Mobile apps have become an integral part of our daily lives, leaving us heavily dependent on them for carrying out simple to complex tasks. According to eMarketer, an average person spends 90% of their mobile time on apps alone, compared to the mobile web. This is why mobile app development company and businesses are investing tremendously in a functional app that provides an impeccable user experience.
eMarketer principal analyst, Cathy Boyle, said, “An app provides a direct access point from the home screen of a mobile device, and a native app experience is typically slicker and faster than a comparable web experience.”
As important these mobile apps have become to reach out to the targeted audience driving conversions, the process through which these mobile apps are built is also of great importance. And one of the factors that is the ultimate deciding factor of an app’s future course– is prototyping.
What Is a Mobile App Prototype?
Prototyping starts from an earlier stage. As to what exactly is a mobile app prototype? Then in the simplest of forms, it demonstrates how the app will function – its user flow, navigation, features, and overall layout. Now there are various ways to go about prototyping your mobile app products. It usually starts off as sketches on a paper depicting the interface, that slowly progresses from a sketch to a mock product that resembles closely to the final mobile app – close to a minimum viable product, in terms of idea.
What Is the Purpose of a Mobile App Prototype?
A mobile app porotype serves various functions that include:
- It communicates the design and navigation flow of the mobile app, giving an insight into how the final product will work, facilitating the development process – making it faster and less prone to errors.
- Since a prototype is a visualization of the functionality of the app in totality, it helps in identifying the errors from an early stage.
- It also serves the purpose of analyzing the prototype and identify any missing or additional features that may be otherwise invisible to the team.
- Prototypes of the mobile product also help in testing the product on the scale of how user-centric it is.
Of course, mobile app prototyping is a continuous process throughout the development phase that faces tweaking from the product team that adjusts its according to the feedback, to stay on track and in line.
Advantages of Mobile App Prototyping
Much of the importance of prototyping was briefly discussed above, but let us dive deeper into the five key assistance mobile app prototyping serves us.
#1 Makes Mobile App Development Less Expensive
Since the development phase doesn’t come cheap, mobile app prototyping can save you from a failure that wasn’t visible in hindsight before. The mobile app industry is saturated with 2.6 million Android apps downloaded in the first quarter of 2019 alone, and 2.2 million iOS apps – it has become tougher to retain a good user base for your app.
If the app fails to win users, you will suffer great loss in terms of investment, reputation, and damage control (which usually comes in the form of re-starting everything from scratch).
This is why mobile app development companies pay special attention to mobile app prototyping, as it identifies every shortcoming beforehand – as it costs less to solve problems at the beginning of the process.
#2 Client Involvement
Prototyping, when done with the involvement of the respective clients and stakeholders, speeds up the process of reaching a final decision. How? Because they might have a vision of what may be more important for their products, than developers. Let’s say that developers are contemplating over a feature that is time-consuming and plan to hold it off, while the client or the stakeholder considers it the most important of features that require immediate attention. Developers and clients both bring different perspectives on the table, and according to the marketing’s perspective – a stakeholder’s say could lead to a better winning product.
So involving them during the prototyping phase and giving them co-ownership of the design and functionality decisions could save you a lot of time and effort.
#3 UX Finalization
Every mobile app is geared towards providing a seamless user experience, which, by the way, is not that easy to achieve. It requires thorough planning and careful consideration of all key aspects of the product.
Again, during the development process going back and forth will only result in loss of time, effort, and money. This is where prototyping helps in making all design and UX decisions before materializing the product. Moreover, running the prototype through an actual user gives valuable feedback in terms of its usability, engagement prospects, and longevity.
#4 Building a Brand
Since many apps are a complete brand in the making, so prototyping a mobile app can also include branding that is required. Since branded apps become memorable and recognizable, prototyping naturally includes this part of the design and functionality decision – which allows, early testing of how and what to incorporate in a mobile app, as a brand.
#5 Prevention of Errors
When mobile apps start crashing, so does its rating and customer base. This is why agile testing came into being to curb such big mistakes and errors. However, that too isn’t a guarantee that the app will function properly. How? There could be something critical that was missed entirely during the early stages, that was causing bugs. To determine such structural or design faults, prototyping gives the opportunity to determine such faults before the development stage.
What more is that in the case of a website, it needs to compatible with the screens of various devices. This is also where prototyping for all kinds of devices helps to create an optimized website.
Prototyping, in general, is a great way to determine the early design and functionality weaknesses, errors and even have the time to add whatever needed until the product is complete and finalized by both parties –that is, the IT team and the stakeholders.
As for mobile apps, it is crucial as mobile apps have taken precedence over web apps, catering to the audience in millions. Hence, there is no room for an app that is bound to fail with the audience or the consumer-base.