Mobile App Prototyping
Building a mobile app is a complex and often expensive task. You not only want to get it to users quickly but you are also keen on ensuring the end product meets the need. The ideal app development lifecycle should quickly identify errors and resolve them. This is why including a prototyping stage during mobile app design is fundamental.
During this stage, users can test the concepts and provide you with helpful feedback that perfects your final design. It will save you money and time by ensuring your product offers great user experiences from the get go. App prototypes range from user interface sketches and elaborate computer models, to wireframes and an interim prototype.
We cover the main benefits of mobile app prototyping below.
Identify and Resolve Issues Early
Prototyping means identifying issues early. The stage in the development cycle when you discover issues with an app is critical in two ways. First, it determines your overall development costs. Catching problems early can mean huge savings. The further up the product lifecycle an issue is identified, the more will need to be changed and thus the more expensive it will be to fix.
Second, it gets your app off to a great start. First impressions matter. If your customers first encounter with your app is unpleasant, it’s going to be difficult to convince them to continue using it even after you resolve the problematic feature.
Comparison Between Multiple Alternatives
When you are building an app, there will be multiple paths of logic you can follow to arrive at the desired outcome. As your development team is brainstorming on different ideas, two or more seemingly great suggestions will eventually be the final ones on the table.
You could have an intense theoretical discussion to determine which one will work best. But nothing beats prototyping in accurately gauging the pros and cons of competing ideas. Monitor error rates to see which option is the most stable. You could also provide the two prototypes to a focus group for feedback on which option users are likely to prefer.
Mobile app development begins with an identification of the problem followed by a definition of app requirements. If you are contracted to develop an app by a client, these requirements will be your guiding light. Nevertheless, app requirements aren’t always realistic nor their impact well understood.
Problems with the requirements won’t necessarily be identifiable by simply reading through them. There may be dependencies that you’ll only pick up once you start building the application. Prototyping can help you identify these difficulties quickly and therefore engage the client on what alternatives they have.
Prioritize User Over Developer Opinion
At some point, people believed the average tech geek’s work environment involved being hunched over their computers while confined to a dark back office room with little interaction with the outside world during work hours. While this is certainly an exaggeration, developers can easily get lost in their own world when working on a project.
By spending weeks or months without hearing from an app’s client or target users, developers may inadvertently find their personal ideas and opinions superseding those of the client and user. Prototyping is one of the best ways to regularly restore focus to the opinions that truly matter. It ensures that a mobile app does what it is expected to do and not what the coder thinks it should.
Gets All Stakeholders Involved
One of the dangers of a developer working alone as outlined in the previous point is they run the risk of creating a product that only they feel a part of. Many otherwise great applications have failed to take off because there is no sense of ownership or involvement by end-users and clients.
People are much more likely to want something to succeed if they feel they greatly contributed to its development. Prototyping creates a suitable forum for the exchange of app feedback between the client, the developer and the user.
Estimate Project Costs
Project requirements are meant to make it easier to plan an app’s development costs, skills and timelines. It’s expected that based on the developer’s past experience, they will come up with realistic estimates of what resources are needed for the entire project. Yet, IT projects often exceed their budgets and go past their expected delivery times.
That’s because for complex projects, even experienced project managers may have a hard time developing reliable estimates of just what it will take. Prototypes substantially eliminate ambiguity from the resource planning process. By analyzing the resources needed to deliver a prototype, you can come up with a more accurate estimate of what will be needed.
Building a working prototype is an iterative process in which the prototype is refined multiple times until a final market-ready product is realized. The developer incorporates client and user feedback in modifying subsequent prototypes until all parties are satisfied with the outcome.