12 rules for creating successful application specification

12 rules for creating successful application specification

Dawid Rubin

Marketing expert, specialized in social media marketing content and performance-wise.

7 min read · 23.05.2020 15:01 · Wrocław

This article is also available in: pl

Admission word

A light bulb in your head went on? You got it, a great idea for a great application. Okay, if there is an idea, then you need to find someone who will make it come into life. A quick search on Google and you already have a list of companies to send an inquiry to. Numbers circulate in your head. How much will such an application cost? The first answers come and … everyone asks you to send a specification or briefing of your application. But why? You wrote what to do, what more do they want? The specification is a problem that many people do not cope with, they do not know how to start, what must be included in it, how it should look like, and in what form it should be made.

The ideal specification is a document consisting of several or even several dozen pages, answering all possible questions and describing your app idea and features from A to Z. Of course, to write such a document, specialist knowledge is necessary, and since you are reading this article, you probably do not have it. What in this case? How to create this document if you don’t have neither knowledge nor experience in this area? We present to you the ”12 rules for creating successful application specifications“.

Good practices for writing specifications

  1. Don’t force yourself to try writing it using a professional language.
    Using your own style of expression, you will best convey what you want to convey, because you will not spend time thinking about the proper word choice, but simply put your thoughts on paper.
  2. Go for quality, not quantity
    Does your specification only take a few pages? Do not worry! Developers do not want to read a novel, they want a brief overview of a given feature. Write accurately, succinctly, and to the point.
  3. Use whatever tools you have to tell your idea
    “Do I have to use professional tools to sketch the features of the app?” If you have in mind the features of your app and you’ve visualized the appearance of the entire system, you do not have to draw it in a program intended for this, if you don’t know any that will get the job done. Do it where you feel best, even if it’s a pen and a piece of paper! The most important thing is for your mockup to show how the system should work or look like.
  4. Do not suggest internal system operation
    This is one of the worst things you can do if you don’t have IT background. Describe the problem, the solution your application offers, what tasks it should perform, and everything it should do. On the other hand, leave the description of how to perform the given tasks to professionals who will definitely choose the most efficient way to do it.
  5. Focus on most valuable features
    When describing the functions of the application, specify which ones are most important to you and which can be made as MVP. MVP is a minimal viable (cost-effective) product, a version of the product that has only the bare minimum of functions that will solve a problem. It aims to explore the market and allow the first customers to roll in and give you feedback. MVP is used in situations when you are not sure how the market will react to your product and with a minimum financial effort to check whether it will be profitable for you and whether it is worth investing more money in it. When you mark your function as MVP, the developer will offer you the cheapest solutions that meet the business assumptions. So, when creating specifications, mark which functions and parts of the application are crucial for you and which ones you want to enter at the beginning as part of the test with basic functionality. If the feedback from the first customers is positive, then you can easily invest in your solution and expand your services. However, if you didn’t manage to hit your market needs with your idea, MVP will allow you to reduce losses and save a lot of money, giving you more room to pivot to something new.

Simple and understandable step by step specification

  1. Start with a description
    What is the purpose of the application? The idea behind it? A problem that solves or needs it creates? Make a general description of the project with the scope of activities that will be carried out within its scope. If you plan to develop the application with additional functions later, write about it. Thanks to this, the programmer will know how to create an application so that further modifications are easier to implement. If you don’t know where to start, imagine that you are describing to the loved one the application you are currently using and want to recommend it.
  2. Think of design
    Tell if you already have the design of your application, you don’t have one, but you intend to provide it or you want your contractor to take care of it. Creating applications with ready designs is much cheaper, so take this into account when requesting a quote for your project.
  3. Think of a budget
    When writing the specification, it is very helpful to enter your maximum budget that you can spend on the project. Even if you don’t know how much this application can cost, set your budget. It may seem that you will provide your budget and the contractor will use it to the full, although it will not be worth that much. Nothing could be more wrong unless you stumble upon an unethical contractor. Why? Thanks to this your contractor will know what solutions he can offer you. When your budget is too low, the contractor will tell you about it and propose ready, cheaper solutions for some functions to fit into it. Otherwise, when your budget is greater than sufficient, you should receive a certain price for the application according to your guidelines, and sometimes you will receive suggestions for additional functions or extension of the current ones that will fit in the given budget and may prove to be great advantages for your project. You can also - after receiving a quote that will be lower than your budget - ask for guidelines and suggestions for additional functionalities that will fit in your budget.
  4. Set a deadline
    If you have a deadline for the entire project or individual stages of application development, write what dates will satisfy you. Thanks to this, you will receive feedback if it is possible for the company to meet the above deadlines. Nine women won’t give birth in a month, the same is with development - nine programmers won’t execute your briefing nine times faster than one, that’s why you will get a proposal for possible dates, with particular stages. Of course, you also have to reckon with the fact that the less time for project implementation, the more it can cost. Sometimes it is worth asking directly: how much will the project cost in such a period and how much will you pay for it without giving any deadline. Why this discrepancy? Because if the project has a short deadline, there may be a need for the additional workforce. Therefore, the price increases in direct proportion to the time limit you give for its implementation.
  5. Describe your users
    Data is the key to success. Trump or Zuckerberg are global icons on how important personal data is in today’s world. Try to determine who will be your recipient, what locations are you targeting your application, how many users you expect in a given period. All this will allow you to better refine and, above all, understand the application.
  6. Think of external integrations
    Many applications use external tools, e.g. connection to an external invoicing system or CRM. It is important that you specify whether you want to use external or internal (in-house) solutions or maybe nothing? If you can’t decide on a specific solution or you just don’t know it - don’t worry! Consult your contractor, present any future application possibilities that come to your mind, and consult your ideas. The contractor will show you what you can use, what tools are needed for your project, and will tell you about the pros and cons of each.
  7. User stories
    User stories, i.e. a brief description of the functions by the final persons (using the application). This is an excellent method of describing the system, allowing the understanding of the mechanism of action by both technical persons and analysts, designers, or marketing specialists. This method is very simple and is based on a predetermined scheme:As {user}, I want {need} to {goal to be achieved}.As you can see it is very easy to write and fully illustrates the needs and capabilities of the application, for example:
    As a user:
    • I can enable and disable email notifications to receive news and promotions,
    • looking at the profile of another user I can add him to the group of friends and write a private message to him.
    As an admin:
    • I can change the current website promotions,
    • I can ban a specific user for violating the website’s regulations for a week or permanently.

It’s worth adding a few sentences describing a given story to fully allow others to understand the given feature.


In conclusion, the most important rule: don’t force yourself! Do not try to put yourself in a situation where you’d have to use specialized language or tools, if you don’t have experience, as it may lead to misunderstandings. Your specification does not have to be professional, long, or look like a work of art. The main thing is to fully describe what you want to create, using simple language and easy drawings and / or graphics. And if you find that you have a problem with anything, don’t be afraid to ask your contractor for help. In the end, among other things, we’re here for you to help!

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Dawid Rubin

Marketing expert, specialized in social media marketing content and performance-wise.

7 min read · 23.05.2020 15:01 · Wrocław

CodeTisans is a Digital Agency from Wrocław, Poland. We create websites and web apps, we offer MVP-building for startups, consultations, and IT Outsourcing. We create beautiful and useful digital products from scratch, starting with product design through documentation, and project implementation, both front-end and back-end.
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