Prototyping

Mobile App Prototyping for Entrepreneurs

Here's How Proto.io Can Help

August 14, 2018

As a mobile entrepreneur, your technology stack is every bit as important as the team using it. The right mobile app prototyping tools can empower you at every stage of the design and development process, from refining an idea for a new app, to delivering a polished, glitch-free product to your customers.

Being able to “get the job done” isn’t good enough for prototyping software — your technology should enable your team to grow, experiment, and improve with each release. Here’s how Proto.io helps entrepreneurs.

A photo of an entrepreneur making notes in her daily planner.
Some of us still like paper planners.

Ensuring You Have the Right Mobile App Idea

A great app always starts with an idea, but not every great app idea makes a top tier app. Even if it looks brilliant on paper, your app can run into all sorts of unanticipated problems once you start researching and planning, including:

  • Excessive complexity: Your app may be prohibitively complex or costly to implement.
  • Unassailable competitors: There may be competitors who have the market locked down in a way your solution can’t challenge. For example, they may have value-added features you can’t offer in the near term, or be able to provide services at a lesser cost by virtue of already operating at scale.
  • Lack of differentiators: You may find that your app won’t be able to offer enough added benefits to lure customers away from competitors.
  • Monetization issues: Your idea and implementation might be great — but you might not be able to make any money off of it.

In many cases, you can address these issues through reworking your idea into a better plan. In other situations, you may need to scratch the idea and start over — it depends on your market, investment capital, and competitive landscape, among other factors. The key is to evaluate and adjust your plan (or come up with a new idea) as quickly and economically as possible. As an entrepreneur, the last thing you want to do is get to beta before you realize your idea isn’t usable.

Mobile app prototyping tools like Proto.io make it easier to conceptualize your product and evaluate its feasibility. You can quickly progress from an abstract idea to a realistic prototype you can examine objectively.

You’ll be able to see challenges and problems that may not be obvious in a wireframe, then experiment with solutions before you invest in coding. And if your app doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to come away with lessons — and in many cases, salvage pieces of it for future projects.

Proto.io is also incredibly useful for activities designed to accelerate the early stages of building an app, such as design sprints. You can quickly build out realistic models of the functions you need to evaluate, then demo them for testers.

Because your testing group will be interacting with a prototype that looks and feels like a finished app, they’ll be able to give more accurate feedback for your decision-making process than they would with a wireframe. And that can enable you to make a definitive decision about the direction of the project quicker.

A photo of a smiling entrepreneur sitting in his office with floor to ceiling windows.
Can we trade offices?

Support For All Stakeholders

There’s a range of mobile app prototyping tools, from simple tools that don’t go far beyond wireframing to full development environments that double as prototyping materials. The features you need depend on your role and your workflow. The challenge is finding something that works for everyone.

Designers will look for features like flexible, intuitive layout tools, excellent support for user interactions, cross-compatibility with programs like Photoshop, and the ability to animate and demo UX features without having to write code.

A product manager will have different concerns. They’ll want to know that the mobile app prototyping tool supports efficient workflow and has a quick learning curve, making it easy for stakeholders to collaborate and organize assets.

A developer will look for a tool to speed up the development process, while enabling them to use code when appropriate. They’ll also want a good library of interaction design patterns and other tools that will make the app look good, even if they don’t have an eye for design.

But entrepreneurs will have the most varied needs of all. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, you might just be looking for something to flesh out your idea on a basic level so you can pitch it. Alternately, you may want something that facilitates quick and cost-effective prototyping by your team, or lets you effectively harness your own coding or design skills.

There are lots of prototyping apps that are a good fit for one role or one approach to building an app, but when you put all these needs together, most tools don’t stand up. They’re too lightweight for developers, or too arcane for designers to understand, or too clunky to keep product managers happy.

Proto.io is unique in that it doesn’t favor a role — it provides excellent support for your entire team. Designers can create the look and feel of a finished app without diving into the code, using rich UI libraries, interactive design patterns, and animation support.

Product managers (and everyone else) will be happy with the outstanding usability, integration with Sketch, Photoshop and DropBox, optimized asset flow, and seamless sharing and demos. Programmers will be delighted by the ability to rapidly prototype their app without stressing over design or sacrificing power.

As an entrepreneur, this gives you tremendous flexibility to meet the evolving needs of a project. In the early phases, it’s easy to create a mockup of your app idea, experiment with it and get some feedback.

Once you refine your idea, Proto.io allows you to make a fully-functional prototype to demo for investors, even without coding or design experience. After you get funding, you can bring in designers and developers to build on your groundwork, refining and testing your app until it’s ready to code. Whether you’re operating with a full team, or working on a shoestring budget, Proto.io facilitates your entire design and development process.

A photo of a design team working on their newest mobile app prototype.
Their next mobile app prototype is bound to be a success.

