How to Prioritize App Features at the Development Stage

How do you prioritize a list of product features?

If you find difficulty in providing an answer or even have no idea what we're talking about, you clearly need to read our article. We'll explain to you the relationship between the program functionality and the success of your digital project.

Why is it so important?

Suppose you have a cool idea for a mobile app, and you're determined to bring it to life. However, the question arises: what features will help your application to become what you intended it to be? After all, it's usually difficult to implement each of your wishes, especially under the conditions of a tight schedule and a limited budget. If you've already thought about this problem, then it's high time you worked out the software development prioritization strategy: a task that every product manager sooner or later encounters. 

Fortunately, today you can resort to many popular techniques to prioritize features for your mobile app, from the simplest to the most complex ones based on quantitative and qualitative indicators. All of them are designed to answer very important questions, such as... What to work on first? What are the app’s killer features (those that should be implemented at the initial development stage)? What can be left for future updates of the program and its new releases? And so on!

We're ready to help you. We’ll share our experience and tell you how to prioritize product features, what solutions to use to make it happen, what to take into account when choosing the right model, etc.

Why do you have to prioritize feature development?

The process of creating an application consists of a huge number of steps, and we often described them in our articles. However, all these steps can be considered intermediate stages related to one of three key phases:

  1. Step-by-step research including analysis of the market, competitors, and potential users;

  2. Detailed development planning;

  3. Implementation of the task (in fact, it’s about the development process itself).

Everything is more or less clear with the first and last stages (in any case, they aren’t the topic of our article), but we’d like to discuss the second phase at length.

Detailed Planning

At the planning stage, we form the image of the future mobile service; among other things, we select primary app features. Otherwise, you would spend invaluable team time and company money on developing ineffective functionality.  Surely, you don't need these financial and labor costs!

Professional product managers rely on intuition and experience in this matter. And it might work, especially in small companies where the app owner is the only decision-maker.

However, the situation changes when there are more stakeholders, interested in success.

prioritize feature development
Choosing an app development prioritization model is just one of the problems coupled to the implementation of your idea. Let's discuss others!

So, if several people are involved in a project, then you’ll have to consider their opinion too. If not, you're likely to hear a lot of annoying comments, like these ones: “Why did you decide to create such a feature?”, “This thing must be implemented in the first place, it's really cool!”, and so on. You'll have no choice but to discuss the product together, which logically approaches us to the app development prioritization.

Other pitfalls of an intuitive model:

  • Subjectivity. Whatever you say, it’s always better to base your decision on some real weighty factors instead of relying on the subjective criteria of your personal sympathy and antipathy.

  • Inconsistent actions. Today you may think that a certain feature is mandatory, and the next day your opinion changes to the opposite, and you insist on remaking the product right away. Does it sound familiar?

  • Imaginary importance. Sometimes we find importance where it doesn't really exist. Let’s cite an instance: your competitor made a certain feature, promoted it among users, and achieved some success. Of course, you're inspired, and you ask developers to implement the same feature without delay, although, in fact, they should have spent time on other tasks (results would have been better).

As you see now, an effective project prioritization process should be based on a more objective approach than intuition. We’re speaking of scoring features, namely, evaluating app functionality using weighted factors.

Benefits of app development prioritization

Such a method is good due to the following:

  • The proper sequence of actions. A high-quality prioritization system will help you consider each feature separately and in conjunction with others and combine them into a single efficiently working system.

  • Financial savings. With a lean budget, you have to save on everything, and therefore the opportunity to choose the most important features is not just desirable, but vital.

  • Ideas for future updates. You can plan new releases to improve the mobile app from the very beginning. Users love valuable program updates, so you'll have a chance to win their loyalty.

  • Fast results due to less time to develop only the must-have features.

  • More satisfied users who receive the most needed functionality in the first place.

  • Less influence of intuition on decision making, the possibility to focus on significant evaluation criteria.

  • Better team interaction: all project participants understand why a particular feature should be taken into work.

  • The systematic build-up of strategic indicators showing you that you're moving towards your goal successfully.

  • Improved functionality. You’re getting rid of features that seem good only at first glance. 

feature prioritization


Feature prioritization based on the importance

Understanding what is important and what is not when it comes to mobile development is more complicated than it sounds. And an easy-to-use Kano Model would be able to simplify your work.

Kano Model

The model is named after its creator, the Japanese scientist Noriaki Kano. He distinguished several types of emotional perception by the user of a particular functionality:

  • Must Be features, without them, it makes no sense to start development at all.

  • Satisfiers (Performance). The second group includes features that satisfy users only under the condition of high-quality implementation. If the feature cannot become a matter of pride, then disappointment in your application will follow.

  • Exciters (Attractive). These features arouse the sympathy of users and make them want to open your application more often. However, if such functionality isn't present, negative feelings, whether frustration or disappointment, won’t emerge.

  • Indifferent features. They may be interesting, but not so necessary to ensure project success. Users don't care about them much.

