Requirements for the App – Tips and Tricks for the iPad World
Tablets are omnipotent these days. They have revolutionized the way we do a lot of things. App developers are in high demand and businesses with a product are jumping over themselves trying to get ahead in the game by establishing a presence through offering an app. The recent slew of customers that approached us for requirements related to an app offering got me thinking of how doing requirements engineering for an app is different from a regular product and what key things you should bear in mind as you develop your app.
It’s all about the look
What makes an app on a table device cool is that the graphics are slick and somehow makes the person using the app feel tech-savvy in the process. Like it or not, the “cool” factor for a user interface is one of the things any app is rated on. My advice is to not take this area lightly, but rather to invest in user design experts whose work you have access to and appreciate. Ensure the process is creative and collaborative.
Tip: In order to contribute as a BA, explore various leading apps in the same domain or targeted at a similar audience in order to find out what you like, what’s popular and what suits your app perfectly.
The sense of touch
Tablets are typically devices with touch screens, so your app will have to respond to touch events well. This can open up an entirely new dimension of engaging with the user. The level of satisfaction a user derives from a well-performed task in response to an intuitive action can be very high and almost addictive, and can encourage usage of the device and app frequently. Innovation can be key in this area as well – the iPad started a revolution simply by tapping the potential of this aspect of interaction with the user.
Tip: Mimic the actions you would perform where applicable. For example, flipping a whiteboard to get to the next page, or for a charting tool, pulling a pie slice out to see what the rest of the chart looks like without it. Then, ensure your user interface responds to such motions.
Give something back quickly
While we are using tablets more and more for certain tasks, not everything has changed. Recent surveys of tablet usage  show that while we use tablets more for tasks such as listening to music, downloading, maps and information when we’re on the go, we continue to prefer our desktops for activities that require extended periods of attention. A lot of work therefore continues to happen on desktops and laptops. Given this nature of usage, a good principle to follow is to give something back to the user quickly.
Trick: If your app is helping someone plan their finances, make realistic assumptions based on some key data to show them projections quickly in order to demonstrate the capability and value of your app. Then give them the opportunity to fine-tune the accuracy of projections by entering their data for better results. Once users can see what your app can do, they will take the time to enter data as they know what they will get in return.
Organizations are rushing frantically to put an app version of their product “out there” and establish a presence in the mobile space. But the problem is that when you have an existing product or solution, you can’t really take it in its entirety and “app it.” You typically should consider reusing components and bear in mind the overall goal of the solution, but feel free to make the app different where it needs to be in order to fall in the category of a well-thought of and useful app.
Tip: A good exercise to carry out is to study the scope of the existing solution that’s available and prioritize what is necessary and what can be forfeited. Your app should have functionality that’s absolutely vital but can leave out the bits and bobs that are incidental.
Keep your app light
Keep your app light. Reuse components from an existing app by making them available as online services. Avoid unnecessary data capture. However, if your app needs to function as a standalone app, balance the need to keep it light with its need to be functional in a disconnected mode.
Tip: Explore non-functional requirements related to app development to ensure all aspects of the app are covered.
Be aware of app guidelines
Lastly, be aware of the limitations and guidelines for your app. While most leading target operating systems (Android, Blackberry, Nokia’s Symbian operating system) don’t proactively publish guidelines before putting an app on their store, Apple has stringent guideline  and your app will have to go through a two-week approval process before it is made available on the App Store. However, even for apps targeted at operating systems other than iOS, the guidelines on Apple’s website are a great read to help you develop a good app.
Trick: Go through the guidelines on the Apple website for pointers on your app.
With all of that said, requirements for apps are exciting and a brilliant learning opportunity. The aspects I’ve put forward in this article are an excellent starting point but there’s lots to discover along the way. I wish you all the very best for putting together your app – happy discovering!
Don’t forget to leave your comments below.
 BusinessInsider.com, TechRadar.com
 Apple app guidelines can be found at https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/MobileHIG/Introduction/Introduction.html
Remzil Kulkarni has over 15 years of experience in technology enabled business transformation focused on Insurance, Telecom and Finance. She has a Masters degree in Engineering Management from Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX and is President of the IIBA Pune Chapter. She is a certified Prince2TM Practitioner and a Fellow of LOMA (FLMI). She currently heads the Business Analysis Centre of Excellence at Mastek Ltd., where she has worked for the last 6 years.