5 Best Ways to Prototype your Mobile Project

In our previous posts ‘How To Build A Mobile App In 7 Easy Steps ’ and ‘4 Reasons Why Do You Need to Build an MVP’ we started exploring the fascinating world of mobile app development. And among the stages of the mobile app making guide we mentioned such tip as “mobile app prototyping”. A really important and useful tip when it comes to big plans for the product’s success. Let’s continue our journey deeper into the woods, shall we?

How to prototype a mobile app and what does it mean?

Prototyping is your friend if you want to save money, time and effort. Before making a whole ready app that no one needs all professional developers prototype their apps to see if the design is suitable and how does it look when tested on the actual iPhone or a Smartphone.

App prototype helps to fix any bugs of imperfect visual design and gather valuable information regarding users reaction to the UI/UX of your app. You can have a unique idea for the app, but the incorrect and insufficient UI Design can ruin everything and leave you with nothing when the product hits the market.

Not to mention, that you’ll be seeking for investors and partners — people who will be interested in the future profit of your app. For a startup your main goal is to impress them by creating a perfect fully illustrated mobile app prototype. If your prototype is built properly, trust me, they’ll see the difference between your startup and thousands of others which will help you get a competitive advantage.

Brainstorm ideas to prototype

So, what are the essential steps when you need to prototype a mobile project? Here are few tips for you: get a knowledge of what you’re going to do and plan a strong development strategy; define why do you prototype and who do you prototype for; choose a mobile platform for your prototype; identify key functions and features your app will have; test the prototype on the actual device and then share the prototype with your investors.

Okay, some basics are behind us. Want to know more? Let the party begin!

5 Best ways to prototype your mobile app

Way №1. Visualize your idea & concept

Get yourself a project journal and write down everything that relates to your app: what it is and how it will work, how to make and market it. All the key functions and features, small details and big plans for the future. This is the first step to keeping your idea from being stolen, actually. But keep in mind the average needs of the app users — analyze if your app is going to satisfy those needs and solve some problems.

You shouldn’t spend so much time and money for the product that no one desire or if it’s already on the market represented by another app. After the journal is filled – pass your idea to the professionals who can build exactly that app that you described there.  

Way №2. Educate yourself

Research your market niche. Sure, you can think that your idea is bright and unique, but it doesn't mean that someone didn’t already build a similar product. So, you have to understand if the people will actually buy your app to protect your investments. Before you spend too much on your project, we really recommend doing some preliminary research of your target market. Then, when you gather enough information, don’t be ashamed to learn from someone more experienced than you.

There are plenty of useful materials, guides, and helpful tools already waiting for you on the Internet. Not to mention, that you’ll need to research your idea from a legal and business standpoint — this is what you need to bear in mind too.

As an example, you can read these useful and informative guides ’How anybody can create a Demo App in less than one hour’ and Fireworks prototyping for the iPhone, if you want to get a lesson on how to build a simple prototype yourself. Also, if you’re skilled and qualified enough, you should check out how to prototype mobile apps easily with Ratchet.

Way №3. Sketching the primary screens

Time to think like an app user, right? And the best way to properly craft the user experience is to begin with rough sketches of how the primary screens would look and feel, including the highest priority features. There are three main screen functionalities: profiles, matches, and the dashboard. It’s your jumping-off point.

Sketching on paper allows you dive into creating process whenever the inspiration hits you no matter the internet connection or some gadget availability. Draw a couple variations of every screen to have options to choose from. And make notes while sketching, don’t neglect any idea that comes to mind in the process.

But... if you’re a progressive person and acknowledge only a digital world then, by all means, let yourself loose and choose any sketching services you want. Like Sketchsheets, for example, that offers templates for most popular devices with different screen orientation. As for now, you should keep in mind that sketches and prototypes have their differences. The sketch is a really rough draft version of the app and not the visually interactive UI prototype. To find out about useful design tricks check out 12 Mobile and Web App UI Design Tricks Nobody Told You About — Until Now.

Way №4. Turning Sketch Into Digital Wireframe

Let us tell you that no paper sketch will persuade the sponsors to invest a huge amount of money into your project. So, what I can advise is that for you to turn your paper sketch into UX wireframe – a structured digital skeleton of the future app. The key word here is ‘digital’, therefore, you’re going to need digital sketching tools. This procedure also needs to be done manually, but there are many tools to help you with the task. For instance, to convert your paper sketch into a digital format you can use Prototyping on Paper(POP).

Just take a picture of your drawing and the tool will automatically transform it into the digital screen of your future app which will give you a way to create a real click-through prototype. And there are many other handy functions that may ease for you the prototyping process. Using this tool you basically can make an interactive prototype of your app in just a few minutes.

