If you’re an entrepreneur who’s trying to get your startup off the ground, prototyping a mobile app might be the last thing on your mind. Perhaps you’re hoping to generate some income before you venture into mobile app development because, well, you’re not a mobile app developer and you’ll need to hire one.
Listen, we understand. We’ve been there. Starting your own business is a stressful experience, complete with nitty gritty details and a demanding schedule. Most days (okay, all days), it can seem impossible to add even one more thing to your to-do list — but that’s what we’re going to do. We know, we know: you’re already swamped, but hear us out.
Prototyping doesn’t have to be the insurmountable, time consuming project. We might be a bit biased, but we think our easy to use drag-and-drop platform makes prototyping a snap. Combined with an interactive UI and animated functions, you’ll have a working prototype faster than you ever could have imagined.
The fact here is that in 2017, you simply can’t afford to skip prototyping. Without a doubt, this is a frequently missed step that has the power to take your startup to a whole new level. In a highly competitive global market, why in the world would you want to miss that opportunity?
4 Ways that Prototyping Will Next Level Your Startup
1. Prototyping Will Set You Apart from Your Competition
Our competitors are just as busy as we are. We like to think they are lagging far behind and that we’ll have no problem jumping out ahead, but that kind of thinking is not based in reality. The truth of the matter is that your competition is working hard to jump out ahead of you. They are logging the same long hours that you are.
Every one of your competitors is going to launch a website, start a Facebook page, secure a Twitter handle, and an Instagram account. These are just normal things that happen with startups in our modern era. Many of these startups have dreams of (one day) launching an app, but they don’t make it priority for a variety of reasons. Whether they think it’s too much work, they don’t have the funds they need, or they would rather wait until later when your customer base is more stable, these reasons are valid — but they don’t set you apart. They keep you melting into the background.
If you want to make your startup stand out, get to working on that prototype. This is your best first step in mobile app development because it makes the process move both faster and more efficiently (both, as you know, do not always go hand in hand). Prototyping bridges the gap between designers and developers, allowing you to move a substantial step ahead of your competitors.
2. Prototyping Can Impress Your Investors
Investors are used to sitting through boring presentations from entrepreneurs asking for money. They won’t be handing out checks to every single one of those people, so you need to figure out a way to impress your potential investors. This is one of those moments where you need to be as far ahead of your competition as possible — and not just the ones who are making similar products.
Think about this like an episode of Shark Tank. In any given episode, roughly four entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to the Sharks and every single one of these people is completely sure that their invention, idea, or product is the next big thing. No two presentations are alike and the business ideas vary widely throughout the course of the show, but every person is pitching the same six Sharks.
This scenario (though perhaps on a smaller scale) is exactly what you will be doing if you’re seeking investors. You’ll be asking for 30 minutes of their valuable time and you’d better have a stellar way to fill that time. They’ll have questions about revenue models, your business plan, growth strategy, and a million other things that you’ll be expected to answer — quickly.
If they take the evening to think about the pitches they heard that day (all five of them), you need a sticking point — something that you say or do to make your business stand out from the rest of the crowd. Prototyping is a simple way to show potential investors that you have thought about your app longer than the 20 seconds it took you to type “We will launch an app in the fourth quarter” into your business plan.
Almost everyone is going to say they are launching an app. This idea alone does not make you special in any way (just ask the developers of the 2 million apps currently fighting for the number one spot in the App Store). Instead, be the one that shows it to them. Demonstrate your functional prototype — in fact, hand them a tablet and let them play with it on their own. This is a guaranteed way to make investors see how dedicated you are to your company and how much you’ve already invested yourself.
3. Prototyping Can Streamline Your Onboarding Process
There is nothing wrong with launching your app after your business is already up and running. Lots of people have done it — every single business founded before 2008, for example. If you are building a brick and mortar location, that is going to be your top priority, obviously. But if your business exists solely online, people may expect you to have a mobile app ready to go from day one.
If that’s the case, prototyping can assist you in the mobile app development process so you can seamlessly onboard your new customers. Prototyping helps catch UI and UX problems early, which means that your customers aren’t downloading a clunky beta version of your app. Your functional prototype lets you get some of that messy stuff done ahead of time so that your users aren’t doing as much of the testing.
Of course, you’ll never be able to anticipate every single bug or weird glitch that enters the fray, but ironing out the interface and interactions will certainly put you ahead of the game. After that, you can beta test your mobile app among friends, family, and coworkers. Before you know it (maybe even before that fourth quarter), your app will be ready to see the light of day with real, live customers.
4. Prototyping Speeds up (and Simplifies) the Mobile App Development Process
It’s not difficult to draw up a few rough sketches of what you want your app to look like. Perhaps a pop-out navigation menu in the upper left, advertisements on the home screen for upcoming sales or events, and text fields on the “contact us” page. Make the background blue and the text white. Some of the process is common sense, but taking those napkin sketches to a mobile app developer leaves a lot open to interpretation.
Saying that you want a blue background isn’t very specific. Do you want a royal blue one? Navy? Periwinkle? What fonts would you prefer? Your customers should definitely be able to contact you, but do you want them to choose from a drop down menu categorizing their reason for doing so? Nav menus are imperative, but how many pages need to be included here?
Your developer will have many questions for you that a functional prototype could have answered quickly. They know what blue you like because they’re seeing it with their eyes. You included a drop down menu for the reason behind contact. Your nav menu has six categories — and corresponding pages that are already laid out. You already made the decisions. Your coder can get to work immediately.
This isn’t to say that your developer won’t have questions. Surely, she will think of something that you did not, but prototyping will eliminate a lot of the back and forth that slows down the process. That way she can focus on coding right off the bat and get you a first version much faster than if she had to interpret your chicken scratch partially obscured by a gravy stain. Make her life (and yours) easier by getting some of the tough work done ahead of time.
Prototyping: the Missing Piece
Prototyping is the best solution behind streamlining your mobile app development process. People sometimes feel that doing so will take up too much time or that their coders should be able to do this for them — but they don’t realize how fast and easy it is to create a prototype.
Not only will prototyping save you time in the long run, you’ll save money because your coder’s time will be far more expensive than your Proto.io account. Our interface lets anyone build mobile app prototypes that feel real. No coding or design skills required. Be sure to check out our free 15-day trial of Proto.io today to get started on your new mobile app design.
What questions do you still have about prototyping? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio!