An app prototype is essentially a skeletal working model of a front-end design that shows project stakeholders how the app will function when developed and deployed. It is a crucial component of the design and development process for any application – web or mobile.
When is an app prototype required?
Creating an app prototype is often the first step in UX design. While the UI design might give you visual cues about what the app’s interface will finally look like, only a working app prototype can show you how it will function as an end-user product.
What should you have in mind when you start creating an app prototype?
The overall user experience is always the major goal in UX design, and this cascades down to specific experiences when interacting with the product and its interface. Some points to consider:
- Does the process flow have redundant or unwanted steps that can be eliminated?
- Does a particular function solve a specific problem or address a particular user need?
- Is the app responsive when an action is triggered?
- Are there provisions for user-based errors?
- Are there any usability or accessibility issues that need to be addressed?
What does an app prototype do? What can it be used for?
Even a simple wireframe prototype has some very important functions in the overall design and development process.
- It is used to evaluate the intended functionality of the application.
- It shows all stakeholders what the app does and how it responds to various user actions.
- It is used for testing various features and interactions.
- It is often critical to the project being approved.
- It shows representations of various page states when the user interacts with its functions and controls.
- It reveals flaws in the workflow that can be corrected before the development phase.
Key Elements of an App Prototype
There are essentially three parts to any app prototype: the screens, the widgets, and the interactions. Let’s briefly look at what each one is used for.
Screens: The screens or pages/page states represent the actual screens on the final app – what they look like, what interactive controls they contain, the different states they undergo when an interaction is initiated, and so on. The screen also tells you what device the app is being created for: mobile, web, TV, etc.
Widgets: Widgets are essentially the various design and functional elements in an app prototype. Some examples of widgets are Menus, toolbars, buttons, radio buttons, checkboxes, dropdowns, text fields, etc. These widgets are the means by which the user interacts with the app.
Interactions: The final element of a prototype is the interactions themselves. It makes the screens and widgets dynamic by showing the user how the widgets change the state of the page and how the interaction flows from one step to the next until it is complete.
The How To: Steps to Create a Prototype
Most prototyping tools will have basic widgets that you can use to create your page designs and page states. Once the basic layouts are done for multiple screens/pages, you can add specific widgets for various functions. These widgets can then be linked to their corresponding page states to visually show how the interaction works. Here’s the process in detailed steps:
- Begin by defining the parameters of your project, which involves specifying the screen aspect ratio or the particular device type you are designing the app for. Your targeting here can be generic – mobile phones – or specific – iPhone 12 Pro. This allows you to make your prototype as accurate as possible and show the stakeholders how it will look on that device or that device class.
- Next, start creating new screens and pages or page states and laying out the designs and widgets on each one. Creating them in a logical sequence ensures that your app also follows the same logical flow.
- The final step is prototyping. For this, you will need to link each widget with its corresponding page state. On some UX design and prototyping platforms like the one shown in the next section, called Wondershare Mockitt, it’s only a matter of dragging a link from a widget, dropping it to its resulting page state, and then editing the link to define a transition, add animations, and other effects.
That’s the basic skeletal process of creating a prototype from scratch. You can also do a simple wireframe on paper and show how each process works but doing it on a purpose-built application allows the interactions to be dynamic rather than static, as we’ll see in the next section.
The Best Prototyping Platform for Beginners: Wondershare Mockitt
Wondershare Mockitt is a highly compelling cloud based UX design and prototyping platform because of its simplicity, ease of use, and abundance of templates, widgets, UI kits, and other resources. Here are some of the core qualities that make it a very popular tool for aspiring UX designers.
Gentle Learning Curve
Most users can jump right in and start prototyping their designs.
- You can start from scratch, as described above, or even import existing designs and then work on prototyping them with dynamic interactions.
- The layout is very intuitive, and the iconography follows global best practices to make it very clear what each feature does.
- The canvas is conveniently laid out in the center of the interface, with a Quick Widget panel on the left and the more comprehensive Asset Library on the right, from where you can quickly drag and drop elements into the screen/page.
Abundant Widgets and Templates
As mentioned, there’s a robust selection of templates, widgets, UI kits, and other resources you can use. Moreover, you can customize them to your exact specs and even share these libraries with other designers on your team. You’ll find everything you need for nearly every type of interaction required for an app, whether it’s a touchscreen device or one that uses a mouse and keyboard as input devices.
Free Version Available
If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to pay anything to use Wondershare Mockitt. The free plan gives you up to 3 projects with 10 screens each and 100MB of asset space for your custom widgets. If you need more, you can upgrade to an affordable plan for $12.9/Month or $69/year (for professionals) or $99 a year (enterprise version), which gives you higher limits and access to templates, collaborative features, and much more.
Creating an app prototype is a sort of crossroads where key decisions are made on what the app is finally capable of doing and how well it does it to achieve optimal user satisfaction. As such, it is a crucial component of the design and development process for any application. It is equally important to choose the right platform, and Mockitt comes highly recommended due to its comprehensive feature-set, rapid prototyping capability, collaborative tools, affordability, and ease-of-use.