How to Choose the Best Features for Your Mobile App


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For the first version of your mobile app, you want to build a simple and intuitive user experience. Any feature that disrupts the intuitiveness of the experience is not worth having.

Your app needs to fill a gap in the user’s life – it needs to serve an unmistakable purpose – but it also has to be useable. Features impact the usefulness and usability of your app. If you include too many features initially, users may be confused about the app’s core purpose and how it fits into their life. If you’re not critical about how particular features will influence the user flow, you can end up with a disorganized user experience that’s awful to use.

So, how do you choose the best features for your app?

Understand the Purpose of the Product

When you’re in the early planning stages of an app project, it’s helpful to use a Product Requirements Document (PRD) to reign in and simplify your ideas. A PRD is designed to guide you through the process of fully defining the purpose of the mobile app project. In the introduction of the document, you’re asked to describe what you want the app to do, set objectives, and define what you consider success. Completing a PRD is the first step in choosing the best features for your app.

What Do You Want the App to Do?

In respect to a minimum viable product (MVP), you should focus on solving a single problem your intended users are experiencing. Honing in on a single problem will help establish a concentrated product vision for the mobile app. This approach also enables you to set specific success criteria, as well as clear objectives to determine what features the product needs to be successful.

Here’s an example:

A doctors’ office has identified a problem patients are facing – the office receives a high volume of phone calls, and as a result, patients experience long on-hold wait times to schedule appointments. The doctors’ office plans to develop a mobile app that lets patients book and cancel appointments without having to speak with an administrative representative over the phone.

This example focuses on a single user pain point and isn’t distracted by multiple functionalities that do nothing to address the central problem. From here, it’s simple to write a product vision statement:

For: Patients

Who: want to book and cancel their appointments independently from our call system.

The: Name of the application

Is: an appointment booking application

That: lets users self-book and -cancel appointments and receive appointment-specific communications on their mobile device.

Unlike: Other scheduling apps in the market

Our Product: will allow users to manage appointments specifically with their primary care physician conveniently.

A vision statement creates a definite sense of direction towards the end goal of the application. As well, your vision statement defines the solution to the problem your intended users are facing.

Setting Objectives

The next step in regards to choosing product features is setting objectives to achieve the end goal you established in the vision statement. Objectives are specific, measurable and attainable business-related targets you wish to accomplish with your mobile product.

In the appointment booking example, the primary objective is to allow patients to manage their appointments without the need to call the office. For the mobile product, a few example objectives could be:

  1. Build a mobile presence that is intuitive and easy to use for all patients.
  2. Become a trusted appointment management option for patients by offering a secure and controlled mobile-booking environment.
  3. Become a reliable source of information regarding appointments details through accurate and consistent communication.

Now, you need to translate your objectives into themes. Themes are the success criteria by which you intend to achieve your goals. By writing themes, the features your product requires will become apparent as you sketch out each step you plan to take to reach your objectives.

Writing Themes

Based on the appointment booking app’s objectives, here are example themes for the mobile product:

  1. Objective: Build a mobile presence that is intuitive and easy to use for all patients.
    • Attract and retain patients with easy to understand onboarding, an uncomplicated self-booking portal, and unembellished calendar interface
    • Leverage data models to learn and measure a user’s experience within the app
    • Build a seamless and intuitive user experience
      • Ensure sign-up and login, onboarding, and navigation features are not ambiguous or overwhelming for users
      • The app should be explicit with requests to sync with device hardware (i.e. calendar) and send push notifications
  1. Objective: Become a trusted appointment management option for patients by offering a secure and controlled mobile-booking environment.
    • Require the app to have login authentication for each session
    • Leverage tokenization to ensure user sessions expire when the user is inactive for a specific length of time
    • Ensure proper user access level security to protect private user data
  1. Objective: Become a reliable source of information regarding appointment details through accurate and consistent communication.
    • Provide users with a mailbox to receive appointment confirmations and other relevant communications materials
    • When booking an appointment, provide users with a text box to communicate additional details about their appointment
    • Display visible text boxes to notify when an appointment has been received and when an appointment is awaiting approval
    • Launch an automated email to notify the patient of appointment approval
    • Launch a push notification to notify the patient of appointment approval
    • Allow users to sync the app with Google Calendar to set separate appointment reminders

The themes above are just high-level examples, but as you can see, elaborating on objectives to create themes provides clear guidelines for accomplishing each objective. On top of that, the features you need to actualize each theme become more apparent by the end of the exercise.

Choosing the Best Features for Your App

Initially, it’s easy to assume that an appointment booking app will require a login feature, a calendar feature, and a messaging system, but when you work through the sections of a PRD, you begin to see that choosing features is an intensive process. Once you have your product vision, objectives, and themes, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to prioritize features into a product roadmap: the now, next, and later of your MVP.

The features for this example are likely to include:

  • Sign-up and login
  • Onboarding
  • Navigation/patient dashboard
  • Calendar with available appointment slots
  • Mailbox
  • Appointment approval workflow
  • Tokenization structure for data security
  • Device hardware access
  • Email integration
  • Push notifications

The PRD process helps you identify what features you need immediately to make your app both useable and useful. Choosing the best features for your mobile app is a planning process that requires you to fully define the product vision, objectives, and success criteria for the product. The best features for your mobile app will become apparent naturally as you thoroughly map out how to achieve your business and product goals.

Annie Dossey
Anne is a Content Marketing Specialist at Clearbridge Mobile – a mobile app development company offering user-centric product design and engineering services. She writes about all things mobile and how apps are fueling the next wave of digital disruption.


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