Mobile Blog

How To Run Product Discovery for Mobile App Development

Many companies proceed with developing a mobile app straight away, completely overlooking value of a project discovery phase and omit this stage. It is an error with far-reaching consequences. While from the outside it may seem like a waste of time and money on unnecessary research. In building a digital product the discovery phase plays a crucial role that defines the quality of the product and the market fit.

On several occasions, we have referenced this figure: according to CB Insights, more than one third of startups, 35%, fail due to the fact that there is no market need for them. That is what a proper project discovery phase is all about. It is about verifying whether there is an actual market need or not and whether you can match it or not. Today we'll examine how to carry out a project discovery phase. 

Product Discovery Defined 

Discovery phase should not be confused with project initiation or planning processes. As a pre-development phase, it is mostly focused on obtaining and scrutinising as much info about your product as possible. This data covers your target market niche and audience as well as their pain points and the ways your app will resolve them. In other words, it resembles a well-structured thought experiment, based on your assumptions against the backdrop of real-time empirical facts you can collect. In this fashion, a discovery phase will make it possible for you to define the goals, limits, scope, and overall vision of your product. 

As such, it covers the following aspects: 

  • Analysis of your future market and rivals
  • Analysis of your target audience and requirements, with a special emphasis on user research and journeys  
  • Analysis of the future goals of your project, in both tech and business terms, and applicable measurements 
  • Analysis of costs, in terms of development and management 

Product Discovery Checklist 

In spite of the fact that ‘analysis’ has been the most frequently used word in the previous section, it takes more than a Business Analyst to carry out a productive mobile app project discovery phase. Based on our experience we deem the following team to be a prerequisite of success (no, it is not always a possible and affordable thing to assemble a perfect full team, however, all these roles are important): 

  • Project manager playing the key role as a decision-maker and a mediator. Subsequently, this person can assume full responsibility as a product owner (as long as they know how good code works);
  • UI/UX designer proficient in envisioning intuitive mobile solutions;
  • Solution architect possessing sufficient expertise in both monolithic and microservice based approaches;
  • Marketing specialist capable of translating your basic assumptions and empirical data into easily comprehensible and actionable agenda; 
  • In the ideal case, a full-stack mobile software engineer should be involved as an advisor. The case is that a tech-savvy person is needed to bring all the aforementioned team members down to earth.

Product Discovery Steps to Take 

The exact amount of steps to be taken while carrying out a project discovery phase may differ, as we at HOUSE OF APPS, for example, prefer to decompose major stages into smaller particles. However, in a nutshell, what you need to do is as follows: 

  1. Stakeholders. Identify the parties whose feedback and opinions matter in the context of your mobile development project. First of all, you need to prioritise end-users, as they are the ones who dictate the fate of your initiative. For sure, during a project discovery phase you will have to resemble a small limited sample, but still, in a mobile-first world, end-users are kings. Other stakeholders may include, depending on a particular situation, company owners, senior managers, project manages, etc. 
  2. Clarify the needs and tech requirements. Basically, this is your underlying assumption about an existing paint point and your ability to address it. 
  3. Summarise your in-house docs and secondary source data. This step is taken to substantiate your hypothesis and find out whether it is true or not.
  4. Interview your potential users and competitor research. If you feel like you do not have enough data at your disposal (most teams do not have enough data), it would be reasonable to dive deeper to understand what already exists in the market and what potential clients use, want, and, most importantly, lack. 
  5. User personas and user journeys. This aspect is all about attempting to embody your target audience by imagining typical users and their typical needs. After that, you need to envision future use scenarios and screens.
  6. Dynamic prototypes, wireframes, and the zero round of user testing. At this stage, teams create the visual basis of their future solution to let potential users assess it and collect their feedback. 
  7. Finally, everything above considered, project documentation (vision, scope, and requirements specification) together with a roadmap is created .

Project Discovery Deliverables and Benefits 

A properly carried out Product Discovery phase should result in the following outcomes: 

  • Project documentation, including requirements specification, specifying measurable tech and business objectives, critical features, stakeholders and other major parties, a tech stack, project overview, and an overview of the envisioned architecture;
  • Usable and adjustable UX prototype representing the future mobile app, user journeys with the main screens, and testing scenarios;
  • Cost estimates, i.e. projections related to both spending and the approximate workload with deadlines.
  • With that we arrive at the initial project roadmap.

With these deliverables, you can significantly mitigate risks, outline the number of specialists and resources you need, optimise your efforts and cut costs. However, the most important thing is that you can early on recognise futile projects before you even start with the resource-intensive development stage. You should not underestimate this problem. According to McKinsey, ‘17 percent of IT projects go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company.’ The discovery stage is a great way of deeply assessing the project perspectives and uncovering new avenues or blind spots that lead to a more fine tuned business idea.

We at HOUSE OF APPS carry out project discovery phases for startups and existing businesses in their growth stages. Give us a shout if you are ready to turn your idea into a mobile product that makes a difference.