Lesson 7

Developing Your Features

A successful app combines form (how it makes the user feel) with function (what it does). If it doesn’t solve the user’s problem, it won’t be successful. Use your core value proposition as a guide when developing your initial feature list.

At a high level, these are the areas you should be considering when developing a product list for initial launch; we’ll cover some in more detail in later.

  1. Align to high-level business strategy: As with every part of the app development lifecycle, take time to confirm that you are answering a real need in the marketplace, and that all company stakeholders are on the same page about what that real need is.
  2. Review your target audience profile: Since you’ll want users to turn to your app over and over again, their lifestyles and needs must be at the top of your mind. You may want to map out several possible user journeys, which detail the motivations and emotions a user goes through to select and engage with your app.
  3. Agree on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): These metrics will determine the success (or failure) of your app, so you want to find KPIs that match your business goals and user needs. It may be the number or amount of purchases made during a session or the amount of daily or monthly active users.
  4. Brainstorm your feature list: Think of all the ways you could give users what they want and need, and make sure you match competitive offerings. After initial ideation, set priorities (based on constraints you may have in terms of timing and budget).
  5. Review technical and system needs: With your feature list in hand, now’s the time to ensure you have engineers, product managers and quality assurance specialists in place; they will help guide the development of your dream feature list.
  6. Begin design and branding exploration: User experience and interface design will need to work with backend developers to ensure the technical engine can bring to life any frontend design needs. This is also the time to decide on high-level design and branding concepts.
  7. Think through monetization: Whether directly or indirectly, you’ll want your app to help support revenue generation, so deciding on a monetization strategy will be part of developing features and KPIs. (We cover this in detail in Monetize.)

Your feature set will most likely change — potentially dramatically — between initial brainstorm and first launch. Going through this checklist is a way to start the process, but as with everything in the app lifecycle, change can be frequent and necessary.

The music video creation app musical.ly launched as a video-sharing app aimed at educators and students. After a lukewarm response, its founders realized that with the same features set, a different target audience could share self-made music videos. With that new positioning, the app exploded in popularity. Once the app’s best primary use case was determined, the app’s feature roadmap shifted dramatically toward social sharing and delivering higher production value video.

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To help narrow down your potential feature list, here are three questions to consider:

  • What does the competition offer? When did your competitors release new features and what impact did those features have? Were there any features that were later removed? Use your competitive research to come up with a feature list that you’ll need to at least match to be considered a standard. Of course, you’ll want to go above and beyond, but at the beginning stage, doing so may not be necessary.
  • What are your top priorities? Especially in the beginning stages, focus on fundamental features. It’s better to have one highly functional, attention-grabbing feature than 15 features that don’t provide true value.
  • What are your resources? Be sure to align your features roadmap with your budget and timing needs. Augmented reality (as used in Pokémon GO) may be all the rage, but it can be extremely expensive and labor intensive to develop. As we continue to stress, you must stay focused on what works for your ideal users (who do not need augmented reality in every situation).

After creating your list of necessary features and filtering through potential roadblocks to success, you’re ready to build and launch your minimum viable product, or MVP.

Keep Learning

In the next lesson, we'll learn about planning and delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) that you can take to market.

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