What Is Mobile App Planning and Why Is It Essential?
Nowadays, more and more businesses are trying to take advantage of the ever increasing trends towards mobile. Success within this landscape can become a reality - but only if supported by a well managed mobile app planning and development process.
One of the reasons why some mobile apps fail is due to poor planning. So, building a solid mobile strategy is no longer just a good idea, it is a requirement.
When you develop a mobile app, you need to start with a clear understanding of what you’re building, for who and why. This is essential to provide the business and the development team with clear direction going forward.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the mobile app planning phase and explain the steps involved in creating a mobile app strategy.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Mobile App Planning – Where to Start?
The first stage of developing an app involves answering two distinct sets of fundamental questions:
- Why do you want to create this app? Why should it exist? How will it help create value for its users? Will people actually want to use this app? Which people? Why?
- Does this type of app already exist? If it exists, why do you believe it can outperform your competition? How will your app be different and better than what's already available?
To be able to answer these questions, you should research your target market and your ideal users. Ideally you conduct in-depth research on market demand and customer needs, making sure to...
- identify and justify a "monetizable customer pain-point", a problem that your customers experience that can be solved and monetized using an app
- calculate the size of the market
- validate the proposed solution.
Define your target audience
As a part of the mobile app planning, it’s important to validate your idea in your target market. But how can we identify the target market?
Start by identifying your audience and understanding their behaviour and preferences. This will help you find out what your audience might expect from your app. Try to answer the following:
- Who are the users? (Business or consumer, profile / demographic, location…)
- What is the problem they are facing that you hope to solve?
- How would your app solve these problems?
- Is there a gap or opportunity in the marketplace?
Discover how your envisaged users are trying to solve the particular problem at the moment. What platforms are they most likely using already (if any)? What other behaviour patterns do they follow to deal with the problem?
At the end of the research you’ll be able to create your user personas. Only in this way can you start planning ahead - who to design for, what features they would enjoy, and where to reach them in marketing campaigns.
Developing a mobile app is always risky, so creating a product roadmap is essential for a successful project. This strategic document outlines the major stages of the app development process and its main goal is to link your product vision and your business goals.
Creating a product roadmap is all about prioritising the features of your app. Start by asking yourself what the core functionality and value this app offers to users? What is the most essential value stream that the app will deliver to solve your customers’ problem?
Usually, a roadmap contains the following key points:
Product vision – what you want your final product to be
Strategy – overall execution plan detailing what you need to do to deliver the requirements
Goals – objectives to be measured by specific metrics
Metrics – what needs to be measured to assess meeting the goals, e.g. organic traffic, download rate, subscription conversions, churn rate
Iteration Plan - what dates and potential features will comprise each staged release of the app
Feature – a piece of a product: functionality or a 3rd party application
Time frame – time necessary (approximate value) for a certain goal/feature to be completed
In other words, a product roadmap is useful when it shows your vision, conveys the development strategy, prioritises high level features, evolves along with the product requirements and acts as a communication tool between the teams.
A prototype is a representative, demonstrable version of the planned mobile application. Prototypes are often built where a cheap test or demo version of the app is required for a specific purpose such as fundraising, resource allocation, ideation or market validation.
Prototypes are useful in bringing mobile concepts to life and in aiding stakeholders envisage the value proposition of the app. Written descriptions of mobile applications sometimes fail to resonate effectively. Producing mobile applications can be risky because of the time and cost involved. This risk can be mitigated by first producing a prototype version that can be assessed by internal planning teams, potential funding decision makers, target audience members and others whose opinion is of value.
A prototype may be the first step on the Product Roadmap, but may not be necessary.
Minimum Viable Product
Define your minimum-viable-product (MVP) and prioritise this for the initial launch.
An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a first basic operational version of the app product with minimum and sufficient characteristics to be submitted to users, with the aim of understanding its potential and how it can be useful to them. If the prototype helps you understand the functionality of a product, the Minimum Viable Product is what can help you understand its desirability, usability and potential commercial value.
Whether you have recently founded a start-up or an established company, it’s never a good idea to completely trust an app idea or a hypothesis of the reactions that users will have towards the application without making sure of a positive outcome.
The launch of the Minimum Viable Product is a step that you should face with care. It is unrealistic to expect the MVP to reach a mass audience. It is developed with the minimum key features that will satisfy early adopters. Feedback from these users is critical to selecting the features and functionality set of the next iterations.
Version 2 & Future Iterations
As discussed above, the actual features that will be added to the application in the second and subsequent releases will be shaped by real user feedback in line with the strategy and goals for the app. Some of the features requested by users may not even have been envisaged in the Product Plan.
So, it is important in the Product Plan to be definitive about the release dates and potential features of the second and subsequent iterations of the applications. However, the actual feature set will evolve based upon user generated feedback and data. That means that each refinement of the app will add more and better value to the user. Running such cycles of continuous improvement provides the best route to success on a large scale.
It’s easy to get excited when you have an idea for a mobile app that you think is revolutionary. However, before you start full-scale development, it’s worth thinking about mobile app planning. Do an in-depth market analysis, create a product roadmap and finally, build an MVP. This will help you save a lot of time and effort and will allow you the opportunity to collect user feedback, and check product-market fit. As a result of this mobile app planning, you will be able to verify your app idea and start your project with peace of mind.