Mobile app development Part 1 – Need finding

This is the first part in a series of how development of a commercial educational  mobile app was conducted. In the first part we will look at the need finding activities used to evaluate what features to include into the application.


To find out features that would compliment a students daily activities on a campus. The main aims were to

  1. Understand usage of phones currently by students
  2. Elicit design ideas and functionality guidelines from apps mostly used by students
  3. Assess user attitudes towards feature design ideas


Due to time constraints five interviews were conducted one on one. Year of study covered Masters 2nd year, PHD 1st year and three 3rd year students. Degrees varied from Business computing, Environmental Geographical Science, Electrical Engineering, and Medicine to Urban infrastructure design and management.

Questions was split into 3 sections

  • Background information on students
  • Current mobile usage at the moment
  • Proposed functionality of the system to be built


All students use the phone for educational purposes for

  • downloading articles and journals
  • accessing email
  •  Campus Intranet access
  • Google searching
  • Shuttle schedules

Some design guidelines included:

  • Convenient background updating not frequent which reduces network usage and airtime costs associated with it. Most importantly control and customization of the network access of the app.
  • Small app hence making it cheaper, faster and easier to download.
  • Good content and ease of navigation (takes 1 or 2 steps to get to desired functionality)
  • Ease of subscribing without many steps and non-intrusive ads
  • Search functionality

Based on student daily and weekly activities the following tasks were identified as potential features

  • Shuttle stop schedules
  • Classifieds
  • Calendar events
  • Varsity news
  • Career development and company presentations
  • Searching and renewing library books
  • Exam timetables and venues
In the next part, we shall explore the personas drawn up and the development of the application’s architecture through prototyping.

One thought on “Mobile app development Part 1 – Need finding

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