What is an app prototype?
Depending on the industry, a prototype can mean different things. In app development, an app developer may suggest that you create a design prototype. A design prototype is built using design tools, with no development involved.
There is now a wide range of prototyping software available on the market. So why use an app designer to create a prototype? For a truly interactive prototype, such as the example below (Diabeasy iPhone App), you need expertise, particularly in how to fully utilise the prototyping tools and features available.
Why create a prototype?
The most obvious reason is that a prototype is a cost-effective option for bringing your app idea to life before spending thousands of dollars to develop your app. App prototypes are therefore becoming an increasingly popular starting point for Startups.
Apps generally begin with a broad list of features or requirements. However there are a multitude of ways these can be brought to life. Along with visualising your app, a prototype gives founders an opportunity early in the process to test, explore and iterate their idea. Designs, like any creative process, improve with each draft. By making it cheaper and easier to review and rework thinking, a prototype can lead to a more successful end product. A prototype is therefore a great way to de-risk investment in your mobile app.
App prototypes are also an excellent communication tool. When compared with a powerpoint presentation or even visual designs, they enable investors, stakeholders and future users to actually engage and interact with the app. Prototypes can also be hugely helpful for user research and stakeholder feedback. They elicit better information on how users are experiencing the app. This input can be fed back into user experience improvements prior to app development commencing.
How do you create a prototype?
The first step is getting to know your audience and clearly articulating the problem your app is aiming to solve. Entrepreneurs and businesses can complete some simple research themselves. Alternatively, they can use an app developer to help refine their app strategy and undertake user research. This includes benchmarking similar products in the relevant industry and considering what will set your app apart from competitors.
Potential features will then be prioritised. If you are using an app designer, they will start sketching ideas for the app and navigation. Following feedback, they will create wireframes which demonstrate how the app will function. Your brand will then be applied to the wireframes, to create user interface or visual designs. Once the visual designs have been completed, these can be ‘linked’ together using the prototyping software to emulate how the app will function. Users can then download the prototype onto their iPhone or Android mobile and click through the the app on their phone.