From pitching app ideas to investors to sharing the project progress and goals with the team, prototyping is one of the key steps in mobile app development. It helps app developers and owners go from concept to product seamlessly.
Prototypes can help overcome any bottlenecks, avoid any pitfalls, and reduce the chances of resource wastage that otherwise occurs due to improper planning, iterations, last minute changes, and more.
So, continue reading and find out all that you need to know about mobile app prototyping as a beginner. Find out how prototypes are different from wireframes and mockups and what roles do they play in an app development projects.
In this blog
- What is mobile app prototyping?
- What is the difference between a prototype, mockup, and wireframe?
- Why is app prototyping important?
- How to create a mobile app prototype?
- What are the best tools for mobile app prototyping?
What is mobile app prototyping?
Mobile app prototyping is the process of creating interactive app demos. App prototypes are created to give a visual and functional experience of an app before launching it as a full-fledged product. Prototyping can be used by developers and app owners for research, budget planning and allocation, supporting investor pitches, backing research, internal team communication and sharing, and more.
Prototypes can also be tested and shared to get feedback in the preliminary stages of an app development project. Prototyping is different than just creating a blueprint of the app as it ensures a more advanced simulator-like interactive experience and lets developers or stakeholders review the features, design, buttons, etc.
While the actual programming and content corpus may be missing, a prototype still gives a neat idea of an app’s goals and workflows. It may contain user interfaces, important app screens, function simulations, and more. Prototyping can also help with testing multiple ideas before finalizing one, getting rid of unnecessary clutter and making valuable changes to a project.
What is the difference between a prototype, mockup, and wireframe?
The terms prototype, mockup and wireframe are often used interchangeably. However, when you put them under a microscopic scan, those three differ from each other. So, how is prototyping different from wireframing and creating mockups? Let us find out!
However, before we tell you what each of the three means, you must learn about the term fidelity. Technically speaking, the term fidelity was originally used to define the quality of music or audio recordings. However, software designers and developers borrowed the term to define the potential of their products.
With respect to creating demos in app development, fidelity defines how elaborate and interactive the model is. For instance, a high-fidelity demo will have more details and interactive features than a low-fidelity demo.
Now prototypes, wireframes and mockups essentially differ from each other based on their fidelity. Prototypes have high fidelity as they may include more functional elements, branding motifs, meaningful content, and interactive features. Similarly, mockups may have high to medium fidelity and wireframes will have low fidelity.
Unlike hi-fi app demos, low-fi mockups and wireframes contain less content, have less design accuracy and elements and lack interactive features. Thus, low fidelity mockups and wireframes are only suitable for brief detailing on products that need to be put out in a short time for an early consensus.
Here is a table that underlines the differences more clearly:
|Description||Clickable demos that imitate app functions||Visual draft of the app||Rough blueprint or sketch|
|Fidelity||High||Medium to High||Low|
|Validates||Development ready design and copy||Look & feel and branding elements||Architecture and navigation|
|Goal||Showcase design and functionalities||Showcase design and workflow||Showcase the app structure|
Note that the table above is just a summary and representation of what the three types of app demos can be used for and how they can be differentiated based on their purpose, time line and resource requirements. However, depending on the uniqueness of the project, these attributes may also differ and thus the choice should be based on all such considerable factors.
Why is app prototyping important?
“There has never in the history of new technology been an example where the first version out of the gate has been the right version.” – Tim Brown, Co-chair & former CEO of IDEO
While several potent apps failed in the past, most of them managed to nip the shortcomings in the development stage and go on to become a success. This is why prototyping is important. In fact, over the years, it has become a significant precursor to mobile app development.
From getting feedback on UI/UX to getting all the stakeholders on the same page, prototype has several advantages. Here’s why prototyping is important in app development and what benefits it entails:
Visualize and validate concepts
In primary stages, any project is nothing but a bunch of ideas. However, in order to give it the perfect shape and iron out the creases, the ideas must be validated. After all, not every idea and suggestion will be viable and only some will make it to the end. This is where prototyping comes into play. It helps teams create face values and visualizations for their ideas and get them validated.
Collaborate with stakeholders
Whether it is a UI designer that will give shape to your idea or an end user who will bring in revenue, it is important to align your stakeholders with your product. Creating prototypes enables you to share the product with your team and get their inputs and feedback. It is easier to collect feedback and recalibrate the ideas and product at this stage. It also ensures that all the involved parties are on the same page regarding the product and can work coherently to ensure timely launch and success.
