The Discovery Phase of App Development: Key for Success

10 months ago
The Discovery Phase of App Development: Key for Success Image

The discovery phase of app development is crucial for the success of your mobile app. What is app discovery? The first of the app development phases, app discovery lays the foundation for design, development, and deployment. Comparable to strategy development, discovery phase goals are to:

  • To build a shared understanding of your vision and objectives through detailed research, discussion, and analysis of your idea
  • To visualize the entire scope of the app, defining a feature set that will drive app goals and create real value for users

Those new to the app development process might wonder what on earth we are unearthing in the discovery phase, so we’re going to devote this post to a deep dive into what’s involved. As a best practice, we recommend the discovery phase include two parts—first, research and then, the discovery workshop—described in detail below.

Discovery Phase Part 1: Research

Most mobile app development companies use a workshop-style meeting to discover, or “get to the heart of,” your idea. But there’s work to be done first to make that meeting more effective.

Before launching into an app development project, it’s critical to clearly define the opportunity you have in mind and reflect on what solutions already exist. Research at the outset of the discovery stage includes:

  • Opportunity analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Industry analysis

This analysis is necessary regardless of whether your target user is an internal team or a consumer external to your company. Even for gaming apps, differentiation is always valuable.

Opportunity Analysis

The Opportunity Gap

In app discovery, opportunities arise when there is a gap. That gap exists between what is currently on the market and possibilities open up for economic change, technological advancement, or new social trends. 

When you develop an app to fill the opportunity gap, it’s part science and part art. But the app development process always involves creating a solution perceived as meeting three criteria: the app must be useful, usable, and desirable. Even apps aimed at improving internal productivity or systems must meet these criteria. If people don’t perceive a benefit from using your app, they won’t bother.

Customer Development

The more you can do to define the opportunity you see at the outset, the better your success at creating the right product and knowing how to market it. This process, sometimes called customer development, is a way to reduce business risks by challenging assumptions about who the customers are, what they need, and why and how they do their work.

In her book Lean Customer Development: Build Products Your Customers Will Buy, Cindy Alvarez writes, “Customer development is critical to success but grossly underutilized.” Alvarez offers practical education in customer development, noting that only customers make a product successful. In her words, “Without customers willing to buy a product, it doesn’t matter how good or innovative or beautiful or reasonably-priced a product is: it will fail.” 

Every hour spent defining the customer pays dividends in the development lifecycle. That’s because knowing your customers means knowing which features are critical and which are not.

Market Considerations

To help define the opportunity and be best prepared for the discovery workshop, start by answering key questions about your app. Work together with your team to consider areas like these:

  • Your Value Proposition: What problem will this app solve?
  • Your Target Market: For whom will you be solving that problem?
  • Your Market Size: How big is the opportunity?
  • Minimum Expectations: How does your target market address the problem currently?
  • Requirements: What features are critical for success?
  • Your Differentiator: Why are you best suited to do this?

Competitive Analysis

External & Internal Solutions

Once you’ve defined the problem as clearly as possible, you’ll need to learn about the currently available solutions—the alternatives to your app, which will help reveal key factors: 

  • External Competition: If you’re selling an app externally, alternatives to your app will become your competition. You’ll need to quantify what unique value your app will bring relative to them. 
  • Internal Efficiencies: If you’re looking for a solution to gain internal efficiencies, what you need may or may not already exist. Competitive analysis will reveal whether you can use an off-the-shelf app, which could save you money and time, or if you need to have something built that’s tailored to your unique needs.

Market Intelligence

Where do you go to find out more about the competition? Here are three places to look and analyze:

  1. Search Engine: One of the best places to begin is simply on your favorite search engine. Look for products using relevant keywords that describe the functionality of interest. 
  2. App Stores: You’ll also want to search Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store similarly. If you find apps that seem relevant, download them on the appropriate device and experiment with them so you can see their strengths and weaknesses. 
  3. Reviews: Reading reviews will also give you insight into potential gaps in functionality that might be opportunities for you—or red flags if you were planning to use the app in your organization.

If a similar app already exists, consider whether developing something new is worthwhile. Your app development partner can help sort through this market intelligence to help determine where and how you could differentiate.

Industry Analysis

Understanding the competitive landscape can give solid insight into obvious hazards opposing your market entry. But there’s no guarantee of success if the current competition is weak. Here’s where industry analysis comes into play. This type of analysis may not be possible until later in the app development phases, but we’re including it here because any insights you can bring to this end are always helpful. 

