How to Prototype an App in 5 Simple Steps
Web developers and UX/UX designers throw around the word "prototype" a lot. And while the term may sound like just another buzzword, in reality, app prototyping is a stepping-stone to the success of any web development project.
So, what exactly are app prototypes? And how do you create one?
In this post, you will learn everything you need to know to quickly - and cheaply - prototype an application in five simple steps.
What Is a Web App Prototype?
Simply put, a web app prototype is a mock-up mapping out how your application should look and work. Think of it as a blueprint that outlines the frontend and backend of your application.
As a useful tool for quick and cheap testing, the complexity of a prototype can range from something simple like hand sketches to clickable digital emulations.
No matter how sophisticated your prototype is, its purpose boils down to achieving one simple goal: to clearly communicate the look and feel of your product without - or with very little - working code.
Why You Should Always Start with a Prototype
Prototyping is the first step to transforming your idea into a product.
Just as building a house without a blueprint sounds like nothing but trouble, pouring massive amounts of resources into any web development project without prototyping it first is a sure-fire way to fritter away your budget on costly last-minute changes down the line.
Whether you're a first-time designer or a seasoned web developer, you need prototypes to save yourself from ever giving it all to something that was doomed to fail from the very beginning, evaluate the scope of work, and identify potential areas of improvement.
Still not convinced? Here are the three major benefits of app prototyping that will change your mind.
Starting with an App Prototype Is Cost-Effective
It takes a lot to build a new application from the ground up. Apart from your time and effort, the process also entails pretty heavy financial investments on your part.
Without prototyping, you are, basically, throwing darts at a target that only maybe exists and running into the risk of having to re-do the entire project from scratch halfway through the development process due to a lack of planning - for instance, you may realize that your app lacks some core features several months into the project.
What’s more, if you want to raise money for your application, prototyping is a quick-and-dirty way to boost the odds of getting funding, helping you secure more investments while having to give up less control of your company.
A simple app prototype can give your potential investors a good sense of what your product is all about, how it would work, and why they should invest in your idea.
You Can Test the Demand for Your Project (Market Validation)
Performing user tests with prototypes comes in handy when you want to gauge the market demand for your idea before you financially commit to it.
Any critical feedback that you receive from your user base at this stage is worth its weight in gold as it gives you enough time to change the course of the ship should you have to revamp your application or make some drastic changes.
You Have the Opportunity to Find Improvements Early on
Again, based on the feedback you receive while performing prototype testing, you can actually make adjustments to your application as needed before changing anything starts costing you a fortune.
It's expensive to make iterations to a ready-to-launch application, so it's best to shift things around during the early phase of app development.
And that’s where app prototypes come into play, providing you with a unique opportunity to unearth and address entire layers of potential issues early on.
How to Prototype an App in 5 Steps
Now that you are fully on board with the idea of prototyping your application, it’s time to move on to the actual process of creating one.
To break the process down into smaller, more manageable pieces, here are five simple and easy-to-follow steps separating you from your first app prototype:
- Understand the problem
- Map out the core functionality
- Sketch out the app
- Turn your sketch into a wireframe
- Build a quick low-code prototype
Let’s dive right in.
Understand the Problem
The first thing you need to do is identify the primary problem your product is trying to solve.
This should be your starting point as the ultimate goal of any application is to bring value to its end-users - everything else, including both the frontend and backend, simply reflects the way you’re trying to do that.
So, start with doing some serious research and come up with a list of pain points that you want to target with your app.
Once there, rate each of them on a scale from one to ten to separate the wheat from the chaff, the things that should be your top priority from the pain points that are secondary - or even tertiary - and, therefore, can be ignored.
If you do your research well enough, you may even find out that what you think is a problem isn't actually something your target market cares about.
Your app doesn't necessarily have to solve some complex, global problems; it only needs to solve a problem that makes the lives of your users more difficult.
Map Out the Core Functionality
Now, it’s time to map out the core functionality of your application based on all the information you've gathered while conducting your market research.
You may have a bunch of ideas at this stage, so it's best to write them down. You can list out as many key features as you want - get your creative juices flowing.
When you're done with this, move on to categorizing the ideas you just brainstormed. Take a hard look at what you've put down: Which features are essential? Which ones are nice to have? And which ones are unrealistic?
If this is the first time you're developing a web or mobile application, stick with the top four features on your priority list and add new functionality later as you go along.
Sketch Out the App
Once you have a clear action plan, start working on rough app sketches. It is also an excellent time to think through the usability side of your product.
Your sketches should reflect the basic look and feel of the app. If you're creating a mobile app prototype, begin with sketching out the product's primary screen functionalities.
Turn Your Sketch into a Wireframe
With the rough app sketches ready to go, the next step is creating a wireframe of your application.
Wireframing is where you flesh out the illustrations to become a simplified outline of your product. It's a good idea to include some descriptions of the overall app concept and the key functionalities here.
Build a Quick Low-Code Prototype
Having turned your sketch into a solid wireframe, you are just a step away from your prototype.
At this stage, you'll have to opt for either a high-fidelity prototype or a low-fidelity prototype.
When you want to create a simple mock-up that shows some degree of interactivity, you should try out the Invision design tool.
On the other hand, if you are building a more complex, interactive prototype, Xcode is your go-to prototyping tool.
You can also try other solid alternatives like Figma, Adobe, and Proto.io.
Are You Ready To Get Started?
If you want to create a successful web application that brings a lot of value to the table and has the potential to come out on top of the oversaturated market, you need people who live and breathe web development to be in charge of the development process.
At Thinklogic, we build cutting-edge custom software products for individuals and businesses that want to make a difference. Schedule a call, and we'll be happy to help you launch your next big idea.