Why are you doing this app? Because if you don’t have a clear idea in mind then chances are you’re heading for one messy project and quite likely one confused final product.The very first thing you need to ask yourself (and your colleagues if you have some) then is:

What am I trying to achieve with this app? (aka ‘What is the goal?’)

And then write it down in the form of:

A [WHAT IT DOES, eg sports results and news] app for [AUDIENCE, eg people in Baltimore]

This may require some debate and you may need to change it later but just put it down for now.To simplify capturing this and all the other early thoughts about your app, you might want to create an App Product Statement, an example of which you can see on the next page. If you would like to copy or adapt the same template for your project, there is a blank version of the same at the back of this guide or you can download the spreadsheet (.xls) version from the Members Area (under Resources) of the companion website: app-outsourcing-guide.com

Key features

You will then need to decide which key features the app should have.There may be many but try to limit yourself to the key five and write all of these down too.

For example, a ‘Photo Manipulation App’ might have the ability to:

  1. Access and save photos to the standard Photos application on iPhone;
  2. Correct red eye, brightness/contrast etc on photos;
  3. Create funny manipulations (twist photos, warp faces etc);
  4. Post to Facebook / Twitter and ‘send to a friend’ functions;
  5. Sync with MobileMe / Google Picasa and other photo sharing tools.

A ‘News App’ might:

  1. Have all the latest news and sections from our website;
  2. Allow users to browse our galleries using the iPhone’s touchscreen (‘gestures’) functionality;
  3. Allow users to send stories to a friend;
  4. Allow users to set news alerts (‘push notifications’) on subjects of interest;
  5. Allow users to save stories.

Measures of success

At this early stage your thinking may not be clear on this but you should start to define some measures of success to help guide you and any others involved during the project.

These might include goals like:

  • Make the Top 25 list for Lifestyle apps in my country’s App Store;
  • Break even three months after launching;
  • Make it our second highest revenue stream within a year of launching;
  • Get a major client to sponsor the app for $50,000 for the first six months;
  • Get 10,000 downloads.

It may be nice (and there’s nothing wrong of course!) for aiming for goals like being the #1 app in your country/a particular category. If you’re doing the app on behalf of your employer though, then it is probably best if your goals relate to something tangible and relevant like making a certain amount of profit or contributing x% to the company’s digital revenues.

The most important thing is to create some goals that are challenging and contribute to you or your organisation’s aims.

One area where an App Store focused goal might be more useful is if you have a particular competitor who is already in theTop 25 orTop 50 of a particular category that you want to beat.This is where you have a nice clear goal and big bulls-eye to aim for, so go for it!

Things like setting a goal, measures of success and key features might all seem obvious (they are) but unless you get these things debated, agreed and written down up front then you may find yourself with some problems later.This is particularly true if there are more stakeholders in this app than just you.