Why a prototype is a good way to start
Ideas tend to come easy. But figuring out exactly what features are required to give your app the competitive edge and the best user experience is a whole other ballgame. A prototype is the best way to do this.
Prototyping is a very powerful design process where the end result is an end-to-end user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design of your app. Starting with a prototype is useful for various reasons. If you intend to get funding for your app, it is a lot more impactful to be able to demonstrate what the app will look like and do and the prototype allows you to do just that. It also shows good faith that you have already invested in your idea. Having a prototype makes the development process a lot more seamless because you can see exactly what needs to be built before we start. It gives you the flexibility to tweak things easily and cheaply. That becomes a lot more difficult and costly at the development phase.
What is the prototype process?
[The “basic” approach is listed below. Sometimes this can be expanded to include qualitative/ quantitative research, focus groups, usability testing etc.].
Your assigned team has an initial call with you to talk through/confirm your requirements. The result of that call will be detailed user stories. This is a description, in natural language, of all the features that will be in your app. We then work through what the best user flows / journeys for your particular use case would be. This is the UX part - initially a simple flow chart and then detailed screen wireframes.
In terms of coming up with the look, feel, style, vibe (we call this “UI”) your design team will do some desktop research looking at similar apps both internationally and locally to inform a mood board. Perhaps you have a particular style in mind. This provides a good sense of what works and provides inspiration for things like colour pallattes. As part of the process we also create personas of the different users that we believe the app should/would appeal to. This is “exploration/ inspiration phase”. We will provide example designs of one screen (typically the home screen) in different styles for your feedback until we land on something we’re all happy with.
Finally we apply the UI (design) to the UX (wireframes) to end up with your prototype. There is no real functionality other than tapping on buttons to navigate but it looks like the real deal.
The process is very collaborative. We work on Figma and you have access to the project throughout so you can comment/ ask questions at any time.
Do we have to prototype?
Developers need to know what to build, so designs are needed before dev starts. So not prototyping doesn’t save money - it has to be done at some point. However, the design doesn’t necessarily need to be a big or separate project especially if it’s a simple app or the design is already known.
Sometimes clients want to use their own designs/ design team. We’re happy to do this as long as they know mobile app design well. If they don’t it’s likely the development will be a lot more complicated (building non-standard elements that work across all screen dimensions) and the user experience might also be compromised.