Mobile applications are more sensitive than they seem to be and a small mistake in planning or execution can really spoil even an app with a great potential. This is one of the main reasons why validation of the design is important. Not only for mobile apps, it is very important for any new product as user testing and prototyping gives a much required green signal to its development. Prototyping is not as expensive and hard as it seems to be and it offers a quick way to turn your design into a reality. The advantages of keeping prototyping as a basis step in app development are many, and they range right from testing the general idea of the solution, user interface and content structure, to look for potential problems and take user trials. When considering the costs of this step, it is an established fact now that most of the developers as well as their clients would rather spend a little extra on prototyping rather than dissolve the whole project midway and re-engineer everything due to problems like lack of communication in terms of the idea, budget problems and other pitfalls.
It is true that both websites as well as mobile applications are digital in nature and do the same job in terms of content and user interaction. However, there is a misconception in the minds of a number of people that website prototyping techniques are the ultimate solution and can be used for mobile prototyping as well. This is certainly not true as both the arenas are very different from each other and have separate requirements. To understand the difference better, let us look at both of them in detail.
There are a number of techniques which can speed up the development process and are great for creating a sample which will help in forming the basic structure of the website and not every technique can be used every time. It is on the basis of the type of the website you need to design and the budget that the different techniques are chosen, the most popular ones being mock-ups, sketching, coding and wireframes. Each one serves a different purpose and can be used individually or in combination with each other to prototype sites.
The basic question that we have to focus on in this section is the difference which is there between this type of prototyping and the website prototyping. The most important and basic difference is seen in terms of a wide range of devices – the sizes of those devices, the number of characteristics they have and the different operating systems out there. Other factors that really set this new step apart are the three main reasons: interactions, animations and device testing. Mobile apps techniques are different as they require the testing of a number of different kinds of interactions which include touch, zoom, and multiple inputs. Animation, which has become an integral part of mobile apps, is another factor which creates a need of different prototype techniques to be available for mobiles. Third is device testing which means that the developers should be able to test the app on the actual device it is built for. These factors are added with difference in budgets, method of inputs and basic idea of the apps to make their tools highly different from website ones.
By understanding the above differences, we now know that mobile prototyping cannot be compared to website prototyping. Let us now look at a few of the most important tools which are used in mobile prototyping.
This is the best way to gather feedback from users at an early stage of development and one that gives a fair idea of how to improve the app further. Paper prototype refers to a paper model of your app and it works wonders when looking at the screen flows, button placements, sequencing, validation and other factors. It is similar to sketching and doesn’t require a high budget.
This is very different from sketching or paper prototyping and has the maximum reach in terms of prototyping. It involves the use of actual programming languages like HTML5 or Java for testing the apps and is one of the most powerful of prototype methods. Due to its nature, source code can be time consuming.
The other most important techniques include presentation software, tablet applications, prototyping applications etc. These techniques have different features and are usually a great help when dealing with mobile prototyping of various apps which are developed these days.
After discussing the differences between websites and mobile applications and various techniques used in mobile prototyping, we have come to the conclusion that with the ever changing requirements of mobile, this form of prototyping is going to develop further and will not stay the same. This new trend is here to grow and needs to be embraced by all the developers for a more successful mobile app development.