Industries are constantly changing, and buyers, suppliers, and other companies are all dynamic factors influencing who will prevail and profit. Sources to understand these dynamic factors can include: 

  • Industry experts—what has worked, what hasn’t, and what trends do they foresee?
  • Conferences & events—how does your competition interact with and attract customers?
  • Tech trend reports—what are the newest companies and technologies?

Industry analysis can help put you ahead of competitors, elicit additional ideas for your app, and improve your market positioning overall. 

Discovery Phase Part 2: The Workshop

Once you’re equipped with as much information as possible on the user’s needs and business opportunities, you’re ready to engage in a discovery workshop with your app development partner.

Discovery Workshop Goals

At InspiringApps, we want to analyze the opportunity from every angle. We use the discovery workshop to marry our technical and process expertise with your user and market knowledge. Our goals are to visualize the entire scope of the app and to help you define a feature set that will drive app development and create real value for users.

While we want to “dream big” during the discovery phase, we advise our clients to avoid creating a product that “does it all” in its first iteration. Instead, the aim is to leave discovery with a plan to build something that allows users to accomplish just a few core tasks perfectly.

This concept often referred to as the minimum viable product (or MVP), is derived from Steve Blank and Eric Reis’s lean startup movement. The MVP is an app (or other digital product like a chatbot or an Alexa skill) that is as simple as possible while providing a useful and enjoyable experience.

Why do we suggest the MVP approach? Simpler products are easier and less expensive to design, build, and maintain. Building an MVP also enables you to get honest user feedback on your product before you’ve invested a lot of money building something that wasn’t quite right. Even the best market research isn’t as good as a trial with your user base.

Discovery Workshop Methods

User Story Mapping

While there are various ways you can define your MVP, we recommend and apply a method called user story mapping. User story mapping outlines the users’ needs and ensures the use-case scenarios align with the product objectives for your app.

Minimum requirements for a viable app are best able to surface when we clearly describe who your users are and how, when, and where they will use your product. This user-centered approach highlights fundamental technical decisions that need to be made early on, such as starting platform (iOS, Android, web, etc.), device form factor, integrations, and analytics.

Success Metrics

While we cover app analytics in another post, we’ll note here that it’s important to define success metrics and desired ROI at the beginning of your project. Doing so enables your app development company to help you determine how to measure these metrics and build the right analytics tools later in development. Even the first iteration of your app should have at least one key metric you’re evaluating to know you’re on the path to success.

Discovery Workshop Output

Once the MVP has been defined, app designers should spend time developing sketches and then wireframes to help your stakeholders visualize the user experience. These wireframes can serve internal teams and provide a way to get external feedback through user testing, saving time and money before developing code. For more details on wireframes, see our post describing the app design process.

Closing Thoughts on the Discovery Phase

It may be tempting to gloss over the app discovery phase, but time invested before digging further into the app development process reaps significant benefits later. App discovery enables you to identify your user base, define what will create real value for them, create a matching feature set, and test assumptions while it’s still easy to make changes.

To learn more about the app development process and fine-tune your app design ideas, visit:

Let’s build something together

Have an idea? We help clients bring ideas to life through custom apps for phones, tablets, wearables, and other smart devices.
Recent Posts

