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writing a specification

From idea to app:
writing a Specification

by Frida Nyvall

In Part 2 of our series on building apps and web applications, focus is on writing a successful project description or specification.

In this article, we discuss what a project description/specification really is, why it is so important, and finally we go over some advice on how to write a great one.

The project description is an important key to successfully convincing investors, developers and other potential partners that your ideas are great and outstanding.

Creating a comprehensive description of your ideas is a task that can be as challenging as it is essential to the realization of your vision.

If you haven’t yet read Part 1 of our series on realizing your digital idea, you can read the article here, or you can skip ahead to Part 3 about building a prototype.

What is a Specification?

The specification or project description is the basis of information when future partners evaluate your idea. A good project description should however do more than convincingly describe the purpose of your idea. It should also clearly explain how your service works.

Why is this Important?

Get Better Price Estimates

Carefully documenting all of the functionality, requirements and facts within a project is time consuming and hard work. However, it is work that can be rewarding in many ways, especially when it comes to price estimates.

Because the price of an application (among other things) depends on its scope, functionality and requirements regarding design and user experience, accurately estimating a price gets difficult if there is no information about what the application is supposed to do or contain.

The more information available to the project, the better and more accurate will the estimations of time and budget required to realize the idea be.

The accuracy of a ballpark number depends on the total size of the park itself. Get a smaller span by providing more information.

Be a Pro

In addition to better and more accurate price estimates, it also becomes easier to make price comparisons between different agencies. However, the most important benefit of all is perhaps that you will come across as much more prepared and professional, which means that more people are inclined to respond to your requests.

If you plan to raise funding from investors or find other financial support, a clear and convincing description of your idea is paramount. Having a thorough and detailed project description/specification to attach to emails when reaching out, or use as a starting point for applications can both save a lot of time, as well as increase your chances of being selected by investors.

Mistake #1 to Avoid

The biggest and most common mistake to avoid is to have a specification that consists of a link to an existing service or app, and ask for a price estimate. Don’t ask for quotes solely based on links to an existing service or app.­

Even if your idea is a copy of an existing, successful concept, you should try and write down how you want your service or application to work. Perhaps there is functionality in the service you want to copy that can be added at a later stage, which can have a huge impact on keeping production costs down. For example, a lot of prominent online services offer native apps for both iPhone and Android mobile phones. When on a budget, native versions of your app could be added once your service or app has started to generate revenues.

The main problem concerning these types of quote requests is that they almost always lead to pretty steep price estimates. If you are really determined to create a complete copy of a major web app or platform without compromising, you also have to realize that most of these companies in addition to initial investments of a couple of hundred thousand USD also invest additional thousands (or more) to innovate and maintain the service.



Try finding out as much as possible about how the service or app you want to copy got to where they are today. Perhaps the company received support from investors that could also be interested in your idea?

How to write a Succesful Specification?

  • Try going through what you want to happen when someone uses the service or app step by step, and write down the steps.
    Example: “Step 1: The user signs up or log in using email and password at the login page.”
  • Also try to consider what should happen if something goes wrong. What happens if the user cancels a purchase, wants to correct a spelling mistake in an advert or comment, or if someone has used your service or app to publish offensive content. Add these events to the documentation along with a description of how you want them to be handled.
  • In case your idea is presented as a copy of an existing web service or app, try to compile a list of differences between your idea and the existing product.
    Example: “Airbnb offers event experiences and all kinds of types of accommodation. My website will only offer people to rent caravans or trailers.”

Help and Advice

We are happy to help you get the technical chapters of your project specification in place as part of a feasability study. We’d love to hear more about you and your ideas!


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