD is unique, here are a few steps to enhance its efficiency.
- Introduce the core idea.
Don’t make the introduction too long. Your vision should be straightforward and instantly clear.
- Specify the project’s goals
Explain the expected deliverables and key business goals. Specify if the mobile app should be created from scratch or rebuilt.
- List competitors and include references
The direct and indirect competitors list is an integral part of the market research. If your product isn’t a one-of-a-kind innovation, you should consider the prevailing trends. Also, provide your tech partners with references to the mobile apps you like and note what exactly can be useful for your project (certain features, interface design, etc.)
- Provide any existing analytics
A user story, personas, and other qualitative or quantitative research results will deliver more in-depth insights into your target audience’s problems and expectations. With its help, mobile app developers can tailor the product’s architecture and features to the end-user’s needs.
- Reveal the key features
Make a comprehensive list of the required features. You may add the functions’ short descriptions and their implementation purpose. State which features should be prioritized and which ones are secondary.
- Build wireframes
Support your requirements by visualizing certain screens with wireframes. They will better explain how the screens are connected, how the users should interact with the app, etc.
- Adhere to your project’s specifics
Finally, your PRD should strictly follow the format that matches your project’s goals best. Of course, you can mix functional, non-functional, and business requirements or empower your documentation with both wireframes and user stories. However, don’t overwhelm it with unessential components.
A product requirements document should lay the groundwork for the upcoming development process. Accordingly, it has to reflect the specifics of your very project. Whether you build an eCommerce platform, a mobile game, an admin panel, etc., your documentation components vary significantly.
Thus, an application requirements document template is just a generalized sample rather than step-by-step instruction.
Take a look at this PRD template by Atlassian. It contains all essential components of comprehensive and concise documentation. Namely, it includes general information about the project, its objective, functional and non-functional requirements, milestones, open questions, etc.
However, such a sample isn’t specific and can be used for web and mobile software development.
In contrast, the following template specifically refers to mobile app production. It contains a relatively similar set of components. However, this document specifies certain technical and functional aspects typical for mobile apps:
- Target OS platforms (Android, iOS, etc.).
- Type of platform to develop (native, cross-platform).
- Detailed mobile app features description.
- Wireframe screens represent the ideas visually.
Document Your Vision of the Project
An efficient requirements document can considerably facilitate a mobile app development process. If written well, it will serve as an initial roadmap for the upcoming workflow. Your tech partners will get a comprehensive overview of your vision, core business and project goals, expected deliverables, scope, timeline, and tech nuances. Particularly, the requirements document will specify and prioritize the app’s features, set the key metrics to be improved, and explain how the app should behave to meet the audience’s needs.
Consequently, the development company will be armed with all the necessary data to put the project on the right track. It will greatly increase the chances that the final result will meet your expectations.
However, it’s quite hard to find the right tech partner that would accompany you in the earliest preparation stages. Surfing the internet searching for a relevant mobile application documentation sample is barely effective. To address this issue, feel free to contact us for any assistance. We at Whimsy Games have ample experience in building mobile apps and are ready to support you in creating a PRD tailored to your project’s specifics.