InspiringApps News

InspiringApps Named to Inc.’s Second Annual Power Partner Awards

Boulder, CO—InspiringApps has been honored among the Power Partners Inc. named in 2023. The award honors B2B organizations across the globe that have proven track records supporting entrepreneurs and helping startups grow. Power Partner Awards are gleaned through customer feedback. Power Partners Inc. award winners received top marks from clients for being instrumental in helping leadership navigate the dynamic world of startups. This select group of B2B partners represents the best companies to support entrepreneurs across various facets of the business, allowing founders to focus on their core missions. Trusted B2B Partners Instrumental in Navigating the Startup World “Trusted B2B partners provide guidance and expertise that founders rely on at various steps of their organization’s journey. Partners that possess a demonstrated ability to deliver quality support are at the core of entrepreneurship and help bring big ideas to life,” says Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. Business Media. The Power Partner Award is a testament to what it means to be a true partner. The organizations recognized by Inc. received glowing reviews from their clients, acknowledging their invaluable support in navigating the dynamic world of startups.  “At InspiringApps, we go the extra mile to ensure every aspect of our end product is top-notch,” says Brad Weber, CEO of InspiringApps. “We’re proud to be honored by Inc. for a partnership award based on feedback directly from our clients, which further validates our collaborative approach to success.” Building Impactful Digital Products Uniquely Driven by Inspiration InspiringApps turns complex requirements into ‌easy-to-use apps. Clients say we aren’t like vendors; we feel like part of their internal teams. Our commitment to our craft, technical acumen, and 100% onshore team set us apart—so much so that some of our collaborative solutions have been the most successful in our clients’ history. Beyond being easy to do business with, we offer unparalleled agility and speed. For example, we helped bring the ēdn product to Apple’s retail store in 60 days, including being HomeKit certified and passing that test on the first try. At InspiringApps, we deliver what we promise, on time and on budget—with award-winning quality, collaboration, and design. Inc.’s latest award builds on other accolades we’ve earned this year, including the 2023 Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards, recognizing our work with Fidelity National Financial on the transformative inHere app. About Inc. Business Media The world’s most trusted business-media brand, Inc. offers entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, connections, and community they need to build great companies. Inc.’s award-winning multiplatform content reaches more than 50 million people each month across a variety of channels, including websites, newsletters, social media, podcasts, and print. For more information, visit About InspiringApps InspiringApps builds web, mobile, and custom apps that help companies impact their employees, customers, and communities. Our award-winning, inspired work has included 200+ apps since the dawn of the iPhone. Our core values are integrity, respect, commitment, inclusivity, and empathy. Our guarantee: finish line, every time, for every project. Get in touch at

