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Specification: Why Is It A Key Element Of Software Development And Project Estimation

It is of utmost importance for your software development team to have as much information as possible regarding your future product in order to provide accurate estimates.

There may be some times when a feature that seems insignificant and minor can have a great impact on your timeline as well as your budget. This is why a detailed specification for any customized software development projects holds so much meaning.

What is meant by a Specification?

Each one of us has to deal with planning at some in their lives like purchases, trips, events, renovations, and many more. Under almost all the situations, we always think of the “big picture” first including what we want to accomplish and how much it will cost. However, we usually give little to no think to the details before jumping in.

For almost all of the day-to-day matters, this is not a big deal. You may just go ahead choose from whatever options are given to you (first class or coach, front row or balcony, chicken or beef, and more)

However, there are many circumstances where you are faced with a scenario where options are not really clear cut. You will need a customized solution for your particular needs and going in for it without a clear point of view for exactly you want or need is a sure fire recipe for ending up way behind schedule and way over budget.

This vision, when formalized into a document, is called the specification for your project.

FOR INSTANCE

  1. Imagine your business wishes to create an online store. For now, you only have your main page designed and you wish to know about the estimated cost of developing the whole website.

You need all of your pages as a perfectly standard issue (search, cart, categories, and more), your store’s design template is complete. At first glance, it may seem like your developers have everything they have to know in order to make an overall estimate, but how will your product page look like? In what format should the search results come in?

If you don’t coordinate with your developers and provide them the answers that they need. This will help them make an accurate estimate or you might be in for an expensive surprise later.

  • Now imagine you wish to get a mobile app develop to post pictures. You think anyone can develop one, right? Well, we hate to break it to you that it makes a huge difference whether you wish to host pictures on the user’s phone or on a server somewhere.
  • Let’s imagine that you already have a website or application in place and now you wish to tweak it a little. This could include, adding a few new features, update the UI, and more. Now don’t be surprised when your development team that you have hired asks you questions like what all technologies you used before to develop it or when they require your login information. In case you don’t have any answers to these questions, you project will simply stand still.
  • Next, let’s imagine that you want to create a similar application to an already existing one. You might say that it would be a much simpler matter of pointing to examples and telling your development team that you need something similar to this. However, you must guess this by now that it is not as easy as it sounds. You will be required to specify exactly what you sets your application different from the rest and how those differences will have an impact on the final estimate, even if they are as minor as an additional page or an extra menu page.
  • Another instance is that you want to create a social media integration in your app or site. This is something that a lot of apps and websites do nowadays. You need to make this absolutely clear to your developers up-front. Also, if you wish to add the ability for the end-users to login through social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook along with being able to post to them, it is another factor for the estimation.

It is also of utmost importance to decide on the source of the content for your application and website. In case you wish to display updates, feeds, diagrams, charts, or messages on specific pages or interfaces, your developers will need to understand where the displayed data should come from or which users or admins should be able to create it.

It is very obvious that developers operate on a completely different field of playing while considering the clients’ requirements. Whenever you say that you want your users to be able to contact me through their website any time they want, on the other hand, your developer just hear “contact form, submit, mail server, validation.”

For a person who is non-savvy, it may sound like a foreign language, does it not? This is why, we recommended that instead of talking directly to the developers, you can communicate with them through your business analysts and of course, your specification. You can think of the specification as a Rosetta stone which will always allow the developers and clients to understand each other.

Conclusively, it is very important to describe use cases of your business’s product in terms of who will use it, what function it will serve for them, what the users will expect from it, and more. Once your development team has a basic and solid picture of who you want using your product and why, it will be more likely that they will be on the same page like you and it is less likely that they will diverge from your vision.

Kinds of Requirements

Brainstorming Notes

Brainstorming notes are known as the initial draft of the specification, most commonly in the form of short notes and sketches for the interface. This is in a raw form, like a general description of the idea in its most basic form before most of the details have begun to coalesce.

Business Requirements

Business requirements stand for the high-level requirements which describes the purpose and concept of the app, along with its general functionality without getting into all the technical details.

Example-Based Requirements

Example-based requirements are consistent of links and other instances that showcase applications or products similar to the one they want to be developed.

Functional Requirements

These are known as level-low technical requirements which are the bare minimum necessary for developers to create estimates and begin development.

Use Cases

In order to understand better about the future user of the application, it is crucial for the developers and architects to know the scenarios for main user for the app performed for different kinds of users. There are not set rules for how much detail should be in these requirements. However, the more information you provide here, the better the end product will be.

What is the Importance for this?

To give you an estimation of the amount of time and money to develop an app or website, you need to formalize the requirements, that is, you need to translate them into a specification.

This process, many a times, can prove to be time-consuming and tedious, but it is important to ensure that the description of your project, no matter how abstract it is, is converted into something only your vendor will be able to use to develop precisely what you want without miscommunication or error.

To compose a specification, the very first step will be to determine the basic and ground-level components of your project that you will require estimations for. For instance, here is a typical list of components for an online shop:

  1. Login/registration/user account
  2. Shopping cart
  3. Product categories
  4. Product page
  5. Payment system
  6. Admin panel

The very next step will be to give a description of the details of component. For example, you wish that new users should receive a coupon code after registration, or those animation elements in your categories list, you need to add all of these things to your specification. Also, it becomes very helpful if you provide wireframes of the pages on your site or the screens on your product so that the developers will have a better idea of what elements you want and how you want them arranged.

When you formalize your concept in the form of a specification, it works to give you a clearer view of what you actually want. Compartmentalizing your project into different components will help you understand which elements you surely need in the first phase of release and which among these can wait until later. Under many circumstances, it makes much more sense to launch the product with only core functions and gradually, you can keep on adding additional features over time. For instance, you may launch your online store without the functionality where new users can receive coupons and may opt to introduce it in a few months as a bonus for your customers. This action will help you make a better use of your budget and improve customer loyalty. This is obviously a win-win situation for you!

