Often, a mobile app’s lack of success may be traced back to a poor execution of the original idea. It all starts in the prototyping phase. The following are some key reasons why developing prototypes help ensure organizations start off on the path to developing a successful mobile solution users will love.
No matter how large the organization or what industry vertical they belong to, I always hear the same excuses around why companies refuse to develop a prototype before they embark upon development of the final mobile solution:
“We don’t have time to build a prototype.”
“It’s too expensive to do a prototype.”
“We don’t have the skills or know-how to develop a prototype.”
“Prototypes are a waste of time and money. We already know what we need to develop.”
I recently helped three clients (in healthcare, retail and services) enhance their existing mobile apps and develop a prototype of new app ideas. At the conclusion of the project, here’s what they had to say:
“Wow! I can’t believe what we were able to develop and demonstrate in two weeks.”
“This was invaluable. What we developed was not what we were originally thinking–but better!”
“The feedback we received from our sample users on the prototype was great, and will help us significantly improve our current app, and change how we deliver mobile apps going forward.”
Think of prototyping as “validated learning.” Validated learning relies on the ‘build-measure-learn’ feedback loop, which emphasizes the development of a minimum viable product (MVP). The main objective is to rapidly learn and iterate on your mobile app prototype, based on user feedback.
Now let’s compare some common excuses for not building prototypes with the reality of the situation:
|We won’t build a prototype because they’re…||In reality, prototypes…|
|Risky||Mitigate scope creep and failure risk|
|Time consuming||Save time in the long run|
|Not essential to Software Dev. Life Cycle (SDLC)||Prioritize delivery of highest-value features|
|Too complex||Don’t require data integration and are easy to build|
One benefit most organizations fail to consider is cultural impact. I’ve witnessed massive organizational culture shifts as a result of this process—previously siloed IT and business departments suddenly working together to develop and deliver groundbreaking mobile solutions, all the result of sharing a vision and developing a successful prototype together. Prototyping affords everyone involved the opportunity to provide input and collaborate in taking an idea from concept to reality. As a result of this cultural transformation, many of our clients have made prototyping an integral part of their mobile solution delivery process.
Let’s look at the key components of developing a prototype:
Creating a shared vision for mobility across the organization requires representation from key Business and IT stakeholders.
Here are sample key participants to include in your prototype initiative:
VP of App Development (IT Sponsor, ideation & prototype delivery)
• App Development
Enterprise Architect (IT readiness discussions)
App Developer (IT readiness discussions)
UI/UX Designer (ideation, design and prototype development)
Mobile Tester (IT readiness discussions)
Web Services Developer (IT readiness discussions)
Integration Architect (IT readiness discussions)
Security (IT readiness and design discussions)
VP of Marketing/Product Development
(Business sponsor, ideation and prototype delivery)
• Line of Business (Marketing, Sales, etc.)
Domain experts of LOBs impacted by the mobile app
(ideation, design and prototype delivery)
• Legal & Compliance (ideation, design and prototype delivery)
Avoid assembling a group that’s too large. Cap the group at 6–8 IT and Business representatives. Too many participants complicates
decision-making and often leads to decision by committee.
To effectively design and develop a successful prototype, you need to have the right tools. Here’s what we recommend using during the prototyping process:
• Sticky notes & markers
• Whiteboard or wall to create an Ideation Board
• Microsoft Excel to capture and prioritize ideas and use cases
• Flip charts or whiteboard for concept designs
• Sketch, Adobe, or other UI design tool
for Interaction Flow Diagrams, Wireframes & UI Screen Designs
• InVision, Adobe or other tools to create clickable prototypes
(Note: I personally like InVision as it makes it easy to upload UI screen designs, create hot-spots and load the prototype onto target devices (smartphone, tablet, desktop))
In summary, the main advantages of prototyping are as follows:
- User feedback enables changes prior to launch.
- Iterate and refine prior to launch, based on feedback.
- Pre-launch iterative feedback and changes save time in the long run (versus dramatic changes after launch that cause additional costs, long release times for fixes, and frustrated users).
- Having pilot users walk-through use cases identifies gaps that disrupt the user’s journey.
- Manages expectations with stakeholders by demonstrating what’s possible (and what isn’t).
- Involving key stakeholders early in the process creates excitement, achieves “buy-in” and gets them on board by feeling involved with the process.
- Minimizes project costs by testing use cases and ideas, versus committing a lot of resources and money to a large-scale project which may not end successfully.
So, the next time you’re presented with an idea for a great mobile app, think about the value and benefits of prototyping before building the ‘real-deal’ app. Remember, the success of your mobile app starts by developing a successful, functional prototype.
For more information on developing a great app prototype, please check out our App Scoping & Prototype Kickstart, or reach out to us at [email protected] to setup a free consultation with one of our mobile strategists.
Sr. Strategist & Client Partner Manager