The goal of mobile app development is to create a product that offers something new and innovative. But as any product owner or project manager can attest to, defining the vision of a mobile product needs to be weighed against the constraints of the project.
It’s easy to get swept away by your big-ticket idea. It’s equally as easy to lose sight of feasibility. If you don’t take the time to fully define the purpose of your mobile app project, functionality and requirements will be lost in translation, and your great idea will bear no resemblance to the end product.
Achieving a balance between great product ideas and project constraints relies on a thoughtfully crafted Product Requirements Document (PRD). A PRD is a substructure for the entire mobile app and it’s used to communicate business logic, technical requirements, and user flow to every stakeholder on the project. A PRD is the first step in ensuring your end product is as close as possible to your original idea.
In the early stages of planning, the overall product vision is usually still ambiguous. Working through a PRD forces you to think about every aspect of the product, what work is necessary to see the plan through, and any impact on project constraints like scope, time, and budget.
A PRD helps you think critically about the business requirements of your application so you and your stakeholders understand exactly what organizational objectives you’re trying to achieve with the mobile app.
A prime example is whether your mobile app will streamline a current process, or facilitate a new one. If your business objective is to introduce an entirely new process, the project timeframe becomes a significant factor in determining what is feasible for development; how many features are required to make the new process functional and are you able to develop that functionality in your particular timeframe? By working through the many considerations in a PRD, you will gain more insight into what is possible to develop within your desired timeframe and budget.
A PRD is a necessary tool for making strategic choices about technical requirements. The decisions you make about platforms, hosting and backend database design carry long-term implications if they aren’t given adequate attention. The backend of a mobile app is where the value is. It’s essential to give your product team enough information to accurately transform your high-level idea into a functional and practical framework for development.
Mobile app architecture, for example, is imperative for managing product constraints. The architecture of a product serves as the blueprint for the entire system and is indispensable for the understanding, negotiation, and communication between all stakeholders. A solid architecture is built to accommodate change, and by planning technical requirements early, your development team can create a structure to manage scope creep and budget constraints effectively.
It is often a reality that constraints on a given project mean that certain compromises must be made. However, teams should evaluate thoroughly and compromise as minimally as possible.
This is not a step towards condoning an inferior product to be built, but simply a set of decisions that must be made under circumstances to work towards a realistic and attainable goal of building the best possible product that follows project scope, timeline, and cost. When making product decisions in these scenarios, we must ask ourselves a set of questions before moving forward.
This is a consequential question: it captures the reason why we are considering compromise. Is it necessary to adjust a feature that will take a few hours of development to build? Are there features that will take potentially weeks to build?
What role do particular features play within the entire context of the app? How important are particular features? Imagine the app without this particular feature. Determine where the feature stands when evaluating its importance relative to everything we need in the MVP (minimum viable product).
Seek out alternatives to building this feature in the proposed method. Can we find an alternative method that would take less time? How effective is that alternative method at delivering the user experience that we envision?
Without proper planning, costly product decisions are often made and are incredibly difficult to untangle. Beginning the initial planning stages of development with a PRD protects your product from inflating beyond your project constraints, and ultimately achieves a quicker time to market. In some cases, compromise is inevitable, but with clear requirements on paper, the decision-making process is simplified.