Ensuring a Flawless App Rollout

A smooth rollout is crucial to making your app profitable. Mobile users have short attention spans and very little patience. If your app comes out behind schedule, your marketing won’t be successful — your audience will have forgotten about it and moved on to something else. And if it’s broken on release, potential customers might not be too interested in giving you a second chance, even if you rush out a patch within a day or so.

Proto.io is the best prototyping tool to ensure your app is released on time, without the bugs that can kill a successful launch. Proto.io allows you to create functional mobile app prototypes across all platforms, including Android, iOS, and high-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It’s easy to instantly demo your app from anywhere, without the need to download or install software.

Proto.io also integrates with Lookback.io, allowing you to record user experience during a demo. Lookback is a full mobile app testing lab integrated into the app. You can record tutorials and walkthroughs, observe user behavior, solicit user feedback, conduct both moderated and unmoderated testing, and more — all remotely.

Together, these tools can revolutionize how you build an app, making delays and last-minute patches a thing of the past. Designers and developers can debug as they go. Your team can quickly run user tests on multiple platforms without the need to set aside a test environment or schedule in-person labs.

Your team can get detailed, honest feedback quickly, preventing usability issues from sneaking through into the development stage, where they’ll be much more difficult and time-consuming to both find and fix.

You can even test your device in the field, ensuring that your app supports users who are multi-tasking while walking around town. By testing in the field, you can also test your app for accessibility — ensuring it meets everyone’s needs in a real-world setting.

A photo of two members of a mobile app design team working on some drawings.
Mobile app prototyping goes far beyond sketches and wireframes, but they’re still important in the process.

Harnessing Your Network to Empower Your Mobile App Business

You never know when a chance meeting will change your business — and your life. You’re waiting in a crowded terminal when you strike up a conversation with an angel investor looking for startups in your industry.

You’re getting a drink at the bar when you strike up a conversation with a fellow entrepreneur who has some priceless advice that helps you make your app even better. Or you’re dropping your kid off at school and meet another parent — who just happens to be a developer with just the right skills to bring your app to life.

When you’re in that situation, being able to show what you’re working on quickly and easily can make a huge difference in how you’re perceived, and what you gain from the interaction.

There’s a big difference between “I’m working on this app…” and “Look at this prototype I built.” At the same time, not every mobile prototyping tool will help. It’s one thing to show your new friend a working demo that opens with a couple taps — it’s quite another to expect them to pay attention as you menu drag and lead them through a long sequence of wireframes.

Proto.io puts a fully functional demo of your app right at your fingertips when you need it. Your new contact can tap buttons, watch microinteractions, and see how multiple screens fit together, just like they would with the final version of the app. Even if you’re only part way through building a prototype, having this information so easily accessible can help you make the right impression.

Avoiding Miscommunications

The fast pace of modern development paradigms has inherent risks around communication. Small misunderstandings can lead to serious consequences, such as glitchy user flow, inconsistent layout and design, or even stability issues. This is particularly true in remote work environments, where it’s harder to gauge your workers’ understandings and interpretations.

A prototype can help you cut down on misunderstandings by showing everyone a concrete model of the finished app — and the more realistic your prototype, the more effective it will be at mitigating misunderstandings. Proto.io gives you the power to create prototypes so realistic, they leave no room for misinterpretation. Everything from layout, to logic, to user flow, to microinteractions can be configured to work like the finished product, so your team understands exactly what they’re building before they build it.

A photo of an entrepreneur sitting in his office, going over reports.
His desk organization strategy looks familiar.

Staying on the Cutting Edge of Technology

The mobile app marketplace is evolving quickly. Technologies like VR and IoT wearables that were once niche applications are now seeing skyrocketing consumer adoption. You need to build an app using tools that are evolving as quickly as the industry, so you can stay on the cutting edge.

Proto.io is constantly innovating so our clients can too. We were the first to incorporate virtual reality prototyping into our mobile app tools, allowing users to build VR apps for smartphones and virtual headsets using the same intuitive workflow. Your team can use a single prototype to design and test an app in both VR and conventional view to demo it across all major platforms — exactly as you would with a conventional app.

As an entrepreneur, this transforms mobile app prototyping from a utility to a strategic asset. You can optimize your design workflow without being limited by your tools. You can adopt new technologies as they emerge without having to invest in purchasing new software and retraining your team.

Industry-Leading Mobile App Prototyping for Entrepreneurs

Whether you’re running a lean startup, a well-established development team, or an elite entrepreneurial army of one, Proto.io gives you the right tools to build better prototypes, better apps, and a better business. But don’t take our word for it — try Proto.io for free today to see what it can do for you.

Proto.io lets anyone build mobile app prototypes that feel real. No coding or design skills required. Bring your ideas to life quickly! Sign up for a free 15-day trial of Proto.io today and get started on your next mobile app design.

Have any tips for mobile app entrepreneurs? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio!

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