Feature prioritization based on the importance
Do you find it difficult to prioritize a project? Experts of Phase Discovery will help you!

Of course, you aren't obliged to resort to the Kano Model, you're free to use your own criteria of importance. The main trick is the correct distribution of features according to their potential significance, namely… 

Critical and primary app features

The first group includes those features without which your application will be meaningless. Say, Viber or WhatsApp aren't needed anyone without the possibility to send messages.

What should be done?

  • Define the main purpose of your application. What user problems does it solve?

  • Based on the identified problems, determine the functionality able to solve them.

These features are required to start the project.

Important features, but not required to start

These features are also important and even exciting, but they aren't required as a must-have condition to start a project. In the example of instant messengers, such non-critical functionality includes conference calls or voice typing (and the like).

What should be done?

  • Consider what features are also significant, but without a critical impact on the success of the project launch.

  • Analyze your budget: can you afford to allocate part of the funds to create at least some of these features?

  • If the answer is yes, then perform the procedure of product management feature prioritization once again (but take the new shortened list as the basis). Those features, which this time fall into the first group, should also be included in the development.

Potentially cool but not necessary features

These are the so-called 'nice-to-have features': Noriaki Kano attributed them to the Exciters (see above). It means users would be happy to take advantage of these features, but they won’t worry too much if your app doesn't provide such possibilities yet.

What should be done?

  • Think about how you can potentially please your user. We’re speaking of features, which aren’t related to the main app task.

  • The compiled list would allow you to constantly improve your application and expand its functionality as financial opportunities arise.

Premium feature for later monetization

And finally, you should take into account premium features to monetize your app.

It's about the Fremium model when the basic functionality is available to everyone, however, some exclusive features are paid. Say, Viber offers to buy bright sticker sets, Skype charges for calls to mobile numbers, etc.

These features can be added later. First, you may monetize your project through advertising.

Feature prioritization with RICE Score  
We described various methods of monetizing the app in another article. Click here to take a look!

Feature prioritization with RICE Score  

RICE includes 4 main criteria, which can be used to prioritize features:

  • Reach. The first criterion is intended to assess user coverage in order to understand the estimated number of people with whom the feature will interact over a certain period of time. Instance: out of 1000 users, only 75% (750 users) would actually notice a certain feature.

  • Impact. The factor reflects how the feature favors the application. You can base your opinion on the following metrics (just as an instance, your choice may be completely different):

    • Metric movers;

    • Percentage of canvassing of new users and keeping loyal ones;

    • Value-added obtained by the app.

  • Confidence. Suppose you’re absolutely sure that a certain feature is extremely important, but you don’t have all the data on Efforts, Impact, and Reach to prove your point. The Confidence factor measured in percent allows taking your opinion into account in the app development prioritization process.

    • Example 1: You have data on the criteria of Effort and Impact, but you aren't sure about the Reach factor. So Confidence is 80%.

    • Example 2: It’s the simplest case when everything you need is at your disposal. Here we’re dealing with 100% Confidence.

    • Example 3: You seem to have the necessary data, but the information isn't entirely accurate. You assume that more efforts might be required, while other factors aren’t likely to reach the expected level... it means, Confidence equals only 50%.

  • Efforts. Efforts characterize probable labor costs. Here you need to focus on your specific situation.

To get a RICE score, you have to resort to the simplest formula:

how to prioritize product features

Feature prioritization with ICE Scoring

The method invented by Sean Ellis is a bit similar to the previous one, although it involves fewer factors:

feature prioritization techniques

  • Impact illustrates what effect a particular feature might have on significant app indicators.

  • Ease refers to the simplicity of the idea: to be more specific, how much effort would be needed, how many resources would have to be used, and so on.

  • Confidence is eloquent in itself; it characterizes the level of your confidence in the Ease and Impact factors.

The ICE is based on a scale from 1 to 10. The main thing is to make sure all values are consistent with each other.

Feature prioritization with AARRR approach

The AARRR approach was created in 2007 by Dave McClure, an investor in the 500 Startups venture capital fund. The method gained popularity in a short time period, and the similarity of the abbreviation with the corsairs' scream («Ааrrr!») gave it the nickname "pirate metrics".

If you intend to take advantage of AARRR to prioritize feature development, your main task is to decide which app functionality may force the user to move from one step to another, namely:

Prioritize Features

  • Acquisition. At the initial stage, it’s important that users become interested in your application and download it.

  • Activation. Activated are those people who began to use your product (mobile program).

  • Retention. Now you have to encourage the target audience to use your app not from time to time, but constantly. And the retention rate varies depending on the niche and the specifics of the service.

  • Referral. Next, your goal is to encourage activated and retained users to discuss your application with other people and recommend it to them (refer to it). It's about initiating a viral effect.

  • Revenue. Okay, now people use your application on a regular basis. You need to calculate what profits it brings to you:

    • MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) - recurring monthly revenue;

    • ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) - money a particular user spends every month;

    • LTV  (LifeTime Value) - Lifetime user value.

