Everything You Need to Know About Mobile App Prototyping

Difficulty: Intermediate

Estimated Completion Time: 12 minutes

Building a market-leading product is something that should be given a good deal of thought prior to the development itself. Building a mobile app prototype is an essential phase that some business owners tend to overlook. 

Statista reports that about 25% of apps are used only once. It’s difficult to judge which unsuccessful projects went without prototyping. Yet, their number would be much lower if the concepts were validated in the very first stages of their lifecycles. 

Let’s find out what solid mobile app prototyping actually is, what its types are, and what tools developers utilize to create prototypes.

Drop Weelorum a line should you need assistance with mobile app prototyping and development

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What Mobile App Prototyping Actually Is

App prototyping is a widely-accepted approach to validating the development concept. It is regarded as an interactive but immature version of an app. It comprises intended UI design, user flow, and, partially, planned functionality. 

The prototyping process is the development stage that involves modeling an app without actually coding it. Mobile prototypes are not intended to be used as a finished app, as they do not have the complete functionality. Typically, a prototype will look like a mockup.

Main Types of Mobile App Prototypes

Without going into too much detail on prototyping models, which are numerous, let’s learn more about two actual categories of mobile application prototypes:

Low-Fidelity Prototypes

These are the most basic mobile apps prototypes. They are typically presented with hand-drawn sketches on paper or in a digital environment. Each sketch is a distinct screen of the mobile app. You can get an idea of how the app is supposed to work by reviewing these sketches.

The purpose of low-fidelity prototypes is to assist designers in making up the initial concept. 

Advantages of low-fidelity app prototyping:

  • No specialized equipment required.
  • Low-cost approach.
  • No substantial design experience required.
  • Can be produced in the shortest terms.

A low-fidelity mobile application prototype is ideal for brainstorming and planning, leaving room for cost-effective improvements.  

Medium-Fidelity Prototypes

These prototypes can be regarded as the transition between low-fidelity and high-fidelity stages. They are created with the help of specialized tools for prototyping, as ones described in the below sections. Yet, a whiteboard or paper may be appropriate as well. 

Medium-fidelity prototypes typically include storyboards, use cases, more complex design solutions, and more. 

Advantages of low-fidelity prototypes:

  • Still cost-effective.
  • Enable instant changes if developed with the help of specialized equipment.
  • Feature design thinking. 

Medium-fidelity prototypes usually do not produce the polished design concept but help to get a better understanding of what the finished application can look like. 

High-Fidelity Prototypes

High-fidelity prototypes are the best way to gain realistic design experience without even getting to actual coding. These are developed strictly using specialized software, since it’s at this stage that functions and buttons should be added.

Advantages of low-fidelity prototypes:

  • Solid validation of the concept.
  • Creation of design concepts with the finest details.
  • Best for showing stakeholders.

High-fidelity prototypes are a test version of the end program you are planning to create. 

Benefits of Mobile App Prototyping

Now, let’s proceed with reviewing the actual benefits mobile application prototyping can bring to your project:

Cost Reduction

Ever heard about the 1:10:100 rule? It says that you spend $1 on research, $10 on changing the design, and as much as $100 on changes at the post-development stage. The reduction of future risks and expenses is probably the most solid benefit of prototyping.

Prototypes, especially low- and medium-fidelity ones, are inexpensive compared to the amount of money they can save in the long run. Conducting prototyping research and creating a solid mockup is what saves the entire project’s ROI. 

Client and Stakeholder Involvement

Another interesting aspect is that both the client and the stakeholders are more likely to be interested in the project if they see actual concepts. Some companies use high-fidelity prototypes to raise extra funds, and they may abandon projects that have not proved themselves to be viable. 

The developer’s vision usually does not correlate well with the perspective of the stakeholders. The latter group may have concerns regarding experimenting with the project. Alternatively, stakeholders may need some functionalities to be implemented in the first place to benefit the long-term strategy of the project.

Here are some key points regarding the client and stakeholder involvement:

  • Stakeholders collect information regarding the strategic perspectives. 
  • Stakeholders may help to strengthen the market research.
  • Better support, funding, and allocation of other necessary resources.
  • Not doing the same research twice, and not reworking the concept in the latter stages. 

The more closely the interested parties are engaged in the process, the better outcomes you can expect.

Identifying Product Improvements

Sharing the prototypes with both potential customers and stakeholders leaves room for gathering feedback. You can use the reviews and opinions to determine which design choices or functionalities are useful and which are obsolete. 

Even if the existing concept is not to be changed, planning new improvements and modifications is always beneficial from the long-term perspective. 

Concept Validation

At the end of the day, mobile apps prototyping is what helps to validate the viability of the concept. Basically, it’s like testing pieces of a puzzle before assembling it and seeing if it’s correct or not. The main idea of the app, target audience match, and basic and advanced functionalities are only some aspects to be validated with the help of prototypes.

This way, even before the first line of code is written, you can calculate the odds of the app becoming successful. 

