The app market has never been more accessible. Whether you want to develop a game, provide VoIP services, revolutionize online dating, or something else entirely, all you need to get started is a good idea. But if you want to make a significant impact with your big idea, you need to develop your app correctly.
Building a prototype is one of the most critical parts of the app development process, but it’s a part that can often be overlooked. We’re going to take a look at the process of mobile app prototyping, why it’s so important, and how to do it properly.
What is mobile app prototyping?
Mobile app prototyping is simply a way of demonstrating how your final product will look and function. It will show roughly what the app’s UI will look like, how users can interact with it, and illustrate its planned features. In many cases, the prototype will be interactive but not yet functional.
How close to the finished product your prototype is will depend on many factors, such as budget and time constraints. A low-fidelity prototype will be a comparatively basic representation of the finished product. It will likely not contain all the planned features but will highlight the key components.
On the other hand, a high-fidelity prototype will be much closer in look and functionality to the finished mobile app, and this will show off most, if not all, of the desired features and will be much more polished. Naturally, a high-fidelity prototype will take longer to develop and cost more. However, the feedback received from testing a complete prototype will be more relevant.
Stages of mobile app prototyping
How your prototype is built will depend on many different factors. However, a successful prototype development process will often loosely follow these seven stages:
- Understand the problem and figure out how to solve it
The first stage in any development process is to have a clear idea of the problem you intend to solve. Brainstorm ideas with your team on digital channels you created with legacy mainframe system while keeping in mind that the most successful apps address problems that nobody else has been able to solve.
Once you know your problem, ask yourself how it can be solved. For example, if you want to develop an app that makes communication easier for small businesses, you might create an app that condenses multiple phone lines into a single device.
Nobody on your team should be asking questions like “What is a multi-line phone?” or “What is a VoIP phone connection?”. Everyone should be clear on the problem and the specifics of the solution you intend to provide.
Having a clear goal for the finished product provides everybody working on the app with a focus and steers development efficiently in the right direction. As with any product development, app development flows much more smoothly when everyone follows the exact roadmap.
- Plan your app’s functions
Once you’ve identified your app’s problem, you can begin to plan how it will solve it. Make a list of all the functions you’d like to see in the finished product and rank them in order of importance.
This will help focus development on the most critical areas of your app. If your prototype is only designed to show off a few key features, these should be the most crucial ones that highlight the project’s core aims.
If you’re struggling to prioritize tasks within the development process, consider using workflow management software to help keep things flowing.
- Sketch out a basic UI
How the app will look is just as important as how it will function to many potential consumers. Drawing sketches of how the primary screens will look will provide a helpful framework for when you begin to code the app.
It will highlight any major design obstacles that need to be tackled early on and ensure everybody is working towards the same goal right off the bat.
- Build a wireframe
Once you have your sketches, you can begin to convert them into a wireframe build of your app. This will essentially form a low-fidelity app prototype.
It will be a simplified outline of the app and is designed to provide a framework to build upon rather than demonstrate what the finished product will look like. It will more than likely consist of boxes and lines and, in some cases, simple descriptions of what will eventually be featured in the app.
If you’re facing budgetary issues and are looking for a financial backer, you may not be able to proceed any further than a wireframe build. But showing it to potential investors will help them visualize the finished product better than a sketch or a written proposal.
- Build a prototype
This is where the fun begins. After you show your wireframe model to investors and testers, you should use the feedback they provide to help you build your prototype. In many cases, the wireframe can be built upon and developed into the prototype, saving time and effort.
As mentioned before, the prototype doesn’t have to contain all the features of your final product, but the more you can show off here, the more interest you can garner from investors. At the same time, the more features you have ready to test, the more feedback you can gather to tackle any issues early in development when it’s less of a hassle to address them.
- Test your prototype
Once you have a functioning prototype, it’s time to test it to see what needs to be changed for the final build. This involves sharing the prototype build with your testers to look for flaws in its design and functionality.
Feedback about ease of use, navigation issues, errors in functionality, and any general bugs should be gathered and acted upon when making your final build. If you’re unsure how to proceed with testing your prototype and data, consider equipping yourself with a manual testing tutorial and you can also enroll in a data analysis training program.
- Make your final design
After the prototype has been built and tested, your last step is to construct your finished product. Every step you’ve taken so far in developing your prototype will contribute to this goal, and the more time you’ve been able to spend refining as development has continued, the easier this part will be.
What are the benefits of mobile app prototyping?
There are many benefits to building a prototype for your app. Working with a basic build at different stages allows you to explore new design ideas and add functions that may not have previously been considered.
The feedback gathered during the prototyping process will mean that when your final product goes to market, it should be much more user-friendly. The more bugs and glitches that are ironed out in development, the smoother your product launch should be. And if there’s a problem with the data you collected, you can regulate it with the RDD API. This should make your app more attractive to consumers and generate a positive buzz, rather than the focus being drawn towards faulty functions and unattractive user interfaces.
Building a prototype of your app is also more cost-effective in the long run. The 1:10:100 rule of change demonstrates how the cost of changing a product increases dramatically the further in the development cycle you get. You could spend $1 on research to identify a problem early, $10 to change a design before you start developing, or $100 to change something once development has begun or your app has been released to consumers.
Let’s build it!
So there we have it. Your journey to success will be uniquely yours but follow these tips, and you should be off to a good start.
Make sure that planning is at the center of your process at every stage to give you a clear focus and direction toward your final product. Don’t be afraid to tweak and refine as you develop, and listen to feedback to make improvements where necessary. Follow this guide, and you should make a big impression on investors and consumers alike in no time at all.