Briefly summarized: you have to compile a list of features for prioritization and think about which ones would motivate a larger number of users to perform desired actions (and, as a result, bring you revenue).

Feature prioritization with AARRR approach
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Karl Wiegers Method to Prioritize Features

The author of the methodology is Karl Wiegers, an American author of the book “Software requirements”. With his approach, the following indicators are being evaluated:

  • Benefit

  • Penalty

  • Cost

  • Risk

As in other similar models, it is customary to use a scale from 1 to 9. Moreover, 2 interested groups are being surveyed:

  • Potential users of the future application: they evaluate the benefits of the presence of the feature and the harm if it doesn’t exist.

  • Developers who must evaluate the cost of implementing the feature in question and the risk associated with its development.

Based on the data obtained, a priority coefficient is being calculated.

Other feature prioritization techniques

There are still a lot of various techniques to determine your service’s functionality, and new ones appear with praiseworthy promptness. It is impossible to list them all, so we just briefly describe a few more ways to prioritize features for your mobile app:

  • QFD (Quality Function Deployment), a matrix combining the customer’s and company’s “voices” and helping to prioritize features correctly. The main idea of ​​QFD is the belief in a big difference between the company's idea of ​​what the product should be (what features it should have) and real customers' needs. To use the QFD method, you must collect all the necessary information on users' preferences and the company's wishes and structure the data by constructing a complex matrix. The result of the analysis of the latter is an understanding of which app features are of the greatest importance to the user, and which can be introduced in the process of improving the program.

  • A Pareto analysis based on the separation of a vital minority from an unimportant majority and also known as the “80/20 rule”. It’s often being used to identify the most critical app features (as opposed to the less significant ones).

  • Feature buckets. The software development prioritization strategy was invented by Adam Nash, a former CEO of SEO LinkedIn. You and your partners have to honestly answer the question: “Why are we doing a certain feature?”. Depending on the answer, the feature is to be placed in any of the 3 groups (buckets):

    • Metric Movers: these features are focused on business promotion, and such metrics as Revenue, Engagement, and Growth play a significant part.

    • Customer Requests: as the name says, the functionality of the 2nd group is requested by the users themselves.

    • Customer Delight: these features aren't among those that users insist on, however, such functionality has a definite value.

  • Subjective feature scoring. A rather controversial way to prioritize feature development, but we thought it necessary to mention it anyway. You must select several criteria and estimate each feature according to them on a ten-point scale (of course, such an estimate is quite subjective). Here are the various criteria you’re free to use:

    • target metrics;

    • profit growth;

    • attracting new users and/or retaining old ones;

    • value to users;

    • unique innovation;

    • competitive advantage;

    • time and cost of implementation;

    • code optimization (which facilitates subsequent app support).

How to Prioritize Features: detailed instruction

  1. Specifying the ultimate software goal. To be precise, what tasks have you had in mind when starting a project?

  2. Making a list of features for prioritization. Write down all the features your application might have.

  3. Drawing up the necessary metrics. You need them to efficiently evaluate the results of the chosen strategy. Examples: registration conversion, AHA moment (the moment when a person suddenly realizes the value of your application and decides to become its user), the retention rate, etc.

  4. Getting feedback from users. You have to figure out how you intend to communicate with the user in order to understand whether you managed to achieve your goals. Among the possibilities to obtain feedback from users are the following options:

    • User Support Systems (such as or;

    • Analysis of user in-app behavior (you can resort to the help of, the tool recording user actions in the application and creating schemes with areas of his activity);

    • Product analytics (take a look at this service, if you need one);

    • A/B tests;

    • Reviews of the Google Play, App Store,,, and others;

    • UX testing;

    • User polls.

  5. Choosing an app development prioritization model. We’ve described different techniques, you just have to choose the best option (at least, the best from your point of view).

  6. Scoring features and identifying leaders. Of course, in the first place, features with a maximum score are subject to development.

  7. Analysis of the gaps between satisfaction and importance. After you've identified primary app features, you get a shortened, ranked list of what your users expect to receive. Now you must find out two things: 1) how important users consider each of these features, 2) how satisfied they are after performing the action it's responsible for. If some features are of high importance but bring low satisfaction, then this is no good, and functional improvements are clearly required.

The software development prioritization has been completed, and you have a list of features needed to be implemented first. You may proceed to the next stage of application development.


Now you can put features into your mobile app with confidence in a good result, you just have to follow the action plan described above. Take your time and pay due attention to each item on the list, it's worth it. Believe us, success will not be long in coming.

And remember, the main rule for feature prioritization through scoring is objectivity. No personal judgment: only weighted factors and performance metrics matter.

Karl Wiegers Method to Prioritize Features
Do you need help in making a prioritized to-do list for the app? We'd be happy to assist! And we're ready to develop your application from square one.


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