1 month ago

App Development

Mobile Device Security: Data Protection on iOS & Android

Mobile devices are essential to our everyday lives. They allow us to access the internet, communicate with others, and store important documents in the cloud.  But mobile devices also collect data about their users and share that information with third parties. This can lead to privacy and even security issues if you’re not careful when developing your app. Android and iOS employ various security measures to protect user data. Yet, we spend increasing amounts of time using phones for personal and corporate purposes. It’s become even more crucial to strengthen mobile security measures further. In this article, we’ll discuss how to protect user data on both iOS and Android platforms, from first launch to enterprise. Mobile Devices, Data & Privacy Mobile devices constantly collect and share data, making personal privacy an issue. Mobile devices collect user information and location information, which can be shared with third parties for various purposes, including ad targeting. These third parties may use this data in ways you might not expect or approve of, such as selling it to other companies or using it for their own purposes without your knowledge.  The velocity at which data is changing hands keeps getting faster, and the winds of legislative change provide lessons for all companies on data responsibility. While some laws require companies to be transparent about collecting and using information on mobile devices (e.g., the GDPR), these laws don’t apply everywhere. They aren’t always applied the same across borders. As a product owner, ask yourself, “Is this necessary?” to help protect user data. Mobile devices are constantly collecting and sharing data, which can be used to track your location or share personal information. Data protection, security, and privacy are intertwined into the concept of data well-being. For your app to function properly, it may need access to sensitive information like the user’s location or contacts list. As such, the user must give explicit consent before any such data is accessed or shared. As an iOS developer (or any other type), you should always ask yourself: “Is this necessary?” If not—and if alternative methods are available—you should use those instead. Data is a precious resource—one of the most valuable assets to an organization that must be protected accordingly. With data sharing, less is more. Collecting only what you truly need will help protect your users’ privacy and security from potential hackers who might try stealing sensitive information from them through malware attacks on their mobile phone/tablet devices. Android & Apple: How They Handle Security Differently Ensuring the safety of our personal data and privacy is of utmost importance, and that’s where mobile security comes into play. When it comes to this, two of the biggest players in the market are Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. While iOS is renowned for its closed ecosystem and timely security updates, Android’s strength lies in its open nature. Let’s delve deeper into their respective security mechanisms and compare their attributes. Which is more secure—iOS or Android? In general, iOS is considered to be more secure than Android. This is due to several factors, including: Apple’s Closed Ecosystem: Apple has much more control over the hardware and software that goes into its devices, which makes it more difficult for hackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities. Apple’s Aggressive Security Patching: Apple quickly releases security patches for its devices, which helps keep users safe from known vulnerabilities. Android’s Fragmentation: The Android ecosystem is very fragmented, with many different manufacturers and carriers offering their own operating system versions. This makes it more difficult for Google to release security patches for all Android devices and gives hackers more targets to exploit. However, it is important to note that no operating system is 100% secure. There have been malware and hacking attacks on iOS and Android devices. Ultimately, the security of your device depends on both the operating system and the user’s behavior. Android and iOS devices employ various security measures to keep data safe. Both Android and iOS use strong encryption features to protect data. If a device is stolen, the data cannot be accessed without the encryption key. However, there are differences in encryption methods between the two platforms. Android employs device-specific keys that are unique to each device. This means there is no universal key for all Android devices. Google services like Gmail or Chrome may have separate keys associated with them. Both the device-specific key and the Google key are required to access data. In contrast, iOS uses a combination of device-specific keys and iCloud keys. Even if someone has a device, they still need the iCloud password to access the data. While both platforms have strong encryption features, encryption is not foolproof. It is essential to take additional security measures to keep data safe. Security Features on Android Devices By utilizing data encryption, data accessibility, and other security features, Android devices effectively safeguard data against unauthorized access: Data Encryption: Android’s encryption features have become increasingly sophisticated and robust. All Android devices are encrypted by default, and Android 12 introduces improvements such as enhanced file-based encryption, stronger encryption for sensitive data, and new security features for app developers. Data Accessibility: Android devices use a permission system to regulate app data access. Only apps with granted permissions can access specific data. App permissions can be managed in Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > App permissions. Malware: Google Play Protect scans apps for malware and other security threats and monitors devices for suspicious activity.  Two-Factor Authentication: Android two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to Android devices and accounts by requiring a code from users’ phones and their passwords when logging in. Android users can enable Android 2FA in Settings > Security > 2-step verification. Find My: Find My Device helps locate lost or stolen devices and allows data erasure, if necessary. Dedicated Storage: Trusty is a dedicated secure subsystem on Android devices that securely stores sensitive data like fingerprint and face scan data. This data is encrypted and can only be accessed by authorized apps with the correct credentials. Security Updates: Google regularly releases security updates for Android, addressing potential vulnerabilities that attackers may exploit. It is important to install these updates promptly. Furthermore, Google’s latest Android operating system introduces new default app security features. Since Android 7.0 Nougat (released in 2016) automatically encrypts all Android devices. The data on the device is protected by a strong encryption key accessible only with the device passcode, PIN, or pattern. Android 12, the latest version, introduces additional security features, including: Enhanced Encryption: Android 12 encrypts files with unique keys, making it harder for attackers to access data even with compromised device encryption keys. Stronger encryption algorithms protect sensitive data like biometric authentication and app credentials. New Security Features for App Developers: Android 12 provides new APIs for developers to implement secure encryption practices. Security Features on iOS Devices iOS devices use a variety of security features to keep your data safe, including: Data Encryption: Using a strong encryption algorithm, iOS devices encrypt all user data by default. This means that if someone were to steal your device or gain unauthorized access to the data, they would not be able to read it without the encryption key. Your device passcode, PIN, or pattern protects the encryption key. Data Accessibility: iOS