How to Build a Mobile App Requirements Document
To get started, download our customizable PRD template to follow along with this article.
A mobile app requirements document, also known as a product requirements document (PRD), is a document that fully defines the purpose of a mobile app project. A PRD is the foundation of your product, outlining business logic, listing technical specifications, and ultimately helping your development team transform your early concept into a fully functional mobile product.
Product teams use the PRD to guide the development of the mobile app as a means of understanding what is required to build the product. A PRD clarifies all of your ideas before any development work begins.
Successful products begin by addressing a specific user need. The product requirements document will help your team to get a clear understanding of what that need is, and how your product addresses it. While there are different ways to organize the document, we find it beneficial to include business requirements and product or technical requirements, as well as a few other considerations that will prepare your engineering team to get your product to market.
This article will walk you through the process of writing a PRD, and serve as an example of what an impressive requirements document looks like.
Business requirements are criteria that are necessary to meet organizational objectives. Typically they outline how the product or solution will address the needs of the company and its users.
These considerations are commonly included when mapping out business requirements for a mobile app requirements document:
- What is the purpose of the app or product? What are you trying to accomplish?
- What is the current problem(s) it will solve?
- How will it improve the current process? Will it facilitate a new process?
- What is the product vision statement?
- Will the app need to be started from scratch or can you leverage existing assets?
- What should the app be able to do (ie. functionality)?
- What features will it need?
- What is the monetization or business model?
- Are there branding and design guidelines that need to be followed?
- Is the ask feasible?
Mobile App Objective(s)
First, your PRD requires you to briefly describe what you want the product to do, as well as the core objectives of the product. For the first version of any mobile app, it’s recommended to focus on a single problem your target users are experiencing. By concentrating on a core problem, it’s easier to create a concise product vision for the mobile app and establish very specific success metrics.
Include User Journeys
In your PRD, you need to include the user flow of your app for each type of user (admin, regular user, and guest users, etc.). From start to finish, how will each user group interact with the product?
Creating detailed user journeys is a collaborative process and should include a business analyst, a user experience designer, a developer, and a product manager. User journeys communicate all of the possibilities within the app from the user’s perspective. Establishing proper narrative touchpoints is essential to refining the functionality of the product.
Need help mapping out your product’s user flow? Participating in a Design & Discovery workshop supplies you with a visual solution that details the user experience and user interface of your product. Talk to a mobile expert about creating user journeys, today. Start a conversation.
What is Your Product Vision Statement?
A vision statement defines an explicit direction towards the end goal of the mobile app. On top of that, a vision statement defines the solution to the problem your intended users are facing. In your vision statement, you need to include who the product is for, what the user is trying to accomplish, how the product will solve the user’s pain points, and how the product is different from competing apps in the market.
Create a List of Features
The first version of your mobile app needs to offer a simple and intuitive user experience. Choosing features for your mobile app is a planning process that requires you to fully define the product vision, objectives and themes. Some standard features can include:
- Sign-up and login
- Splash screen
- Image galleries
- Social media integration
- Social feeds
- Product menus
- Shopping carts and payments
- Loyalty cards
- Booking systems
- Calendar integrations
- Push notifications
- Native video
- Native maps
- Device hardware access
- App analytics
The list above is only a small list of potential features you might require. Understanding how a user will navigate through your app is critical for identifying the necessary features that will allow for a seamless user experience.
What is Your Monetization Model?
There are several monetization strategies worth exploring. The strategy you choose will depend on the type of app you’re developing, your target user, and even the mobile operating system you choose to utilize. Common monetization models include advertising, pay per download, in-app purchases, freemium, and subscriptions.
Product & Technical Specifications
Product and technical specifications outline the systemic and technical needs that must be met in order for the product to achieve the desired features and functionalities.
The following should be determined within the product/technical specifications for your mobile app requirements document:
- What platforms will the app be built for (iOS, Android, etc)?
- What operating system versions should support it?
- What are your current services, servers, databases?
- What are your maintenance needs? Do you need to support it for the future?
- How long should the app function before an overhaul is needed?
- Do you have current API/services documentation?
- Do you have current Apple, Google, or other developer accounts/credentials?
- Do you have existing provisioning profiles?
- Are there other credentials that are needed or already exist (analytics systems, platforms, etc.)?
What Platforms Are You Developing For?
The ideal approach to development is to launch on both platforms; however, that’s not always feasible. Sometimes, you will have to develop for one platform first and introduce a second platform later for reasons like time constraints, budget, and resource limitations.
Both iOS and Android offer distinct advantages, but also attract contrasting users. It’s important to do enough research to understand which OS meets the success criteria of your product goals.
Include Your Maintenance and Upgrade Requirements
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your project is finished after launch. At the very least, you need to plan for the cost of maintaining your app to fix bugs and meet system upgrade requirements. In your PRD, include a long-term product vision that accounts for user demands, product improvements, and new features for future iterations of the product.
Dependencies are any aspect that the product or product team relies on to meet objectives. These may include:
- Hardware that the app will run on/communicate with (for example, beacons)
- Service/API documentation
- Profile/account/platform credentials
- Any third-party software your app relies on
- Any flowcharts, documents, or information related to the product
In the early stages of a project, there are assumptions about the product that we believe to be true based on knowledge, experience, or current information. Typically, these include:
- Assumptions about the user (for example, X% of users will see enough value in the product to become regular users)
- Technical assumptions (for example, technical requirement A will work on the latest operating system)
- Business assumptions (for example, we can develop the product within a proposed time frame)
Constraints are the limitations that teams must work within, typically related to scope, budget, and time. However, they may also include aspects like risk tolerance, resources/staff, and quality requirements.
Your mobile app requirements document should include all technical assets and information required for Apple’s App Store submission and Google Play submission. Defining these requirements early will significantly expedite the submission process when the product is ready for release. While these will vary depending on the app stores being submitted to, below are the assets and information to include for the Apple App Store and Google Play.
- Icons of supported sizes (iOS: @1x @2x @3x images | Android: mdpi, hdpi, xhdpi, xxhdpi)
- Splash screens of supported sizes (iOS: @1x @2x @3x images | Android: mdpi, hdpi, xhdpi, xxhdpi)
- Screenshots in the correct sizes and in the required languages
- App descriptions in required languages
- Search keywords in required languages
- List of supported devices and OS versions
Apple App Store
- iTunes Connect Account access
- Company/Entity Name
- App Store app listing name
- Search keywords
- Bundle id / SKU
- Demo account for reviewers
- Support URL
- Marketing URL
- App category
- Copyright information
- Contact information
- App icon (1024×1024)
- App Store distribution provision profile
- App Store distribution code signing identity
- Screenshots (correct sizes based on devices)
- Google Play Developer access
- Store listing name
- Short description
- Full description
- App icon (512×512)
- Feature Graphic (1024×500)
- App type
- App category
- Content Rating
- Contact Email
- Screenshots (correct sizes based on devices)
Things to Keep in Mind For Your Product Requirements Document
The ultimate goal of creating a mobile app requirements document is to provide a foundation for a successful product. Mapping out business and technical requirements, dependencies, constraints, assumptions, and submission assets will give your team the ammunition needed to get your project off the ground. During development, questions are bound to come up, even with the most thorough PRDs. If questions are not answered in the document, make sure you add them in order to avoid any miscommunication.
During the process of defining the product, it is important to always focus on delivering superior value to the marketplace. It is easy to get distracted by competitors, vocal customers, and architectural issues, and while you do need to understand those needs, when it comes to defining a good product, always remember to focus on the value.