Skip to content

The Best Way to Define Software Requirements

By: Marc Mastrella
Published: Monday, 08 August 2022

Why Is Requirements Documentation So Important in Software and Apps Development?

The fourth core principle of the Agile Manifesto addresses the response to change over a plan. However, this does not mean planning is unimportant. When it comes to software and app development, simply going with the flow is not an option. A plan and clear requirements are needed to create a successful product. Obviously. But it's the how that has the biggest impact on a successful outcome. (Stay with me here.)

Software development and app development requirements are the foundation of every software development project. Well-defined software and app development requirements help developers to understand the customer's needs and wants. They act as a backbone for the project and determine what features the software will have. Essentially, they help to establish a clear understanding between the customer and the development team and allow for accuracy in establishing the estimated budget.

How Important is the Requirements Gathering Process in Software and Apps Development?

Developing software without requirements can be compared to driving a car without knowing the destination. You might get where you need to be eventually, but it will take you a lot longer, and the journey will be full of twists and turns. A clear destination and roadmap will allow you to avoid wasted time, inherent frustration and extra stops at the gas pump!

Likewise, imagine you are preparing to build your dream home, but you have no idea what kind of foundation it will need. You schedule a meeting with a contractor to discuss your project. At the meeting, you tell the contractor that you want a three-bedroom, two-story home with a garage. The contractor listens to your requirements and provides you with a quote. But then you realize that you forgot to mention that you wanted a fireplace in the living room. You call the contractor back and add the fireplace to your requirements. The contractor revises the quote and provides you with an updated price.

Your final document will detail all of the features of your home, including the size of each room, the type of windows and doors, the number of stories, and any other special features, such as a fireplace. This document is called the home's blueprint. The blueprint for your dream home is similar to the requirements document for your software project.

What Should Be In Your Software and App Development 'Blueprint'?

Creating a software requirements document helps to ensure that everyone involved in the project understands what needs to be built. The requirements act as a guide for the development team and help them to stay on track. Software requirements can be divided into two categories: functional and non-functional.

Functional requirements are the features that the software must have. For example, a functional requirement for a social media app might be the ability to post updates and photos. Non-functional requirements are the quality attributes that the software must have. For example, a non-functional requirement for a social media app might be the ability to load quickly on a mobile device.

Gathering and Documenting Software Requirements

Proper gathering of requirements is the most important first step in any software development project. It helps to ensure that the final product meets the customer's needs. Each software development company has their own way of extracting and documenting software specifications. The most common ways include the use of interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other methods to understand the customer's goals.

Once the software requirements have been gathered, it is important to document them. This helps to ensure that everyone involved in the project understands what is required. Documentation also helps to avoid scope creep, which is when the scope of the project changes after the requirements have been gathered. The requirements act as a guide for the development team and help them to stay on track.

After gathering and documenting the requirements, the development team can begin working on the project. It is important to keep in mind that the requirements may change as the project progresses. The development team should be prepared to make changes to the requirements document as needed.

While it is important that the customer or software user can communicate specific needs, the software development company should be able to anticipate some needs as well. It is equally important to have a team of experts who can understand the customer's industry and business. This way, they can anticipate needs that the customer may not have thought of.

What Are The Risks?

Every app and software has a purpose, a target audience, a list of features, and performance goals. But what happens when these requirements are not accurately chronicled?

While there are ways to complete testing without software and app requirements, it is more difficult because there is always the risk of not having the desired requirements fully met. This can lead to customer or user satisfaction issues, and down the line, this could lead to financial losses for the company. Being lax during this critical initial phase will almost always lead to making assumptions that equate to problems that would have been avoided if requirements were properly documented from the start. 

The Best Approach to Gathering and Documenting Requirements

With almost 25 years in business creating custom software, we at Envative can confidently say that we've established a proven, well-honed process that eliminates the risk of misunderstood requirements. Phase One of every development project we take on involves solidifying functional and non-functional features and user stories through a highly structured prototyping phase. Our thorough process of requirements gathering involves the creation of visually realistic screen designs with interactive workflows.

This iterative process provides clients with a clear picture of functionality and user experience allowing them the opportunity to modify or add features prior to development. This ends up being a very collaborative and engaging process resulting in a detailed blueprint and development roadmap.

Coding does not begin until the prototyping phase is complete and key client contacts have sign-off on the final version. This ensures everyone is on the same page at the outset and any necessary updates to budget estimates can be refined so there are no unwanted financial surprises. In addition, risks of rework and the unnecessary expense and dissatisfaction that goes along with it is eliminated.

Bottom Line

Requirements in software and app development should not be taken lightly, nor should the process to gather them. They are important in ensuring that the final product meets the customer's needs. Requirements don't have to be overly complicated (nor does the process need to be time-consuming and painful). They do, however, need to be well-thought-out, properly documented, and agreed upon by all the key project stakeholders. When done right, you end up with a formula for success!

Tagged as: Prototyping, Software Development, Custom Software

Marc Mastrella

About the Author:

Marc Mastrella

Marc Mastrella is Business Relationship Manager at Envative. He regularly engages with potential clients to discuss how software can solve real-life problems within organizations. He connects those pursuing a software solution for their business or looking to bring a mobile app/IoT idea to life with the talented developers at Envative for brainstorming and consultation. Marc sees first-hand what a difference the right technology can do for a business and does all he can to help make the process easy.