According to the Longman English dictionary, a concept is “an idea of how something is, or how something should be done“. From this definition we can conclude that a concept document is a document that describes the purpose of a project or a set of necessary steps in order to achieve the desired result.
The main purpose of a concept document is to present to the interested clients a clear overview of the project that is to be made. If the concept is clear, easy to read and understand, follows a structure and the presentation of the ideas is comprehensive, the chances of the project to be accepted are increasing. These are also showing the client that the concept document was conceived in a professional manner with the collaboration of the entire team involved and increases the chances for future projects, too.
1. Why is a concept document important?
There is no “recipe” for a perfect concept document. The structure and the content may vary depending on the purpose of the project. First of all, a concept document is brief and may contain between 2 and 30 pages, depending on the complexity of the project that it describes. The main scope of the document is to give all the necessary information about a project to the reader.
It is important to build a template that can also be used for future projects. The template should be styled according to the company documents, including a standardized header (ideally with the company’s logo and the page number) as well as a footer with information such as the version of the document (e.g. 2.0, 2.1). All the content should be correctly arranged in the page and keep the same formatting and style across the document. The font should also have a readable size, at least 12 points.
3. How should it be structured?
First, a concept document should have a clear structure and should contain detailed information about the project and its importance. All the concept documents should begin with the version number, a history of the changes, together with the name and email address of the person responsible for the document.
Although a concept document can be created for many topics, we’ll focus on projects from the IT branch such as web and mobile applications.
The first page should contain the title, the version as well as the date on which it was created (this is required in order to ensure that the version of the document is the up to date).
Also, very important is a table of contents, which is extremely useful especially when the document has more pages and a page by page search approach would take more time.
It contains all the needed information in order for the project to start, such as introduction, overview, architecture, permissions, UI Design (appearance), prerequisites or responsibilities.
4. The contents
In the next lines we’ll make a short summary of what each chapter should contain. We’ll take as example a concept document for a mobile application.
The introduction part includes a short presentation of the concept document, as well as information regarding the purpose of the document (e.g. This document describes the concept of the application).
The overview section is one of the most important ones. Here can be found a summary of the app that is to be developed including information regarding the intended functionality and a few hints on how the app will be used. Here is also included information about how would app helpful for the client.
In the architecture section you will find a sketch with the different levels that the app includes (e.g. how the data is transferred between front and backend and to the mobile app).
It is important to have a mock-ups / charts in order to show as much details as possible about the desired outcome. This should match the appearance of the final project. If a change is made in the design of the product or a new feature is added (e.g. a new button/ tab in the app), this should also appear in an updated version of the concept.
If the app contains more views, for better readability each view should be contained in its own subchapter as login screen, main screen, add user screen and further on. Also at least one mock-up for each screen is desired.
The next chapter contains the prerequisites. Here are contained the prerequisites that are to be fulfilled in order to achieve the desired functionality of the app. For example, in order to run a certain app, it is required a server that is able to host the web application and for a mobile app is required a phone with the Android version above 6 or iOS version above 9. This information is very useful for the client, in order to know if the app is supported by the current configuration.
The final chapter should contain the responsibilities that fall on both parts. Here is specified what the company that develops the app puts at disposal (e.g. the UI, the hosting on the web, the storage and so on). This offers the client a clear overview of his responsibilities.
Very important is to proofread the final version of the document. A person who hasn’t read the document should take a look at the final version in order to check for errors or inconsistencies.
5. Inspiricon example
In the following lines, an Inspiricon template will be presented. Because an image is more than a thousand words, we will show you how an Inspiricon template looks like. In the image below, is presented the first page, containing the title, the version number with the date together with the Inspiricon logo and the copyright notice.
Image 1: Example of a first page written for a concept document
The contents page is shown below. All the chapters are defined clearly with a distinct number (i.e. 1, 2, etc.) and the subchapters with a version number that is linked to the main chapter (e.g. 2.1, 5.2.3, etc.).
Image 2: Example of a content page written for a concept document
Next comes the version history page, where can be seen an overview of the changes made in the document, together with the version number, date author and the notes (where necessary).
Image 3: Example of a history page version written for a concept document
The writing of a concept document can be seen as a team work as all the parts involved (i.e. Architects, Project Managers, Developers, etc.) come with additions or confirmations to the document. All the involved parts must collaborate in the creation in order to assure that the presented information is as accurate as possible.
As a conclusion, a concept document should be as clear as possible and should answer the majority of the questions such as: “What for a product is that?”, “How can it help me?” or “What does it look like?”. A person that reads for the first time the document should have as little unclear aspects as possible.