13 June 2023

What are the steps in creating a feature for your app and why does it take so long?

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Andrzej Schmidt

You ask for a ‘simple’ feature to be added to your app that ‘every’ other app has as standard and it takes what seems like forever to finish the project. What we don’t always realise is that when something is designed well, users only see the ‘simple’ feature that works exactly as expected. What you don’t see is the amount of work in the background to make sure every user journey has been fully thought through and it works as seamlessly as you expect it to.

The process of creating a feature for a mobile app can vary depending on the complexity of the feature and the methodology of the development team, but we’ve gathered what we believe are the key steps that are involved in developing a new feature so you can understand the journey from start to finish.

Step 1: What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?

Your first step is to establish what problem it is you’re trying to solve with your new feature. Do you actually need a new feature? What will your feature do? How will it help people, or make your app better?

Determining whether your mobile app even needs a new feature, and why, requires careful analysis and consideration of various factors, including:

  • Analysing app usage data
  • Evaluating your app’s competitors to identify features they offer that your app lacks
  • Staying informed about the latest trends and advancements in your app’s industry
  • Considering the potential impact of the new feature on your app’s user experience, engagement, retention and overall success.
  • Assessing the impact of not taking any action and finding web or 3rd party alternatives

Once you’ve been through these initial steps and identified potential new features, you’re ready to move on to the next stage.

Step 2: Prioritisation

Once you’ve identified potential new features, it’s time to prioritise them based on their impact, urgency, feasibility and alignment with your app’s goals. This is a crucial step as it helps you identify and focus on the most important and impactful features that should be developed and implemented. 

You would first assess the potential impact of the new feature on your app and its users. Consider how the feature aligns with your app’s goals and objectives – does it address a significant pain point, or add substantial value to the user experience? Features that have the potential to drive user engagement, retention, or revenue generation should be given higher priority. 

You would then need to evaluate the urgency of the new feature – does it address an immediate need or problem? If it addresses a critical issue or enhances core functionality, you may want to think about prioritising this feature in order to maintain user satisfaction. 

At the prioritisation stage, you would also consider the technical feasibility of implementing a new feature. Evaluate the complexity, resources and development time required. If a feature is highly complex or requires significant resources, it may be more feasible to break it down into smaller, more manageable components. 

You would also need to consider the available resources, such as budget, development capacity and time constraints. Assess whether you have the necessary resources to develop and maintain the new feature effectively. 

By considering these factors, you can create a prioritisation framework or scoring system to help you objectively evaluate and rank the potential features. This approach ensures that you focus on the features that provide the most value to your app and users while optimising your development efforts and resources.


Step 3: Gather feedback

The next stage in creating a feature for an app is to gather more feedback. This is an important step that can help ensure your feature meets the needs and expectations of its target audience and provides real value to its potential users. 

Begin by brainstorming ideas through talking to potential users – what is it they’re looking for? What problem are we trying to solve? This is an essential part of creating a feature for your app because it helps to ensure that the feature and the app meet the needs and expectations of your target audience and potential users. Gathering feedback and making sure to align all stakeholders allows you to have a better understanding of their needs, preferences and pain points. 

The information gathered from your potential users can then be used to inform the development process – helping you to create a feature for your app that is tailored to your user’s specific requirements. By focusing on user stories and user journeys, you can avoid the trap of creating a feature that is based on assumptions or personal preferences, which may not align with the real-life needs and preferences of your target audience. 

Step 4: Review feasibility

When designing a feature for a mobile app, reviewing feasibility is an essential step to ensure that the feature can be implemented successfully within the given constraints. A feasibility review helps evaluate the technical, financial, and resource-related aspects of implementing the feature. 

Assess the technical feasibility by evaluating whether the feature can be developed within the existing technology stack, infrastructure, and resources. Consider factors such as compatibility with different mobile platforms (iOS, Android), required APIs or integrations, and potential technical challenges that may arise during development.

You may want to consider evaluating the availability of resources, including development team expertise, time, and budget. Consider the impact of the feature on the existing workload and determine if the necessary resources can be allocated to implement and maintain the feature effectively.

At this stage, it’s also worth thinking about the impact of the feature on the overall user experience of the app. Consider factors such as usability, performance and how the feature fits into the existing app design. Evaluate if the feature aligns with user expectations and enhances the overall app experience.

And finally – it’s important to assess the cost implications associated with developing and maintaining the feature. Consider factors such as development time, any ongoing costs (these may be service costs,. 3rd party licence costs or maintenance), and potential revenue generation through the feature.

Step 5: Design your feature

With the requirements in place, it’s now time to design the feature. This involves creating mockups and prototypes to visualise how the feature will look and function. It’s important to ensure consistency with the overall app’s branding and design language. 

During this stage, it is essential to gather feedback from users and stakeholders, as it plays a pivotal role. This feedback ensures that your feature functions properly and effectively. Moreover, it minimises the need for post-implementation changes, making it more cost-efficient to make changes to the design rather than to overhaul a feature that has already been implemented, only to discover that it does not meet user expectations.

Finally, you build or integrate your feature with the existing platform. 

Choose tech stack

Step 6: Testing

Testing is a crucial step in the development process, ensuring that the feature works as intended and meets the specified requirements, as well as flagging any issues before the feature is released to the public. Common testing methods include:

  • Functional testing: This involves testing the feature’s functionality to ensure that it performs the intended tasks correctly.
  • Usability testing: At this stage, you’ll then move on to testing the feature’s usability to ensure that it is intuitive and easy to use for your target audience. Testers evaluate the feature’s user interface, user experience and overall usability. 
  • Performance testing: Testing the feature’s performance helps to ensure that it is fast and responsive. Testers simulate various load scenarios to ensure that the feature can handle a high volume of traffic without crashing or slowing down. 
  • Security testing: An important part of the testing stage is to test the feature’s security to ensure that it is secure and protects user data. Testers evaluate the feature;’s vulnerability to various types of attacks. 
  • Compatibility testing: This involves the feature’s compatibility with different devices, operating systems and screen sizes. Testers ensure that the feature works correctly on all target devices and operating systems. 
  • Regression testing: The final stage of testing focuses on testing the feature after it has been modified or updated to ensure that it still works correctly and has not introduced any new issues. 

Step 7: Testing the cycle

At this point, it’s important to note that steps 1-6 are not a single flow process, but an iteration. For example, after you’ve finished designing your feature, you will still need to go back to stakeholders and review what has been done, review quotes and time schedules. This may affect prioritisation, but it is an important step in the process to enable you to begin the final stages of releasing. 

Step 8: Time to release your new feature

Once your feature has been tested, it is time to release it! 

Releasing your new feature involves coordinating the release with the rest of your app development team, ensuring that the feature is released at a suitable time. 

Communication is key when releasing a new feature to a mobile app – it’s important to communicate the new feature to users, including what it does, how to use it and why it’s valuable.  

Depending on what your new feature is, it is often worth releasing it to a subset of users to have time to test and see if everything works correctly. 

And finally, after releasing your feature, it’s important to monitor user feedback to ensure that the feature is meeting their needs and expectations. Gathering user feedback, analysing user behaviour data and making improvements to the feature based on that feedback is an integral step to making sure your new feature is a success.

There are several factors that influence the time it takes to create a feature. Complexity, scope, team size and external dependencies can significantly impact the development timeline. Resource constraints, technology limitations and unexpected challenges may arise, requiring additional time and effort. 

Communication can also cause delays, so it’s important to maintain effective and clear dialogue with your client and your team members to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. 

So the next time you use a ‘simple’ feature, remember the amount of work that has gone behind the scenes to make it happen!

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