While developing the software specification, it is very important to interact with your tem of developers and understand all the troubleshooting issues. If there is something that is not implemented in your product, your specification will provide an ironclad proof.

Non-Technical Description

This describe the purpose of the project and who all should be its end users. Additionally, it describes how your project is different from similar products in the market, which are the competitors.

Third-Party Components

This part describes all the third-party components you want to integrate in your app. This could include social media, third-party analytics, maps, and more.

Design / Description / Wireframe of Pages or Screens

Your team of developers will require a clear understanding and description of all the components that you want to include in your product. The more information you provide regarding this, the better product you will receive in the end. You must give out information about every interface your product should have. In case your app will have many forms, pages, or screens of the same type, you should not describe them individually. You just need to indicate how many of these pages will be there. Interfaces with actual functionality need many more details than forms with only static content. In addition to the designs and descriptions, you are required to provide an explanation of how the elements you should interact with each other – the “business logic” behind your project.

Technologies

This asks you to prove all the information to your development team in regards to any technologies you would prefer to use or any technology you would want to avoid using.

Description of Existing Components

This requires to inform your development team in case you have an existing product you want to be modifies in some way. This could include reskinning, extra functionality, and more. Your development team needs to acquire all the information you can possibly provide, including technologies, documentation, secure code, and everything else.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why do I need to provide a Specification?

Let’s lay it on in very simple words. The more detail you provide about your project to your developing team, the less likely your development team will underestimate or overestimate in their estimation. If there is anything about which your specification is unclear about something, you may have to waste time and money later on either to clarify what you wanted or to deal with issues that weren’t obvious at first.

For the developers, having a clear set of requirements from the business and it will let you spend more of your time and budget on your project and less on hammering out details. However, in case you are a non-tech savvy and you want an expert opinion, you can opt to spend extra on an IT consultant to make sure your requirements are not only clear, but also reasonable.

  • What if I don’t know all the details yet?

This is not a problem at all. You just need to provide your vendor with everything you in regards to the requirements. It is possible for business analytics to work with minimal requirements and consultants can go on asking you all the questions necessary to fill in the gaps. However, the fewer details you have in the starting, the longer the process will take. But in the end, the result will be the same, you will get a detailed estimate with a very clear timeline and budget. On the other hand, in case your project is fairly sizable and time is tight, it is possible to hire a team that can start work with the minimal requirements.

  • Why can’t I opt to make a project without a Specification?

If you initiate the development process with just a general outline of your project and no clarification on the details, there is a good possibility that the finished product will have little resemblance to your concept. Obviously, your team of development can’t read your mind, only thing that they can do is follow what you put down in the specification. Anything else that you don’t add in the specification, it is a fair game for them to interpret in their own way. If it gets worse, you won’t be able to prove that didn’t develop the app you wanted because you never wrote down your requirements in detail.

  • What are the bare minimum components that my specifications should include?

To say at the very least, your specification needs to be inclusive of low-level of your product, like:

  • Preferred / required third-party services / libraries like REST, Google Apps, PayPal, and more.
  • Descriptions / designs of all forms / screens / pages
  • Detailed descriptions of all business logic: formulas, functionality, diagrams, and more.
TecOrb.com – Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Why do I need to provide a Specification?

Let’s lay it on in very simple words. The more detail you provide about your project to your developing team, the less likely your development team will underestimate or overestimate in their estimation. If there is anything about which your specification is unclear about something, you may have to waste time and money later on either to clarify what you wanted or to deal with issues that weren’t obvious at first.

For the developers, having a clear set of requirements from the business and it will let you spend more of your time and budget on your project and less on hammering out details. However, in case you are a non-tech savvy and you want an expert opinion, you can opt to spend extra on an IT consultant to make sure your requirements are not only clear, but also reasonable.

What if I don’t know all the details yet?

This is not a problem at all. You just need to provide your vendor with everything you in regards to the requirements. It is possible for business analytics to work with minimal requirements and consultants can go on asking you all the questions necessary to fill in the gaps. However, the fewer details you have in the starting, the longer the process will take. But in the end, the result will be the same, you will get a detailed estimate with a very clear timeline and budget. On the other hand, in case your project is fairly sizable and time is tight, it is possible to hire a team that can start work with the minimal requirements.

Why can’t I opt to make a project without a Specification?

If you initiate the development process with just a general outline of your project and no clarification on the details, there is a good possibility that the finished product will have little resemblance to your concept. Obviously, your team of development can’t read your mind, only thing that they can do is follow what you put down in the specification. Anything else that you don’t add in the specification, it is a fair game for them to interpret in their own way. If it gets worse, you won’t be able to prove that didn’t develop the app you wanted because you never wrote down your requirements in detail.

What are the bare minimum components that my specifications should include?

To say at the very least, your specification needs to be inclusive of low-level of your product, like:
  • Preferred / required third-party services / libraries like REST, Google Apps, PayPal, and more.
  • Descriptions / designs of all forms / screens / pages
  • Detailed descriptions of all business logic: formulas, functionality, diagrams, and more.

Please note that “business logic” doesn’t really have anything to do with “business”. For instance, the winning conditions count as a part of its “business logic”.

TecOrb is a one of the reputed Mobile app Development Company prioritizing on developing intuitive mobile apps. Our few recommended application solutions are taxi application solution, grocery delivery app, food delivery application, and OTT video platform etc. Get in touch with our experts to know more about our application services. We have a tech qualified team of developers, who work around our customer’s need and requirements and serve them the best system solutions by testing applications on real devices emulators, and simulators.

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