This Is How You Write Specs For A Mobile App

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Episode 2: You’ve validated your app. Now what?

If you missed the first article in the series — What does your mobile app idea and a Nutella croissant have in common? — there’s no need to fret. You can easily catch up here. 

This is where you’re currently at.

You have an awesome mobile app idea. Better yet, you’ve validated it by considering these factors:

  • Figured out what problem your app is going to solve.

  • Identified the unique value proposition of your app.

  • Identified and examined your target audience.

  • Scoped out your competitors.

You’ve pitched the app to your entire family, that trusted friend, and even that one stranger whose name you seem to have forgotten. You’ve checked out your competitors, you know why yours will be better than anyone else’s attempt, and you know exactly who you’re going to market it to.

So now what?

You have come to the point where you now need to decide on the design and technical specs for your app. These are the specifications that you will provide to a freelance designer and developer, who will in turn turn your app into a reality.

Furthermore, your specifications will be presented in a sheet / document (your choice, it’s just got to be detailed and easy to understand!) that will feature these three sections:

  1. A general overview of your app

  2. Design spec sheet

  3. Technical spec sheet

Warning: The order of your document and the order on how you complete these sections will not be the same!

1. Sketch out all your thoughts

Put pen to paper.

How do you visualise your app? What will each ‘page’ look like?

Bring your great ideas to life by sketching them and making them tangible. Why? Because this will allow you to lay down some foundations and provide your app with an estimate layout, structure, and ‘look’. It will also help you understand your goals. While you complete a ‘page-by-page’ sketch re-consider the following:

  • Think of past apps that you liked. What was so great about them? Are you able to incorporate any of these benefits into your design (e.g., navigation, under experience, layout)? Quick pro tip: sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

2. Creating Your Design Specifications

With your sketches fresh in mind, your next step is to complete the Design Specifications. They will likely need to cover these three areas:

  1. Visual Design: Here you will need to consider more than just what the app will look like, and what colours you’re intending to use. You need to think of the icon for the app, any websites that it would be affiliated with, and the text (what tone/voice are you going to employ?).

  2. User Interface (UI) Design: How will design prompt or impact how your app will work?

  3. User Experience (UX) Design: Enhancing user satisfaction with a product through the design. When undertaking 2. and 3. you need to really break-down your app; consider all the ‘pages’ it will consist of, and how users will navigate through them. It will help to refer back to your sketches!

Creating a design spec sheet for your app is easier than handling a technical one (which we’re going to get to). There’s a high chance that you could probably tackle this one yourself, even if you’re not overly tech and design savvy.

On the other hand, you could also let a professional handle it. At Freelancer we have over 247,900 talented visual, UI, and UX designers who would be able to provide you with their expertise. However, you may not need to find a freelancer for all three. You need to prioritise the design areas, depending on the type of app that you’re hoping to create:

A visual designer will be beneficial for you if:

  • You want your app to stand out from a large crowd (e.g., games and entertainment).

  • You want to convey quality and trust (e.g., finance).

A UI or UX Designer would be beneficial for you if you want an app:

  • That has complex features and navigations areas.

  • That will be used constantly.

  • That is super easy to use.

  • That needs to perform actions very quickly.

You need to ensure that the designers provide wireframes that take all of this into consideration. Your developers will then code these wireframes and turn your app idea into a reality.

3. Creating Your Technical Specifications

Here comes the hard(er) part. Many of us aren’t app developers, and while we can learn, it would probably end up eating too much into our precious time. These are the questions that need to be completed within a technical spec (preferably with the help of a developer):

  • On what platform will your app be built? Android, Apple iOS, or both.

  • Do you require push notifications and geolocation services?

  • Will users have to login within your app? And if they do, how are they going to login? Via inputting email details? Via a social media account?

  • Will your users have to create personal profiles? Will this consist of having to enter information about themselves that may be viewed publicly?

  • How are you going to make money from your app? Through up-front costs, in-app purchases, or is it just going to be free?

  • Will your app require your users to review or rate things (e.g., a food delivery or music app)

  • Do you want your app to connect to your website or other social media channels?

  • Are the graphics used in the app going to be stock images, or are they going to be customised (something to also discuss with the designer)?

  • How is the app going to collaborate with the server? Here you need to describe (in detail) the kind of app-server interactions mechanisms and protocols that need to take place.

  • Will data caching for offline work be required?

