Read three case studies on how app development companies approach the increasingly important "discovery" stage of app development.
According to Clutch’s recent survey on the cost to develop an app, both businesses and app development companies value the pre-research or “discovery” stage of app development. Nearly 70% of app development companies require it.
During the discovery stage, app development companies clarify all details of a potential project. This planning minimizes conflict resulting from differing expectations throughout the app development process.
During the discovery stage, app development companies may:
- Conduct market research on a client’s potential competitors and apps
- Analyze whether an app is the best medium for clients to meet their goals
- Create prototypes to visualize the app
- Schedule a project’s development to determine a timeline
How do different firms approach the discovery stage? As part of our larger survey on app development cost, three app development experts gave us further insight into how their companies' approach this stage.
A Team of Experts
After determining the client’s high-level goals, custom software development company Digital Brand Group gathers a team to create a technical brief that outlines the potential project.
“Usually, participating [in creating the technical brief] is an architect, a developer, a creative director, or designer who can provide input on creative-type services and engineers who can provide input on development-type services,” said Jeremiah Jacks, Founder of Digital Brand Group.
Occasionally, the app development firm also includes someone with expertise in IT or business development if the project requires it.
The length of the discovery stage varies considerably.
“Going through that process really depends on how significant of a lift that [the client] is trying to do. It could be something that takes two weeks or two months.”
At the end of the discovery stage, Digital Brand Group determines how to engage with the client.
An Agile Approach to the Discovery Stage
New York-headquartered end-to-end product development agency Dom & Tom explains how the Agile sprint model is an ideal schedule for not only the app development process as a whole, but more specifically for the discovery stage.
“Sprints are two weeks. This is enough time to determine enough work product that is of value, and catch any underlying issues (dependencies, feedback, high-order solution implementation.) A sprint framework is the core mental model that provides a consistent, quality product flow for team members and stakeholders, ” said Dominic Tancredi, Co-Founder and CEO of Dom & Tom.
Within this time frame, the firm works to determine how exactly the project will be completed.
“We usually do a one-sprint discovery to gather project requirements, determine who the users are, share the project constraints and then ultimately come out with a project plan and product backlog. The project plan includes a project schedule, risk assumptions, and product timeline which we break out into feature sprints.”
Dom & Tom’s clearly defined schedule and process flow created during the discovery stage allows for a consistent, high-value development timeline.
Pricing After Research
For app development firm MindStudios, the discovery stage is when they take an in-depth look at the specific details of a project.
“We try to analyze the income and requirements of the client,” said Dmitry Dobritskiy, CEO and Co-Founder of MindStudios. “We try to understand his goal and why he wants to build the app. Sometimes we offer different solutions if we determine a mobile app cannot provide value to the client.”
MindStudios also conducts app market research for the theoretical app.
“We try to analyze the client’s competitors if they exist. We try to find his key features, his bullet points. After that, we create the black and white interactive prototypes that will clearly outline how future systems should work.”
MindStudios estimates a price only after completing this discovery stage research.
“After we completely agree with clients on the structure and how systems should work – the components of the system and how they are connected to each other – we provide a detailed estimate on the design.”
This process is the most logical and exact route to an accurate price for MindStudios.
“It makes sense to only give an exact [price] estimate after the team clearly understands what should be done,” said Dmitry.
The method of finalizing the cost of app development after the discover stage eliminates future challenges that stem from differing expectations. Yet, businesses may feel tempted to always go with a firm that offers a set price from the beginning.
“In the very beginning, when clients are trying to get a quote on a project, they tend to believe the company that offers a fixed price without doing proper research,” said Dmitry. “There’s always a pitfall there because, in the very beginning, neither the client nor the development team clearly understands what should be done.”
Ultimately, a set price is elusive until the app development firm and client agree on the scope of a project.
Don't Discard the Discovery Stage
The discovery stage benefits both businesses and app development companies by creating a space for clarifying the scope of a project, scheduling the work, and researching the client's competitors and industry.
Beginning the app development process with the discovery stage allows for a more streamlined and productive relationship from the start. It’s in your best interest to complete it before developing your app.
About the Author
Riley Panko is a content developer and marketer at Clutch, a B2B research firm in the heart of Washington, DC. She's written on cloud computing, social media marketing, and app development. Reach out with questions, comments, or concerns at [email protected].