What is the beginning point of the application development work? Is it a set of features? Or maybe a specification file? No.

Everything starts with the question: what problem do you resolve and for whom?

Smart strategy is everything. This is why discovery phase with strategic research comes at the first place when exploring the possibilities of building a web application or a digital business tool. What things to keep in mind and what steps to take?

Set up close collaboration between team and idea owner

Clients/ idea owners/ serial entrepreneurs often come up with brilliant suggestions about wanted applications or business tools. But jumping into spec-ing the ideas with dev team, or compiling a list of features would be a wrong direction. Transparent message about that is a key for the right development process. It’s the research and analysis of the conjuncture, audience, user models and alternative tools, which should take place. Tight cooperation between both parties is crucial in such a brain-work, because results obtained in synergy can lead to better insights than just a regular discussion or an ordinary brainstorming.

Define the audience and its goals

Building something generic means building nothing for nobody. When starting something you should know who exactly your targeted users are. What is their behavior patterns? Routine? Likes and dislikes? Your application is aimed on becoming a part of their life (professional life, or personal one, depending on the type of the product). So it’s vital to know your users, create live personas with names and character traits, in order to further build personalized user experience. In addition to that, research should show which goals users would be setting when using the app and which problem they would be willing to resolve.

Work on “user stories” and “user scenarios”

As mentioned, application is aimed on becoming a part of users’ lives. Application’s mission would be to provide some solution and positive emotions. To determine ways of reaching this goal user scenarios are formed. They serve as a description of the life cases or business cases in which the application would be valuable to the users. They give necessary and very important insights about users environment, decision drivers and minor details influencing the user journey. User stories are smaller pieces taken from the scenario. They describe what actions user would like to take (based on existing UI/UX models present in the digital space) in order to achieve wanted result. These stories are short and provoke the discussion around implementation options and best technical solution that app development team can provide.

Form a critical user journey

When you gathered strategic information it’s still not the right time to start development. Because it can resemble a puzzling game. You have tiny puzzles and trying to match them now would be a costly move.

Imagine you’re trying to create an app for a quicker morning routine. Let’s say you got a group of people together and asked them to list things they do in the morning before going out to work. Different people would write different things (because they have different lives and routine). You will have a basket of cards with morning actions. Now you put them all in the order, from earliest action taken in the morning to the closest one when stepping out of the door. So many things obviously and you list them all despite the author or type.

How to prioritize and decide which should be taken at work?

Solution: imagine you have just 5 minutes (woke up late and need to hurry)! How many cards will you drop out? At least 70% and you will keep only those, which are critical for you to reach the goal: step out of the door and run to work.

User stories and scenarios represent all those puzzles of the full image. But to launch your development process, you need to identify only those critical ones, which let your users achieve their goals in min time. These selected puzzles will form a critical user journey for a very basic and viable product that already delivers value to its users.

It’s only now, when you can proceed with development

When the following deliverables of the discovery phase are gathered:
– Business conjuncture research and analysis
– Audience analysis
– Scenarios and stories
– Critical user journey
… you can form features, detailed tech/non-tech requirements and acceptance criterias and move on with the coding. Along with that you can now work on product road-map, analysis of user feedback and think of the next steps in an organized way.

That approach with discovery phase and strategic research ahead of coding puts users into focus, allows forming good understanding of the app environment and reveals great opportunities for business, which delivers true value to its customers.