  • Will there be a printing functionality?

  • Do you require compatibility/syncing with e-commerce engines, internal CMS, and any other systems?

At Freelancer, we have over 67,200 mobile app developers on our site, who are more than qualified to create that dream app for you. But how can you make sure that you get the right one for the job?

  • Make sure they have existing reviews.

  • Have a look at their portfolio. If they don’t have one, find someone who does.

  • Download some of the apps that they have built. Review them: do you like them? Do you think the app has achieved its goals? Is the app fast to load and interact with?

  • If you’re more tech savvy, review the code that they have written.

You can also use our Freelancer Recruiter service. This service helps you find the right fit for your project — for we screen providers to ensure that your project needs are placed only in the hands of capable professionals committed to success. Better yet, the freelancers are specifically handpicked by us.

However, sometimes you may just need a second opinion when searching for the right app designers and developers. To aid you through this process, we’ve just released a new project sharing tool for users looking to hire freelancers. This free feature allows you to share your project on Freelancer with your trusted friend, family member colleague, or business partner. They can view candidates for you, chat with them, and even award them the project (it’s all up to you though, you choose the access permissions that you want to grant).

Share page

Once you find the right developer, they will not only help in creating and implementing the design and tech specifications, but they will also help you complete:

  1. Alpha Testing: early testing that attempts to identify any bugs and problems within the app. This testing is done by the developers near the end of their development phase, but is done before beta testing (as it is not open to the public).

  2. Beta Testing: Performed by a number of the app’s ‘real users’. Beta testing relies heavily on user feedback, and is considered as the final test before the app is made completely viable. Google also has some great resources on Alpha and Beta testing.

  3. An MVP: MVP stands for ‘minimum viable product’. And rather than viewing it a standard process, think of it as being more like a philosophy. The idea behind is to get ‘anything’ out to the market as soon as possible, where changes would then be constantly made based on user feedback. Why waste further time on things that may not be essential to the running of the app? Once again, the developer (and possibly, the designer, depending on the feedback that is received) would be involved in this process.

4. The General Overview of the App

Even though this is going to be the first thing featured in your article, it’s a component that’s best tackled last — (when you already know most of the answers to your questions).

In the general overview you should:

  • Explain all of the definitions, acronyms, and abbreviations that are to be used in the document. This can be done last when writing down your spec, but should also be placed at the top of the document.

  • Describe the goals of your app.

  • Describe the target audience of your app.

  • List and prioritise the mobile platforms your app is intended for (Android or iOS).

  • List and prioritise all the devices and the operating system versions that your app is intended for (For example, is it going to be compatible will all versions of the iPhone?).

  • Specify your project’s budget.

  • List of all the technologies that should be used for building your app (you’ll be able to answer this once you’ve talked to your developer).

  • List major milestones (dates for alpha testing, beta testing, MVP creation, prototyping, pre-release to the app store placement etc), the due dates that you have in mind, and the desired timeframe for proof of concept and delivery. This milestone can be added and easily tracked through your Freelancer project.

Epilogue: Episode 2

And that’s it. Easy, right? It’s totally understandable if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, most of us have been in the exact same position as you. That’s why it’s so important to have am experienced professionals by your side during all of these steps.

Pro Tip: tackle one task at a time, you’ll find it much easier to handle that way.

This is the end of the second episode in the ‘Creating a Mobile App’ series. At this point you should:

  • Be able to complete an app specification document (the general overview, design specifications, and the technical specifications).

  • Find a designer or developer on Freelancer who could help you during the process. Why not hire a recruiter if this is something you're struggling with?

  • Collaborate with a friend, family member, or colleague, and use their advice within the Freelancer collaboration feature.

  • Be ready to release a prototype of your app.

In the next article, we’ll look a little further into properly establishing an efficient relationship between you and your developer / designer. We’ll look into creating proper milestones, while also examining Alpha Testing, Beta Testing, and MVPs. If you have any opinions and thoughts that you want us to include in the upcoming article, please don’t hesitate to send us an email at

For those who already created an app, what steps did you follow? What were your hardest obstacles? What advice would you give others? Comment below!


Oprettet 13 april, 2017


Copywriter, Content Writer, Proofreader, Marketer.

Dunja is the Content & Email Manager at Freelancer HQ (Sydney). She is an Oxford graduate, and is the mother of a pet parrot called DJ Bobo.

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