Test ideas, design, and content
As mentioned above, it is important to test different ideas and retain the ones that have the maximum potential or are viable. Similarly, it is important to test various aspects of an app including the concept, design, content, features, functionalities, workflow, navigation, etc. Creating prototypes can help you run it through different experts and get feedback on the same. It can also help you test the various app elements and overcome any flaws or chasm in the project.
Gain the trust of investors
Most apps require investment and funding. Evidently, it becomes easier to earn the trust and confidence of investors when you can actually show them how your app will look, feel and work and what the mission, vision and scope of your projects are. App developers can simply create prototypes and show them to the investors or direct customers who want the process to be transparent. It will give them a neat idea of the app and eliminate room for any concerns or miscommunications.
Optimize budget and resources
Launching an app and then finding out flaws that need rectification is a hazardous practice. On the other hand, having a fool proof demo of the app and then taking it into development and turning it into a commodity is a smart move. It helps app owners avoid wastage, fast-track app development timeline and save monetary and other resources. Therefore, creating app prototypes will help you avoid any last minute expenditure and also save you time.
How to create a mobile app prototype?
Now that you know what a mobile app prototype is and why it is important, let us tell you how you can create one. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating an app prototype:
Step #1: Research and find your app idea
The first step should be to identify the problem that your app will solve and outline its mission, vision and goals. Once you have found your app idea, start conducting market research and list all the factors that are ought to influence your development journey and define your app’s success.
Step #2: Underline core functionalities
Once the ideation part is done, you can proceed to work on the look, feel and functionalities of the app. List the features and functions based on your industry, niche and app type and prepare a plan and budget accordingly. This will also help you in mobilizing your staff and allocating the right work to the right teams.
Step #3: Start with low-fi demos
Instead of straightaway jumping to prototypes, you can start with basic sketches. Create wireframes to define the app architecture and then proceed to mockups to project a visual idea of the product. These low-fi demos and mockups can be later scaled to create full-fledged prototypes. Get consensus on the demos and make changes if needed.
Step #4: Add UI/UX elements to the demo
Once basic caricature is drawn and tested to assess the workflow and app architecture, you can get UI/UX designers onboard and start adding visual elements to create your demo app. This will turn your wireframe into a prototype that can be shared with stakeholders in order to give them a visually interactive idea of the product.
Step #5: Test and evolve the prototype
The most significant purpose of prototypes is to get rid of any issues in their infancy. So, collect feedback using the prototype and make changes accordingly. Once you achieve a design that is perfect and flawless, you can go ahead and turn the prototype into a product. Create and deploy your app and watch your idea come to life.
What are the best tools for mobile app prototyping?
If you want to get rid of all the technical complexities and the pain of doing everything from scratch, you can also create prototypes using smart and automated app designing tools. Here are some of the best app design and prototyping tools that can get you started instantly:
AppMySite is the best free tool for creating app designs and prototypes. Moreover, you do not just get a prototype but an actual app that can be published on the Google Play & Apple App Stores. Design and create feature-loaded app builds without coding and preview every step of development on a live emulator. The fully built apps can also be installed and tested on real devices. Start from scratch on your own or invite teams to collaborate on your app project and contribute to it.
Figma is a popular name when it comes to creating, testing, and sharing software designs. This all-in-one tool makes it easy for developers and designers to create product demos, optimize appearances and define user flows. If collaboration is of utmost importance to you then Figma can be your go to tool as it makes team work easier. Though it is a bit on the expensive side, it is quite popular among designers.
Invision is an affordable yet powerful option that makes prototyping, whiteboarding and collaboration possible for almost all kinds of businesses. Vector drawing tools, powerful integrations, scalable environment, pre-built templates, importer support, etc., are some of the features that make InVision Studio a great choice.
These were some of the best tools for creating mobile app prototypes. Other popular tools that fall in the same league include Adobe XD, a renowned vector-based design and prototyping platform; Axure RP, a dedicated wireframing and prototyping platform; and Origami Studio, Facebook’s very own design, animation and prototype software; among others. Explore these platforms and make your choice accordingly.
Prototyping may not be a necessity for every app development project. Some may do without it or just resort to creating wireframes and mockups. However, for the majority of people out there, prototyping not only adds more value to the project, but also paves the way for a smoother development and deployment journey.
Now that you know about prototyping, you can go ahead and create mobile app prototypes of your own. If you are new to app development or just need thorough guidance for the latest trends of the app industry, we have a complete guide on mobile app development ready for you.
It has all the guidance and information you need to commence development or even to start an app development business of your own. When it comes to apps, AppMySite has all the resources you need to manage everything from planning to development, deployment, marketing and so on.