Stages of Prototyping Mobile Applications

Here is an insight into what the prototype building funnel usually looks like:

Defining the Concept

In other words, you should define the idea of what your future app is and what it should be like. Create some simple sketches or doodles – they can be improved in the future, but they are absolutely essential as the very first step of prototype development. 

Besides, you should write down the key aspects of the app’s functioning. These are typically related to the design and should be taken into consideration further on. 

Mobile Market Analysis

At this stage, you identify the niche of your future app, its competitors, strengths to emphasize, and weaknesses to address. You should also define the potential demand for your app to determine whether it’s worth its salt. Besides, the timing for entry into the market matters and should be paid particular attention to.

Quick Designing

Next, the developers should make up a solid concept that will be used to design the mockup. Some drawings and verbal or written descriptions of the key points and aspects are good enough for this stage. Here are some nuances to consider at the phase of quick designing:

  • Problem the app solves.
  • Tech stack that will be used.
  • Features that distinguish the app from other digital solutions.
  • Layout that the app will have.
  • Color scheme that the app will have
  • Budget constraints.
  • Primary competitors.
  • Market niches.

Once everything is carefully defined, you can proceed further.

Building a Prototype

It’s safe to say that building a prototype is the most time-consuming stage. There is an approach called rapid prototyping, which is focused on creating a mockup with the involvement of as few resources and as fast as possible. 

Among the prevalent prototyping methods are sketches, diagrams, paper interface, storyboards, Lego prototyping, and more. The end result should be a paper-based or digital solution that accurately represents the expected app design and functionality.

Testing and Improving

The release of the prototype is always accompanied by gathering, analyzing, and incorporating valuable feedback. When you are looking for improvements, you may determine minor changes to be implemented, or, in the worst-case scenario, you may feel the need to start from scratch if the concept is not viable.

Anyway, you thoroughly test and modify the prototype before presenting it to valuable investors or releasing it to the public. 

Tools for Mobile App Prototyping

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular tools that developers use for various methods of prototyping.  

Figma

Figma is regarded as one of the best tools for prototyping UX/UI designs. It allows for the creation of interactive flows, communication interactions, pitch designs, and more. The best feature of Figma is that it helps quickly turn static designs into a website or app-like versions.

Most of the interactivity in Figma is based on the use of libraries with finished icons, buttons, and more. It helps to prototype real fast, with the opportunity to add custom elements over time.

Balsamiq

Balsamiq is good for wireframing, i.e., setting the layout of an app before diving deeper into design concepts. Basically, the program reproduces the experience of sketching on a whiteboard but using digitized instruments. 

Balsamiq also comes with some pre-designed widgets, making it perfect for building low-fidelity wireframes. 

Mockplus

Mockplus is a great solution for rapid prototyping. It’s a simple mockup tool that allows you to create interactive mobile concepts and test them instantly.  

The program enables you to select types of devices for which you build your mobile app prototyping. You may even test if actual mobile phones can scan built-in QR codes successfully, and whether the layout is displayed correctly. 

Marvel

Marvel is a robust browser-based prototyping tool. It positions itself as a simple way to turn sketches and mockups into fully-fledged prototypes. 

The program has an in-build designing tool called Canvas, a simple click and drag prototyping functionality, and a collaboration feature. 

Consider Weelorum Your Trusted Partner in Developing Your Mobile App

Regardless of what prototyping for a mobile application you require or what tech stack you’d prefer to use, you need a dev company you can entrust your project to.

Weelorum is a team of expert developers, QA testers, designers, business analysts, and other specialists. We excel in the creation of mobile prototypes of any complexity and high-end mobile apps. We feature an end-to-end approach to development, so, in addition to rapid prototyping a mobile app, you can request from us the following service lines:

  • Market research and planning.
  • UI/UX design.
  • Mobile and web development.
  • QA testing.
  • Ruby/cloud backend.
  • Analytics and support.

Over the years on the market, we gained an impressive reputation and expertise with the technologies most relevant in the development niche.

Should you need prototyping for mobile apps, the development of digital solutions, or a mere consultation, Weelorum is at your service

Contact us

Final Thoughts

Mobile app prototyping is regarded as the validation of the app’s initial concept. A well-done prototype for a mobile application benefits projects in various ways, from simply getting stakeholders’ attention to discovering the potential viability of the digital solution. 

Basically, you have all good reasons to opt for mobile app prototyping before going all-in and proceeding with fully-fledged development.

FAQ

  • What is the concept of app prototyping?

A prototype is a basic mockup comprising the design solutions, planned user flow, and some functionalities. It does not require coding but represents the end mobile application precisely. 

  • Do I always need a mobile app prototype?

Yes, you need to create a prototype first in any event, except for rare occasions, such as relaunching of an old, well-known app with minor changes to design.

  • How much does application prototyping cost?

App prototyping may require roughly 80-160 hours of work and cost somewhere between $5,000-15,000.

Table of content
What Mobile App Prototyping Actually IsMain Types of Mobile App PrototypesBenefits of Mobile App PrototypingStages of Prototyping Mobile ApplicationsTools for Mobile App PrototypingConsider Weelorum Your Trusted Partner in Developing Your Mobile AppFinal Thoughts
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