Develop apps for your users, not a requirements document

Focus on the User not the Requirements DocumentIn software development, many teams are under the assumption that “more is more”.

More requirements, more specs, more design plans, layouts…you name it. 50 pages later you’ve got a requirements doc as thick as a book.

Throw it away.

What was once the right way to build software applications is no longer relevant in the world of mobile apps. When it comes to mobile development, less is more. Mike Jennett, of Information Week, believes that major shift in the way people build apps is needed:

“This concept of brevity is something that belongs in mobile app development, but instead of five words, five screens. We have asked our enterprise teams to use five screens to tell our developers what their mobile app is, what it should do and how users should interact with it. And it’s working to create more clarity up front.

The move to mobile layouts is changing the way people must think when planning for a design. Many teams have developed large-scale enterprise applications, often in-house, that have been around for years and they aren’t about to start over from scratch just to move to mobile. The general initial response I receive is, ‘Great, Mike, now go away and leave me alone.’ And for those of you in enterprise IT, you know that quantum changes in thinking are never welcomed with open arms.

In truth, application owners shouldn’t have to start from scratch. But they do need to rethink the planning process with the concept of focusing on the task, not the app. This task orientation allows teams to take a nugget from a huge application and create an app, or section of an app, that handles just that task. Alex Bard, a senior VP at, put it this way in a recent panel discussion: ‘We actually think about each device, then the context, the use case, and how you create a micro-moment experience to leverage that device.’

Identifying the use case and the experience for each device is the best way to approach your mobile strategy, and it’s also the best way to approach your testing strategy. There is no “one size fits all” in mobile development.

Developing and testing for a quality experience across platforms and devices empowers app developers with more clarity and a cleaner final product. The shift in planning, developing and testing a mobile app needs to be an increased focus away from the requirements document and toward ‘the user’.  After all, user opinions can make an break an app – as well as the brand behind it.

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