Taking the Guess Work Out of the App Design Process

Courtney Starr

Last updated Jul 23, 2019

One of the biggest issues at the start of any new app design is the gap that exists between a contract being signed and when actual designs can be presented. There's little product momentum at this stage, leaving many designers to guess work for two primary reasons.


1. Designers Work Blindfolded

Designers often begin working without enough background information about their customeror app. This can lead to a vicious cycle of numerous rounds of design options and feedback. Before long it can feel like swinging at a nail with a blindfold on. We must understand that every app and every customer is unique. While it's tempting to think that past solutions will solve current problems, the truth is that every appbrings new challenges.

2. Customers Are Cursed with Knowledge

The Curse of Knowledge states: "The more we know something, the harder it becomes to imagine not knowing it." It also becomes harder to communicate that idea to someone who doesn't know it.

Charades does a great job of demonstrating this concept. The instant a player reads the words they need to communicate they are struck by the curse of knowledge. They hold in their heads a number ofmental images, none of which the audience shares.


This is exactly what can happen with our customers. They know everything about their company, their culture, their own customers, and their future app. Unfortunately, much like the contestants in the game of charades, you have very little of this information

Now What?

We know that designers need to remove the blindfold and customersneed to avoid the curse of knowledge but how we do we actually dothat? We believe it's all about asking the right questions

The Questionnaire

We want to share some questions we give our customersand show you how their answers have a positive impact on our work. We try and focus on three key areas during the project discovery phase

The Business


  1. Define your app in a few sentences. — It's difficult for someone who knows their ideas so well to boil them down into a concise definition. This exercise will encourage them to think critically, resulting in a statement that will provide clarity throughout the project.
  2. What separates you from your competition, and what will draw users to your app? — Most people who start their own businesses are naturally competitive. Your customer likely has a wealth of information regarding their competition that they're willing to share.
  3. Do you have a logo or look & feel we need to match? — This shows you care about your customer's brand. You demonstrate that you want to build something that aligns with their company rather than an awkward anomaly. If they do provide branding guidelines, you've saved yourself a lot of time by discovering where to invest your creativity.

The Users


  1. Describe your intended audience. Pay special attention to their income, interests, gender, and age. — Chances are the person who is most likely to use your app is not you or your customer. Discovering your intended audience provides an effective way to frame your decisions around the right type of person.
  2. If you were using a search engine, what words or phrases would you use to find your app? Which of these words or phrases is most important? — When you encourage your customerto picture themselves as the end user you help them distill their ideas. You'll also end up getting useful meta data for their app store listing.

The Details


  1. What is the overall tone you wish to portray with your app? What should people feel when they think of your product? — Notice we started with more traditional questions and eased into conceptual areas involving tone, feelings, and other abstract ideas. This allows you to read between the lines and interpret the spirit of what your client is trying to achieve.
  2. Please provide a list of apps that you like and don't like. What are the elements that you like or dislike about these examples? — The more direct you can be with your client the better. Their answers will narrow down your choices and help you form the right opinions before getting started.

Ready, Set, Go!

Remember where we started? The beginning of the project was riddled with guess work. Now, we start our apps off with thoughtful insights and a feeling of confidence that we're going in the right direction.


Written By:

Courtney Starr

Courtney served as a mobile interface designer at Savvy Apps until November 2014.