devices use a permission system to control which apps can access data. This means that apps can only access data you have permitted. You can control app permissions using Settings > Privacy & Security > App Permissions. Malware: Apple does not have a built-in malware scanner for iOS. Instead, Apple relies on several other security features to protect iOS devices, such as: Sandbox: iOS uses a sandbox system to isolate apps from each other and the system. This prevents malicious apps from accessing other apps or system files. Code Signing: All apps on the App Store are code-signed by Apple. This means that Apple has verified the developer’s identity, and the app has not been tampered with. Automatic Security Updates: iOS devices automatically receive security updates from Apple. This helps to keep iOS devices up to date with the latest security patches. Two-Factor Authentication: 2FA is a security feature that adds an extra layer of protection to your account by requiring you to enter a code from your phone and your password when logging in. You can enable 2FA for your Apple ID by going to Settings > Your Name > Password & Security. Find My: Find My is a service that can help you to locate your lost or stolen device. It can also help you erase your device’s data if necessary. Dedicated Storage: Secure Enclave is a dedicated chip that securely stores sensitive data like fingerprint and face scan data. This encrypted data can only be accessed with the iOS user’s passcode, PIN, or pattern. Security Updates: Apple releases security updates for iOS regularly. These updates patch security vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit. It is important to install security updates as soon as they are available. Furthermore, the latest iOS release, iOS 16, introduces several new security features and enhancements that help to protect users from a wide range of threats. Some of these features are, notably: Lockdown Mode: Lockdown Mode is a new mode that provides an extreme level of security for users who face targeted threats to their digital security. When Lockdown Mode is enabled, certain features and functionality are limited to help protect users from targeted attacks. For example, most messaging attachments other than images are blocked, and incoming FaceTime calls from unknown callers are prevented. Enhanced Privacy Controls: iOS 16 includes several new privacy controls, such as the ability to choose which apps are allowed to access your location and the ability to see which apps have accessed your clipboard in the past hour. Regarding apps and mobile devices, it’s clear that security is on everyone’s mind. With great convenience comes great responsibility. It’s important to approach security thoughtfully to navigate the digital landscape. Taking Security Further As a developer, you can go beyond what the OS offers by investing in security from the ground up. Taking the right precautions when developing mobile apps can help ensure user data is safe. The first step is to use a secure coding language and development environment. You can also implement specific security measures such as encryption, 2FA, and biometrics authentication. Securing Your First App The first step to ensuring your user data is safe is a secure coding language and development environment. There are many ways that hackers can get access to your app’s code, so it’s important that you use secure coding practices at every step of the process. If you are launching an app for the first time, the most important security things for you to know and implement are: Start with a security-first mindset. Keep security in mind throughout development, from design to implementation to testing. Don’t underestimate the importance of security testing. Hire a security professional to test your app before you release it. Be transparent with your users about how you are protecting their data. Publish a privacy policy and explain to your users how you are using their data. Be responsive to security vulnerabilities. If a security vulnerability is discovered in your app, fix it immediately and release a patch. By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your first app is secure and that your users have a positive experience. For enterprise-level data protection, add an extra layer of control. In addition to the above measures, large enterprise apps may also need to consider the following: Implement two-factor authentication for all of your apps. 2FA adds an extra layer of security to your apps by requiring users to enter a code from their phone in addition to their password when logging in. Use biometrics to authenticate users. Biometrics, such as fingerprints and face scans, are a secure way to authenticate users. Use a threat modeling process to identify and mitigate security risks. Threat modeling is a process that helps you to identify and assess potential security threats to your app. Once you have identified the threats, you can implement mitigation strategies to reduce the risk. Implement role-based access control. Role-based access control (RBAC) is a system that controls which users have access to which resources in your app. This helps to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data or performing unauthorized actions. Implement a zero-trust security model. A zero-trust security model assumes no user or device can be trusted by default. This approach can help protect your app from unauthorized access, even if an attacker can compromise a user’s account or device. In addition to the above measures, large enterprise apps may need to comply with various regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR. These regulations often have specific security requirements that must be met. It is important to educate your employees about security best practices. Security awareness and training will help reduce the risk of human error, a major cause of security breaches. Treat security as a competitive advantage. Mobile app security has become a top priority for businesses of all sizes. With the increasing number of data breaches and cyberattacks targeting mobile apps, users are more discerning than ever about the apps they download and use. Businesses that take mobile app security seriously can gain a significant competitive advantage. Many users need to be made aware of the security features available in mobile apps. Businesses can gain a competitive advantage by highlighting their app’s security features in marketing materials and app store listings. You can also innovate using security to your advantage. Taking mobile app security seriously can increase customer trust, loyalty, and market share. Focus on Security: Case Study For example, security is paramount in the rapidly evolving real estate industry. Buyers, sellers, and agents must be confident that their personal and financial information is safe and secure. inHere understands this and has made mobile app security a top priority. Industry experts have recognized this focus on mobile app security. inHere was nominated as an honorable mention for the Fast Company Security category of the prestigious Innovation by Design Awards. inHere’s focus on mobile app security has helped the company to build a reputation as a trusted and innovative platform for real estate transactions. This reputation has given inHere a competitive advantage in the market. Mobile Device Security Affects Everyone If you take the right precautions when developing mobile apps, you can ensure user data is safe. Personal privacy has become a pressing issue with the advent of mobile devices. With so much data being collected and shared by these devices, developers must be aware of the security and privacy concerns of creating iOS or Android apps. By following best practices when developing your app and keeping up with current trends in mobile technology, you can ensure that users will have peace of mind when using your product.

1 month ago

Blog Categories
App Design
App Development
App Marketing
Business & Strategy
Client Projects
InspiringApps News
Mobile Industry