Nothing can beat the importance of prototyping when it comes to bringing you closer to the features and functionality of the final product. Whether it simply a quick post-in note, a wireframe created using top-notch graphics software, or a mock-up built with a web app – having some form of prototyping in the design phase is a critical step.
However, while wireframes help create the blueprint and mockups demonstrate the look & feel of the product design, it is prototyping that brings life to the ‘experience.’ And that is most important to deliver improved user experience. You might have designed an amazing call-to-action, but you won’t know whether it works with your users until you have a clickable prototype. Prototypes not only help provide proof of design concept, but also more importantly unveil any usability bugs behind the wireframes and mockups.
Taking into consideration the growing importance of prototypes, mobile app designers are also embracing the concept of prototyping to build more efficient and highly usable end products.
Discussed here are the reasons why mobile app prototyping should be an integral step of design phase. After all, when people test drive cars or try on a dress before buying, it should make more sense to test product designs interactively before they proceed further with the development process. This is because ‘interaction’ demonstrates how your mobile app users would access the design solutions to meet their needs or problems.
1. Give Life to Your App User Interface Design
Paper-based version of your mobile app can have your users view and comment on it, but they will not be able to fully understand its nature, functionalities, and interactions until the app is finally built. When you have a clickable, interactive prototype, it can bring life to your app UI design, which is most essential to measure and improve user experience. It is the next logical step in the design phase, which is most appropriate to understand key interactions between end users and your app. Your target app users will not only have a look & feel of the end product, but can also interact with it to understand its nature and key features, and whether it addresses their needs and problems.
Based on interactions, mobile app prototyping also allows users to provide their valuable feedback within appropriate context. Prototypes help demonstrate different product scenarios in a manner that users can easily understand. Users can have a look and feel of a working mobile app, and therefore, their feedback will be as important as having a fully-functional app.
2. Explore Creative Ideas and Innovate
While app prototyping helps validate a design idea, it also allows exploring new ideas and innovating early in the development process. Since prototyping and user testing can help identify possible areas of improvements, the same can be implemented before the final product is completed. A prototype can either be improved upon or completely altered to meet changing project goals, and that too way before the mobile app is finally built. User testing helps trigger new and innovative ideas, and validates in which direction the development phase should proceed. It facilitates having a close evaluation of the final product. Thus, the end product tends to be more innovative, unique and as per user expectations.
3. Measure Project Feasibility; Minimize Waste
Requirement documents, wireframes and mockups live in paper only. On the other hand, prototyping allows the design team to experiment with the mobile application, and gives them the freedom to learn more and fail cheaply. It is one of the most effective ways to determine feasibility of a mobile app project, and at the same time minimize wastage by identifying any possible flaws and fixing the same at an early stage of development. Prototypes can help increase project estimate accuracy by 50% and reduce request for clarification by almost 80%.
4. Iterate Quickly on Your Design Concept
Prototypes are not always meant for user testing; sometimes they serve as powerful development tools that can significantly minimize overall time and cost of the project. Mobile app prototyping allows designers to improve a concept more quickly than ever. In fact, one can iteratively refine and revise the design in a matter of few minutes. It also allows to compare several design variations quickly and to work upon one that is best fit to help users achieve their tasks. For instance, which one is a better solution: a list of links arranged vertically or a tabbed navigation menu? The best way to get an answer for it is to build prototypes and have them user tested.
5. Use Prototypes as Powerful Presentation Tools
When you have skeptical clients or stakeholders, it is hard to convince them about your mobile app concept. Instead of using wordy product descriptions or mockups with pages of notes, pitch your idea innovatively with app prototypes. They serve as powerful sales presentation tools as real-life demonstrations and interactions are more convincible than mere words.
6. Reduce Overall App Development Time and Cost
When prototyping is not a part of app development process, design changes or flaws found at a very later stage can affect coding. Recoding the app again can be extremely time-consuming and affect your time to market. With prototypes, you can identify bugs or make multiple changes right at the design phase itself. This helps reduce overall mobile app development time and cost.
Not every app prototype needs to be time-consuming and overtly elaborate. The importance is to allocate some time and resources to prototyping to build highly efficient end products.