How to Choose the Best Features for Your Mobile App
For the first version of your mobile app, you want to build a simple and intuitive user experience. Any feature that disrupts the intuitiveness of the experience is not worth having.
Your app needs to fill a gap in the user’s life – it needs to serve a clear purpose – but it also has to be usable. Features impact the usefulness and usability of your app. If you include too many features initially, users may be confused about the app’s core purpose and how it fits into their life. If you’re not critical about how particular features will influence the user flow, you can end up with a disorganized user experience that’s awful to use.
So, how do you choose the best features for your app?
Understand the Purpose of the Product & Business Goals
When you’re in the early planning stages of an app project, it’s helpful to use a Product Requirements Document (PRD) to reign in and simplify your ideas. A PRD is designed to guide you by fully defining the purpose of the mobile app project. In the introduction of the document, you’re asked to describe what you want the app to do, set objectives, and define what you consider success. Completing a PRD is the first step in choosing the best features for your app.
The very first step of the mobile app development process is to define your business goals. What business challenge or market opportunity does your mobile app address? The answer to this question can be many things depending on what area of your business is the most profitable to build or improve. Consider the following opportunities:
- Automating business processes
- Inventory management
- Task management
- Customer self-service
- On-demand data collection, aggregation, and analysis
- Opening a new revenue stream
- Improving a customer-facing process
- Improving an internal process
- Customer education tools
- Employee education tools
There is a multitude of business cases for mobile apps and countless opportunities to streamline processes or introduce new customer value streams with mobile solutions. The key is choosing one that makes the most impact within the context of a broader business strategy.
It’s essential to think through all the aspects of your company’s goals and objectives as a part of your overall mobile strategy determining how your mobile product will contribute to furthering these goals. You will likely have several app ideas than you have time, budget, or resources to build. It then becomes a matter of prioritizing which ideas to pursue first depending on what business goals are the most important. The same type of project analysis techniques used in other business areas can apply to mobile app development prioritization. It’s essential to start thinking about your mobile app development project with this frame of mind, so you can develop a product that delivers intentional and measurable business value.
What Do You Want the App to Do?
Concerning a minimum viable product (MVP), you should focus on solving a single problem your intended users are experiencing. Honing in on only one problem will help establish a concentrated product vision for the mobile app. This approach also enables you to set specific success criteria and clear objectives to determine what features the product needs to be successful.
Here’s an example:
A doctors’ office has identified a problem patients are facing – the office receives a high volume of phone calls, and as a result, patients experience long on-hold wait times to schedule appointments. The doctors’ office plans to develop a mobile app that lets patients book and cancel appointments without having to speak with an administrative representative over the phone.
This example focuses on a single user pain point and isn’t distracted by multiple functionalities that do nothing to address the central problem. From here, it’s simple to write a product vision statement:
Who: want to book and cancel their appointments independently from our call system.
The: Name of the application
Is: an appointment booking application
That: lets users self-book and -cancel appointments and receive appointment-specific communications on their mobile device.
Unlike: Other scheduling apps in the market
Our product: will allow users to manage appointments specifically with their primary care physician conveniently.
A vision statement creates a definite sense of direction towards the end goal of the application. As well, your vision statement defines the solution to the problem your intended users are facing.
The next step in regards to choosing product features is setting objectives to achieve the end goal you established in the vision statement. Objectives are specific, measurable, and attainable business-related targets you wish to accomplish with your mobile Product.
In the appointment booking example, the primary objective is to allow patients to manage their appointments without calling the office. For the mobile Product, a few example objectives could be:
- Build a mobile presence that is intuitive and easy to use for all patients.
- Become a trusted appointment management option for patients by offering a secure and controlled mobile-booking environment.
- Become a reliable source of information regarding appointments details through accurate and consistent communication.
Now, you need to translate your objectives into themes. Themes are the success criteria by which you intend to achieve your goals. By writing themes, the features your product requires will become apparent as you sketch each step you plan to take to reach your objectives.
A Note on Success Criteria
Themes will determine how to measure the success of your mobile app. Establishing success criteria is the second area of product strategy that you need to address early in the development process so you can determine the right features and functionality to actualize your goals.
Your success criteria are directly related to your business goals and relate to the maturity of your application. You will likely have different success criteria for a mobile app you’ve just launched compared to a mobile app that’s been in the market for a year or more. Examples of success criteria are typically associated with cost savings, revenue, time savings, and task reduction. Still, they can also be as simple as a set of users taking what you consider to be important in-app actions. Depending on the stage of your project, you can also define success with user acquisition and retention metrics. Regardless, you need to establish a set of measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to track throughout the evolution of your product. With specific success criteria in place, you’ll be better equipped to pivot your strategies and make crucial product decisions when you learn more about how users interact and experience the mobile app. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea if your app’s features contribute to meeting your business goals.
Based on the appointment booking app’s objectives, here are example themes for the mobile Product:
- Objective: Build a mobile presence that is intuitive and easy to use for all patients.
- Attract and retain patients with easy to understand onboarding, an uncomplicated self-booking portal, and unembellished calendar interface
- Leverage data models to learn and measure a user’s experience within the app
- Build a seamless and intuitive user experience
- Ensure sign-up and login, onboarding, and navigation features are not ambiguous or overwhelming for users
- The app should be explicit with requests to sync with device hardware (i.e., calendar) and send push notifications
- Objective: Become a trusted appointment management option for patients by offering a secure and controlled mobile-booking environment.
- Require the app to have login authentication for each session
- Leverage tokenization to ensure user sessions expire when the user is inactive for a specific length of time
- Ensure proper user access level security to protect private user data
- Objective: Become a reliable source of information regarding appointment details through accurate and consistent communication.
- Provide users with a mailbox to receive appointment confirmations and other relevant communications materials
- When booking an appointment, provide users with a text box to communicate additional details about their appointment
- Display visible text boxes to notify when an appointment has been received and when an appointment is awaiting approval
- Launch an automated email to inform the patient of appointment approval
- Launch a push notification to inform the patient of appointment approval
- Allow users to sync the app with Google Calendar to set separate appointment reminders
The themes above are just high-level examples, but as you can see, elaborating on objectives to create themes provides clear guidelines for accomplishing each goal. On top of that, the features you need to actualize each theme become more apparent by the end of the exercise.
Choosing the Best Features for Your App
Initially, it’s easy to assume that an appointment booking app will require a login feature, a calendar feature, and a messaging system. Still, when you work through the sections of a PRD, you begin to see that choosing features is an intensive process. Once you have your product vision, objectives, and themes, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to prioritize features into a product roadmap: the now, next, and later of your MVP.
The features for this example are likely to include:
- Sign-up and login
- Navigation/patient dashboard
- Calendar with available appointment slots
- Appointment approval workflow
- Tokenization structure for data security
- Device hardware access
- Email integration
- Push notifications
The PRD process helps you identify what features you need immediately to make your app useful. Choosing the best features for your mobile app is a planning process that requires you to fully define the product vision, objectives, and success criteria for the product. The best features for your mobile app will become apparent naturally as you thoroughly map out how to achieve your business and product goals.