Digital wireframe

Also, we can recommend trying one of the best sketches so far – WireframeSketcher. There is a mockups gallery with various stencils, templates, and icons. It’s a really nice and simple tool for both iOS and Android platforms and allows to create sketchy wireframes with good layout precision. Using tables, buttons, bars, icons, alerts, keyboards, dark and light bezels you may digitally build Android and iPhone/iPad Mockups, Website Wireframes or Windows Phone Mockups.

Way №5. From Wireframes To An Actual Prototype

A digital wireframe can be tested by potential users which is good in the perspective of getting helpful feedbacks. Low-fidelity wireframes turned into a basic prototype and shared with the target audience always provide a creator with the reviews that help to understand what features the app is lacking and what should be removed if necessary. But most importantly, digital prototype makes your product more real for investors and gives them the ability to get a real feeling of what it would be like to use this app.

So, what you should do is build a simulation of the final interaction between the user and the interface. In other words, there is a new task – to create fully interactive, a shareable prototype that supports multi-touch gestures, user trials, and can be tested on the real mobile devices. To achieve this you need to start using mobile app prototyping tools which will give you endlessly creative ways and opportunities to design a unique and impressive prototype.

So, we guess, it’s time to talk about those magical tools, that can make your life much easier?

You plan to create an iPhone app prototype? Then we can advise such tools as Mockabilly and  OmniGraffle 2 for iOS + Ultimate iPhone Stencil which both are notoriously good. OmniGraffle was designed for creating precise, beautiful graphics: website wireframes, electrical systems, family trees and maps of software classes.

Mockups for mobile project

And what about an idea to build an Android app prototype? We have an answer for you! Check out the Axure tool — one of the most functionally comprehensive prototyping tools that allow adding interactions, create interactive and nice-looking wireframes or Master Pages and use ready-made components from Widget libraries. Axure creates HTML code and you can keep it on your desktop to show it to others or place it on a website and send a link to others. In addition, there is a Pencil — an open source project, a free Firefox add-on that together with the Android UI stencils let anyone sketch complex Android UI screens.

Best mobile app prototyping services

The advantages of the custom mobile app prototyping services:

  • It allows the developers to better understand the customer and clarify the technical specification before development, therefore, save a decent amount of time and budget.
  • It helps to estimate the future app from the customer's perspective — to test the viability of the startup idea and determinate the necessity of changes in the app scheme.
  • Interactive prototype itself will be an advantage when looking for investors.
  • Creating an interactive prototype helps to improve UX-design after getting the fists feedbacks during trials.

And what can you use for starters? There is a fully diversified range of such useful and handy tools, some of them are free and some are not, but the price is truly justified. To simplify for you the selection procedure, we gathered some interesting digests with the reviews of the most appreciated and popular mobile app prototyping tools. The fun part? You don’t need any designing or coding skills to use these tools!

Check them out:

After you read those articles, you’ll see that a couple of tools are highly ranked by each author. But it’s just a drop in the ocean, among other available prototyping apps, you may also be interested in:

  • Framer – the design tool of choice for today’s top designers at tech startups. Fortune 500 companies and design schools worldwide.
  • Indigo Studio – the first-of-its-kind intuitive prototyping software with unmoderated usability testing at scale and cloud hosting.
  • Concept.ly –  awesome free prototypes for any device.
  • Cacoo – online diagram software to create and securely share flowcharts, wireframes, UML models, network diagram and more.
  • Blocks – annotated HTML prototypes creator.

As a team of professional developers, we personally can pinpoint the top four prototyping tools as our favorites for both iOs and Android platforms as well: Proto.io, Balsamiq, Marvel and Invision.

Okay, finish point is here! But we must mention one more aspect, which is important. If you don’t have the proper skills to implement the UI design or don’t know how to prototype an app yourself, you should hire an app making company with qualified and educated developers. It requires some time and the basic knowledge of programming to build a sophisticated and interactive prototype. At least, talk to such people about your ideas and check their professional abilities by reviewing their past work.

The iOS and the Android app prototyping involves professional UX/UI designers. And the cost of their work will be estimated based strictly on your project requirements and complexity.

Final Thoughts

A lot of work, yeah? It is, for sure. It’s not easy to create digital sketches, mockups, and prototypes. And it is a time-consuming process, but the price of an app prototype will be minimal compared to the cost of re-engineering of the whole ready product. And guess what? We can help you to design any prototype for any app you like, saving you an effort, but not neglecting efficiency and quality. Just ask your questions, we are here to answer them!

Tecsynt mobile development company

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