Every concept sounds revolutionary on paper, but refining the idea multiple times before releasing the product to the customers is necessary. If you want your customers to love an app you are developing, you should not keep it a secret until its big release. This means that customers will not have any input over the development of an app. However, if you release an early access version of your app and take feedback from them, you can make final changes according to their feedback. You will know whether your app provides a great user experience, what bugs it has, and whether the application design is good. That is why you need mobile app prototyping. 

What is a mobile app prototype?

A prototype is an interactive mockup of a mobile app that contains main UI elements, screens, and functions without any working code or final design elements. Since it only simulates the functions of your actual app, it does not function as well as a minimum viable product. Prototypes allow you to get feedback about the functionality of the mobile app. It is a crucial stage in mobile app development. You can use the feedback to improve the features currently creating problems for your app. For a prototype to be effective, it must require the minimum effort, time, and money. No successful mobile app can be developed without mobile app prototyping. It does not take much effort or time, so it is idiotic to ignore this stage. The only reason someone skips this stage is that they do not know how to do it successfully. 

How to do Mobile app prototyping?

Creating a Prototype for apps is similar to mobile app development, you start with a few goals and the key features you want to include. 

  • Kindly know the must-have functionalities

Mobile app prototyping is about testing the key functionalities of the app. 

These functionalities must function smoothly for your app to have a positive user experience. So the first step is to identify the core functionalities of your app. 

Most of your time will be spent simulating these functionalities in the prototype and filtering them to create better app features. This phase is important because it ensures that at least there are no problems with the key features of your app. 

If there are other problems with the other features, then you can always release updates or patches. 

However, if there is an issue in the core feature of your app, it will fail in the market. If you have multiple features, it will take time to simulate them, and the users will be confused. This will lead to inaccurate insights from the users. If you want accurate feedback, you should get to learn the goals of your app and then identify features of the app that best meet that goal. The features that meet those goals should be simulated in the prototype. A deeply guided market research can help you identify the goals for your app. Do not create a prototype without having a goal for your app. If you are unable to decide between two or more similar features, it is worth it to create multiple prototypes for the features. Test each feature, and see which feature is the most successful with the customers.

The customer is king, so whatever feature resonates with the user, you should pick for your app. 

  • Create sketches

Once you have decided on the features, you want to include in the app, it’s time to begin the mobile app prototyping journey by sketching the app idea on paper. The sketch includes the app’s main screens, with the initial layout displaying the UI elements you plan on using. You can use arrows to describe the flow from one screen to another. If you are creating a social media app, you may sketch a rough layout of the chat screen. You can show what happens when a user clicks on a button by placing an arrow on that same button. Then lead the same screen to the next screen. You have to keep things simple with a sketch. Your main priority is to get to know all the functions and how you want your app to function. It creates a better perspective in mobile app development.

You do not have to concern yourself about the colours or other design elements at this point. This is a vague interpretation of your app. So, you should not get into many details because it will only waste your time. Once you are happy with the sketch, you should begin the prototyping journey. 

  • Create a digital prototype

In this step, you convert your paper wireframe into a digital prototype. The first step is to build the app screens using the app sketches. You can add more UI elements if you like. If you want, you can also play with colours, but it is not necessary at this point. Most prototyping tools have a library filled with standard UI elements used in android or iOS apps. This helps you create a mobile prototype rapidly, and the mobile app development is done in the due time. 

Once you are finished with creating the look of your app, you should add animations and programmed interactions to make it seem like an actual app. 

You will not be doing any coding till this point, whatever users experience with a prototype is mostly simulation. There is a temptation to go overboard and add as many details as possible. Most of the additional information is not necessary, and you should try to resist those temptations as they will only waste your time and money. Your goal is not to create the perfect app but to create the perfect app. A good enough prototype usually does the job. 

  • Testing your prototype

When you have the prototype ready, you must ask many people to try it out and give feedback. The first users can be your colleagues. You can also include people from HR, finance, marketing, and your family. Your goal should be to get feedback from everyday people without any development background. Of course, the most crucial group in prototype testing is the target end user. So don’t forget to include them in the testing phase. There are many ways to collect user input from surveys to live data. Tools exist that can allow users to comment within the app prototype.  The more fresh insight, the more accurate it is. If you take surveys after an hour of someone using your prototype, their insight will not be as accurate. After collecting enough input, you should refine the prototype to address the pain points of your app.

Test the refined prototype with another set of users to gather input. Repeat the process until you have a prototype with which you can live. Remember that your entire app will be based on your prototype. So, you should only finalize it if you are happy with it. It is like a blueprint for the app, so if the prototype is a failure, the app will fail too.

  • Share a finalized prototype with all the stakeholders

A prototype can keep your stakeholders calm and make them believe in the app. Once you have a finalized prototype, you should share it with key stakeholders like clients, investors, and upper management. The prototype resembles the app, so it is essential to get their approval. You should schedule a presentation and walk the stakeholders through the app prototype. By the time you do this, you should have a lot of user input. So everything that you are presenting is backed by data. If a stakeholder questions your design decisions, you can show them the data that proves that users preferred it over any other option. This satisfies the stakeholders, and everyone is on the same page. You should polish your prototype a bit more before you present it to important stakeholders like investors or C-level executives.

After all, these individuals shape the organization’s future, and they are crucial for your app to succeed. You can use a graphic designer to create advanced elements or implement code to add UI elements. Once everyone agrees that this prototype should be used in the rest of the mobile app development stages, you should continue the development process. Remember that prototyping is only the beginning, and the real work starts after your prototype is approved. Happy coding!