How to write an app brief


7 minute read
Alumni: Charlie Harman

Alumni: Charlie Harman

Marketing Manager

Digital Insights


Any co-creational project starts with a brief. It’s the first detailed snapshot we (the developer) get of your needs, hopes and fears for your organisation’s app or experience, and it works as a springboard for further ideas and development.

The more comprehensive the brief, the better the response will be from your shortlisted candidates. While we wouldn’t expect you to have the whole app and experience set in stone, there are some top level details that you can provide us with in order for us to really understand you and your business, so that we can propose the best solution.

Here are some of the things (don’t worry, nothing too onerous) that are helpful for us to know before you kick off your build project.

About you

At this stage, and at every stage thereafter, we work with you in mind. Understanding who you are and what you do helps builds a picture that will inform every aspect of the process. Masses of information isn’t necessary, but it’s very helpful to have a short paragraph or two that sums your business up in your own words.

The problem

At Calvium, we love a good problem – all the best apps start with them. Clients want developers who will help them overcome a variety of obstacles – technical, practical, or cultural. Perhaps you’re experiencing a dip in visitor numbers amongst a key demographic, or maybe you have visitors galore but no direct method of communication to encourage repeat visits. Whatever the issue, understanding what they are at the outset means an agency can frame their proposals in a way that best addresses them.

Current situation

What are the circumstances that have led you to this point? Maybe you’ve been considering an app for a while, but now a competitor has launched one and you know you can do better. It could be that you tried an app with another provider previously and it didn’t work out, but with customer demand at an all-time high you’re ready to find the perfect co-creators to bring your project to life. Any context you can provide is valuable, helping to guide and ground the project.

What are your objectives?

This one is not just helpful for us, it’s also an essential exercise in determining exactly what it is you want your app to achieve. Apps very rarely exist in isolation, and are almost always linked to an overarching business strategy. Numbers and data aren’t always necessary, but a bulleted summary of your underlying organisational objectives will ensure these are reflected consistently in the look, feel, and user experience of your app – as well as the fundamental data-capture and data-processing aspects of your software.

Who is your audience?

At every stage of app development, who will use the app is a key consideration. We don’t expect you to have commissioned research specifically for the project (though if you have, wonderful!), but any recent and relevant statistics, audience personas, or other demographics information will provide a solid foundation for app design and delivery. Knowing this information will also come in handy when it comes to finding the right participants for user testing the final app.

Technical requirements

At this point in the app development journey, we don’t need detailed technical specifications from you – we’ll work on those later. But if there’s knowledge that you are privy to, now’s the time to share it. For example; does your site have limited wifi? Do you know that all your target audience use iphones? Do you already own a suite of windows tablets that the app has to work on?

In order to propose the best technical solutions for you, we first need to have an understanding of your must-haves and your no-can-dos. At very least, consider whether you need your app to work on both Android and iOS (most do) and whether you need the app to be free.

What you like and don’t like

There’s no need to provide an extensive tome of personal preferences, but a bulleted list of app-related things that float your boat – and those that don’t – will give an agency plenty to go on in deciding what type of features to pursue and which to avoid.

What to include? Any already existing apps – related or not – that you feel strongly about, either way. If there are particular concepts – like treasure hunts, an audio walk, social media integration, or phygital (physical + digital) – that are either firmly on your ‘wish list’ or definitely won’t work for you, say so. It’s also important to consider the types of data you’d like to gather from your app users.

Having a clear idea of your preferences from the beginning will prevent time wasted on ideas that were never going to wow, so more effort can be channeled into those that will.

Equally, if you don’t have any clear idea, that’s fine too; it will allow us to work in sprints – focused chunks of work related to a specific element of the project – and really uncover the right approach for you.


When you’re looking for multiple competitive quotes, we understand that you may not want to give away what you’re willing to pay. But a ballpark figure is helpful. This can be tricky: if this is your first app, you may not be aware of the budget you need. So how do you work it out?

Think of an app like a work of art. If you want a copy of an established hit, you can look into lower cost ways to get it reproduced. If you want an original, you need to invest. You might get a near-copycat app for £6,000, but if you want something new, tailored and truly original, the cost will be considerably more.

It very much depends on the scope of work, and our role within it. Are we developing an all-encompassing experience from scratch, or simply providing the technical nouse? We can, of course, work with you to establish the budget based on your requirements.


If you have a specific event the app needs to launch by, putting it in the brief means project work can be paced accordingly, and appropriate contingency for tweaks, testing and troubleshooting can be built in.

What would you like from us?

Lastly, what are you hoping to get from your working relationship with a developer, and what are your key drivers? Is price a sticking point, or are you looking for the most creative responses? Maybe, like us, you appreciate the value of a strong, collaborative working relationship. An agency wants your app to meet your needs in every way possible: tell them what’s important to you, and let them make it happen.

The best agencies are creatives as well as techies, and are always on hand to help define and realise your vision. The more detailed the brief, the easier it is to get a feel for the project and to quote accurately. But don’t be put off if you don’t have all the detail. That’s what true co-creation is all about.


To help you get started writing your app brief, we’ve written up a couple of examples for some fictional businesses which you can download below.

Get your free Example App Brief


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