Probably the single biggest contribution to failed app ideas or projects that become unfocussed are the words, thought or spoken out, ‘We don’t need to write a brief yet.’
As soon as you have arrived at even a basic outline of an app project idea you need to start marshalling your thoughts in such a way so that other people can quickly understand your app project and buy into it. The best way to do this is by writing a brief that you would hand to a developer or agency to execute your idea.
I remember once the sum total of a brief given to us, when we were still developing apps for clients: “Make it the best app of its type, in the world.”
It was a fair enough sentiment, and we kind of got what the client was saying. After that, though, there wasn’t much else to go one, so we had to interpret every nuance and statement contained in the multiple meetings and email exchanges (this was pre-Slack) with the client.
In effect, we were chasing the client’s tail from the beginning of the project. I can’t tell you how much time we had to waste, at the client’s expense, simply because they could bring themselves to get all of their thinking down on paper in such a way that a developer could understand exactly what they wanted.
This was in the days before we developed the App Project Briefing template which quickly helps anyone with an app idea or project to marshal their thoughts and requirements into a single, easily readable document.
Back then, we simply reacted to whatever the client said. Because it was coming straight out of his mouth, there wasn’t really much time for him to think about what he was saying. Sometimes what he came out with was genius. Sometimes it was just plain wrong, but it would take a while for all involved to discover why it was wrong, as we tried to piece the puzzle that was his idea together.
I should add, BTW, that we actually created an award-winning app for him. Several in fact. But not without some pain for both parties along the way.
I remember once receiving a call from him complaining that my team was struggling to understand what he wanted and it was a frustrating way of working. Knowing from weekly team meetings that the team were equally frustrated by his lack of communicating what he wanted clearly, I asked him to send me a copy of what he’d written so that I could see what the problem was.
Of course, he couldn’t, because the feature he wanted just came to him in a meeting, he didn’t elaborate on it, and he certainly didn’t capture his requirements in any meaningful specification. So we had to waste a few more days of his paid-for time working out what he wanted. Which turned out to be not what he really wanted, in the end.
The great thing about taking an hour or so to write a project briefing is that it helps you to stop and think about what you think users will want from your app, what you want the app to do, how you want to release it to a market and even how to measure its success.
The earlier you do this, even if you are not ready to actually brief a developer or app development studio (or even before you raise money to do so), the sooner you will be able to focus your thinking on what will be important to your app’s success.
It’s time well spent, even if you decide to not go ahead with the app project yourself. If you think someone else could do a better job than you, your App Project Briefing document can be handed to any entrepreneur who might want to release it on your behalf or in partnership. After all, it will have your focussed thoughts written down clearly, ready for anyone to understand.
You can download the App Project Briefing template here.