Even with the best explanation, it is difficult to know if your vision of a design is what the designer is proposing for a product or app. If you wait to view and interact with the finished product until the project is built, you lose valuable time and money when inevitably something needs to change. App design prototyping is the solution to this creative process, bridging the gap between idea and finished product.
Whatever industry you are in, or whatever you are building — be it a website, a mobile app, or email templates — prototyping lets you create a functioning model that approximates what the end product will be like.
A prototype is a preliminary model of the application concept to showcase key workflows and features to gain stakeholder consensus and approval.
At this stage, you can work out any issues with how the product functions, how users interact with it, and how well the vision of the stakeholders is met by the vision of the designer. Making changes at this stage of the game can happen swiftly, and without losing much time, avoiding the costly error of last-stage changes that can tank budgets and delay product launch timelines.
App design prototypes come in a variety of forms, from a lo-fi, back-of-the-napkin sketch by hand to a hi-fi clickable user interface through the use of tools such as Figma, Sketch, InVision or even a front-end website build-out.
Lo-fi prototypes are best in the early stages when understanding and agreeing about how the product will function.
Hi-fi prototypes become more necessary to communicate the design, look and feel of the product. Many hi-fi app design options also allow for user interaction including clickable features, so they are great for user testing as they provide a near-realistic experience that presents like a finished product.
While you can get away with not having a prototype, having one offers the dual function of providing a method to get alignment from stakeholders on the goals of the project and to test your minimum viable product (or MVP) with real users, integrating feedback and observations into the ultimate design.
An app prototype helps a designer communicate their vision — which is backed in user experience principles as well as aesthetics — to the rest of the team and to the client.
It is important that clients and designers know they are on the same page about the wants, needs, and vision of a project, but knowing how the user will interact and respond to it is a whole other layer to the design process. For this case, prototyping is an integral part of the design thinking and user experience process.
When users or clients can interact with a model of the product you can integrate feedback and solve problems at the research stage, before the major build has been done. Getting user feedback at this stage allows for an iterative process that results in a product that works better with a lower cost of production since learning is concentrated at the earlier phases before the largest time investments occur.
Because little effort or investments have gone into building out the product at this stage, changes are much easier and cheaper to make at a prototype level. This enables the team to reach its project goals more quickly, ensuring the product they’re building solves the right problem in the right way.
It’s much easier for a potential investor to understand a product when they’re able to physically interact with it and see a working model. This brings a concept to life. While designers may have no problem imagining a concept in its final state, the average person may have trouble picturing exactly how everything works and looks.
You’re more likely to sell someone on your product or your idea if they are given the chance to see that product or idea in action, and an app prototype is just the ticket.
Through all of the design, development and iterations, the goal is to provide the best possible product. By skipping the prototyping step, you run the risk of producing an app that deviates from the original design, without clear user-experience reasonings. You also run the risk of racking up hours and dollars fixing problems that could’ve been addressed before the development phase.
It may seem like a tedious, extra step, but more work upfront can save you a lot of hurt down the road.
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How do you make a minimum viable product that gets all parties' buy-in? You prototype. See why prototypes are a required step in app design.